Friday, March 23, 2012

Why Garnet Earrings

Yesterday, I had an important meeting. I was privileged to meet with three nurses who oversee various maternity departments across the region where I live. My purpose was to show them a brochure that I dream of every woman leaving a hospital maternity ward carrying in her hands upon being discharged. Because too many of us are sent home without the support and information we need to deal with things like wound care, hemorrhoids, incontinence, pain with sexual intimacy, emotional difficulties, relationship difficulties, and all the other issues women face after having given birth. Too many physicians think that all these things are just a natural part of being a woman, and too many of them don't know about the healing resources out there to help a woman get her body and her life back. And too many women are embarrassed to even mention these things.

But I am not afraid or embarrassed. And I will continue to speak these words and share my story and my message so that someday all women are free and empowered to speak their minds and hearts on the issues surrounding birth, especially ones that included trauma or injury.

So of course I wore my garnet earrings.

And this is important to share? Why yes, it is.

I will never forget the women at the surgeon's office where I went to first discuss what to do about the fistula that resulted from some portion of my very traumatic labor and delivery. They cooed over my son and rightly pronounced that he was adorable, but then they said something I will always remember. "So you are the cause of all this trouble!"

No. Vehemently, I declare he will NEVER be considered to be the reason for the trauma I have endured. He is ONLY a gift and a delight. He is NOT a source of my grief or pain. The malpractice and mismanagement is the source of my grief and pain. But my son is a source of joy and strength, a reason to get up every morning, and the reason I walked with continual courage through the hell of birth trauma.

And so, when I was choosing a pair of earrings to wear, I considered what pair would be most fitting, a sort of talisman of courage you could say. At first I picked up my great-grandmother's earrings, thinking that I could use a bit of her spunk. But then I saw the garnets and knew that they were most appropriate. I had purchased my son's birthstones for myself awhile ago. Yes, those seemed like fitting reminders of the reason I do what I do.

Every woman should be able and free to celebrate her child's birthday with complete joy, and she should not have to see it as a reminder of pain. She should not have to experience it as a trigger for her grief. She should not have to see that date on the calendar and experience flashbacks of what happened to her body and heart. She should only have to see it as a beautiful day to celebrate the life of her child.

One of the women I met with mentioned just that, how women actually dread their child's birthday because of how it triggers their grief and trauma all over again. She teared up as she spoke of hearing that it happens for some women.

I am blessed in the fact that I was able to make a decision early on that I would never look at my son as a part of my trauma. And I'm lucky that I can miraculously compartmentalize the harm done to me by an unscrupulous and incompetent midwife and a completely incompetent Ob/Gyn from the gift of my son. In my mind and heart, they are as far apart as evil and goodness. Please don't think me bitter at what happened. I have worked through this trauma for three years now, and have forgiven in layers time and time again. But I am not afraid to continue to speak out the truth and call a spade a spade with courage and bluntness. What was done to me was wrong on so many levels. And yes, restitution should be a part of the package. But that is not my focus. My focus is first on my enjoying the gift of my family - my husband and my son. And my second focus is on working with women and with the medical system to protect, resource, and bring positive change so that healing happens much sooner than it did for me.

I wear those earrings as a reminder that I have a son who needs a strong and courageous mama, one who will stand up and work for positive change and for what is right. And I have a voice that I will continue to seek to use to help other mamas, so that they too can see their child's birthstones and only feel joy.

***If you are reading this and are experiencing any of the symptoms or issues I mentioned related to your own experience with childbirth, you may contact me by clicking on my profile and going to the "email" link. I love to provide a listening ear and offer compassion and practical help to women going through these things. I also recommend the groups Solace for Mothers and Vancouver Birth Trauma for caring and competent support among peers who have been in your shoes. You can also find Vancouver Birth Trauma on Facebook where you can comment or send a confidential message and receive a prompt reply.

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