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

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Living with Chronic Disease

At our most recent support group, we discussed living with chronic disease.  Our guest speaker, a mental health professional that focuses on chronic disease, was extremely helpful in guiding our conversation.  I guess it’s difficult for me to think of my condition, of fecal incontinence, as chronic disease.  However, as with most bowel disorders experienced in our support group, the waxing and waning of symptoms throughout my life would define it as such.

Chronic disease and it’s impact on mental health can be severe.  As I have shared before, mental health professionals and therapy were pretty heavy components in my healing journey from both the physical and mental ramifications of the birth trauma.  In dealing with a condition day after day, a condition that is chronic, one needs to supplement their mental fortitude with strength from others as well as within.  It’s not easy for me to know that I will be fecally incontinent for life.  However, the facts remain that my sphincter is damaged, and without medical intervention, like the Interstim, I would be completely incontinent of feces.  The fact remains that to this day I have good days and bad (mostly good), as well as a medical device that contains a battery that will have to be changed throughout my lifetime.  The fact remains that I continue to have diet modifications, as well as, pelvic floor exercise suggestions that I am supposed to follow on a daily basis.  The fact remains, I am living with a chronic disease, that, although manageable, can alter both physical and mental outlook.

So, what do you do when you realize that you are living with a chronic disease?  According to our speaker, the number one realization that you need to make is that your mind and body are connected.  So, even though your mind isn’t “causing” your physical body ailment, your mind can alleviate some of you physical symptoms, or in turn, make them a lot worse.  Emotional distress can be the very thing that contributes to chronic disease symptomology getting physically worse.  By recognizing this fact, often in treatment, one can pay attention to emotional stressors, thereby problem solving and potentially increasing tolerance for the emotional distress so as not to have it manifest itself physically.

Too often, our anxiety about a chronic disease creates a negative feedback loop that, in turn, creates real physical problems, exacerbation on the underlying chronic illness.  It is only in recognizing this phenomenon that we can continue to heal our minds, in an effort to live with minimal disruption of chronic disease.

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

Cringe

Sometimes, I cringe.  I cringe when I hear stories about birth trauma.  I cringe when someone contacts me with yet another story of doctor incompetence resulting in physical and emotional harm. I especially cringe when the doctor that woman tells me about was the doctor who delivered me into my own personal hell.  I wonder if this doctor knows the impact she has on some of her patients.  The impact of her decisions, especially poor ones, on the individual women who she assisted during delivery and cared for postpartum.  The physical and emotional scarring from a doctor who I view as callous and without empathy.  I wonder, how many women have left her practice due to her incompetence, and then, I wonder, how many still remain?  I cringe.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

Speaking UP!

Living with a bowel disorder is not easy.  In fact, it can be downright awful at times.  Besides the obvious physical discomfort, emotional stress is rampant.  As an ambassador for those suffering with fecal incontinence and a support group facilitator for those with bowel disorders, the theme of negativity around incontinence is a prevalent one.  In fact, I urge you, if you are NOT suffering with incontinence, to imagine a day when you may be.  Can you imagine how incontinence would impact your daily life?  I wrote about my experiences in-depth in this post here.  Can you imagine how leakage, urgency, physical pain in the rectal region, would change your outlook on your day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute happenings?

Remaining positive when dealing with your own bowel disorder is difficult.  Oftentimes, bowel disorders lead to increased isolation, as the individual suffering refuses to share such personal information, and/ or feels uncomfortable leaving familiar areas.  Often, people go years, even decades, before opening up about their incontinence to anyone, including health professionals.  This suffering in silence wears down a person, physically and mentally.

It’s time, as a society, to stop being afraid of talking about fecal incontinence.  Let’s not allow “pooping your pants” to be a punchline.   It’s time to create a safe space to identify, share, and discuss incontinence.  Only then, will people truly seek the treatment they need, and deserve.  And, guess what, I don’t mind starting the conversation.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

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

A Mother’s Choices

Last week, I made a choice.  I made a choice to be done with breastfeeding.  I made a choice to use formula and baby food.  I made a choice that feeding my baby my milk for the first seven months of his life was long enough for me.  I made the choice.  Furthermore, I had the right to make the choice.  However, I felt bad about that choice.  And, that caused me to wonder.  WHY?  It is my belief that to formula feed and to breast feed are both valid and equal options.  Additionally, I have never had a disparaging thought towards mothers who exclusively formula feed.  So, WHY?…Why did I feel bad about giving up the breast? The answer lies in the way that our society values one choice over the other.  The prevailing thought that “breast is best” radiates in most mainline social media.  The though of being judged, the idea that other mother’s would view my choice as “lesser,” caused me to feel poorly. (for the record, I’m over it.)

The parallels between breastfeeding choices and birthing choices are undeniable.  It is no secret that the information out there glorifies vaginal “natural” birth as well as breastfeeding as the ideal standards of baby care.  I’ve said it once, and I will say it again, the idea of a choice as lesser is detrimental to women who will be making these choices.  There is a plethora of information out there that suggests pros and cons to vaginal birth, c-section, breastfeeding, formula feeding…however, the information is often difficult to locate in a non-judgmental forum.  Nonetheless it does exist and it is up to us, as mothers, to research the pros and cons to these choices in order to make the best choice for us and our baby.  It is also up to us, as mothers, to not judge the choices that others make in regards to birth and feeding.  Breastfeeding, Formula-feeding, Vaginal, C-section,….ALL EQUAL….ALL PERSONAL CHOICES….ALL A MOTHER’S CHOICE.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

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

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