Archive for The Purpose

Stigma

Next month, I am walking with a group of individuals who have been impacted by postpartum mood disorders.  We are raising funds in an effort to help families and educate providers about the very real issue and impact of postpartum mental illness.

Although I would consider myself “cured” of my own experiences with postpartum PTSD and anxiety, I continue to recognize the need to express my support for those currently suffering with the very real emotional and physical ramifications of postpartum mental illness, their family members, and the medical community.

The stigma surrounding this issue, the issue of mental illness, and the issue of mental illness after childbirth continues to both annoy and devastate me.  I can see the divide in my own community of family and friends when I bring up my participation for the fundraising walk that I am participating in.

This divide clearly plays out on social media.  After posting recently a brief synopsis of my journey with postpartum mental illness, and adding a link to my fundraising page, I was met with three types of responses.  Inherent in the two latter responses is the stigma attached to the very real, and quite frankly, horrific, postpartum mood disorders.  The responses that I received were as follows:

  1. Positive Love and Support. These responses included a mention of my journey and my courage in tackling this very real monster after the birth of my daughter.  Sometimes, this included a donation to the cause.  Honestly, acknowledgement and knowing what both I, and many other woman struggled with or continue to struggle with is appreciated just as much.
  2. Nothing.  No active mention both on social media or in person about the walk that I would be going on or why.  Now, here I am not talking about the people who didn’t see my post…I’m talking about the people who I KNOW saw my post and chose not to comment.
  3. Active Disengagement.  “Liking” and commenting on every other social media post in the timeline. Supporting and contributing to other fundraisers posted the same day.

I want to say that I don’t take it personally.  However, that wouldn’t be true.  Not only have I, and my family!, suffered greatly at the hands of postpartum mental illness, I have made it my mission to educate my friends and family members about the possibility of postpartum mental illness.  I have not been shy in sharing in an effort to release the stigma surrounding this disease.  It continues to baffle me that people who I love and care about cannot acknowledge not only my journey, but recognize that this is a journey for many others in their community.  It continues to be disheartening to recognize that if I can’t bridge the gap in my own community, making strides in the community at large will continue to prove a challenging task.

Thanks for Reading,

Lauren

 

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“everything is fine.”

I think I’m over it.  I think, I’m healed.  And then I realize, come the final day in February, that the mind and the memories it holds, are powerful things.  I have been feeling “off” since this past weekend.  I’ve noticed myself tearing up at times, food numbing, spending time doing mindless tasks like surfing the internet, suffering extreme fatigue, among other things.  When talking with my husband about why I am seemingly depressed, his answer, “I’m not surprised…it’s the last day in February.”  And you know what, I’m not surprised either…now that I can logically draw a correlation between my segmented depressive episodes and my daughter’s original due date.

February 29th.  Due date. Leap year baby.  March 1, March 2, March 3, March 4, March 5, March 6, March 7, March 8, March 9, March 10, March 11, March 12.

12 days.  12 days overdue.  12 days to assess my situation. 12 days that something could have been done to prevent the trauma. 12 days.

Here’s what I did in those 12 days-back in 2008.

Ate ice cream.  Was told everything is fine. Went to post dates ultrasound. Was told everything is fine. Told my baby was 10 pounds 10 ounces. Was told everything is fine. Told to wait the weekend and come in on Monday, March 10th to be induced.  Was told everything is fine. Had failed cervidal induction. Was told everything is fine.  Had pitocin. Was told everything is fine. Had failed epidural. Was told everything is fine. Had failed epidural. Was told everything is fine.  Had failed epidural. Was told everything is fine.  In the hospital for 34 hours. Was told everything is fine. Had failure to progress in pushing after hour 3 of pushing. Was told everything is fine. Dislocated my hip when my leg was dropped. Was told everything is fine. Had failed forceps placement. Was told everything is fine. Had forceps placed. Was told everything is fine. Had baby delivered. Was told everything is fine. Had her whisked away with a bruised and battered face and head. Was told everything is fine. Had a severe postpartum hemorrhage. Was told everything is fine. Was given rectal meds. Was told everything is fine.  Had stitches for a 3rd degree tear. Was told everything is fine. Given my baby. Was told everything is fine.  Floor was covered in my blood, being tracked around by everyone’s footwear. Was told everything is fine.

So yes, as I subconsciously relive these 12 days, I should know “everything is fine.” Even though it’s not, and it wasn’t.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

We are never broken….

When my Interstim Implant broke, it was a moment of heartache for me.  That sense of security that I had relished in since August 2011, shattered.  The incontinence came back, full force.  Waves of devastation as I realized that I, once more, was pieces.  Physical and emotional carnage ensued….back to wearing protection, missing out on activities, physical pain and discomfort, emotional distress.  For me, all hinged on a successful re-implant surgery on November 21.  Sadly, even though I surrounded myself with the best surgical team, even though the surgery itself was successful, even though I spent 4 weeks in a restrictive lifestyle to give the implant time to heal,  the programming of the device has proved tricky this time.  The first time I had the implant (2011), I was lucky enough to get the right combination of programming right away, and within the first couple of days I noticed a drastic success.  This time, I am still waiting, waiting for that perfect combination of nerve stimulation to become programmed.

However, all is not lost.  After talking with my surgeon, I realize now that there are many combinations of programming that we have yet to explore.  Many ways that this device can make me whole again.  Many ways to heal these broken pieces.  Many ways to find peace.

Fittingly, this song has been on my playlist in our van as we have ventured out for the holiday season.  It makes me think about the birth trauma, my life after my therapies, my surgery, my role as an advocate, my current trials and tribulations, and the way that I can shape a negative experience into a positive one.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

“Hands” By Jewel

If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we’re all OK
And not to worry ’cause worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I won’t be made useless
I won’t be idle with despair
I will gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear
My hands are small, I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own
But they’re not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken
Poverty stole your golden shoes
It didn’t steal your laughter
And heartache came to visit me
But I knew it wasn’t ever after
We’ll fight, not out of spite
For someone must stand up for what’s right
‘Cause where there’s a man who has no voice
There ours shall go singing
My hands are small I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own
But they’re not yours, they are my own
I am never broken
In the end only kindness matters
In the end only kindness matters
I will get down on my knees, and I will pray
I will get down on my knees, and I will pray
I will get down on my knees, and I will pray
My hands are small I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own
But they’re not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken
My hands are small I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own
But they’re not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken
We are never broken
We are God’s eyes
God’s hands
God’s mind
We are God’s eyes
God’s hands
God’s heart
We are God’s eyes
God’s hands
God’s eyes
We are God’s hands
We are God’s hands

 

A Bionic Pioneer

Last year, I was approached by a woman very interested in my personal journey with my Interstim device.  This amazing woman, Jennifer French, has co-authored a book about individuals and the way that neurotech medical devices have enhanced their lives.  I am one of those individuals.  Feel free to check out the press release and the book!  Thank you, Jennifer, for telling my story.

 

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

A Piece

Before.  Before I had my daughter, in March 2008, I was a person well versed in the art of lifeguarding.  I was a lifeguard, water safety instructor, swim instructor, special olympics swim coach volunteer, cpr/first aid certified.  I lived in the water from an early age, and at 15, decided to make lifeguarding my profession of choice until my college degree panned out.  At 15, I took my first lifeguarding course, and with ease, aced the physical and written portions of the exam.  Throughout the years, I kept up on all of my recertifications, and rarely did a day go by that my life wasn’t touched by water from 1995-2003.. I was either practicing, swimming competitions, teaching swimming, or lifeguarding. Upon graduating from college, I kept up on my certifications in lifeguarding, attending the requisite physical and written recertifications, but chose teaching in a land locked classroom as my primary objective in my daily life.  I always assumed I would keep up on these recertifications until lifeguarding would once again fit into my schedule, so as not to take the entire course over again.  However, that was not to be.

Another aspect of my life altered due to birth trauma.  Because of the incontinence, because of the pelvic floor weakness, because of the PTSD, because of all of these things-I was unable to keep up with my recertifications post partum.  In an instant, I lost a big part of me, a huge part of my identity as a person who practically grew up in the water, a person whose skin perpetually smelled of chlorine, a person whose very soul floated freely and happily everytime on the pool deck and in the water, doing something I truly loved.

This past week, I have reclaimed that piece of me.  Just another piece, previously shattered, picked up to create peace.  I have committed 20 hours in lifeguard training, experiencing and practicing intense and grueling physical rescues, as well as written examinations.  I have once again become a lifeguard.  I am able to once again watch the water and teach swimming lessons.  Why now?  Because I can.  Also, because I was offered a swim coaching position that required my certifications be up to date.  It was a battle, both physical and mental to obtain the courage and strength I knew I would need to regain this certification.  But I did it.  And, I’m proud.  

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

99 Calls

99 Calls.  As of next week, including my scheduled calls, I will have placed 99 calls as a patient ambassador for Medtronic.  In a little less than two years, I have spoken with 99 people regarding my experiences with Interstim.  99 “official” conversations about fecal incontinence have been expounded upon in an open and honest manner.  99 conversations that, prior to 2008, I could have never imagined having.  99 conversations that, on average, are 30 minutes a call, that’s 2,970 minutes, 49.5 hours, a little over 2 full days of talking about an issue that is stigmatized, traumatizing, and devastating to many people.

Modesty aside, I can say, I feel good about that.  I feel great that I am able to do something, able to help people at the time where they are questioning their future with fecal incontinence.  Able to alleviate fear and provide a sounding board for life’s stresses with fecal incontinence.  I feel as though I am providing a service that I so desperately craved at my time of decision, at the time where I was wallowing in the woes and uncertainty of a future filled with severe fecal incontinence.

The most amazing thing for me, however, is that 99 calls is just the tip of the iceberg.  The bowel disorders support group that I facilitate, the multiple e-mails I negotiate from my blog, and the conversations I have with people face to face all serve to get my story out there in an effort to let people know they are not alone! To date, this blog has been viewed over 17,500 times.  It is hard for me to even wrap my head around that number.  It is hard for me to imagine that those 17,500 + views have hopefully helped someone by educating them about my experience and hopefully provided empathy for the viewer’s individual experience.

I am grateful for the opportunity to share my story, and I invite you to pass it on.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

You might scare her…

Sometimes, and often by well-meaning individuals, I am silenced from telling my birth story to others.  When in the room with certain individuals and a newly pregnant mother-to-be, I am sometimes told, “Don’t tell her your story, you might scare her.”  Aside from being condescending to my entire being, that statement is one that is pretty much in tune with the way things can be in the birth world.

The truth is, I “might” scare her, but more importantly, I “might” educate her about very real issues that were a result of childbirth for me, and, potentially, could be a result for her.  Too often, we paint childbirth as a time to be strong, to be courageous, to be natural…when we really need to paint childbirth as a time to be educated.  Not only do we need to be educated about the choices we “want” to happen, but the choices that “may” happen during the course of a child being born.  It is not enough to research and only validate one set birth plan.  It is not enough to think that nothing else will happen, simply because you are “strong.”  You need to be educated, educated in all possibilities, not just the ones that you think, or desire, to happen.

Sometimes, people like to qualify my birth experiences, often pointing to different points in my birth story as the “why” to “what went wrong.”  The truth is, I was not educated enough before going into the birth of my first child.  Sure, I had read EVERYTHING I could about childbirth, had attended birth classes faithfully, brought a list of questions to each Doctor’s appointment, engaged in conversation with my colleagues, friends and family.  But, that wasn’t enough.  Because the pervasive societal push is for natural, unadulterated, childbirth, omitted in mainstream literature are the gritty, nasty, true, and possible emotional and physical ramifications of a birth gone awry.  Too often, these stories are looked at as outliers, and sometimes even, scare tactics, where mothers are blamed for choosing too many interventions, or babies are blamed for malposition.

Yes, I might scare you, and if I do, good.  Maybe then you’ll seek to find out more.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

My “Adult” Movie

Recently, I had the distinct pleasure of engaging in a video shoot for Medtronic Interstim device for fecal incontinence.  This video will serve to bolster Medtronic’s website for fecal incontinence by providing a real face, and story, to the issue.  In coming to my hometown, Medtronic was able to interview me, my doctor, and my family, and capture the impacts on all of our lives from this phenomenal device.

After giving authorization, my family was included in the taping of this promotional video.  In basing this video in reality, I thought it important to give the go ahead for my family to be portrayed.  When trying to explain to my 6 year old daughter what the purpose of this video was, I found myself stumbling over concepts she may be too young to understand.  When asked the question by my daughter, “Will this video be on TV for us to see?”  I was able to give the easy answer of “No, it will be on the computer, on a website.”  When asked the question by my daughter, “Will my friends be able to watch me?”  I was able to answer, “Well it’s like an adult movie.”  In summation, my daughter concluded, “Oh, OK, so we are making an adult movie for the computer website…cool, can’t wait to tell my teacher.”

UH Oh.  Adult movie, computer website.  I am seeing here that she requires more clarification.  I show her my scar and proceed to tell her that the video is about “mommy’s surgery” and we will help tell others that need the surgery that they can get it and be happy and healthy families.  Phew, bullet dodged.  Although, frankly, sometimes talking about incontinence does have the same stigma as talking about “adult” movies.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

This is Me

I am a woman.  I am a daughter.  I am a sister.  I am an educated individual.  I am a wife.  I am a mother.  I am an advocate.  I am me.

I am me.  But, does everyone know the real me?  Sometimes I feel as though I keep a major part of my life locked away, accessible to only those who I know will not judge nor stigmatize.  Since the obstetric trauma, in March 2008, I feel as though I have compartmentalized pieces of myself.  In starting my blog, in August 2011, I became an advocate.  Though largely anonymous, my blog seeks to expose people to the very real ramifications of birth trauma, both emotional and physical.  My journey in blogging led me to becoming a Patient Ambassador for Medtronic Interstim therapy, and a facilitator for our local bowel disorders support group.  These two endeavors allow me to continue my advocacy in a somewhat sheltered and “safe” environment.  Safe from judgement, safe from ridicule, safe from potential embarrassment.

I’m ready for more.  Too often, very real medical issues are glossed over in society because of an “ick” factor, a stigmatization.  I am ready to be a face of birth trauma, of fecal incontinence after childbirth, of PTSD after childbirth. This is me.  I am a real person.  I am a young women.  I suffered obstetric trauma.  I became incontinent of feces.  I suffered PTSD after childbirth.   I got the help I needed.  I attended therapy.  I became an advocate.  I am a woman of triumph. I am ready to share.

I am ready to share with all.  I’m ready to really “expose” myself in the hopes that I may reach people who may never have the courage to seek the help they need without having a very real person to relate to.  I am ready.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

It’s just not funny

Recently, I came across an article about a woman who lost her job due to incontinence.  The headline reads: Opera Singer Can’t Stop Farting After Surgery, Loses Job.  The woman, who suffered a botched episiotomy at childbirth, now endures incontinence issues such as uncontrollable loss of gas and feces.  She is suing the hospital due to loss of control, and subsequently, the inability to perform as an opera singer, her occupation.  As someone who also, ultimately, had to leave her chosen profession due to incontinence and birth trauma issues, I relate to this woman on a very personal level.  I applaud her ability to pursue legal action, and I admire her for going public with this very real, and very embarrassing issue.  I was initially introduced to this story via my Facebook feed, but then dug around for other news outlets carrying the story.  Largely listed under, “weird news,” and on the news feed “gawker,”  I now find this story to be listed in the media as a joke. Well, guess what, it’s just not funny.  Nor, is it “weird news.”  The fact that the media needs to portray an article like this under “weird” eliminates it’s ability to become a mainstream health issue.  Furthermore, the comments listed as a response to these articles are largely littered with middle school level jokes and puns about poop, farting, and loss of control.  So, congratulations media, for making a mockery of a very real problem for a lot of women, and also, creating an outlet for those wishing to relive their middle school years with crude wisecracks.  I’m not laughing.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

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