Wednesday, 17 October 2012

A New Path on the Journey...

It has been a REALLY long time since I have sat down here. There has been lots of times that I have wanted to, but lots of things have stopped me...
  • Circumstances - we moved house recently... I thought if I stopped to write it would be non-productive (pfft... it would have been therapeutic!)
  • Protectionism - I was in the midst of making some big decisions about care providers and wanted to make sure that any potential caregivers I chose would have some level of protection from my big mouth! :D
  • Morning sickness - I'm Up the Duff again and for the first 20 weeks I was either sleeping on the couch or had my head in a bucket! :D
So it is time to fill you in on the journey I am on... the new path... same journey... same direction... different path branch...

First of all a recap:

In December last year we lost our Little girl, Lilly-Anne Joy. We were 20 weeks pregnant with her and I had an apparent placental abruption after her placenta attached to my C-section scar line. As if I didn't hate that thing enough and everything having it made me go through... I also lost a child to it. So it pretty much goes without saying that I was going to have some anger and bitterness to work through. But thankfully I was surrounded by love and grace when it happened and that gave me a better starting point than I could hope for.

Christmas with the family here in Perth was hard. Alot of them wouldn't acknowledge that we were even pregnant and had "lost" it let alone what we were going through. People can be REALLY dense and it seemed that alot of people's opinions outside our little bubble of family and doula, were "Well it was early, its nothing" and these same people have been shocked at their own behaviour months latter when it has been brought to their attention that we were in fact halfway through the pregnancy before we found out anything was wrong...

I joined a wonderfully supportive Facebook group of women who have all lost babies at various stages and they really schooled me in this foreign grief thing. For so long after it happened I avoided them, but they really made me open that door and look at the things before me. I saw the choices I could make in how I would handle the grieving process, and even though I let the opinions of other people dictate more to me than I should about how open I was in this process, at least I did it. I didn't shut down and bottle it up as I am sure many people would have liked me to.

I went through periods of time where it wasn't just people in my family that were silent... women in Playgroup even shunned me at different times... the excuse other people made for alot of them was that "They don't know what to say to you..." So rather than saying nothing at all, I was placed on the fringe by alot of these mothers, some who would openly turn away from me when I walked into a conversation. It was almost like I was being punished for being the mother who lost a child.

Given the circumstances surrounding HOW I lost Lilly-Anne (That it was due to having had an un-necessary C-section in the first place), many people even wanted to blot out my existence through ignorance. They didn't want to contemplate that such an awful thing as having had an un-necessary C-section could happen in the first place - but that it could cause the death of a child was just beyond their capacity to accept. So rather than saying "That is horrible, I never would have imagined that such a series of events could transpire for one person, I'm sorry it has happened to you..." it seemed like they chose to flat out not believe me and label me a liar or a deluded attention seeker.

So it just got easier to not share this stuff. People just couldn't handle my past. It was almost like I was a criminal and they didn't want to know what I had gotten up to in my past... and so I saved myself for my support group meetings and my Angel Mums group. And time went on as time has a tendency to do and God worked on me... my bitterness and anger, as well as healing me and bringing me into peace on having lost Lilly-Anne. I still don't know why it had to happen, but I got better at being ok with not getting an answer to "Why?"

The New part of the Path:

After alot of prayer and healing over the time since we lost our baby girl, God saw fit to give us another pregnancy... this time with TWINS!

 After years of joking that we wanted twins, or would like them... here they were! There was no escaping them now. The poor sonographer at our 9 week scan thought he would be giving us this great and surprising news. We were just surprised that our suspicions were correct!

The twins appear to be Dizygotic Twins (Non-identical) but we won't know until they are out. They have separate placentas and sacks. At the 20 weeks scan, it showed that their placentas had moved and were butted (Fused) up against each other and one was ontop of the other and both were transverse...

Around the 20 weeks scan, we got a letter from our local hospital (Where I was planning on taking my private midwife to have them because she has rights to be my clinical midwife there) stating that we would have to go to King Edward Memorial Hospital (KEMH) due to the lack of theatre cover for Twins VBAC. That news was the kick in the pants I needed to start thinking about actually having these babies. Up until then I had been in Laa-Laa land about what I needed to actually do to have them.

My nutrition and exercise stats were sadly lacking due to the total exhaustion I felt and the morning sickness I had in the first 20 weeks. With my Midwife's encouragement, I attempted to improve these things. I made myself stop having multiple day naps, started going out again (And getting my exercise by walking around at the shops or the zoo or wherever) and even stopped eating my beloved Maccas Chicken Deluxe Burgers... as my main food source anyways!
As a result I have energy again! I can think... my house isn't clean but it is clean-er than it was a few weeks ago! It is amazing the effect that these things have had on me...!

I haven't gone all out to try and plan everything for this birth. In the next post I'll explain what I've been doing so far, what research I've found and what programs for preparation we've decided on.
Till then, I will be chilling out to my new oils for aromatherapy and massage (I am just addicted to smells at the moment and it is having an amazing effect on chilling me out! I will be writing a post just on this a little latter!), looking for some cool beats to help me chill, and will be doing my good postures to keep this once transverse babies in a good position for the rest of the pregnancy! :D

Talk really soon! Prepare yourselves for more regular updates from me now! :D

Sunday, 19 February 2012

You can't trust mums... they lie...

About a month ago the Blog Mama Mia did a "Comment" piece on the recent death of a homebirth advocate. That argument aside, and the one over the question of whether it was ethical for them to do that, it gave a forum for some of the most mean and hateful trolls to come out of the woodwork and leave their mark on the wall for all to see and judge.

In this place a woman wrote for the first time about how her traumatic birth effected her life even now, over a year on. She outlined how a surgeon's inability to empathise or listen to her allowed that surgeon to perform a C-section on her without any anesthetic, despite this woman's screams for the surgeon to stop. Once over, the surgeon told the woman in private to basically keep her mouth shut and get over it.

Whether this forum was the best place for this information to be shared for the first time or not, she shared. The initial responses were sympathetic, but ultimatley they were all washed away by the inconsiderate postings of a few evil trolls. They claimed that this mother was deluded to think that anything so horrible could happen. That she needed serious help and that no one would ever believe something so horrible could even happen.

It just so happens that this poster was a friend of mine and she was more than telling the truth. She held back on how the treatment in hospital effected many different aspects of her life. She didn't tell how her friends and mother's group rejected her when they heard about it for fear that she was either lying or was telling the truth and that they would have to hear about it and consider these attrocities having actually happened. Rather than being supported, she was shunned.

The trolls in this forum went on to claim that because THEY had never personally heard of this happening (Though none claimed to work for AHPRA or any other regulatory body who would hear such claims and complaints), that this Mum was basically just a LIAR.

I tried, I really did. I posted links to reports such as THIS which is a WA Health report on cases in 2008 regarding Obstetritians in malpractice. With stories ranging from OBGYN's raping patients both above and below anesthetic to young women being given hysterectomies for no reason...

TODAY in the newspapers online, a story on one such surgeon has come to light.
FINALLY someone has recognised how bad this is. But what is worse about this whole situation is that it took the effect of this 1 person on 152 women (More most likely) before something was done to stop this person. 1 person's life being effected in this way is 1 too many.
So what should we do?

Well I know more than ANYONE that it takes time to heal and get your head right after a traumatic birth experience. The last thing you want to be doing is making formal complaints to bodies whose almost sole purpose is to protect the practitioners that subscribe to them. But SOMETHING needs to be done.

There are groups who are now in existance who are aiming to help women and men alike place medical complaints without the fuss. I will be putting more information up about  this and how to make complaints as soon as I have all the information.
Because unfortunatly, it is up to us to do this so that 151 other people don't have to before something is done about it!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The business of being Mum...

As many of my customers are friends, they know that I'm a mum... Anyone who has read my "About Us" tab on the website would quickly see that the face behind this business is only there because of the kid that got me into it in the first place! That little person changed my life in the most dramatic of ways and does so everyday. We try to protect him and nurture him as much as we can, but as I discovered yesterday, sometimes you can do everything possible and they STILL get hurt. And I've met enough wonderful mums who have been through freak happenings that I know that worse things can happen, even when your back isn't turned.

This was yesterday's effort when a swing hit Ayrton in the face in our own backyard:

The moment this happened though, my heart stopped beating. There was blood everywhere and I didn't yet know whether this was a serious injury or not. My mum says "The longer the pause of silence before they cry, the worse it is..." and she was right. There was a good 10+ second pause before the screming began...

But I guess my reaction to this was also tainted by what else has happened in our lives recently. I've been tossing up whether I should share or not with my business customers... I've put this on that blog also... but who knows whether it is something that you should do or not?

When we were going through it all, we closed up shop for Christmas early and tried to deal with it as best as we could. To try and make this little glossy front for the business where it looked like we were all in control and nothing was wrong. But deep down, something really is not right. Our newest Love Bugz isn't coming any more and I hate having to tell that to people more than actually living without my bump anymore sometimes...

It is really hard when I completley stuff something up (Like when I don't update the right part of the website when we've sold out of something and then I sell another one and have to explain... or I post the wrong product because my eyes didn't read the order correctly!!!).

But how to explain?
How do I tell my customers, who don't buy my issues and life story when they make a purchase from my beloved little store, that the reason why I've stuffed up their order is because I am trying really, really hard to be normal and sane and calm...?
I can't. People don't buy into that when they decide to make a purchase from a store. But that is life being a WAHM. A Work at home mum. Your business is your home and your home is your business. It is linked and there is only few places where they aren't.

I'm not a huge department store. I have no one else on the staff who I can call to come and take over while I have the down time I need. I have to keep going. Even when I'm falling over myself...
This isn't how I want my customers to be treated. I love each and every one of them and I LOVE putting their orders together and pray that they love the products they have purchased as much as I love sending them out... 

So here I am... committing to soldiering on. Getting orders out in an acceptably speedy amount of time... it being the RIGHT products... Having up to date and clear information on our website. And most of all, continuing to provide the right kind of service that our customers expect... even of a little WAHM business like us...And at the end of the day, it is my customers who are doing me a favor by giving me something to keep my hands busy...

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Just have to write this...

This isn't going to make sense to most people... and I don't think it has to. It just has to be said.
I've been through so much lattley and had so many thoughts go rattling through my head like a freight train. But I know that some of them aren't my own making. I ask questions like "Why me?" and I get instant answers that I don't think I am smart enough to make up and certainly aren't smart enough to even understand most of the time... but here goes.

In the last 2 days I've been faced with some pretty big information. Nothing that someone with a human mouth has said to me. I am sure there has been remenants of it in what people have said. I've felt so surrounded by these words that SURELY other people, perceptive or not, must have picked up on them.

The first is this:
What happened to me is horrible. But God will use it to show how POWERFUL he is. Yes, I've fought and yelled and cried over the fact that he would have been just as big and powerful if he'd just stopped it happening in the first place. But he didn't... so that even more power and love could be experienced for us. For me and my family. Specifically this idea springs out of a prophecy that was passed onto me from a friend's husband who didn't even KNOW the circumstances under which I lost my baby.... (The whole getting stuck on the C-scar thing...). His words were "I saw Physical and emotional scars being lovingly and oh so gently cut out, and healing balm being rubbed on those tender areas. Healing the world wouldn't recognise. Healing without scars..."
Wow... I just sit here and am overcome by this idea that the plan and gifts and blessings that God has in store for me are BIGGER than the pain and confussion and saddness I feel at loosing this baby. That load of things in store must be pretty bloody big...

The second is this...
That I don't need to just be content with my situation. Not to just suck it up and be "Okay..." But proove myself trustworthy, loyal and JOYFULLY thankful in my current situation in all it's richness. Because if I can't be prooven trustworthy with what I've got, how can I be given any more? How can I carry a bigger and more joyful load if I can't even struggle under the one that I have?
I was just reading a book where this bible verse popped out at me "And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own?" (Luke 16:12 NIV).
To me this meant being trustworthy in using and growing the gifts I have now. Cultivating my son and my husband and my friends in their faith and lives.

The last few days I have also been trying to re-aquanit myself with a knowledge of the personality of God. I'd come to the conclusion that I don't really know much more about who exactlly he is outside of the vibe I get from going to church (ie; He is a nice guy, pretty huge and capable of anything... though knowing him personally is up to me-duh!). That and the old bearded guy who sits in heaven throwing down the odd lightening bolt. Both views are a bit off the mark.
So I opened a book of bible verses that a friend just gave me and was faced with what he says he has done and what he HAS done in history to proove who he is.

One thing I did know before I read this was that he doesn't change. Who he says he is and what he does always has the same persona behind it. He doesn't have OCD (Even though almost all people would struggle with this seeing how a God capable of removing Cancers in miracles wouldn't spare people when things like the Tsunamis happened...). So I knew that when I'd open my bible, or this book of verses, I'd know that I was looking straight at who he is.
"Oright..." I said. "Show me that you love me. Show me that you ARE there for me. That you are the All powerful, All present God you say you are. That you did create everything and are huge like that, but that you actually care for little old me..."

And this is what he said...
"The LORD appeared to me in a faraway place and said, "I love you with an everlasting love. So I will continue to show you my kindness." (Jeremiah 31:3)
"God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life." (John 3:16)
" I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love which Christ Jesus our Lord shows us. We can't be separated by death or life, by angels or rulers, by anything in the present or anything in the future, by forces or powers in the world above or in the world below, or by anything else in creation" (Romans 8:38-39)
"Every good present and every perfect gift comes from above, from the Father who made the sun, moon, and stars. The Father doesn't change like the shifting shadows produced by the sun and the moon." (James 1:17)
"Even if he makes us suffer, he will have compassion in keeping with the richness of his mercy." (Lamentations 3:32)
"So we can go confidently to the throne of God's kindness to receive mercy and find kindness, which will help us at the right time." (Hebrews 4:16)
"My soul waits calmly for God alone. My salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my savior--my stronghold. I cannot be severely shaken" (Psalm 62:1-2)

"For this reason I suffer as I do. However, I'm not ashamed. I know whom I trust. I'm convinced that he is able to protect what he had entrusted to me until that day." (2 Timothy 1:12)
" A new day will dawn on us from above because our God is loving and merciful." (Luke 1:78)

And so I believe him... And I'll wait. For those of you who've gotten all this so far... you'll understand this saying too. 
"Its Friday... But Sunday is coming..."

Sunday, 8 January 2012

In this dark hour...

I've been putting off writing. For the best and the worst of reasons.
1 month ago I lost my baby...

I was 20 weeks pregnant and whilist I didn't know, or wouldn't face that there was anything wrong, my baby had silently passed away and many things transpired to bring this to my attention.
My friend who was just a few weeks behind me worried that she couldn't feel her baby moving much... I hadn't either but wasn't too worried. Like with all the tiny little "signs" I just had an explanation for them all. Many of my friends hadn't really felt movement till well past 20 weeks. But to reassure her our MW's brought along their dopplers and decided to give them a try on me also. They didn't find a heartbeat.
I almost passed out from shock when they told me that by now and with the amount of invassive pushing they were both doing on my belly, they should have heard something. Things weren't looking good.

So I decided to go home. It was 10:30pm at night by this stage and I just needed to feel my Husband's arms around me whilst I gave him the worst news I've ever had to deliver in my life. "Honey... please prepare yourself. But there is a big chance that our baby isn't with us anymore..." Those words didn't feel like that they came from me even though I thought about what exactlly to tell him on the drive home.
I knew that those words would break his heart, but that telling him... saying it out loud outside that little room with the midwives where time seemed to stand still and where reality seemed quite suspended... it just made it real. And I cried. I was in real real deep shock.

That night my little guy woke up as we finally made our way to bed and I gladly put him in bed with us. After having a hugely warm shower and sitting on the ground just staring at the wall, I got into bed with my boys and hugged them and prayed for the mental exhaustion to just make me pass out. And thankfully it did. Holding my little guy helped a heap though. His warmness, his weight. His Heartbeat. I've always loved those things and NEVER taken them for granted. But they were my saving grace that night. They saw me through the dark hours and onto dawn.

I woke at 5am and my midwife rang to tell me she'd lined everything up at the hospital for a check-up U/S and the potential for being admitted to hospital and an appointment with an obstetrician there.
We went in, had the U/S while my Doula sat in the waiting room with my son. I asked for the viewing monitor to be turned off unless they had something good to show me. But straight away the sonographer said "I'm not seeing a 19+ week baby here... and there is no heartbeat..."
That was it. Deal done. No "Get out of jail free card". This was for real. There was no "But what ifs..." Just No baby.
I excused myself to the toilet and let that try and sink in for the first time.

My Baby is dead.
Relief at finally having an answer and no more waitings. No more What-ifs.
More tears at no more waiting. This was time to start facing this head on...
More tears. Holy shit. This is it.

Taken upstairs. Sat in maternity room... thankfully by ourselves.
MW, Doula, Husband, Son... and me.
Admitted. Poked. Proded. The shittest ever intern docotor choosing the smallest fucking vein in my hand to draw blood through a shunt from. It still hurts now.
Them asking me all the questions that they refused to take my MW's word on.
MW leaving to take care of her kids after doing everything she could.
Husband leaving to put Baby boy down for sleep.
Doula staying and holding my hand and crying everytime the internal noise quitened enough to let me hear the words... "My baby is dead..."

Obs who actually did the C/S for my son coming in. No other options. It is just her. THANK GOD my Obs who induced me with Ayrton isn't allowed in. He is banned. THANK GOD. One less piece of shit I have to deal with.
Thank God for private MWs.
Obs comes in and strokes my cheek and tells me she is sorry for what I'm going through.
But she wants to me have the Miscarriage naturally. To give birth.
I say no frikan way.
She says "But it is just a pesserie. It will be over soon..."
I say no. I can't do it. It will be horrible. I'll bleed and then at 2am when I am haemrogging and dying she will be called in to do my hysterectomy. No thankyou.

She says that this will give me a better chance at VBAC. I say not if I don't have a uterus. You won't be here. It will be me. Alone. No. Give me a D and C. I can't do this.
She says that she is full up for the afternoon.
I say "Fine. Tomorrow morning. Doctor 2 is back from holidays"
But no. I came under her shift.
Time blurs. I call my MW and tell her. She says that it is my decision. But there is no changing hospitals. There is no option anywhere else. I say I just have to have a D and C. I can't do this any other way right now. Not under the circumstances. Not right now. I can't.

She must have called the Obs because all of a sudden I was on the list.
As I was wheeled past my husband and left him in the waiting area the Obs said "I'll see you in 15 minutes to tell you she is fine..."
40 minutes later I came out, minus 1.6 litres of blood.
They'd found the reason for my Miscarriage. My baby had attached somewhere near the scar line.
Near my very un-necessary extra piece of baggage that I carry with me everywhere.
The few inches of skin, muscle and organ that will never be the same.
Again they have changed me.
Still that experience that I have worked SO hard to be free of, to put behind me, move on, grow from and learn from has snuck up and knocked me down again.
It isn't a zipper. It is much worse than that. It killed my baby.

My baby. The reason for all the fuss. She (as I am pretty sure she was...) was gone. But she SHOULDN'T have been.
She should have been here still. In my belly. Between my hip bones. Growing... kicking the crap out of me.
Stretching. Getting the hickups.
Doing handstands and making me ache. Making me loose sleep. Maybe even throw up occasionally...
But now. Nothing.

It is like I wasn't even pregnant.
When people ask... people that I know have no clue and probably don't care outside of passing interest, I just talk as if it happened to someone else.
Like it was something I watched in a movie.
But if it is someone else who I can see the mirror of pain in their eyes, because they KNOW loss (And I am actually blessed by all of them that do)... The tears threaten to come. To burst the banks of the damn that I've made up in my head.

All the reading and preparing and praying and hoping and everything didn't prepare me for this.
This wasn't on the list of potential side effects of having a C-section. Infact, not alot was.

So now I look around at all the friends who were joyfully pregnant at the same time as me. Some due close, some due now, some due after. They are all more pregnant that I was now. Their bumps presented proudly in front of them. For the few already here, they clutch their newborns proudly like it was just natural that that is what came after pregnancy... and that is great.
But right now all I'm feeling is that isn't what it is like in my world.
Pregnancy doesn't end happily here in my world. It ends in tears. And lots of them. And it promises that there will be lots more after them.
And that there will be flashbacks. And wonderings of what I could have changed.
And wonderings of WHY ME!?

I cry because I know people stronger than me could handle this so much better. But I would never wish it on them. I'm not doing this right. I'm not doing it gracefully. I am floundering terribly.
I am so broken I can't even cry right.
But then I can't laugh right either.
I ignore my pain and hope it goes away. I try to feel it but my head feels too full of cotton wool.
My joints are aching.
I try to hold myself together but I know I'm just slowly falling apart.
And falling is a good description because I know the worst hasn't come yet...

I don't long for despair, but I long for the bottom of barrel. Because once you are there, it is just meant to be all up from there, right?
But I have a long wait ahead it seems.
In the meantime I will try to be happy for my friends with new babies. I really will. They deserve it. They don't live in my world, they don't need to know what it feels like and I really hope they never will.

But I hope they won't take it personally when I grimace in pain when they relive their "Fantastic" inductions that didn't end in a C-section.
I will look away when their newborn does something painfully beautiful.
I will wince when I see them rub their bumps absent-mindedly.
But believe me when I say it has nothing to do with them. Just know that it is my internal dialogue saying to me "And you don't get to do that either..." And that is what hurts.

My life is forever changed. But not because of the experience of loosing a child.
It is the living without that child for every day of my life that is the really truley shit part.
And that is the bit that I won't get over. Not because I'm stubborn, but because you just CAN'T.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Silent War...

During the Great (sic) War of 1914-1918 around 9 million men lost their lives in one of the greatest acts of barbarity and futility the world has ever seen. This compares to an estimated 14 million deaths during all wars in the previous century. The heroism and sacrifice of troops in the trenches is probably without parallel. However, during the war, 306 British and Commonwealth soldiers were shot on the orders of military top brass and senior officers. In contrast, the Germans only executed 25 of their own. The Americans executed none of their soldiers.

The pretexts for execution for British soldiers had a common theme: many were suffering shell shock (also called "war neurosis" or "combat stress" and now recognised as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD), and most were deliberately picked out and convicted "as a lesson to others". Charges included desertion (walking around dazed and confused suffering from PTSD), cowardice (ditto), or insubordination (any minor action that could be pressed into service as an excuse for execution). Some were simply obeying orders to carry information from one trench to another. Most of those shot were young, defenceless and vulnerable teenagers who had volunteered for duty. They were selected, charged, and subjected to a mock trial often without defence one day, convicted, then shot at dawn the following day. Eye-witness accounts suggest many faced their death with a gallantry absent in their accusers.
Taken from:

Fast forward nearly a century and replace the words "Soldier" with "Mother" and any reference to the Nations at war with references to the hierarchy of the hospital system.
This isn't some "mental" picture I'm trying to paint here. This is EXACTLY what is happening in the Western World in hospitals and Maternity Institutions every day.

A recent article prompted me to further define how we as a culture are creating an army of the walking wounded... Mothers who have no words or means of defining what they are feeling and what they are going through and few to no places to turn for help. Many of these may have symptoms of Post Natal Depression (PND) but many, and more likely, they have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The saddest part of any mother's ordeal in this isn't the experience itself. It is the way that the symptoms of this reaction to birth separate them from their child. It stops them from being there 100% for them. The second saddest part is that whilst soldiers returning from war (Whether one that society agrees with or not) are given fanfare or at least a memorial and a day of remembrance, these women are told to suck it up and get on with their lives and oh, by the way - raise a functioning, alert, intelligent and loving member of society... their child.

The symptoms of PTSD are many. Almost as many as the causes- Everything from not being able to get an epidural when desired in a Vaginal Birth to the Epidural not working or wearing off part way through a C-section.
The now defunct NZ Birth Trauma Association made a list of a few of the symptoms here.

These symptoms should alert you to possible PTSD:

  • Experienced an event perceived by the person experiencing it as traumatic
  • Flashbacks of the event, vivid & sudden memories
  • Nightmares of the event
  • Inability to recall an important aspect of the event - psychogenic amnesia
  • Exaggerated startle response, constantly living on edge
  • Hyper-arousal, always on guard
  • Hyper-vigilant, constantly looking around for trouble or stressors
  • Avoidance of all reminders of the traumatic event
  • Intense psychological stress at exposure to events that resemble the traumatic event
  • Physiological reactivity on exposure to events resembling the traumatic event- panic attacks, sweating, palpitations
  • Fantasies of retaliation
  • Cynicism and distrust of authority figures and public institutions
  • Hypersensitivity to injustice
Just as those soldiers in WW1 stood a higher chance of being executed by their own countrymen if they were suffering Shell Shock, all in the name of "teaching others a lesson" it seems that the same is happening to mothers suffering PTSD everyday.

Mothers are told to "Be happy, you have a healthy baby..." Even in cases (like mine) where that baby might not be as healthy as it could have been if it were born without interventions. Those mothers are then slandered. They become known as the race of women who care more about the experience than the outcome. These same "caregivers" preach that Birth is a journey, not the destination and as such the mode of it can be substituted for the outcome best suited to the caregiver. It is just a day and can be considered separate to the lives of the mother and child no matter the outcome.
To a mother who is struggling to find words to convey her grief, confusion and pain, this is a bullet to the head. Just like any other PTSD sufferer would have stood a chance of receiving in the war.

I would count myself amongst these mothers as I too have PTSD following my Son's birth. As the article that prompted this response says;
Klein emphasises that the primary determinant of whether a woman will suffer PTSD after child birth is not the mode of delivery. Rather, it’s how she’s cared for. In other words, the condition can occur in women who have vaginal births, deliveries that require forceps, midwife-assisted labours, and in other situations. The crucial factor throughout is how her care team responds to her needs.
Like the women that this study discovered, I place the cause of my PTSD not on my C-section delivery alone but on the path that led me there... including the Birth Rape that I sustained along the way.

Trying to find a way to live in the world, whilist wearing the burden of this monumental task of finding words to describe what I was experiencing, was crippling. I was useless for months following my Son's birth. I remember hardly any of it. It was like wadding through Syrup to just try and think clearly. Sometimes I'd "wake up" on the bottom of the shower and wonder how I got there. Days would pass in a blurr with nothing really distinguishable between them. This experience may not be foreign to a mother who hasn't experienced birth trauma, it may even be labelled as "Typical" for a first time mother... But to me it was debilitating and there was nothing even physical that I was fighting against. It was all completely mental.

So here I was. Wounded. Left to fend not just for myself, but my newborn son and my marriage.
I recall a wise Midwife saying to me once that the measurable part of PTSD and PND from Birth Trauma was in how many Maternal Mortality statistics could be attributed to the mother's birth experience. In other words how many mothers suicided as a result of their birth experience. I countered that the immeasurable part was the amount of relationships that were destroyed as a result. The Divorce rate, the rate of infidelity. The rate of times that a mother yells just a little too loud and a little too long for a trivial thing that her child does, no matter how old they are. All as a result of the built up resentment that grows as a part of dealing daily with un-healed birth trauma...

So where does this leave a Mother? Where in Australia at least can she turn?
The Vancouver Birth Trauma Association keep a resources page on their website where the only Australian group listed for dealing with Birth Trauma is an online forum (Which does a great job in their own capacity, it must be noted) and in Australiasia the only other group is now no longer in existance.

Birthrites: Healing After Caesarean are a fantastic resource for women experiencing Birth Trauma which resulted in C-section and also collect information that can be shared with women who may not have had a C-section, or are planning one based on their previous experience.  This group, and others like it are the only place that Australian women may be able to turn to meet women with a sympathetic, patient and non-judgemental ear who are willing to listen.

But what in these settings really bring women closer to healing? Where could we be improving?
I would hope that inside the medical system itself, caregivers would be looking to the REAL reasons why they chose to enter this profession in the first place. I would HOPE that those reasons were to help and heal. I would then hope that they would have easy and encouraged access to resources such as Sheila Kitzinger's "Birth Crisis" book which outlines the specific ways in which Caregivers can shape the things they say and do to women with the objective of providing them with the best possible mental outcome possible.
Additional to this I would hope that training and accreditation institutions would be including this in their curriculum and professional development criteria as a pre-requisite. As important as their current understanding of CPR.

For the women themselves, I would be hoping that we would be growing louder and more sympathetic at the same time. The best place for this to occur is one on one... in those conversations over coffee with the other mum from Playgroup that looks like she could need a hand. The second best thing would be a pre-organised group which would allow women to meet and share with a focus on finding healing. Groups like Birthrites need to exist for more than just the limited (though popular!) scope of C-section mothers... but for traumatised mothers. As the population of these women increases and becomes more apparent, there needs to be more places that are more wide spread than just our capital cities. Groups who will provide a safe place for healing to be sought...

As in many situations where the plight of women needed to be fought for, our churches and other institutions need to be standing up and saying that what has been happening is not good enough and providing the locations and the resources for these groups to take place. Sometimes providing alternate routes to healing than that which women may currently be on.
In these societal sub-cultures, mothers matter. They have to. They play a role that no one else can. Created for it in fact. Every hormone that brings our children forth, every hormone that welds our focus to that child in bonding is created to allow us the greatest connection to do the best job we can as mothers. If this is important to these people, then they too must stand up and say so but also provide the means for those who are currently wounded to seek a place of healing.

One day I dream that this will take place. That women in society will say "No further will you drag our children from our arms and disempower us from playing the loving and compulsory role that we were made to play in our child's life..." That men and everyone else will stand up and say "These women and the role they play for us as mothers, lovers, sisters, daughters and friends is too important to be treated so poorly by people who walk in and out of their lives..."
And finally that society will stand up and say "Mothers Matter."

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

What not to say to a Birth Trauma Mama...

I am a mama who has experienced Birth Trauma. Mine was involved in both the way I was treated in the lead up to my son's birth, as well as the actual birth itself and not only the way the experience made me feel... but also in how I imagine it made my son feel and how dis-empowered I felt in allowing his entrance to the world to happen the way it did...

But there are some times where I feel that I am the one that is having to do the teaching and leading about how I'd like to be treated by even those closest to me. It seems that dealing with people who have had trauma surrounding conception, loss of children of any gestation or age and the birth itself or sometime after, is a subject on which many people THINK they know how they should react or speak... but most do not. I should point out right now that I don't think there is one particular approach that needs to be used. But I think there is a particular understanding and motivation that needs to be clear in whatever people say to a Mama who has experienced Trauma when they are either commenting or expressing an opinion on what that Mama has shared about her experience...

Let me just paint the picture of the situation that has prompted this (long overdue) post from me.
Whilst at a random mother's group that I attend, I was told that myself, or any other mother in the group who had experienced trauma surrounding childbirth, should not share their experiences for fear that it may put the other mothers "off" who are currently pregnant and haven't had any bad experiences...
I guess the motivation behind this comment is the same sentiment that is behind the blog "Banned from baby showers" which points out in the introduction that childbirth is rarely treated with the reverence that it should be in gatherings of women like this...

However, what this comment failed to take into consideration was the context that we found ourselves in. We are a mother's support group in essence. We come together for the sole purpose of supporting, listening and praying for one another. To remove what may be a woman's only source of healing through sharing is horribly inconsiderate to say the least. Even though the motivation was to try and bring the focus back onto being positive about birthing, it didn't allow for the possibility that women may need to talk about their experiences for their own healing.

Women who carry Trauma and don't also carry the antidote (Healing), are broken women. They may not be completely disabled. Over time they may have found coping mechanisms that allow them to continue to function, despite the gaping wound they feel blowing through their core. But when a trigger hits, even the most apt at sweeping things under the carpet can become un-stuck. These women aren't operating at their full potential and most likely aren't being the mothers that they truly wish they could be.

The solution was discussed. How do you balance a conversation where a Trauma Mum is sharing her experiences and feelings about birth, whilst trying not to frighten the be-jebus out of the soon to be a-poppin' mums who are also present?
This is where I became unstuck...
I suggested that at one end of the spectrum there is the desire that some of us may have to say "Please don't share your comments here. Save them for another group made up of only traumatised mothers who can bear to listen to you..." But at the other end of the spectrum, where the group fear they will tread, is when stories are shared with no purpose, no healing and only fear and hurt being perpetuated.

One mother's suggestion to find a middle ground was to say "I empathise with the trauma which you have felt, even though I have never felt it before. But that is your experience and that doesn't happen to everyone..."
To some people this may seem like a benign enough approach to dealing with a situation. But in her attempt to "diffuse" the situation and put faith back into the mums-to-be, she just completely ostracised the women who was just starting to feel that her experience and feelings were being validated.
The woman who made the suggestion at first couldn't see where I was coming from. I had to explain, as she didn't have any trauma to heal from, she wouldn't know what it is like to feel so completely alone and locked into your experience. When someone, no matter how well meaning, then tries to put your experience in perspective by saying something like that, it does make you FEEL that not only is it not EVERYONE's experience... it is NO-ONE's but yours. Totally foreign and therefore totally irrelevant to anyone else.

Instead I suggested that what would be BETTER thing to say which would achieve the result which she hoped for ( "diffusing" the situation and put faith back into the mums-to-be) would be:
"I am so sorry for what you experienced. It wasn't meant to be that way. Not because you did anything wrong or made any wrong decisions, but because this isn't how birth was designed to be. Birth was designed to be an imprinting process. Where we can be so over-whelmed with love for our child and family that we are able to bring them earthside from our own strength and provide, care and love them from that moment onwards. What you experienced was not how it is meant to be. That is why what you are feeling is so powerful and rightfully so."

In this we can say to mothers "I validate what you are feeling. You are entitled to your feelings because they are real and justified." At the same time we are saying to Mothers-to-be: "Have faith. This isn't how it is meant to be and therefore isn't how it always is. Ask questions if you must, find out what you need to know to ensure (where you can) that this doesn't happen to you. But DO NOT FEAR because injustice was done here. Not necessarily because of caregivers failings or the woman's failings. But maybe, just because. Because we live in a fallen world where sickness exists. Where death exists. And because of that, we face that in any birth. We stare down the line of life and death. When we don't fear that, we can face life whatever the outcome and survive. Even triumph."

I don't think there is any point in hiding the realities of life in the real world for women even having their first child. A Healthy and balanced view of what an experience in any form of maternity system maybe like will allow the woman to make informed choices for herself. As I stated in a previous post about fear, when you allow that knowledge with fear to make the decisions for you, you loose control... because you never had control in the first place. But when you are able to make informed and calm and purposeful decisions and understand at what points in the process that you don't have control, you don't allow fear to have a foothold. You allow room for peace and contentment because you have protected yourself and don't leave room for the "What ifs."

Like always... it is just my opinion... but if I feel the need to prompt women in consideration and care for one another, I am sure others are feeling the need to as well. I hope that people can learn to leave room to allow people to get healing. Because the more whole and happy Mamas that we have in this world, the better this world will be.