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Episode 14: Reflections

Hey guys, I don’t know about you but this past mini-series about postpartum care, pregnancy, mental health, parenting - it has really just been truly life changing. And I know that several of you have reached out and shared with me how it’s truly impacted you to be able to hear other people’s stories and their encouragement as you go through your own journey.

So, I’ll be real with you. I had planned to do a reflection piece. That’s what this episode was going to be. A reflection of each episode, break it down, tell you my thoughts, feelings, etcetera. And though yes, my thoughts and feelings are important, I just can’t help but feel that it’s not what this episode needs to be. I don’t know that i need to break down each and every episode and I’m not even sure I could it justice.

If you haven’t listened to those there episodes, I would encourage you to go back and listen to them. We had Annelise Lawton, Tina Jacobs, Brittany Schank all sharing about their different journeys, talking about mental health, postpartum care, loss, pregnancy, fertility struggles. And maybe that’s part of the difficulty I’m having. Kind of the problem maybe is that it’s such heavy topics and it’s so real that I want to be able to do them justice and I’m just not sure I can at this moment.

Truthfully, I think I know why.

I think it’s because I’m still not okay with my own pregnancy and postpartum journey. And I think that I need to talk about it and that fact is scary. What’s so interesting is that I want to talk about it. I want to be able to use my story to help others, to let them know that they’re not alone if they had traumatic births, difficulty afterwards, whatever it may be.

But even this simple thought of sharing my story can almost bring me to tears.

And so I guess, if you’re willing to hang along there with me, even through some tears, I’ll share my story today and really say solidarity to the women who so bravely shared their stories with us.

So almost there years ago now...I can’t believe he’s almost mind blowing. Almost three years ago, three and a half I guess it would be, I found out that I was pregnant. I was so excited. I wasn’t someone who always knew that I wanted to be a mom. I always liked kids. I babysat so much when I was little but it wasn’t something that was always in the back of my mind. It wasn’t something that I always thought I would strive for. It just more made sense. Just made sense that that would be the next step.

Now, as I got older and got married to my wonderful husband, I knew that I wanted to have children. He absolutely did to. Anyone that knows my husband knows that he’s basically a grown up child himself. He’s so fun. And I don’t say that in a sense of I have to take care of him. I don’t. But he has such a love of life really. He’s just fun and hilarious and encouraging and he’ll go along with a majority of the crazy dreams that I might have. Actually, realistically, he goes along with all of them. And so of course, I wanted to have children with him.

I didn’t necessarily tell a lot of people that we were going to try. It took a little bit longer than I would have liked but realistically, it was okay. You know, it happened at a good time and I felt great! I remember I had, for people who had terrible pregnancies, they’re going to hate me here and it’s totally justifiable and I get it but I had two days of feeling really dizzy which I contacted my doctor and took dramamine for. That’s what they recommended. Then I had several weeks when I felt fine, then a two week time frame where I felt really really sick. Now, I never got sick. I just felt really nauseous.

After that, I was tired and all the normal things but pregnancy was pretty easy. And again, if you didn’t have an easy pregnancy, I get it. I do not blame you if you’re angry with me about that. It was easy. Just a reality of the situation.

And so, going into the birth, I think I had kind of a misconstrued version of what it would be. I had prepared, as much as you possibly can. I talked with friends and family. I heard stories upon stories upon stories. I had read information. I’m a researcher by nature. Not as in like a job. I research by nature and so I researched so many different ways to keep yourself really present in the moment and to be able to get through some of the pain.

I’ll be real. I thought I had this. I thought I had this, I thought I would be able to go in there. I have a pretty high pain tolerance to be honest so I was like, “No big deal. I’m gonna be fine.”

Now, I will say that I thought I had the universe beat. This is probably going to crack you up and I still feel really silly for thinking this but sometimes when you’re pregnant and you have all those hormones, you’re not thinking one hundred percent realistically.

Everyone had always said there’s no reason to have a birth plan because things never go as planned. So, if you had a birth plan, it was going to go exactly opposite of what you planned. I thought I would trick the universe and I would not have a birth plan and then everything would go exactly how I hoped.

What a load of crap.

I don’t know why I ever thought that! No one ever told me that! I think it was just my rationalization that was just super irrational, to be honest. So, when we went in, I had to be induced and that was really hard for me. I was pretty much over the pregnancy to be honest at that point. It was just painful and uncomfortable and you know, I thought all the things that people do - oh, when I have the baby, things will get better.

Not what happened.

But, I decided that we would go ahead and set up the induction. Talked with my husband, he was agreeable to that, not that it matters. It’s my body, but anyway I like to include my partner in those decisions.

We moved forward with that. My water was broke and I literally did not make any progress from then on out. I was in labor for twenty four hours. I had pitocin going the entire time. Anyone who has had that nasty drug can likely tell you that the side effects of it are awful. It was turned up multiple times hoping that my own body would kick in and have contractions itself.

It did not.

I started to have back labor. Now, this is only my experience so please give me some grace as I talk about this because I may say things like, “This is the worst pain ever!” and that may not actually be accurate in the grand scheme of things but this was my experience.

So, I was doing good. I really was. I was walking around, I was talking to my husband, we were able to work through some of the pain and then the back labor hit. And then I cried and I cried and I cried and I cried...and I wasn’t wasn’t even like I was crying loudly. I was literally silently sobbing in my zen, trying to be in my safe place, trying to get through this and it just got to this point like I didn’t think I could. I just absolutely could not continue on.

Strangely enough, I didn’t know this could, maybe it will be helpful for you. I didn’t realize that you can have contractions that never stop. So I had contractions constantly, all the way around my back, and around my belly, and around my back, and around my belly. And it was really never ending. It was so bad that when they came in to give the epidural, they told me, “Well, tell us when you have a break in your contractions.”

And I just didn’t. I had no break. And so we kept sitting there and it was maybe five, ten minutes later and I kept saying, “They’re just constantly going.”

I remember my body shaking and a nurse was in front of me and my husband was beside me on one side, a nurse on the other side. You have to stay still during an epidural. And I remember thinking there’s no winning. Either I continue on with this terrible pain or get an epidural which is painful as well, especially since I can’t sit still - either way, I’m in pain. So I said, “Go ahead, just do it.”

I tried to stay as still as I possibly could.

There was a student who was trying to place the epidural and I’m all about, I truly am, I’m all about educating, I’m all about giving students opportunities whether it’s a social worker, the medical field, whatever it may be. So, almost any time someone asks me if a student can do something, I will say yes.

But I regret that decision of letting the student try then. It was four times after four tries...and anyone who’s had an epidural knows that does not feel cozy. Four missed attempts, four pokes that weren’t necessary, while I’m shaking and sobbing quietly of course, but sobbing nonetheless and wanting it to be done and asking them, “Is it almost done?” I just knew if I could hold out until then, I’d get some relief. Finally my husband essentially yelled at them and said, “No more. You don’t get any other opportunities. Let him do it.” And he pointed to the doctor.

They were able to get it placed on that last attempt. I was able to get some relief. They positioned me different ways, as they do.

No progress.

They kept saying, “Oh, well come back in a little bit and check.”

Again, no progress.

At this point, I started to get worried. I knew...I knew what was coming at that moment. Aboud midnight, now keep in mind we went in about 5:30 in the morning so at about midnight, the nurse asks me, “Have you ever thought about a c-section?”

I said, “No. I don’t want a c-section.”

And she said, “Well, it’s just something to think about if you don’t make any progress.”

So that next morning, my doctor comes in, still no progress, tells me that I have an odd shaped pelvis. Not sure how he figured that out since he hadn’t done an exam but said that I had an odd shaped pelvis and I was never going to be able to give birth to my son.

So, I knew in that moment I had no option. I was going to have a c-section.

So, I did what any mother or father does. I guess I should say for the most part. And I moved forward with something I didn’t want. I just wanted my child there safely. I just wanted him there and if that meant that I was going to have to have surgery, my worst-case scenario, my absolute fear, then I guess that’s what it was going to be.

So at about six o’clock is when the doctor came in. Just a side note, he was completely wrong with his “odd shaped pelvis” thing. He never even checked but that’s beside the point. Just a little side-note for ya. At about eight o’clock they started getting me ready to have a c-section. I had to leave my husband. Quite honestly, that may have been one of the hardest moments of my life. I mentioned earlier that my husband is amazing. He’s hilarious, he’s loving, he’s kind. He’s one hell of a time. But he’s also my safe place. I feel safest when I’m with him. And so knowing he couldn't come with me was absolutely devastating. There have been other times in life when I’ve gone through things. I’ve had a thyroid biopsy about three different times now and the time that he was able to be in there with me and hold my hand, I was the calmest I’ve ever been during that. So, to know that I had to leave him not knowing what would happen throughout the c-section was hard.

Hards not even enough of a word.

I remember giving him a kiss and saying, “I love you” and then I just stared at him as they wheeled me away. He told me later that it was really scary for him to see me taken away. One time I asked him, “Did you think I was going to die?” and he said, “No, no I didn’t think you were going to die but I was really concerned. I was worried about you.”

After some time, they got me ready for the c-section down in the operating room and nothing was happening. I could hear them whispering about and I had no idea what was going on. It was quite scary, to be honest. Eventually, they let my husband come in and he told me that they were trying to find the doctor.

I wish I was kidding.

They were trying to find the doctor. He had disappeared. He was not there.

Well, the surgeon won’t start the c-section unless the doctors there to care for the baby afterwards. And it makes sense. It absolutely makes so much sense. What if somethings wrong with the baby and it needs attention? Well, she can’t let me bleed out and try to save the baby at the same time so it makes sense that you would need two doctors.

But I’m not sure in that moment that I realized that the doctor wasn’t actually there at all. Like, they could not find him.

They found a random doctor, I mean she worked there but a random doctor who was, I believe eight months pregnant herself which is neither here nor there but just an interesting fact, to come into the surgery room so that she would be able to take care of my son when he was born.

Now at this point, I had so much medication that I probably couldn’t have told you my name, to be honest with you. I was so drugged up. And they actually make you numb all the way up to your lungs is how they explained it to me. So, they ask you all these questions and they get this all figured out and the anesthesiologist, they were absolutely fantastic. They kept me calm and they talked with me until my husband got in there.

And then...let’s see. It wasn’t very long once they got going. The surgeon had asked us if she could time herself while she did the c-section. Although that sounds really weird, apparently she was from a trauma center and she kind of thrived on that really trauma based care. And while my c-section was needed, it was not an emergency c-section.

So, we said, “Sure. We don’t care. You can go ahead and time it. As long as you do what you need to do, it doesn’t matter to us.”

And so, she took care of everything and my son was born. And I literally remember looking at him and looking at my husband and saying to my husband, “Wow, this is really surreal.”

That’s the only thing I could say, being as drugged up as I was. They let me see my son for just a few seconds, then they whisked him away. I told my husband to go with him. I did not want him to be alone. I was scared if something happened, that he would not have one of us, so my husband stayed with him.

It took - now I know this. I didn’t in the moment - but it took almost two hours in recovery to get me back up to my room. I remember wheeling around the corner, seeing my husband so proudly holding our son. That memory is really etched in my memory forever. At that point, Eli was able to lay on my chest. I was able to really see him. Now, I was pretty numb still everywhere, still pretty out of it and in a good amount of pain but I was so happy that we had made it.

It wasn’t until later that I realized how deeply that really impacted me. I truly felt like I had let him down. Even more so, I let myself down. This wasn’t how I imagined things would go. This wasn’t the story that I wanted.

One of the things it took me the longest to get over, even to this day if you ask me how long Eli was or how much he weighed or what time he was born, I have no idea. I really, truly have no idea.

I mean, I have a guess. I shouldn't say I have no idea. I have a guess. And I always have to ask my husband if it’s right because at that point in life or that point in time, I was not in a good place. I was so heavily drugged. But I held myself accountable for that and I thought to myself, “How can you be a good mom if you can’t remember how much your son weighed or what time he was born or how long he is or whatever details of that day?”

But what I’ve learned now is that’s absolutely rubbish. I’m not good with numbers anyway. So yes, I was drugged up. Yes, I was in pain. I very likely wouldn't remember anyway and if that makes me a bad mom, you can keep on judging because I know that it doesn’t.

The recovery of a c-section though...after being in labor for twenty-four challenging. I have a dear friend who so openly and honestly shared about her c-section recovery experience. And I’m so grateful for her, that she gave me some good recommendations as far as moving more than I wanted to and even simple things about how to recover your body, essentially - how to let your body recover. And I really appreciated that, having that support.

I’m not sure when or why or how or what I got the message that because I had a c-section it was my fault or because I had a c-section it wasn’t a “natural birth” or because I had a c-section, I let everyone down. That was just a part of our story. And I know that now but I really struggled with that for so long.

I didn’t know it in the moment but for quite a while afterwards I was dealing with some really intense anxiety. Isn’t that funny? A therapist...not dealing with anxiety. Lots of therapists deal with anxiety and mental health concerns but it’s always so interesting because clients will think, “Well surely, surely you would be able to identify this with yourself. Or surely, you don’t struggle.”

Yeah, we do. We absolutely do. And sometimes we aren’t able to acknowledge what it is that’s going on with us either.

But, because of the story, because of my dealing with postpartum anxiety, because of the fact that I didn’t really feel like many people professionally-wise asked at doctors appointments or cared what was going on with me, it became my passion. It became my passion to let mothers know that they’re good moms. They haven’t failed their child, regardless of how they are brought into this world, regardless of how much time they do or to not want to spend with their child, regardless of the parenting decisions that they make.

Regardless of that, they are good moms.

I often tell people that if you’re wondering if you’re a good mom, you are. You absolutely are. Because if you’re not wondering about it, if you’re not thinking, “Am I doing what I need to” or “How am I doing at parenting?” then that can be cause for concern.

So know that if you’re worrying about that, you are a good mom or good aunt, uncle, whatever that may be for you, whatever that looks like. It’s just hard in that moment sometimes.

And that’s why I wanted to bring these three ladies to you and I wanted to be able to share my story because I think that postpartum mental health care matters. I think that supporting people when they’re dealing with loss and infertility, it matters. I think being able to help parents to know that when they’re doubting themselves, that they are enough. That matters. It’s a good goal to have. It’s a good focus that we need in this society, to help parents know that what they’re doing it okay. That they’re doing more than okay. Unless you’re abusing your child. I feel like I need to do a little social work disclaimer there - unless you’re abusing your child. That’s not okay.

So that’s why I wanted to bring this particular mini-series to you. There’s so much more to my story. That was just a quick snapshot of it really. And I’ll be sharing more and more, sometimes on the podcast, sometimes in the newsletters, but just know that I realize that I’m asking people to be open and vulnerable with their lives and I want to be open and vulnerable with my own as well because these three women - they’re brave. They’re making an impact on the world and so are you, listener. Remind yourself that you’re brave, regardless of what you’re going through, regardless of your past, your future, whatever it may be. You are brave in this moment.

I’m going to switch gears a little bit. It’s going to feel like we went from one extreme to the next. I’m just going to be real with you but it feels like that’s where this episode needs to go.

I will admit that as a mom, I’m not always the best at self-care.

I often want to do things and reach goals and all sorts of things but I just don’t want it to impact my family at all, which is kind of mind blowing when you think of it. But I wanted to attend an event with Rachel Hollis in Fargo. If you don’t know Rachel Hollis, I talk about her from time to time. I like the majority of her work. She is a writer. She has a blog. She has several books out. She’s a motivational speaker. She has just all sorts of things. I can’t even summarize what she does. If you want to, Google her. You’ll find a lot that way.

But, I wanted to attend her training. You know some of the things that really caught my eye in the first few moments were that she’s really engaging. Her personality is big. For being in such a little body, she is a tiny, little person and she has a big personality. So she is able to draw you in pretty quickly.

One thing that I really noticed that she talked about is she talked about how another event had wanted her to talk about empowerment and how she could provide empowerment for other women and she explained that empowerment and being empowered isn’t really a thing because you have that power in yourself so I really loved that perspective that she gave.

The number one thing that hit me that I’ve talked about three or four times since then is that she talked about when we don’t want to inconvenience others. So, like I said earlier, I like to dream big. Really, there is no limit to my dreams, I’ll be honest with you.

I am always thinking about new things to be able to try, new things to be able to do. I have all sorts of goals that I want to accomplish but I want to do all of that without affecting or impacting anyone else. And so I don’t like to inconvenience others with my goals. Essentially, what she is saying is that when you don’t want to inconvenience others with your goals or with whatever it might be that you’re trying to achieve, you’re really saying that you don’t want to inconvenience people with who you are as a person. Now let that sink in because it took a bit for it to sink in for me.

When you are not wanting to inconvenience others by the things that you do, you really don’t want to inconvenience them with who you are as a person. Yeah, that’s deep, huh?

I know. It hit me.

And I realized, that’s exactly what I do. I have all of these goals, I have all of these dreams, these desires, wanting to help as many people as I can. But I don’t want to inconvenience anyone in my personal life. I don’t want my husband to have to pick up a little bit of the slack or I don’t want my son to not have me at home with him if I have to, or I feel like need to be home or he needs me to be home. I don’t want my husband to have to take care of the dogs by himself.

A lot of it goes back to my family, for me. And I want to be really clear. My husband has never, ever said to me, “You can’t chase your dreams.”

If anything, he is rooting for me. He knows that I am all in when I go for something and he is right there with me. But my perception of it is that I need to do all of this without inconveniencing him or my son. Or hell, even the dogs.

Like why is that?

That’s something I’ve really been mulling over. That was extremely impactful for me, just to be honest, because I haven’t really thought about the fact that I just don’t want to inconvenience people with who I am as a person.

You know that night, it was kind of funny, after I went with two dear friends and afterwards we went out to eat. They wanted to go out for sushi, which I really enjoy sushi but the problem is that the gluten free life chose me, I did not choose it and so I can’t have gluten.

They asked me probably twenty times, they were not pushing me into it, they said, “Are you sure? Are you sure?” I had been there before. There was a different menu before. I thought, “Well, I’ll just get some chicken and I’ll be fine.”

We get there and there’s literally barely anything I can eat. So much so that I had to have a vegetable roll and dry salad. I did get to have the miso soup though so that’s good. Theirs is actually gluten free.

Honestly, my friends felt really terrible and I kept saying to them, “No, it’s really okay.”

And it absolutely was okay. I was there for the conversation, not the food so I don’t care about that portion of things but I got to thinking later that’s another example of me not wanting to inconvenience people by being who I am because I know there may be places that I can’t go when I’m gluten free. For the most part, I can make almost anywhere work and again, I was fine. I really was fine. But, they felt terrible and I could have saved all of us from that if I would have just said from the get-go, “Well, I don’t know, maybe we should try somewhere else. I know you guys really want to go there but maybe we should try somewhere else because I wouldn’t be able to eat there.”

That’s just one example of how often...I’m just so, “go with the flow” that I don’t even view it as me not wanting to inconvenience people because it’s so ingrained with who I am as a person and so that’s something I really need to be more aware of.

I was super thankful to have gone to the Rachel Hollis event. There was one thing though that she said that I didn’t agree with and you may have heard me earlier when I said, “I like most of her work.”

I almost never say I like everybody or all of everyone’s work. Because we all have things that maybe there are some points that really resonate with us and maybe some points that really don’t and so it’s very rare that I will say, “I like everything that somebody does.” Because we’re all human and we all have different views. But one thing she said as she was talking about if she’s really tired, she just kind of for her children's benefit, she just kind of continues on and she’s really upbeat and really fun and doesn’t let them see that portion of her because they don’t deserve to see that portion of her.

Although I can understand not wanting to always bring your children down, it’s absolutely okay for your children to know that you’re having a tough day or that you’re really struggling with your emotions and here’s how you’re going to work through them, not that they have to know every detail, but you don’t have to put on a mask in front of your children. If one day you’re going to give your kids cereal because you don’t feel well, I think it’s absolutely okay to tell them that.

So maybe that day you’re not the best version of yourself for them. That doens’t mean that you’re not going to be tomorrow. And I just don’t think we need to put masks on or beat ourselves up about how we have to interact in those moments because it’s okay.

So that was really great to be able to attend that.

One more thing I would mention is that when we were there, there was a thing called “Women Connect” and it’s part of the Chamber of Commerce in Fargo, North Dakota - the Fargo/Moorhead area. And what they do essentially is they bring women together and they have women presenters about topics that are really important and valued to women as a whole. I love that perspective of bringing women to speak to women because I think that that’s extremely impactful to be able to know where someone is coming from, not that you’ll have the exact same experience as them but to really have some concrete knowledge about situations or thoughts or whatever.

I would encourage you, if there is a Chamber of Commerce around you wherever you might live, look and see if there is a women’s section of it and if not, that maybe something that’s kind of cool to start.

They also had some really great things….there was something called a Push Group that is essentially I think it’s four to eight women that get together to support others and that sounds like something that would be really great in any community. I’m sure you would be able to Google and figure out more about that but those are just some additional little side notes that I noticed from there.

So one more thing that I wanted to mention, again shifting gears a little bit, is I thought it might be kind of fun to share with you guys some of the most influential books that I’ve read. I, lets see...let’s back up. We’re going to take a little trip down memory lane but when I was in grade school, I could read but I wasn’t that great at it. Let’s be honest, I was really not that great at it. There were even times when I was behind in my reading. What I learned about myself now is that I have literally no reading retention. So I can read an entire book, yes. But I’m not going to remember it all. And its not really beneficial for me. So, in discovering what is some of the best ways that I can learn, I have learned that I am very much an auditory learner. But think about my job that I do. I’m a therapist. So, I’m with people that are telling me their life stories. So it’s such a benefit now but I didn’t realize that in the moment.

Once I figured out that I’m an auditory learner, I found audio books. My sister had said, “Hey, have you ever tried an audio book?” And I was like, “No, I don’t want books on tape.” You know? So, she said no, give it a try. When I was home with my son and I was struggling so much, I listened to a book by Shonda Rhimes called, “The Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun and be Your Own Person.”

You might know Shonda Rhimes. She’s the creator of Gray’s Anatomy and so many other shows. I’ll be real with you - I don’t watch a lot of TV. I’ve seen maybe one episode of Gray’s Anatomy. I know! Don’t send me any hate mail but I just really don’t get too into shows. I know there’s a lot of people that loves Gray’s.

What I really loved about Shonda’s book is one, her writing is so eloquent and so entertaining and engaging. So that was one portion of it. But I loved that she decided that she was going to have this whole entire year where she said yes to the scary things that she had always said no to before.

What that looked like for her was saying yes to events she may not have, it was saying yes to her children when they wanted her to play with them, it was accepting compliments that she had never accepted before, it was saying yes to taking care of her health because she knew that that would make her feel better. I mean those little nuggets of wisdom essentially that she shared - being able to say yes to scary things, being able to take compliments, playing with your kids because seriously, in fifteen minutes your child's not going to want to play with you anyway helped me to be able to say yes to scary things and truly impacted my life in such a meaningful way that the whole outcome of even my business has changed because of her perspective of wanting to say yes instead of saying no.

So that is my goal now is to say yes to the scary things. Does that mean I’m going to say yes to everything that comes across my lap? No, absolutely not. That would just be insane. But, I think it’s important to be able to not shy away from things that are out of our comfort zones because what I have learned and what I’m sure you know too is that the more you step out of your comfort zone, the bigger your comfort zone gets. And the more you can step out again, and again and again and it’s amazing where you can go from there.

So, another thing I thought I would share is that there’s a podcast called, “Lead Stories Podcast” that I absolutely love. It is lead by Pastor Steph and Joe Saxton and they really talk a lot about leadership and breaking the barriers and really just being your own self and how you do that and how you can get coaching in the meantime if you need some additional support from people.

What I will say is that they do discuss God but here’s what I would challenge you. Even if you do not believe in God, you do not have to by any means. You can believe in whatever you want to believe in. But if you believe in the universe, if you believe in nothing, if you believe in energy, positive vibes, whatever that might be, you can always interject that into this podcast or whatever else you might listen to.

So, I would encourage you not to shut somebody completely off just because they don’t have the same beliefs as you because maybe their message is still really valid. Most likely, it’s really valid and you’re shutting yourself off to some really good knowledge that’s based on that one small piece.

If you need to hear it, that’s why I say instead of hearing God, hear positive vibes, your universe or spirit or whatever that might be for you, then that’s okay too.

So, having said all that, we have just been all over the place for this podcast episode but I hope that it was helpful for you to be able to just reflect real quickly on the amazing women that shared their story, to be able to hear a little bit of my own story, and to be able to really start talking about some things that made huge impacts on my life.

Not that you have to like them. That’s okay if you don’t. But sometimes it’s good just to hear about other things.

That’s all until next week!

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