Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’

Comparing Pregnancies

It is amazing to me how much pregnancies can vary.  With exactly 5 years between the pregnancy of my daughter and my current pregnancy, I have found that although I have hit the trimester milestones in the same months, my pregnancies couldn’t be more different.  With my daughter, pregnancy was pretty much a breeze.  Sure, a little morning sickness, some aches and pains, extreme cravings….basically- the hallmarks of a “normal” pregnancy.  With my son, extreme morning sickness, symphysis pubic dysfunction, inability to move without the aid of a wheelchair/cane, sickness leading to hospitalization, are just some of the maladies I’ve experienced throughout the duration of this pregnancy.

In truth, part of me (all of me really) hopes that the “suffering” with this current pregnancy is over the minute this little boy is delivered.  If that is the case, it would be in sharp contrast to the delivery of my daughter, where the “suffering” really began upon delivery and leached into a LONG physically and emotionally painful postpartum period.  Knowing that I’ve done all I can to be proactive for this upcoming delivery, and knowing what I know now about what “ideal” postpartum care should look like, I feel that I have done my part in the process for a successful delivery and postpartum period.  I feel prepared and educated and therefore, happy to know that I am in control of the direction of my postpartum recovery.

I know it is not reality to think that the logic “easy pregnancy=tough postpartum”  equates to “tough pregnancy=easy postpartum” but hey, it’s OK to imagine that might be the case, right?

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

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Celebrating my 100th post!

This is my 100th post.

I thought I should probably make it somewhat meaningful, possibly a celebration of how far I have come, or a glance at what I have become.

Or both.

Well, I have come from a place of despair, of darkness, of hopelessness, of fear.

I have become a fighter, a survivor,….. an advocate.
In March 2008, I gave birth to one of the most precious blessings in my life.  4 1/2 years ago I experienced both the best and worst day of my life.  At the same time this beautiful light entered my life, my own light went out.  I suffered both physical and emotional consequences I could not have even imagined.  My world stopped making sense.

Through my struggles my family remained by my side, supporting me in my therapies, medical testing, and surgeries.

Slowly, with time, support, and extensive therapy, I began to emerge, a stronger, better, LOUDER, advocating individual.  I fight for women’s choice in birthing options, access to timely and correct prenatal and postpartum care, and recognition of the very real devastating effects of physical and emotional birth trauma.

I am happy to announce that I have been able to take the next step in my life journey.  I am expecting.  A thought, a dream, that I could not entertain for months, years, because of the physical and emotional ramifications of my first delivery.  I am so very happy to be able to share this with you, my readers, with the very real hope that I am offering YOU hope.  Things can and will get better.  It is possible.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren (and baby bump)

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

 

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

My Daughter’s Trauma

One thing that people always ask when I tell my story is whether my daughter suffered any damages because of the traumatic nature of the birth.  At the tender age of 4, I can assure you that cognitively my daughter is just fine, however, the first few months, weeks, and years were fraught with endless worry from me, her mother, about lasting physical and emotional damages from the traumatic birth.

At birth, my daughter suffered complete facial bruising and lacerations on the cheeks and top of the skull.  Namely, extensive bruising and cuts were located where the forceps had clamped upon her to hasten her exit from my body.  While she was not able to tell me her pain from these lacerations, I have to believe that she was uncomfortable, to say the least, judging by the extent of her wounds.

In the hospital, my daughter was also unable to rest effectively on her back and would only sleep in someone’s arms.  My understanding of this now is twofold; 1.  she needed comfort that all was OK and 2.  she had bruising on the back of her skull that proved uncomfortable to sleep upon.

Upon returning home from the hospital (about 50 hours after her entrance into the world), my daughter would not sleep.  She cried, cried, cried, and was unable to be soothed.  In fact, the first night in our home we needed to phone the on-call physician for advice.  Repeating her performance the second night home, the on-call physician was once again called and we were advised to bring her to a pediatrician on a Sunday morning.

Citing bruising and colic as her points of discomfort by the doctor, we were sent home with our daughter.  Her endless crying ceased at about 3 months of age.  Although never verified by the doctors, it truly makes me wonder whether her crying out and inability to soothe was an emotional function of her early birth trauma.

When our daughter started eating foods, we began to notice a severe flush in her cheek where the laceration had been most prominent.  When we brought her to the allergist (thinking it to be allergy related) we were asked if she had been a forceps baby.  While answering in the affirmative, we found out that she had nerve damage in her cheek, caused by the pinching, pulling, and tearing from the forceps.  The impact of this damage was described to us by the doctor as an involuntary response, a blush, that would occur when our daughter ate novel foods, or other foods that caused extreme sensation in the mouth such as sweet or sour.  My daughter still experiences the impact of this damage on a daily basis while eating.

So, while cognitively my daughter is fine, physically she still bears a scar upon her cheek where the laceration ran deep. She also suffers from the nerve damage in her cheek, while not painful, may prove bothersome to her as she becomes older.  My point-my daughter’s birth trauma was not the worst, by far, that could have happened. However, I think we all wish as mothers that nothing terrible happens to our children.  Birth trauma is all-encompassing, and, in my case served to impact not just me.

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

Spring Cleaning

I’d like to point out-I like to keep sentimental items.  Just so we all know.  I keep things that are nostalgic to me, and believe me, I can find nostalgia in a used napkin if the story behind it is good enough.  Luckily, I have a husband that helps me to clean out, tidy up, and keep the important things so our house does not become one that is profiled on the television show “Hoarders.”

My point-keeping nostalgic items is all well and good unless you have PTSD.  Then, these items often become painful triggers and reminders of trauma.  Until now, items from my daughter’s early years have been piled and shut away without regard to organization in various bins and dressers in our basement storage.  Until now, those items were triggering, awful, reminders of all the stuff I couldn’t do, didn’t do, because of the PTSD.  Until now, the outfit that I took her home from the hospital in was a direct adrenaline rush and full-out panic attack.

Until now.  Today-I organized bins with toys and clothes that have been haphazardly piled willy nilly in our basement.  And guess what-no triggers, no tears, no anxiety.  Only nostalgia.  Nostalgia about the good times, the precious times.  I found the outfit we brought my daughter home in.  Instead of remembering the pain, fear, panic-I recalled the joy of a true miracle.

It is amazing to me that I could do this today.  Ask me about doing this 2 years ago, I would have claimed it to be an impossible task.  Just goes to show what therapy can do for you.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren

Is she OK?

Yesterday, my daughter ran away from me.

We were in the locker room bathroom at a local gym.  She flipped the lock (as I was using the bathroom), ran out, and hid herself. (in a locker)

As what seemed like the longest three minutes ever passed by, where I frantically searched, cried, yelled her name, I heard a scuffling in the locker next to me.

It was her.

It seems fitting that the panic of losing her, the stress of not knowing if she was OK, the fear of never holding her again, all fell on her day of birth, the day of my trauma, and the day where I experienced similar, if not identical feelings, 4 years ago.

I guess we never lose that feeling when we feel our children are in danger. 

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

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