Posts Tagged ‘avoidance’

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

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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

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)

You Never Know

You never know.  This has been a mantra of mine since deciding to share my experiences, and share my story.  The other day, I was catching up with a friend and I handed her my card  that outlines my blogging website and my mission.  The person beside me, a man, overheard my conversation and promptly asked me for the information, citing his daughter’s agonizing recent experience with her own childbirth.  I was happy to oblige and give him a card that I know will contain information critical for his daughter in these early postpartum days.  I commend this man for speaking out.  Yet, once again, I am overwhelmed to think of the amount of women who suffer in silence, and who do not break their silence because of social stigmas.   It is because of these very occurrences that I continue to speak, loudly, everywhere, without hesitation, because….you never know.  You never know who is listening.  You never know who you may help next.  You never know.

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

 

A List

On my yahoo homepage today I found a link to an interesting article: 8 Things You Should Never Say to a Mom.  While outlining the obvious, “you look so tired” and stating the always taboo “when are you due?” whilst not confirming the actual pregnancy, the article is a good guide for clueless friends and family for conversing with a new mother.

I offer you my own list titled

“8 Things you SHOULD say to a Mom who has Experienced Birth Trauma”

1.  How can I help?

2.  I can (insert chore here).

3.  Would you like to rest?  Do you need help with your appointments?  I can (insert time to babysit here).

4.  I can bring dinner over.

5.  If you’re interested, here’s a name of (a doctor/website/blog) that may help.

6.  I love you.

7.  I am here.

8.  Again, I love you.

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

 

Just Keep Swimming

One thing that I have found essential to my healing journey is exercise.  Exercise releases feel good endorphins, keeps my weight down, and allows me a great way to beat stress without medication.

Prior to my trauma, I thoroughly enjoyed swimming as exercise.  As a college level competitive swimmer, I was used to tough workouts and long hours in the pool.  As you can imagine, fecal incontinence and swimming laps in a pool DO NOT MIX.  In fact, there are signs posted everywhere that any fecal matter in the pool will result in a pool closure for all patrons.  Besides the obvious fact that a leakage would affect other’s enjoyment of the pool facility for the day; there was no way that I was getting into a pool if there was a chance that I could have an accident.  Obviously this proved a huge loss, emotionally and physically, as I thought about all of the times I would miss in the pool.

Through physical therapy, but, prior to my Interstim surgery, I gained some control of my bowels that would allow me a pretty good idea about when my leakages may occur.  It was at this time that I began to swim again, albeit cautiously.  Even though I felt good about going into the pool again, my plans could change in an instant if I was having a bad day with my sphincter.

Fast forward to now.  Interstim has allowed me complete freedom in the pool.  I no longer foster feeling of uncertainty and grief when stepping into the chlorinated goodness that was my second home prior to trauma.

It turns out that swimming is one of the best exercises I can do with my Interstim implant.  The low impact exercising has allowed me to stay in shape, engage in great workouts, and have fun again.  I could not have imagined this 6 months ago.

Thanks for Reading,

Lauren

Familar Routines

One thing that people need to know about PTSD is that is paralyzes you.  With me, this paralysis was evident in my lack of spontaneity, my loss of freedom, and the limited choices and locations that were “safe” for me to engage in or visit.  One of PTSD’s major hallmarks is avoidance.  I avoided my many triggers and essentially guarded my mind against potential triggers by avoiding many people and locations.

Some people with PTSD develop agoraphobia and will not leave their house, their safe area.  Although never diagnosed with full-blown agoraphobia, I definitely experienced the panic that new areas, or areas with known triggers had on me.  For three years, there were a lot of things I did not do, experiences I did not engage in, people I did not meet, and places I did not see-all because of PTSD.

When I did venture out, it was never on my own at first. I always had a person with me, an advocate, who could steer me away from potential triggers, or help to calm my panic ridden self if a trigger was unavoidable.  After time and through therapy, I was able to safely navigate these areas as long as I had an “escape” plan at my disposal if the panic set in.  The places that I personally deemed “safe” were a trip to the library (children’s section only-adult books may prove to much of a trigger), a once a week extended family dinner, and certain classes at the gym (where the average age was 65-less likelihood of running into a pregnant woman in class). Today, I have come to the realization that these familiar routines that I developed were truly a lifesaver to me during those times of crisis.  Thank you to all those who made those experiences possible, I am forever grateful.

Thanks for reading,

Lauren