Saturday, April 25, 2009

Glorious Naptime

My baby is napping. He did not nap yesterday for any real length of time thanks to various interruptions into our peaceful little world. So last night and today he is seemingly making up for it. While I should be showering and getting into real clothes as it is decidedly past noon, I am instead enjoying reading a few cookbooks borrowed from the library, catching up on blog reading, and just thinking in the quiet of my home.

And this is what I'm thinking....

Are there other women out there who experienced traumatic birth injuries to themselves? Did they also long for a book to read that could identify with their experiences? Did they too wish that someone could really understand them? Did they also go through thinking about suffering, strength, and endurance? Did they too wonder if there were a greater good intended in all of this?

Do I have a book in me? Do I need to have a book in me? Is there a reason? Would anyone else be interested or helped by that kind of thing? Even though there a billions of books about a zillion other subjects out there?

This is what I wonder in the stillness of my home right now. Maybe if the words come I'll write a book. And maybe if it's any good I'll see about sharing it somewhere in some way.

But right now, I'm just thinking about it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Because That Grin Is For Me

I got a new name on January 7, 2009. My name is Mama, sometimes Mommy, or just that woman who has a reason for getting up in the morning with a smile.

I've always wanted to be a mommy. Sometimes I wondered if it would ever happen, or if I'd just be that girl who loved on other people's children. But one day last May, I didn't have to wonder any longer.

As we survived the first trimester of intense sickness, reveled in the wonderfully energetic second trimester, and watched our baby boogie in my womb during the third trimester, we hoped and planned and dreamed big for our little boy. So it was with much excitement and a bit of trepidation that we headed to the hospital to meet the one who had previously only been known to us as "Grasshopper".

When I look back on the labor and delivery, I see God's handprints all over it. My husband's car was in the process of breaking down when I called him to tell him to come home since my water had just broken. He didn't tell me what was happening until later, but a friend of ours just so happened to be driving through that area to our neck of the woods and was able to get him back home without me any the wiser. A nurse who was the mother-in-law of my husband's boss was our primary nurse, and if there was ever a woman meant to be a mothering and nurturing sort of nurse, this woman fit the bill. She was exactly what I needed. My own doctor was working a twelve hour shift at another hospital, but came by afterward when she heard I was still in labor and things were not progressing. And I see God's hand in sustaining the life of my son and my own, even when some medical folks made some poor decisions. Of course, I wouldn't know they were poor decisions until nearly three months later.

When our sweet Grasshopper finally made it out of the womb, his exit via forceps injured me severely. Days later an abscess would form. Three surgeries later, we would think the abscess was finally healed. One plane trip of 2,232 miles to the States to see family who wanted to meet our sweet boy would lead to the news that the abscess had developed into a fistula. Suddenly, an American girl who had always grown up with wonderful private health insurance would understand what it is like for the millions of uninsured Americans because she is now living in Canada and has their "free" government health care that comes with its own caveat. Waiting. That led to wondering if we should risk our financial stability to have the surgery immediately in the States, or if we should wait for surgery in Canada. The wait just to have the initial consultation with the specialist is over one month, and there is no guarantee that surgery can be immediate. That means balancing pain pills with nursing schedules, and praying that infection doesn't go further and that the fistula doesn't grow. And this is just the short version of a long and hard journey that no one planned on.

On this long and hard journey, I am discovering some things and learning some valuable lessons.

I understand now what it means to truly act selflessly, to lay aside selfish wants and even needs to care for someone else. And with that, I understand now why the motivation to act unselfishly cannot be the simple rightness of that quality. No. The motivation must be love. And oh my goodness, no one ever could help me grasp the depth of the love a mother feels for her own. But my sweet Grasshopper has captured my heart, and I find myself acting in ways I never thought possible. The love of my sweet boy spurs me on to be strong for him, to keep pressing on even when the pain becomes unbearable, to keep clinging to Jesus, and to concentrate on getting well instead of getting angry. When I look into his trusting eyes, I know that I cannot let him down. And when he wakes me up before dawn with bright eyes and a grin that begs one to play with him, I can't help but smile back.

I am a mama, and I will give my efforts to fulfill that name my whole heart. Because that grin - his grin - is for me.

*This post is for Scribbit's Write Away April entry on the topic of "Mom". While it may not be my most fabulous specimen of writing, it was written while truly experiencing the topic. Four diaper blow-outs, two baths, three nursing sessions, two hours in the rocking chair, and one cd of lullabies later we have ourselves a complete post. Honestly, we're lucky to have one coherent thought after all of that. Motherhood - there's nothing better.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Oh The Irony

When I was first pregnant, my big fear was post partum depression. When it came time to pre-register at the hospital, I filled out special forms requesting to speak with a social worker in a proactive manner about that very thing. And I even called up the health nurses one teary day and took a test to see if I needed help, and I'm meeting with a health nurse every so often in my home just in case. The crazy thing is that despite all these horrid complications from my childbirth injuries, and despite occasional dark clouds that I have to fight through, I actually don't have any resemblance of a full blown case of post partum depression.

Do I have emotions that are hard? Yes. Do I wonder if there will ever be light at the end of the tunnel in the realm of my broken body? Heck yeah. Do I have to fight through feeling like it would be easier to not have to keep breathing? Yes, sometimes. But am I depressed in the clinical sense? Actually, surprisingly, not really. I've been there and done that, and what I'm going through in my heart and mind isn't what I've gone through before. This is manageable with just a bit of sunshine, a listening husband, and a dose of chocolate. Sitz baths aren't overrated either. I'm quite shocked to be writing all of this. After all, my picture is probably next to the definition of "melancholy" in the dictionary. And yet, though I do have teary and sad moments that threaten to overwhelm me, I don't have that constant sense of sadness I once had years ago.

So I found it kind of funny that when I gathered my courage to ask my maternity doctor yesterday if she had any knowledge of the phone call I got from the midwife, she said that the midwife was thinking of calling me again. Apparently, the midwife is very concerned that I might be struggling from post partum depression.

What the midwife is really saying is this: "I feel like an idiot for not calling in help sooner, and I feel guilty that I've caused the life-altering injury of a new mother. But I'm too chicken to admit it, so I'm going to call into question her mental health just in case she squeals on me."

I took the high road and didn't tattle on her to the doc. My only goal was to make sure my relationship with my maternity doc is good. After all, I did promise her a climbing trip this summer, and I mean to make good on that promise. We're good. That's all that matters to me.

Meanwhile, the midwife (if she has a conscience at all, and I think she does) is going to find herself feeling like a character in an Edgar Allen Poe story. I just hope she finds the courage to be honest before her guilt eats her alive and makes her totally crazy.

And meanwhile, my primary goal outside of mothering the most adorable boy is to get well. Once I'm well, I may think about "squealing" in order to protect other women. But that's really not my first priority. I'm just a girl who has a broken body that needs to get fixed so she can take her son climbing as soon as he graduates to big boy underwear and has the walking and running thing down solid. And I WILL get well. My mind and heart are "more well" than I realized, so I've got hope that my body will follow too. And if any more dark times come, I'll trust in the One who loves me most to keep me going and help me to stand and fight.

In the meantime, I've got a whole lot of living to do. Conflict resolution is so valuable, believe me. It makes a way for a girl to get around to all that living.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How To Dismantle A Bomb

It's not an atomic bomb, and I'm not U2. But I think I know one way to take apart a bomb without allowing it to explode and wreak havoc on the world. Wanna know that one way? It's simple. It's two little words.

I'm sorry.

And maybe four more words.

I was an idiot.

There. Doesn't that feel better? Didn't you just hear that bomb stop ticking? Did your shoulders just descend from being stuck in your ears with stress?

I thought so.

If more people would use these helpful words, this world would be a better place. Even if the midwife let me push for four hours with not enough progression. Even if the doctors wouldn't allow me to decide for myself what I wanted because I'd been laboring too long, and they left it to my husband to make a decision with limited and inaccurate information. Even if the doctor broke her promise to properly prepare my body for forceps. I could cease being pissed if they'd just say they were sorry. If they'd stop justifying, blaming others (including me), and making excuses. If they'd just admit to being an idiot for one second.

But instead I'm left to diffuse my anger alone. It's a long and ugly story that didn't have to happen. If only someone would admit to being an idiot.

Oh God, this must end sometime. Until then, You've got to keep me going. I am too weak to keep this up on my own. And I think I exploded tonight. So I need a little help with clean up in aisle five. Okay. A lot of help.

Gotta run. My son is teething. It's gonna be a long night on so many levels.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

When We Walk Through The Water....

....He will go with us.

God seems silent. But He also seems present in some of the moments of this journey.

We're considering surgery options in the States because we've heard about some financial assistance and I can't bear to wait until May just to see the surgeon. Plus, can I really trust that the surgeon will give me what I need since he first thought I was okay enough to wait until JULY to see him? We were originally under the impression that you applied, waited to hear, and then got the surgery if they said yes. Turns out you have to have the surgery first, then they decide how much - if any - that they will write off. So we've got a lot to think about.

But before we can decide that, we have to recover from the worst stomach bug I've ever had. We thought it was food poisoning, but six people from my family have come down with it so far, so we're thinking it's a bug. It has rendered me to weak that I cannot even carry my own son, and he feels like he weighs about 100 pounds. He only weighs about 14. I've been able to deal with some tiny amounts of juice mixed with Sprite, some ice chips, and some lukewarm water. I never want to see food again. Interestingly enough, the bug further caused pain with my birth injuries. This is such a long journey.

My husband is taking care of our little one now that he is recovering, and we're doing a bit of formula and a bit of nursing. We are hoping and praying that our little guy doesn't get what we have.

Because of all of this, we had to change our travel plans. We're now supposed to leave on Thursday, but I'm thinking that is awfully close for me to have time to get well enough to have a full day of travel with two flights, one long layover, and a whole ton of carrying luggage and a baby.

Normally, during moments like this, I find myself begging God to let me escape. This time, I'm just asking Him to cling to me and keep walking me through it. He's used it to show me some yucky stuff in my heart that needed to come out - things like pride and judgmental attitudes involving mothering issues. It's amazing what goes through your mind when you physically feel so terrible that death seems like a welcome option. I can't really feel Him as I'd like, but there is a sense that I'm not exactly alone in this.

I'm exhausted and full of questions, waiting for what I hope will be clear guidance from the One who loves me most. I am hoping He chooses not to be silent in this. But we shall see. The one thing I do know is that I don't think some folks ever get to the point when they stop doubting and questioning their faith. At least, that's where I'm at. The one huge consolation is that if He's really there, then He's really big enough to handle my questions, my doubts, my what-ifs, my forgetfulness, and my pain.

It will probably be quiet around here for some time. We have a lot of decisions to make, and I'm feeling pretty awful. We just need time to "be". And I need time to heal.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

To Clarify

I am loved by a family of bulldogs. Okay, not really. My family is entirely human. But they are quite passionate about protecting each other, and that extends to me and my health. In other words, I've been sensing their frustration with what they see as being Canada's fault. But it's not.

What happened to me - the long and insane hours of pushing, the forceps without episiotomy, the missing the fistula diagnosis, etc. - are all issues related to individual decisions and individual judgment calls. It isn't Canada's fault. If anything, the midwife should have followed a policy of not allowing me to push for more than two hours, and she should have called for help earlier. The Ob/Gyn who used the forceps should have done what she promised and performed an episiotomy. And had I known how this would have ended up, I should have asked for a c-section. All those "shoulds" are related to individuals, not to a country with nationalized healthcare. Those situations could have just as easily happened in the United States.

Right now, I am barred from getting the care I need here in the United States while I'm on holiday simply because of money. It costs too much. And if you had heard the bored and unconcerned tone of the administrative employee who called to tell me that the minimum estimate for this surgery would be $6500, you would know that some in the healthcare system here have lost sight of the original purpose. It's not about money. It's about helping people. The surgeon here gets that. She waved part of her fee at the office visit when she did a procedure that increased our bill by $100 after they'd already told us it was going to be "just" $165. And she was willing to wave her fee for surgery. But not everyone gets that - specifically the insurance companies.

If you want to take a hard look at reforming the medical system here, it must start with the insurance companies. I believe it begins and ends with them. They are the ones who tie the doctor's hands and keep hospitals from getting to focus on healing instead of bookkeeping. And I hope and pray someone does reform this system. I've already seen the horrors of debt that can occur when someone has a serious illness and doesn't have coverage. And I don't want to imagine how my parents are going to get by once my dad retires and gives up his company provided top of the line group plan. Something has to change.

So to those of you Americans who think that my troubles are because I'm in Canada, please know that isn't exactly accurate. My troubles are because I didn't go to medical school and therefore didn't know enough to recognize that some choices were being made that would lead to poor outcomes. If anything, I owe a debt of gratitude to Canadian healthcare. In nine months of care that included one emergency room visit and one emergency ultrasound, I don't owe a dime. In a long hospital stay, three surgical procedures already done and at least one more in my future, I don't and won't owe a dime. The only money out of my pocket has been for pharmacy costs once we are home. And when my husband lost his job when a construction company went defunct, I didn't have to worry about our healthcare plan. It stayed the same, regardless of what our employment status was.

The waiting isn't exactly something I like to do, and I know that some Canadians have had to wait a long time for things that would have greatly increased their quality of life. So it's not perfect. And I wonder if the wait times are more related to the government paying for medical care or to the Canadian doctors who are leaving for the richer pastures of USA medicine. I don't know. But I do know that life and death issues will get you pushed ahead in line, and a good family doctor to advocate for you makes a difference. The wait times could be improved, but really, that's an easier problem than figuring out how to help Americans keep from going bankrupt just so they can be healthy.

So be a bulldog. Keep loving on me. Please don't "should" on me or encourage me to "should" on myself. And if you want to become an activist to somehow improve the system you have here in the land of the free and the brave, know that you have a redheaded cheerleader on your side.