Relinquishing Control

color1

My world is about order and control. Perhaps you wouldn’t realize this if you saw the dishes piled on my sink or the dirty bathroom, but it’s true. That’s why this PTSD is affecting me so severely. I am unable to control my feelings or contain my mind, and the lack of control is driving me crazy! However, if I want to heal I must learn to relinquish control in favor of finding new ways to cope… creative ways I never learned in grad school.

Today, I was looking for a coping skill. I have several essential oil samples that I’ve been smelling today because I am still wary of putting them on my skin. They have helped, but I’m thinking this is more due to me deep breathing than the healing power of a scent. I decided to color, and found a nice and orderly page that even had a color code box. I had colored for about 30 seconds when I heard my son in the next room. I recognized that I should be playing with him, and so with slight panic of relinquishing control to a four year old, I asked if he wanted to help me color. Of course he was delighted to spend time with me, and he quickly had other plans that did not include anything close to the color code.

What resulted was a beautiful picture that I am proud of because we worked on it together. It is an unusual combination of colors and coloring talent (him being far more talented at coloring than me!), and the picture is filled with conversation about colors, taking turns, sharing, and thankfulness.

My box of healing includes the therapies and coping techniques I learned in grad school, but after 3 years of this kind of therapy it is just not helping. It is time to step out of the box. I am working to bring order into my day, even if it includes a very small (but always reachable) to-do list. I am using grounding techniques using all of my senses, and instead of shutting down I am trying to step into my children’s worlds. That means focusing on my son’s words and play instead of mentally calculating when I will have time to cut his hair next, and trying not to steer him into the bathroom to clip his nails or gently swab that never-ending glub of wax that seems to always be at the base of his ear canal. It means taking a deep breath and allowing him to push his matchbox cars through the dried-out playdough instead of immediately throwing it into the trash. It means smiling at my daughter and smelling her and touching her skin while she nurses, instead of checking my email. It means listening to my husband when he is speaking, and joining him in conversation. It means enjoying my family, enjoying my life. One day at a time. One hour at a time. One moment a time. One breath at a time.

What I’m hoping will result is a beautiful picture that could not have been predicted by my mental coloring codes, with scribbles where I wanted straight lines, and sudden color changes where I was expecting consistency. But I’m hoping it will be a picture full of color and full of life. And full of healing. Mostly, full of peace.

Hard Decisions

Mastery-Spreading-yourself-thin

I have been spreading myself emotionally thin over the past few weeks. It has caught up to me in a series of almost continuous dissociation, hypomanic episodes, angry and physically violent outbursts, and self-harm. I have opened myself up to sharing an overview of my past with five new people in a matter of weeks, in the name of finding a therapist that is experienced enough to manage my level of trauma and my symptoms. I have finally found a trauma therapist I am very pleased with, and she happens to be Christian- which is important to me right now, as I cannot heal without God’s healing hand.

She is slowly working her way into my past through a very long intake process, and has not asked a single time about my trauma. She has stated that she primarily wants me to focus on staying present during session, and when I reported (she checks in regarding dizziness every few minutes) mild dizziness today, she had me stop the intake to share the tasks I had completed that morning. It took me several minutes to recall what I had done! It was clearly a rough morning full of dissociation.

She also stated that she strongly encourages me to have a psychiatric evaluation completed and most likely go on meds, because we cannot delve into trauma work until my symptoms are managed much better than they are now. This is a difficult step for me because I am breastfeeding and I do not want to wean. It is my daughter’s reference point for everything when I am around; she uses it to connect, feed, play, and for comfort. Weaning would change our entire relationship. I am not against formula feeding, as I formula fed my first, but I fought very hard to establish a breastfeeding relationship with my daughter and I am agonizing over the possibility of having to give it up.

And… she told me it would be best if I chose just one therapist. Friday is my termination session for the therapist I have been seeing for over a year. I trust her. I like her. I work well with her. I am attached to her. I do not want to say goodbye. New therapists are sometimes necessary steps to take towards healing, but it is going to be very difficult to say goodbye without shutting down.

Photo credit: http://yellowgazelle13.blogspot.com/2011/03/getting-closer.html

My Daughter’s Birth Story

In honor of my daughter’s five month birthday, I am posting the letter I wrote to her when she was about two weeks old. It’s in her baby journal. There are a lot of silly similes but I didn’t revise it due to the level of emotion I had when I initially wrote it. There is really ZERO comparison for pushing a child through your vagina without an epidural… all the while begging for one.

CIMG0447.JPG-1.jpg2

To my perfect little lady,

You and I share a very special bond- you made your grand entrance into this world by blasting through my vagina like a crate of dynamite. And these days, you are endlessly sucking the life out of my boobs. Upwards of 16 hours a day, dear. You will never share this special bond with anyone else, and you will probably not fully understand the depth of this bond until your daughter blasts through yours and attaches herself to your boob like a drunken sailor attaches himself to whiskey. For. 16. Hours. A. Day.

It all started at 6am on 9-8-13 when I started leaking fluid. It wasn’t enough to make the call that my water had broken, and the doctor told me watch- either I would continue to leak, or… or I peed the bed. There was nothing all day long, and I was feeling more than a little embarrassed. Finally I felt that distinct leak again in the evening and knew it was hospital time.

After jacking me open with the jaws of life calld a (light-up) speculum (you will learn about those joys soon enough), the midwife determined that though I may have a small leak, my water was in-tact. I was having steady contractions, but was stuck at 4cm so they sent me home. Mind you, the contractions were only four minutes apart and were lasting over a minute each- they say that’s when you should go to the hospital, but mommy is backwards and LEFT the hospital instead. They kindly suggested I take a Tylenol and enjoy sleeping in, since your brother was at mom-mom’s.

I enjoyed about 45 minutes of sweet sleep before I woke up in active labor around 3:30am. Nervous to be sent home from the hospital again, I labored at home for several hours. Finally, at the advice of the midwife, when I felt like I was going to die (on all fours crying through each contraction), I woke daddy and we made our trek to the hospital… again.

Now if you learn anything about mommy, it’s that I have an embarrassingly low pain threshold. By the time we checked into the OB triage (the lovely place they sent me home from the previous night), I was 7cm dilated and begging for an epidural. I had two on-the-floor-crying-for-relief style contractions changing into my gown alone. The nurse immediately wheeled me to labor and delivery, and had to stop a few times so I could dramatically endure my unmedicated contractions.

When we entered the delivery room, the first thing I saw was the warming table, and it hit me- I would not be leaving this room until I had met you. That made me feel warm and excited inside for about four seconds, and then the next contraction hit me like a freight train flying through Siberia.

During the first contraction in the delivery room, I begged the nurse for an epidural and while she was working away to draw blood, daddy encouraged me to do without because “she’ll be here by 9:05. You’re almost there. Twenty more contractions.” It was 8:40am. Ignoring daddy (but letting him hold me through the contractions), I continued to beg for an epidural like a crack addict begs for a fix, and mid-contraction, dramatic mommy got the doctor to peek in to ask if I was okay. When she saw my frantic state, she immediately checked dilation and I started crying when she said I was still only at 7cm. Despite the nurse’s attempt to get me to stop, I had been pushing with each contraction since I arrived in the delivery room (life lesson: don’t push till they tell you to; you’ll end up in pain for five months and counting). The doctor said that once my water breaks, it’ll be go time.

Two or three contractions later, I heard a balloon pop and out gushed water, blood, and your first poopie. Seriously. It was nothing like Hollywood portrays. I cried, “gross!” and the nurse laughed until she saw the meconium. She exited the room and when she returned a few moments later, she was followed by several NICU staff and four doctors… FOUR. Within a moment, my bed had transformed into a delivery table, complete with giant stirrups and a huge bucket with a red bag. During the magnificent transformation, someone explained that I would not hear you cry or be able to hold you right away; they would first take you to the warming table to assess your health due to the meconium inside the womb.

The nurse held one of my legs, doctor #1 held the other, doctor #2 was sent to sit down in the closet (yes, the closet) for messing something up during the bed transformation, doctor #3 was in prime catching position, and doctor #4, the one who had checked my dilation a few minutes before, was the lead doctor and oversaw the process. Doctor #4 explained that next contraction would be time for me to push and when she saw my you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me-not-without-an-epidural expression, she said pushing would make me feel better and I’d get to meet my baby soon.

Feeling you come through was the most amazing experience. With every push I felt you come just a little farther and then retreat slightly. Doctor #3 announced that you had a nice head of hair, and I felt a flood of emotion knowing you were almost here. Three contractions (about eight nice pushes) later, at 8:57am, I witnessed you slide right through. You were one of the most beautiful and perfect things I had ever seen, or ever will see.

I heard your soft cry on the warming table and was in love. A moment later I asked what your APGAR was and they announced it was a 9.9 because “we don’t give a 10.” Don’t be discouraged by losing one-tenth of a point on your first exam, my darling. A 9.9 is like saying you got a 10 without the bragging rights of a 10. They were just intimidated by your perfection and docked you for it. It’s okay. We both know you’re a 10.

Daddy was the first of us to hold you while they stitched up your entryway and uncomfortably placed all their weight on my uterus to exit all the blood clots… There was quite a lot of blood, girlfriend. They changed my gown and sheets, gave me the hugest pad you’ll ever see, and sat me on an ice pack before daddy handed you to me.

I immediately burst into tears and continued to cry until I handed you back to daddy so I could slowly prepare to leave the delivery room. The nurses led me to the bathroom where they gave me a nice squirty bottle to help me pee. Besides the greatest invention in the world, the sitz bath, the squirty bottle has been my best friend through my healing… even two weeks later as I write this. That’s right, girl. Your grand entrance is still affecting my ability to sit, stand, or lie down! You are more than worth every pregnancy pain, every pee leakage, every contraction, every push, every boob ache, every stitch, every vaginal and bottom pain, and every sleepless night you  have given me thus far. I’m just glad I recovered from my issue of peeing when I stood or touched water! The first week was brutal.

That night, I began laughing as the nurse bathed you. The nurse reprimanded me for laughing at you, but I was not; I was caught up in the pure joy of seeing the entirety of my daughter for the first time. You were (and are) so beautiful.

[Daughter] sweetheart, it was such a joy to bring you into this world, and it’s just as great a joy to hold you and feed you 1000 hours a day. You made quite the impression on me entering this world, and I expect that you will continue to do so as you grow from baby to child to woman, and perhaps eventually bring your own child into the world.

Love and kisses,

Mommy.

A Day Like Mine

I would start this at the beginning of my day , but my days have no beginning. I’ll start at my shower.

Get in the shower. Become flooded with flashbacks. Succumb to flashbacks. Inevitably hear, “WIIIPE! Wipe me! Mommy, WIIIPE me!” Half dry off to wipe a hiney. Finish shower. Do about 15-20 minutes of learning time with child. Clean a room. Fall asleep in the hallway, half listening for the baby to wake up, half trying to play trains and cars. Succumb to flashbacks in my dreams. Wake up to a crying baby and a child tripping over me. Ask baby where this lengthy nap was during the night! Nurse baby. Feed child lunch. Nurse baby. Put baby down for lengthy nap (again, where was this last night?). Play with child. Get ready for work. Nurse baby. Put on professional and outgoing mask. At work, feel the confidence I ought to feel everywhere. Teach people coping skills that I refuse to implement in my own life. Go home. Succumb to flashbacks. Nurse baby. Make feeble dinner for the family. Nurse baby. Put baby down for nap. Attempt to converse with husband. Get child a bath or shower, and start stories. Nurse baby. Finish stories. Put baby to bed. Attempt to converse with husband. Go to bed. Succumb to flashbacks. Nurse baby. Baby gulps three times, unlatches, and passes out. Spray baby (my body doesn’t respond to only three gulps very well). Go to bed. Nurse baby. Go to bed. Succumb to flashbacks. Hear *thunk. thump thump thump thump*. Roll out of bed in time for a child to dive onto my pillow, legs flailing on husband’s face. Watch husband sleep through it. Give husband a dirty look for sleeping through it. Take child back to his own bed/go to the twin bed in the nursery. Nurse baby. Wonder why she’s not sleeping. Nurse baby. Watch baby smile and then poop. She’s awake now (it’s 3am)! Watch baby as she works on her rolling over skills (glad one of us is rested enough to work on milestones). Nurse baby. Co-sleep from exhaustion. Wake up to see if I rolled on baby. Nurse baby. Finally coherent enough to think to de-booger her nose. She can finally breathe but is fully awake now (it’s 6am)! Watch baby work on her rolling over skills. Baby starts to yawn at 7am. Child wakes up. Wake husband up. Family breakfast. Put baby down for nap. Take a shower.