Archive for The Incontinence Issue

second opinion

The search history on my computer is fraught with the following terms: fecal incontinence, PTSD, childbirth, trauma, tears, Interstim.  Essentially, if someone who did not know me seized and searched my computer history, they would be inundated with my passion to understand, research, and illuminate others about topics not always talked about candidly and publicly.

Recently, I came across this gem of a program regarding the medical community and their stance and understanding of fecal incontinence.  To watch the full episode  as outlined on the website, Second Opinion, does require a time commitment, but it is well worth it if you or a loved one is suffering with fecal incontinence.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

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How To: Add Fiber in your Day

As I mentioned in my earlier post, 40 grams, eating fiber is truly essential to my success with continence.  The way I look at it is that the Interstim Implant is more than helpful in getting the right nerves stimulated, and the fiber helps with the consistency and regularity of the stool.  Doing both in conjunction with each other is necessary for complete success with fecal continence.

-Adding Fiber in Your Day-

compiled by Lauren at peaceoutofpieces.com 

  • Buy Bran Buds!  These little circles of fibery goodness pack a punch.
  • Mix 1 cup of Bran Buds with yogurt, fruit, chocolate chips, nuts to achieve a parfait pleasing to your palette.
  • Mix 1 cup of Bran Buds with other small food items to create a crunchy trail mix.
  • Be daring, make a Bran Bud cookie by melting chocolate (I prefer dark chocolate chips), adding dried fruit and Bran Buds, and let set.
  • Ingest insane amounts of fiber at your breakfast by adding a crumbled high fiber granola bar, or high fiber brownie to your cup of Bran Buds and yogurt.
  • Add Bran Buds to your instant oatmeal.
  • Add Bran Buds to your other cereal.
  • Do not grind the Bran Buds up or add milk unless you like the taste of sludge or glue.

No, in no way do I get paid to endorse the Bran Buds product.  Would I enjoy that?  Sure!  Sign me up!  Regardless, Bran Buds have helped me have a better day, and they may help you too.  Give them a try 🙂

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

So, what do you do?

When meeting someone for the first time, often, the following question arises during the initial small talk, “so, what do you do?”  At times, I struggle to answer this question.  At this point in my recovery, I say “I’m happy to be a stay at home mom.”  However, my lips itch with the urge to spill my guts, to answer in a much more truer sense.  The answer I would love to give is the following, “I’m a stay at home mom.  And, I love it.  However, I am also a teacher. I went to school for many years to obtain this degree.  I achieved tenure because of my good reviews and practice in the classroom. I fought hard to find a job I loved, and I did find that job.  I went back to work when my daughter was 6 months old, and I was OK with that.  Physical and Emotional birth trauma eventually caused me to step out of work on a “medical” leave.  I loved being a teacher.  I still am a teacher.  And, I love being a mom.  The best thing for myself was to leave work to focus on getting myself and my family healed and better.  In fact, I am better now.  And, at this point I choose, not my mind, not my body, I choose to stay home with my daughter.  I will go back to work eventually. ”

Being that answer is often too much, too soon, for casual acquaintances, I often keep that to myself.  But, I do want people to know, people who read my blog, that leaving work was one of the hardest decisions of my life.  For my physical body, the answer was clearly that I should not and could not work.  My fecal incontinence caused numerous accidents throughout the teaching day in which I would need to change my undergarments, take frequent bathroom breaks, feel uneasy about sitting in meetings, and  need to remain in close proximity to a bathroom.  For my mental body, the toll was far worse in my work environment.  Being that pregnant women, the smell of cleaner, and assisting with special education student’s  toileting  needs (ex. cleaning up bowel movements) were triggers rampant in my work environment, anxiety attacks, extreme panic, and the inability to focus were parts of my daily routine in the classroom.

Leaving work was really the only way I could get better.  It took a lot to convince me of this.  It took being escorted to the hospital, from the school’s nurses office, when I thought I was having a heart attack.  (A severe panic attack).  It took being in therapy and realizing the only way I would get better was to stop putting myself in the midst of triggers.  It took me swallowing my pride, to leave a job I loved, and was good at, in an effort to reclaim myself.

And guess what, leaving work was an effective way to assist in my treatment for PTSD.  Removing myself from a constant triggering situation helped me focus on therapy, my family, and myself.  It really was the only way.

Of course, leaving work essentially cut our income in half, caused a change in our health insurance benefits, and manufactured the need for our family to live with and adhere to a budget.  A lot of people assume that going out on “medical leave” means you have some sort of disability payment assistance, especially when the medical leave is “prescribed” by the doctor.  Sadly, that is not always the case.  I still, (2 years later), am fighting to reclaim any disability payments I may have been allotted due to my condition(s).  Luckily, I have a lovely organization that can do this for me (for a small fee).  However, it is important to dispel the myth that “medical leave” automatically means that the person is being financially supported in one way or another during their recovery.  This simply is not true.  Hopefully, at some point I will obtain the disability payments retroactively to support my stretch of “medical leave”, but, that remains to be seen.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

 

How To: Enema

*I’m adding a new category to my blog.  It’s “How To:”  Adding my personal insights into processes inherent in dealing with physical and emotional birth trauma may prove beneficial to my readers.

Since I have been diagnosed with fecal incontinence, I have become quite proficient in many areas related to the incontinence, from the practicalities of buying the right protective undergarments to the preparing for the invasive and uncomfortable testing that is often a necessity to check rectal function.

One thing I have become a “pro” at is giving myself an enema.  Something, quite frankly, I didn’t expect to do as much as I needed to do before I turned 30 years old.

Understandably, before undergoing medical tests and physical check-ups of your rectum, your rectal surgeon may request that you cleanse your colon in order to get an accurate read on your rectal function.  The following is a how to list  I created that I wish I had been able to peruse prior to giving myself my first enema, because, let’s face it, the scant directions on those enema bottles provide only the barest of directives.

-Giving Yourself an Enema-

compiled by Lauren at peaceoutofpieces.com 

It’s not pleasant, but almost always necessary, to give yourself an enema prior to any rectal exam or test. You’ll be advised of this request when setting up your appointment. Sometimes, two enemas are suggested. Here’s how to get through it—it’s a process that has worked for me:

  • Have someone else buy it if it is a trigger for you. They are cheap, and often come in two-packs.
  • Have someone else there that is available to watch your child while you are administering your enema. You need to be able to focus on you.
  • Find a quiet place—for me it’s my bed in my bedroom with the door closed.
  • Make sure that place is located by a bathroom.
  • Place a towel where you will be laying and have something to read close by.
  • Administer the enema according to the directions on the package.
  • While you are waiting, read whatever you have selected.
  • When you strongly feel the urge to defecate, use the towel to protect yourself from having an accident on the floor as you go to the bathroom.
  • Let it go in the toilet. It will come in waves so wait a while.
  • Put on some sort of protection because you will continue leaking while going to your appointment. If possible, have someone accompany you.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

Tears and Tears

Tears and Tears.  Words that sound the same, but mean very different things.  Tears (torn) and Tears (crying).  For me, there is a huge correlation between these two homophones.

When you have a baby vaginally, there is a risk that you will tear.  Recently, I came across a website that shows diagrams of vaginal tears in childbirth.  This slide show is an essential viewing point for anyone who wishes to understand visually the physical trauma of a tear.  Feel free to view here: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vaginal-tears/PR00143

Although vaginal tears are common during vaginal birth, the severity of the tear and the “how to” of the repair differ.  In her blog, Dr. Amy-The Skeptical OB, Dr. Amy Tuteur talks about the ability to midwives to repair tears during vaginal birth. You can read her take on tearing here http://skepticalob.blogspot.com/2012/02/vaginal-tears.html.

As a recipient of a third degree tear in a hospital setting, I am curious about the ability of my doctor to repair my tear during my forceps assisted vaginal birth.  According to the mayo clinic slide show, the repair for my tear should have been a bit more extensive and done with a little more care.  Maybe it should have even been done in an operating room rather than at the foot of my delivery bed.  http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vaginal-tears/PR00143&slide=4

Tears often follow tearing.  For me, the physical pain of the initial tear as well as the physical and emotional consequences that follow such a trauma created lots of tears.  It is my hope that midwives and doctors understand the long-term ramifications of diagnosing and repairing a tear correctly.  My tear was not repaired correctly, nor was I given the postpartum support necessary for the tear I sustained.  Luckily, I managed, on my own, to get to a rectal surgeon, and ultimately, to Interstim, to treat the incontinence issues that began with my tear.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

Story Toppers

About three times a week I attend a water aerobics class.  Because this class is during the day, I find the average age of the clientele in this class to be about 65.  (But, boy, these Grandmas can move!).  Because of the geriatric nature of my watery exercise regimen, I am often bombarded with the phrase “Oh, but you don’t have to worry about that, YET!” while engaged in a social discussion regarding “senior” medical matters prior to or post workout.

One of the favorite topics of discussion seems to be the colonoscopy.  Phrases and snippets addressed to me include: “So and so isn’t hear today, she’s preparing for her colonoscopy…you just wait till that…” “Ughh, I hate the prep work, you’re so lucky you’re young.”

Little do these ladies know, a colonoscopy is the least of my worries.  I think I could wow them all with the amount of enemas I have needed to do, the amount of “awake” rectal testing I’ve engaged in, and the fact that I lost my anal wink at age 27 due to the stress of childbirth.

But the story that tops them all, the story that makes a colonoscopy look like a trip to Disney World, is the defecography.  I never even knew a test like this existed.  To my great “delight” I had the necessary procedure when trying to determine the exact nature of my leaking sphincter. 

Step 1-Give yourself two enemas at home.

Step 2- Drink a glass of Barium (i.e. liquid sidewalk chalk) without promptly throwing it up

Step 3-Have a catheter placed to drain you of all urine

Step 4- Flip over, have a device that looks very similar to a caulk gun push a caulk like substance up your rectum

Step 5- Climb up a ladder onto a toilet bowl that is placed in the center of the room

Step 6-Try to relax while two people hold in place 2 x-ray plates around your body

Step 7-Poop out the substance (this is especially lovely with your audience)

Step 8- Enjoy the video recording of your bowel movement for years to come!

Top that, Grandma.  (Just kidding, I love Grandmas)  And, as unpleasant as this test was, it WAS necessary, helpful, and diagnostic.  It also gives me a story topper to whip out during my aqua aerobics class, but, maybe, I’ll just keep it to my blog.

Thanks for Reading,

Lauren

Too Personal

I’ve been told by some people that they won’t read my blog because it is “too personal.”  Yes, vaginas, sexuality, rectal scarring, anal winks, pooping, mental illness, yes, it’s personal.  But sometimes, it is easy to confuse “too personal” with shameful, dirty, and stigmatized.

I write my blog to free myself of the stigma that surrounds my circumstances.  It’s not easy to be suffering with issues that no wants to talk about, read about, hear about, listen to, etc.  To date, there are many medical issues that have reached the acclaim in our society that make them easy to talk about, empathize with, and join together for a common cause.  However, I am sure that there were people that needed to champion those causes and efforts prior to them becoming easy to talk about over a cup of tea.

I believe that I am one of a growing number of women who are no longer going to be silent.  Medical interventions, successful therapies, and political awareness only come about when there is a movement to have our voices heard.  Birth Trauma and the physical and mental devastation it can leave in its wake is an issue that I am not ready to concede is “too personal.” 

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

The Crap He Puts Up With

This post is dedicated to my husband….and the crap he puts up with.  Figuratively….and Literally. 

While engaged in full-blown PTSD, my husband was always there, fully supportive of the shell of my former self that I had become.  Immediately after the birth of our child, but prior to any real diagnosis, my husband recognized that I needed help, support, and unconditional love.  And, he gave me all these things without question.  My husband did ALL of the housework, ALL of our life maintenance (bills, shopping, answering phone calls, making appointments, filling our cars with gas, driving, etc), and most of the childcare.  Yes, I fed our child, however, my husband changed her, brought her to me when she needed to be fed, helped me play with her, attended to her in the night when she was crying, etc.

A typical day for me during full-blown PTSD looked like this:  My husband waking two hours before me to work on the house, grocery shop, or do bills.  My husband waking me up gently (alarms were a trigger for me), my husband handing me the baby to be fed, my husband burping and changing the baby, my husband urging me to shower, my husband ironing and washing my clothes, my husband making my breakfast, my husband getting the baby ready for daycare, my husband handing me my ready-made lunch and placing my work stuff into the car (which he always made sure had gas), my husband driving my daughter to daycare (even though it was right across the street from where I worked-leaving her was a trigger) before he brought himself to work, me going to work in a haze, me leaving work, me picking up my daughter, coming home and feeding my daughter, me sitting in a comfortable chair with her until my husband came home from work, my husband making dinner, playing together as a family, my husband helping me with bedtime routine, me sitting in my chair, my husband cleaning up the house, both going to bed, my husband helping me through nightmares, twitches, and teeth grinding while simultaneously attending to the baby in the other room. REPEAT DAILY.

That’s a lot of figurative crap to put up with.  Not to mention the literal.  Fecal Incontinence is not pretty, and yes, there is a lot of literal crap.  Was I doing the laundry?  Was I emptying the trash filled with used incontinence pads?  Was I purchasing the pads, enemas, and fiber supplements? No, it was my husband.

Now, I would never claim my husband is a saint, but, I know he’s a better person than most to be able to navigate the trials of PTSD and fecal incontinence with grace and courage.   It is my hope that everyone could have someone just as wonderful to help them through their own trauma, however; the reality is some marriages cannot sustain the angst that sickness and trauma thrust upon the parties involved. Our marriage has survived and strengthened through this major medical trauma in my life, and I am truly grateful that my husband was able to remain by my side holding not only my hand, but my heart throughout the duration.

Thanks for Reading,

Lauren

 

How Many?

So, I have been wondering….how many of us are there?  How many women suffer from fecal incontinence as a result of childbirth?  How many woman suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of childbirth?

In reading one of my favorite blogs, cesarean debate, I was motivated to comment upon one of Pauline’s entries.  Pauline’s tireless campaign for women’s choice to have an informed decision about a cesarean birth is well thought out and conveyed through her blog.  Her most recent entry, entitled “Why do I keep writing this blog? Because of e-mails like this…” really moved me to comment.  See blog entry and my comment here :  http://cesareandebate.blogspot.com/2012/01/why-do-i-keep-writing-this-blog-because.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+CesareanDebate+%28cesarean+debate%29

I would encourage my readers to talk about my blog in an effort to direct women, their partners, and the medical community towards my story.  It takes courage to talk about something that is not the norm in our society.  Courage is always fostered by having support.  The support of others with similar stories, the support of the medical community, and the support of those advocating for a change for women and their choices regarding birth.

Thanks for Reading,

Lauren

 

2,414 Dollars

While perusing the internet today, I found an interesting chart that outlines the cost difference between a cesarean section and vaginal birth.  Furthermore, it outlines the differences in cost between a “vaginal birth with complications” and cesarean birth, which is the exact number I have been looking for while trying to understand a possible justification as to why I was privy to a forceps assisted birth versus a cesarean.  The chart that I am referring to can be found here: http://transform.childbirthconnection.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/New-York.pdf

In New York, in 2008, the cost of a vaginal birth with complications was estimated to be $10,393.  The cost of a c-section$12,807.  This being the year and state location in which I delivered my child, I find the difference in cost to be $2,414.  Was this the magic number that pushed medical professionals to opt. for something cheaper and quicker?

Do I believe that I was not given a C-section due to cost?  Well, here are the facts. According to everything I have read, a c-section should have been a strong consideration for me.  I had a 12 day post date child, who was estimated to be 9 pounds 9 ounces, had a “sunny-side” up position, had a prolonged pushing stage of labor (over 3 hours) and had been in labor for 36 hours.  I was not given that consideration.  I was told that forceps would be a good choice for me.    Based on the situation, I would have to believe that cost could have been a consideration for the medical professionals treating me.

There are also charts outlining the cost differential in other states and they can be found here: http://transform.childbirthconnection.org/resources/datacenter/chargeschart/statecharges/

It’s interesting and informative information-check it out!

Thanks for Reading,

Lauren

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