Saturday, July 11, 2015

A Hopeful Road to Recovery

This blog post is an opportunity to debrief.  I'm one of those people who don't feel settled inside until I've really thought situations frontwards and backwards and so I'm still trying to accept my last two years of womanhood as it relates to motherhood through writing.  People who read my blogpost about Adelaide's birth from almost 2 years ago (Trauma), may remember the difficulties that I had when birthing her. I did a really good job of explaining how terrible her birth was, but what I've not been able to do is explain the recovery.  It's totally understandable why I've had a hard time explaining it, I literally did not have the vocabulary to do so, but I do now.

Since getting pregnant with Lennox, I've gotten connected with really great professionals in the health industry, who have really encouraged me to get on a good path to recovery before I started labor with him.  I have my mid-wife, my doula (who is also a midwife and a psychotherapist, specializing in women with traumatic birthing experiences), another doula, a Craniosacral Therapist, and now that Lenny is born, a homeopathic nurse practitioner, and a great lactation specialist.

Before reading this next paragraph it's important for you to understand that what I'm about to say is really hard to admit and to people I have told this to have not reacted as well as intended.  But truthfully I don't really know what I want people to say.  I don't even know if I'll publish this post.

I have a real condition that's hard to explain, and even harder to get people to understand, because it's a mental illness, and people without mental illness experience do not understand issues of the mind.  It took me a long time to wrap my head around, and in a lot of ways I still am.  I've not been exposed to a lot of conversations regarding mental issues, it's not something that ever crossed my mind that I would have to deal with, but here I am.  I have what is called Post Natal PTSD from Adelaide's birth 2 years ago.  It's not the same as Postpartum Depression, and cannot be drugged into going away.  I literally have to do the work to be better, which is exhausting.  It's exhausting for everybody in our family.  I am also not trained in combat.  I mention that because when people hear PTSD, their first thought is often that I might revert to a war type situation, but I don't.  I have never been a danger to myself or my children, and I'm lucky because although I'm not trained in combat, people who have Post Natal PTSD, sometimes are a threat.  That's not what it's like in my case.  There is no denying it though, I have every symptom of Postnatal PTSD, right down the list.

Reliving the Event.  After Adelaide was born, I would wake up in the middle of the night, finding myself reliving the event, trying to push her out. Which is especially weird because I never reached active labor with Adelaide.  I now think that the brain is brilliant, but at the time, I would be terrified and mortified that I would come to reality with my husband just staring at me and a bassinet with an already birthed and cleaned baby by my side.  What was happening is that my brain was trying to rectify the memory so that I could move past it.  I thank God that he gave me such an amazing brain, that my brain has been totally unsatisfied with my birthing experience too, just like every bit of my being, and is trying to fix it.  The problem is that, when I have a memory, I don't just have a memory, I relive it.  My brain has been in unrest, and that's exhausting.  It actually happened again, a couple months ago or so.  It wasn't during the night though, it was the middle of the day, and I was in my kitchen but I thought I was at U of M, and I was re-living a portion of the event.  And then it happened a couple days ago, while nursing my son.  

Fear of Childbirth.  Women with Postnatal PTSD often feel torn between wanting more children and a fear of having to birth again.  I am one of them.  Until I got pregnant again, I thought that Adelaide would be an only child, and I was just starting to come to terms with it.  Of course, I think Adelaide is perfect in every way, and I would like 10 more of her, if I didn't have to birth again, but once becoming pregnant, I knew that I'd have to do it, and so I went to the support groups and the workshops and I did get through it.  Although, I wouldn't want to do this a third time.

Avoidance of Medical Procedures or Healthcare. That's me.  I've always leaned more holistic anyway, but now, I'd rather see someone with healing crystals then ever sit on a crinkly paper in a doctor's office ever again, let alone be back at U of M in Labor and Delivery.

Problems Bonding with Baby.  I didn't feel a connection to Adelaide right away, and I couldn't breastfeed.  I really wasn't sure if she was mine.  Having had her cesarean, I didn't actually see her birthed or feel her birthed and I was so sick once she was born, I was unable to spend those first couple hours with her.  Somehow I took her home and did a good job taking care of her, I felt a real responsibility to do it, as if I was the world's best babysitter, but I didn't feel maternal to her right away....that's come with time.  And apparently, this is all really normal for people with Postnatal PTSD--mother's cannot breastfeed, the milk just doesn't come in.  Regardless, it was exhausting listening to people say, just keep trying, as if I just wasn't doing it right.  I pumped, and I tried to breastfeed and it was incredibly disappointing as it just wouldn't work.      

Postnatal Isolation.  After getting pregnant this time, I immediately felt a fear to birth again, and a total inability to be able to do so.  I tried explaining it to people right away, but being that people could not relate to the total fear of birthing, their responses sounded like this, "you're focusing on the birth...look at the baby that you have, she's great!"  Responses like this made me feel detached from other mothers, and like I'm not strong enough to be a mother at all. It's led to depression.  I don't feel depressed all the time, just depressed about her birth: it's a situational type of depression.  People have tried saying to me, "you just have to move on," or "pray about it."  As if I've been trying to hold myself back, as if I haven't begged God to make this easier.  For most women, birthing was great because there was a baby at the end.  My brain does not connect how great Ada makes me feel, with how terrible the thought of birthing makes me feel.  They are two totally different aspects of my life.  To expound on that further, it feels as if I had a trauma, and then a couple hours later, someone gave me a baby: like they are not connected activities. So then, weeks leading up to Lenny's birth, people would ask me, "are you excited to have a baby?"  I think I've looked surprised and mortified each time, because, NO, I'm not excited to have a baby.  I felt like I'm gearing up for a trauma that's going to ruin me for the next couple of years...oh, and someone's going to give me a beautiful, wonderful baby which I'm going to learn to love, making it harder to take care of myself.

Additional Fears.  Just after Ada was born I was afraid to drive, afraid to leave the home, afraid to be by myself, afraid to stop the pain killers, afraid, afraid, afraid.  It's obvious that whether or not I was dying, when I was laboring, I thought I was, and I didn't feel ready.  I always thought that I would be able to accept death if ever faced with it, but in the situation I wasn't ready.  Once leaving the hospital I realized to a much deeper level how uncertain life is, making me afraid, really, really afraid.

Then besides the PTSD, there was a year of just poor health.  I had low thyroid function for an entire year.  It left me sluggish and unable to lose the weight I had put on during pregnancy, and feeling yucky about myself.  There was the prescription drugs, the scars, the bruises, and the swelling.  I even had an allergic reaction to antibiotics that left all food tasting rancid for at least a week after Adelaide was born.

Lastly, Adelaide had some problems too.  She had multiple ribs out of place and her jaw wasn't aligned making her unable to get a deep suction for feeding.  We were able to get that all fixed, but it was still tough until we found the right professional to work on her.

I write all this because I need to explain why Lenny's birth appears to be so healing for me, however there have still been bumps in the road.  But these bumps have felt like ant hills opposed to the massive mountains that I had to climb with Ada.

June 28th, 2015, my water broke about 2pm.  I called Triage and they asked if the I could feel Lenny moving at all.  I couldn't, but that wasn't weird because I never felt Lenny move.  They encouraged me to drink something sugary and lay on my left side to get him moving.  It really wasn't working great, so we headed up to U of M about 5pm.  They have me a 12 hour window from when my water broke to get into labor.  At this point, they were able to monitor contractions, but I could not feel them, which means that I was probably not dilated and if I was, it wasn't very much.

So 2am on June 29th would be 12 hours from when my water broke and if I couldn't get into labor before then, they would start talking pitocin...the dreaded pitocin which poisoned me in Adelaide's birth and caused my Kidneys to start shutting down, gave me such extreme edema, and ended in an unexpected cesarean birth.

Because the hospital had already reserved a room for us at 2am, we just checked in immediately rather then going home and as it turns out that it was a good thing because Lenny's birth turned out to be fast and furious.  We rested in front of the TV, had a good dinner, I did some stretches and about 11pm I had a serious contraction.  It really felt like it came out of nowhere too.  I waited till I had another, it was about 4 minutes later.  Wow!  These are close right from the get-go.  I didn't think much of it because we were in the hospital, but once the nurse came in to ask if I had any progression, which was coincidentally a few minutes later, I told her.  She called the midwife in to come talk to me and they suggested I start antibiotics because my water was broken for quite a while at this point and they like to start antibiotics 4+ hours before a birth if you're positive for carrying a virus, which I was.  Lenny was born only 2 hours later so we ended up having to stay 48 hours at the hospital for observation, but that was fine with me because 24 hours just seems like not enough before being discharged.

Anyway, I called my doula just after I told the midwife about my close contractions.  Unfortunatly, she was in another birth, and so was her business partner, which meant that they had to call-in a doula from a backup organization, and coincidentally I ended up knowing her from a trauma workshop, which made me scared to use her, but in the end it couldn't have worked out better, because I had instant repoirt with her.  So my backup doula arrived at midnight and this is the first time that I let them check to see my progression.  Because I had an infection with Adelaide I was really cautious about how often I got checked this time around.  I was 3cm, 100% effaced and the baby was at 0 station.  I was super disappointed to be at 3cm, because I had just labored for an hour and it was so painful.  I really didn't know if I could do that all night.  Did I mention I went all drugs.  I wasn't opposed to drugs completely, in fact I was considering morphine a couple hours before I would actually give birth in order to have the stamina for pushing, but I never got to that either.

Right after they checked me, I decided to labor in a tub.  It was so nice!  It was warm, and it helps suspend gravity so the contractions were just a little bit more livable.  About 1:30am or something like that, I decided it was time for morphine, but the minute I got out of that warm tub it was go-time.  I started pushing, barely making it to the bed.  Although I instinctually knew it was go-time, I didn't put it together that they weren't going to give me drugs.  My doula asked me if I wanted to get off my back, because it's a harder way to deliver on your back, but I declined because I was still in the mindset that I wasn't delivering just yet.  When I finally realized I wasn't getting morphine, I got on my side, 3 pushes and Lenny was out at 1:39pm.  Like I said fast and furious.

It worked out good that the birth was fast and totally different this time around because there was no time for triggers of PTSD to even happen, although I was totally prepared.  I had worked really hard with my doula on a birth plan that made sense in my situation.  We tried to remove all possibilities of triggers to happen, although you cannot predict them all, and so we came up with language and tricks to help bring me back to reality if necessary.  When the backup doula arrived, knowing so well my situation, she read through the birth plan once and was up to speed just as quickly as my original doula was.  She really did great.

Since arriving home, I was breastfeeding Lenny as intended, but this is an area that I didn't do enough preparation in to terms of PTSD.  I didn't expect Lenny to have similar mechanical problems in his mouth as Ada did.  I was able to recognize the signs quickly and get him the help that he needed, but regardless it left me sad and resurfacing experiences with Ada that brought on a bit of depression when I had to take a break from breastfeeding.  I really wasn't willing to pump in the meantime because that was one of the most devestating experiences of my life just 2 years prior, and so I flirted with breastfeeding behaviors that were were likely to bring on mastitis and of course I contracted it.  I knew it was a risk I was taking, but it was the best decision for my health at the moment, although now I'm in a rough spot with a fever and total body weakness.  I was bed-ridden for a couple days but today I'm more mobile after increasing my Motrin intake.  I'm also sore, as I've decided to let my milk dry up and go to formula, which is not an easy decision in our culture, but I believe that it'll leave me healthier and able to be a better momma to my kids then I would be if I was still trying to breastfeed.

After all said and done so far in Lenny's short 12 day life, I feel like I'm on a road to recovery that I didn't know if I'd ever see.  It's still soon though and so I don't have my hopes up too much but I'm trying to remain hopeful because I believe that that's also good medicine.  Perhaps I'll find I haven't traveled very far at all, but I have to believe that at least I've moved a little bit.  So far, this is my road to recovery and the beginning of what will be many hours, days and weeks of debrief.

it is what it is.