Archive for The PTSD

Forceps

This weekend, a story came to my attention that left me emotionally devastated.  You can read the story in its entirety here.  The story highlights the birth of baby Olivia, who, following a rather tumultuous attempt at a vaginal delivery, was delivered via forceps.  Because of forceps’ placement and doctor’s skill, or lack thereof, Baby Olivia’s skull and spine were broken, leaving her on life support for 5 days before she passed away.  Reading this story, I can only imagine the horror and anguish that this family feels.  I can only imagine that the mother, whose body must be broken and battered from a botched forceps delivery, and whose daughter is lost to her, now has to cope with both physical and undeniable emotional pain.  I can only imagine how the father, who witnessed the botched delivery, and lost his little one, will live with that emotional anguish.

I can only imagine, and reflect, on my own experience with forceps delivery.  Like the mother in this sad story, c-section was pushed to the back burner.  Olivia’s mother, in fact, asked for a c-section, prior to admittance to the hospital, and was told that “she’d be left with a scar.”  After 3 hours of pushing, I too was told that a c-section would leave me with more physical baggage then a forceps delivery.  I think, too often, that people underestimate the very real dangers of forceps delivery…in part because we are not warned of the horrors of such a delivery.  I have yet to read a story of, “my wonderful forceps delivery.”  I have yet to meet a woman, who delivered via forceps, with a glowing review to such a delivery.

Like Olivia’s parents, I maintain that forceps deliveries should be banned.  My thoughts are, if you get to the point in a vaginal delivery where your body is just not ready/responding, then go for the c-section.  In fact, my thoughts are, if you need any sort of intervention, including induction, you may as well go for the c-section.  Although my thoughts may be unpopular, they are rooted in my own experiences, and in the experiences that I hear about from others who struggle on a daily basis with birth trauma.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

Advertisements

Click

Click. Click. Click.  The noise of two pieces of metal coming together.  The sound of a fork scraping a plate at dinner, keys jangling, money jingling.  The sound that could instantly put me in a tailspin, a panic, a mind shattering experience when my PTSD was in full force.  The sound of forceps.  The sound of trauma.

The sound of metal.  The sight of forceps-like things…salad tongs, cooking utensils.  The sight and the sounds, in combination, left me in the fetal position on the kitchen floor, holding my ears in a booth at a fancy restaurant, in tears at a guest’s house for dinner.

These reactions were not pretty.  PTSD is not manageable without treatment.  My treatment for PTSD, although long and arduous, was successful.  But, I still cannot believe what I did this week.  What I COULD do, and what I DID do.  I did a Google search on “forceps deliveries.”  I clicked on videos.  And I watched.  With the volume up, and the picture large, I watched a forceps delivery.  And I almost puked.  NOT because of any remnants of the PTSD, but simply because of the barbaric nature of this form of delivery.  I watched as the forceps were placed, placing an instrument that is much too big for the vagina, and will more than likely tear the vagina, in the vagina.  I watched the doctor use some other medical device to further expand the vaginal opening by slicing the flesh around the vagina. I watched the doctor apply an extreme amount of traction to pull a baby from a mother’s unwilling body.  I heard the mother moaning and screaming.  I heard the click.

And, I think to myself.  My cesarean section was a piece of cake compared to the butchery of a forceps delivery. The elective cesarean section, the “major surgery” that I had ,was controlled, defined, and calm.  Each “click” was accounted for, each slice meaningful, each stitch done with the precision of a skilled doctor in a controlled environment.  It will always baffle me WHY forceps are used in a non-emergency vaginal delivery.  Although it baffles me, it apparently does not baffle the birthing community.  It seems many women still view a forceps assisted “natural” vaginal birth as a better option than a cesarean delivery.  The idea of women being stigmatized when considering their options between forceps and cesarean at the moment their delivery may deem necessary sickens me.  I feel that women should always have an informed choice and it is my mission to advocate for that choice.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

The Loss of a Birth Plan

Trauma.  That word evokes feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, injury, shock, disbelief, anger, sadness, despair.  Trauma does not equally impact individuals. One person’s trauma may not be another person’s trauma.  Our perception of a trauma is very important.  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is  about not only the trauma itself, but the individual’s perception of the trauma.

In terms of birth and birth trauma, it is very important to note that every birthing mother is is different.  Quite recently, I have been completely involved with individuals who are very close to me with birth stories that are wildly different from mine.  With every birth story I hear, I remember that I must withhold judgement about individual birth choices, as well as remember that violations of those individual choices can result in emotional and physical trauma.

In our society, women are often held to the “ideal” standard of an uncomplicated, unmedicated, vaginal birth with no postpartum complications.  Women base their entire birth plans on this way of bringing their child into the world.   Other women focus on delivery by way of cesarean section, basing their entire birth plans of this way of bringing their child into the world.

Unfortunately, having the type of birth you want is not always possible-be it by way of the vagina or via cesarean section.  Sometimes medical professional’s personalities as well as very real medical circumstances cause an individual’s birth experience to be somewhat or completely out of  her control. The reality of birth is that circumstances can change in an instant, causing birth plans to shatter, and idealization of what we, as mothers, thought was going to happen, to go out the window.  Unfortunately, this is a hard reality to hit up against in what can really be a women’s most vulnerable time.  In the instant of birth, you are often the most exposed, most exhausted, most emotional being that you ever will be.  It is no wonder that when your beliefs are challenged at this time, when the plans are rapidly changed, when your control over what is happening to your own body is taken from you through circumstances you have no control over, that women DO feel violated, alone, and often helpless.  It is important to note that it does not matter what choice women made for their birth plan, or whether that would be your choice or not, it is still HER choice, and still HER violation when it changes.  And you know what, it does not matter if it HAS to change, that feeling is still there….that feeling of loss, helplessness, and despair.

When all is said and done, women often can look back objectively and realize medically WHY things happened the way they did…but that often does not erase that feeling of loss that whatever birth was envisioned did not occur.  It may take medical intervention, both physically and mentally to process the experience and heal from any physical and mental wounds that may have occurred.  Any experience IS traumatic to individuals when they perceive it be, and it is not up to society to decide what kind of birth a person should have as well as decide how a mother should perceive the deconstruction of the birth plan during birth.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

Blogging for Others

Since starting my blog, I have become much more interested in others’ blogs, thoughts, and posts.  One blog that I regularly subscribe to is http://healmyptsd.com/.  A blog that highlights one woman’s inspiring story regarding her own PTSD, regularly features others’ stories about their individual struggles and triumphs with PTSD, and  encourages all who visit that there are ways to “triumph over trauma.”

I petitioned the writer of the blog, Michele Rosenthal, for a chance to add my story to her postings, in an effort to reach out to others by way of a different venue.  I am honored to have my guest post on her blog.  You can read it here:  http://healmyptsd.com/2012/09/birth-trauma.html.

If you are, or someone you love is, suffering from the debilitating effects of PTSD, I encourage you to read my story, Michele’s story, and other stories of survival, hope, and success.  As I always say, talking about experiences that are often stigmatized in our society is the first step to a change in how those experiences will be viewed by our society in the future.
Thanks for reading,

Lauren

Spousal Support

Having the support of loved ones during a physical or mental ailment is paramount to one’s well being and eventual recovery.  It is imperative that the support that one receives from loved ones is unconditional and without judgement.  Recently, on SHINE by Yahoo, a beautiful article outlined just how important it is to “love a shattered soul.”  The article shows spouses and loved ones unending support of their military partners, who now are afflicted with PTSD.  As you well know, PTSD does not affect those only in the military, but anyone who meets the criteria for PTSD in the face of a life threatening, or perceived life threatening situation.   It’s important that we recognize all spouses, who, in the face of this horrible illness, take on a new roles of caregiver and advocate, and commend them for their support.  So, thank you, to my husband, for all of your support.  Thank you, to the military spouses in this article who show that no one should suffer in silence and without treatment.  Thank you to any and all spouses who maintain a healthy and productive relationship with their spouse who is suffering from mental illness by promoting wellness, treatment, unending support, and unconditional love. 

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

 

Warrior Mom

It is a universal truth that women have always given birth.  I often think about my actual birthing situation, and how I would have fared 50, 100, 500 years ago.    My conclusion is always the same; without the intervention that I had, I would have died…my daughter too.  There was just no way she was coming out on her own, forceps or c-section were needed.  There was just no way that without significant medical intervention, such as the right medication and careful monitoring postpartum, that the sustained blood loss I sustained during my postpartum hemorrhage would have been survivable in years past.

Obviously, I am truly glad that we both survived.  However, what people need to realize is that I truly believe, and believed then, was that I was, and my daughter was, in a life and death situation.  Today, there are still many “close calls” in the medical field during the birth of a child, but with the right interventions, it is a general belief that women fare a lot better than in years past.  It is important to note that although the “battle zone” in the birthing room may be one that has improved over the years, traumatic situations can still arise both in the moment and postpartum.  In reading recent message boards, comments, and blogs pertaining to PTSD following childbirth, I have found some very interesting pieces of information pertaining to the belief of the “warrior mom.”

For instance, the Aztecs, believed childbirth to be “a battle” and the mother to be “a warrior.”  It is interesting to see that this belief was part of their culture, and women were glorified in their efforts to bring a child into the world.  Today, Katherine Stone, creator of Postpartum Progress, has heralded the efforts of women as warriors in childbirth and postpartum.  She has a wide selection of postpartum “bling” in an effort to recognize women’s efforts and triumphs in seeking help and overcoming obstacles postpartum.  She is instrumental in perpetuating the belief that the Aztecs held dear so long ago, birthing women are warriors, and need to be glorified as such.
This is the personal “warrior mom” badge I chose to represent my own journey.

Photobucket

http://postpartumprogress.com/survival-badge-bling

 

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

Thanks, Old Man

Dear Old Man,

Thanks.  I’ve never met you before, but yet, you felt the need to pry into my personal business.  At the gym.  While I am walking with my child in the hallway.  Thanks Old Man for asking my daughter “do you have a younger brother?” “do you have a younger sister?”  Thanks for listening and ending the conversation when she politely  said “no.” Oh wait, you felt the need to get more personal?  Thanks for asking me, and my daughter, “why not?  don’t you want to baby?”

So, I truly am in a better place with my PTSD, but this question would have sent me into a full and complete panic attack.  No wonder I avoided novel situations, or uncontrollable situations like the plague while fully involved in PTSD.  Thanks Old Man, for reinforcing my reasons I avoided everyone and everything in the throes of PTSD.  Turns out that trigger was not irrational anticipatory anxiety because people like you exist.

PTSD aside, what if I had a physical reason I could no longer have kids easily.  Oh, wait, I do have that reason.  Thanks Old Man for making me more anxious about my current physical situation.

And not to mention, there are some people in this world who do not want more kids.  What if my financial situation was such that more kids were irresponsible?  What if, god forbid, I was no longer married or with a partner who wanted kids?  What if, what if, what if?

Thanks Old Man for being a nosy busy body.  And no, you don’t get a pass just because you’re old. 

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

 

Time Does NOT Erase

Kudos to PBS for honoring Memorial Day by broadcasting wonderful programming regarding soldiers, service, and PTSD.  Catching only some of it, and making a mental note to watch all of it at a later date, I was pleasantly surprised at the accuracy in the portrayal of PTSD.

As I have stated before, PTSD is not only a “soldier” issue.  However, soldiers and anyone else suffering with PTSD are often misunderstood, stigmatized, and not immediately privy to the help that they need and deserve.  This is truly unfortunate, as anyone who has suffered with this illness understands that time is the enemy.  PTSD only gets worse with time, and, being a disease that REQUIRES treatment to get through, too often it is struggled through without treatment, to continue to resurface throughout one’s lifetime.

Too often, I hear the refrain, “just give it time, you’ll get through it,” in regards to PTSD.  This thought was especially prominent during my own early struggles with PTSD.  Time does not erase PTSD, nor does it lessen the severity of PTSD.  If anything, time, without treatment, makes PTSD stronger, as more triggers develop and avoidance behaviors strengthen.

I know this diagnosis sounds particularly ominous, however, this is when we need to remember that mental illness is just that, an illness.  An illness requires treatment.  I doubt that many of us would look at a physical wound, such as a severely infected cut, and maintain the hope that “it will get better with time.”  Time without treatment, whether physical or mental is often ineffective.

I think, in looking at soldiers’ struggles throughout the years with this debilitating mental illness, we all can take note that PTSD does not go away merely with the passage of time.  It is very apparent that some soldiers who served many, many, years ago still are severely affected by PTSD.  It is not any different for other people, no matter what their profession, who suffer from PTSD.  It does not matter how many days, months, years, decades, have passed.  If you do not seek professional treatment, you will not be able to make your mind better.  Time does not erase PTSD, only treatment.

Thanks for Reading,

Lauren

 

Litigation

When reading my blog and hearing my story, interested parties often ask the question “Did you sue?”   The answer. Yes. and No.

We certainly met with the lawyers.  One.  Two.  Three Lawyers and law firms.  All of the lawyers had the same resounding sentiment about my case.  “A bad result does not always equal a lawsuit.”  All of the lawyers based their ability to build a case upon my shaky testimony (My PTSD impacted my ability to relay my side of the story).  All of the lawyers based their ability to build a case based on the hospital records (which were largely inaccurate and reflected good care by the doctor and hospital).  All of the lawyers based their ability to bring a case based on the time left in the statute of limitations (2 and 1/2 years)-we were approaching this time frame when we were deciding to bring forth the case).  All of the lawyers based their ability to build this case on the fact that there really was no “precedent” case available to judge their success with the case.  All of the lawyers based their ability to build this case against OBGYN’s medical malpractice insurance and the fact that it was rarely penetrable unless the case was totally clear-cut.

All of these lawyers were unwilling to take the risk on my case and convinced me not to take the risk because of the 100’s of thousands of dollars I would shell out, the stress it would put me under, and the stigma I would have attached to me in a very public light during trial.

Do I think it was the right decision to not pursue the case?  I guess it really does not matter what I think, I’m not a lawyer. I don’t speak the legal vernacular to understand if there was any way, shape, or form that my case may have been successful.

I do know that pursing a case in my condition (PTSD) would have been a brutal exercise in self-hatred as I would need to relay triggering events over and over in a very public venue.

I do know that when you need to sign that hospital records are accurate upon discharge-you really are in no condition to look over them with a fine tooth comb for inaccuracies (prior to signing) if you are in shock from a traumatic birth.

I do know that with a statute of limitations of 2 1/2 years, often mothers who suffer with PTSD are not able and willing to pursue a case in a timely manner, thus, often losing their chance.

I do know that there is STILL not a precedent case (that I know of in our area) that brings monetary relief for a women inflicted with emotional birth trauma.

I do know that it is extremely difficult to ever crack into OBGYN’s medical malpractice insurance.

Lastly, I do know that it was never about the money for me.  It was about my doctor saying that she messed up…It was about her saying sorry….It was about her admitting she failed me as a patient both during birth and postpartum…It was about making sure this didn’t happen to other patients.

I’m doing what I can on my end.  I’m trying to spread the word that there is help and hope for those suffering with birth trauma.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to understand how my “case” impacted my doctor and the medical community in which I delivered.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

« Previous entries