Faith & Motherhood: Faith, Mercy, & Miracles


 

Today’s post is fabulously crafted by Jess Arias Cooper from Mama’s Got Flair. Jess is a saucy chick and someone I am proud to call a friend in this land called the Internet. We can be ourselves with each other – sharing things we rarely share with others yet somehow feel comfortable enough sharing with each other. Every woman deserves at least one friend like Jess on the Interwebs. Someone they can share their secrets with and yet laugh at something inane as a multi-colored, multi-shaped mullet the very next second. She’s a heartfelt snark, this one. I was beyond thrilled when Jess agreed to write a post for Faith & Motherhood here. Her post is moving beyond words.

Today’s post may be triggering for some of my more sensitive and fragile readers as it deals with infant loss. So if you’re feeling fragile today, you may want to skip this one and read it another day.

Jess’ post truly exemplifies living in God’s grace and finding faith even in the darkest of corners. I am so blessed to have this amazing woman call me friend. Now I’ll stop writing and let her words fill your mind and heart.

 

I didn’t understand or appreciate faith, miracles and mercy until I lost my infant son in 2004.

My son, Aiden, was born 11 weeks premature by emergency cesarean. The second half of my pregnancy had been a rough one, to put it mildly, and my life was literally on the line. Though the doctors gave us as much time “together” as they could, my liver was failing and a tough decision had to be made.

Because I’d been so sick with preeclampsia and HELPP syndrome, my darling Aiden was born at an astonishing one pound, five ounces. In fact, he wasn’t much larger than a Barbie doll. Besides his miniature stature, he was also born with a rare condition known as Townes-Brocks Syndrome.

Townes-Brocks is generally a genetic condition, but in our case, it was one of those one in a billion flukes that randomly occurs in nature. My son had a wide variety of physical differences from the average baby, but I refuse to call them “birth defects.” In my eyes, despite his extra thumb, unusually shaped head and ears and disconnected digestive system, he was the absolute vision of perfection.

My husband and I tried for years to get pregnant, and Aiden was the beautiful answer to an unfathomable number of prayers.

I thanked God for every day Aiden grew bigger, stronger and more alert. I sat beside his little bed in the NICU, day in and day out, paced waiting rooms during his surgeries and loved that boy more with every beat of his heart.

Still, as he grew stronger, new things were being added to his list of diagnoses nearly every day. Hearing impairments. Brain damage. The list of Aiden’s differences continued to grow, and I prayed even harder for God to bring us a miracle and heal my poor sick, little boy.

It became clearer every day, that a few surgeries wouldn’t “fix” the problems that Aiden was bound to face for the rest of his life. And when my boy would become a man, with even the best outcomes to all the treatments that modern medicine had to offer, he would have to tell the women in his life that there was a strong possibility that, should they have a child together, he or she would endure the effects of Townes-Brocks Syndrome as well.

I had faith in God. I never felt that Aiden or my family was being punished. I trusted in his mercy. I had faith that he would reach out to my son and ease his suffering.

And He did.

Though, not how my heart had prayed for. On April 24, 2004, Aiden went to heaven.

I, of course, didn’t see the miracle and mercy at first. I was grief-stricken. The pain in my heart was heavy, yet I felt empty. I felt punished. My faith was tested in such an extreme way, I was angry.

But one day, as I was talking to God, asking to make sense of all the pain, I realized that the Lord had answered my prayers. He eased Aiden’s suffering. He was merciful. He reached out and made my son whole.

Aiden was spared a lifetime of painful struggle. His ears were spared the snickers and whispers of uninformed human cruelty. He wasn’t held captive in a body that wouldn’t do the things he longed to do. God is good. God is merciful.

I still struggle with grief and my arms continue to yearn for the embrace of my oldest son. I still find myself wondering what he’d be like if he were here with me. But that is a mother’s heart. I’m only human. I miss my son and look forward to the day when we’re united once again.

And, with my faith, I know that day will come. It will be a long time from now, as I have been blessed with three other sons to guide and care for. But, I know, someday, I’ll see my angel, Aiden, again.

Because God is good.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Whatever Wednesday: Questions from Twitter


I decided to take questions from Twitter today. Only the first 5 responses though so as not to overwhelm myself. In no particular order, here are the questions and their answers.

1) @ksluiter asked: I want to know about succesfully weening to get pregnant or staying on meds while pregnant.

Staying on meds while pregnant was a decision I struggled with when I became pregnant with our son. The pregnancy was not planned so I skipped over the whole “weaning to get pregnant” concern and skipped straight into the “should I stay on my meds while pregnant” arena. This is most definitely a decision which should be made with the help of a medical professional. There were a few things which helped me make my decision a little easier:

a) Moms on meds when pregnant and then go off their meds during pregnancy face a higher relapse rate for mental health issues (specifically Postpartum) after delivering.

b) Baby has already been exposed to medication for 4-6 weeks by the time you realize you are still pregnant (unless you weaned beforehand) Going off meds cold turkey will affect baby as well as you.

c) High levels of stress/depression cross the placenta as well and can inhibit fetal growth and spur premature delivery. Given that my 2nd daughter had indeed been born nearly 5 weeks early, I was not interested in going that route again.

Bottom line here: This decision is an intensely personal decision. Talk with your doctor. Research. Know what you are comfortable with doing.

Couple of great resources for this are: Pregnant on Prozac by Shoshana Bennett and also Otis Pregnancy (also has a Twitter presence: @OtisPregnancy) Check them out.

2) @invisibledaddy asked: what’s the closest experience you’ve had to ppd besides ppd itself, to help us get a sense?

Wow. I had to really think for this question. I think the closest experience I have had to PPD happened my junior year of college. Within 19 days between February and March, I lost both of my grandfathers. This left me with no grandparents. The subsequent grieving process I went through was extremely similar emotionally to how I felt during Postpartum Depression. My grief was a very physical grief and that’s where it differed from my Postpartum. It also differed in that I wailed. A lot. Quite often I would wail and scream myself to sleep. I struggled with anxiety attacks as well, something I did not experience during Postpartum. I also thrashed and hit. It took me a very long time to recover.

The most important difference here is that people expect you to grieve when you lose a close family member or friend. When you have Postpartum, there is an element of guilt and shame accompany the disorder with which you struggle. Why? Because you have a baby. You SHOULD be happy. Even those who experience the grief of miscarriage or losing an infant within the first months of life experience this as many around them will tell them awful things such as “Well, it was never a REAL baby” (miscarriage) or “He/she wasn’t here very long so the pain will fade quickly because you didn’t have a lot of time to bond.” Acerbic comments such as this are extremely unhelpful and only serve to expose the ignorance of those offering them. (FYI, for a great website about miscarriage and infant loss, I highly recommend the folks over at Grieve Out Loud.)

Another thing I experienced with Postpartum that not many associate with it was intense anger and increased irritability. Many associate crying as one of the major symptoms. While it is a symptom, it is not one that every mom will experience. Many moms instead become very overwhelmed and as a result, develop what I term “explosive” personalities, blowing up over the smallest perceived injustice or high expectation.

3) @MamaRobinJ asked: How about blogging about PPD. How much detail do you think people should offer? What’s too personal?

I have a few personal rules I stick to when blogging about PPD. The primary goal is to keep from endorsing specific medications as I feel that is a discussion best left between physician and patient and to keep from triggering others.

Sharing details is good to an extent. That said, if you have a piece you are posting to your blog that a new mom may visit, always ALWAYS warn at the very beginning of the piece that if someone is in a fragile state, they should probably skip the post and come back when they’re feeling a bit healthier. I’ve taken to posting music videos via YouTube at the beginning of posts I think may trigger someone. Katherine Stone, author over at Postpartum Progress, has a symbol she posts at the beginning of potentially triggering posts. We all have our own methods but we all keep in mind the fact that the people reading our blog may not be in the same mindframe we are now.

Another thing aspect of sharing details is that in writing your own story, you may feel drained. It may drag up some of the same emotions you had when you experienced while in the depths of PPD. Be prepared to deal with this. Sharing is therapeutic. But it can also be exhausting. Share at a pace which is healthy for you. Your mental health is far more important than indulging the curiosity of your readers.

Too personal for me is:

  • Naming the Psych Hospital I spent time in
  • Naming any of my Physicians
  • Naming any of my medications

Even with HIPAA, for me this is a privacy issue and one that I will not disclose under most circumstances.

If I do disclose my medication, I am very careful to say that it is what worked (or didn’t work) for me. All treatments/therapies work differently for different people. It is important for us to respect the journey of others toward wellness.

4) The good folks over at @bandbacktogether asked: “why did you start to blog?”

The best answer to this question is back at my very first post in May 2007. But, for the sake of posterity and saving you a click and a ton of reading (and the horrificness of my first ever blog post), my husband and I found ourselves quite unexpectedly pregnant after a very nasty episode of Postpartum OCD (and probably PTSD due to my daughter’s NICU stay). Once the pregnancy test lines turned pink and I dug myself out of bed after reading Karen Kleiman’s “What Am I Thinking: Having a Baby After Postpartum Depression,” I decided to start a blog in order to “reframe” my pregnancy as Karen suggested. Little did I know something I started for just for me would still be around nearly four years later and evolved into what it has today – including #PPDChat at Twitter every Monday at 1p & 830p ET.

5) @TouchstoneAZ asked: “Have you seen any correlation between when period returns pp even while bfing and PPD?

When I asked for further clarification, she stated she was asking about mood and period. If I’ve understood her question correctly, I think she’s asking about increased issues with mood during PMS after an episode of Postpartum. SO many mothers (including myself) struggle for a long time with increased mood issues during PMS after a Postpartum episode. I get increasingly irritable, cranky, and just all around grumpy. I was on medication for PMS prior to pregnancy for my PMS. In fact, I remember reading research stating that women with PMDD (or severe emotional issues during PMS) are at a slightly higher risk for developing PPD. I can’t find the link at the moment though as my kids are on day 3 home from school for snow and frankly, my brain is fried. I’m also defending my laptop from my three year old as I type this so .. when I find the link, I’ll update this answer with it, I promise.

 

This was fun! I may have to do this again next week! If you liked this feature and have a question about my experience or anything Postpartum related, please either @ me on Twitter (I’m @unxpctdblessing) or email it to me at mypostpartumvoice(@)gmail(dot)com with “Q&A submission” as the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!

Enhanced by Zemanta

Postpartum Voice of the Week: Kristine Brite McCormick opens up about PPD in the infant loss community


If you asked me how I met Kristine, I’d have to say I don’t know. I think it was on Twitter. Or maybe Facebook. No, I think it was Twitter. When did our paths cross? Not sure about that one either. It’s been a couple of months at least. We seemed to hit it off from the start and I’ve been wanting to share her story here for quite some time. Kristine is a Mom. She’s Cora’s mom. Cora isn’t here with us anymore but that doesn’t make Kristine any less of a mother. She’s championed on, fighting for Congenital Heart Disease awareness, opening up about her very own experience with infant loss. Cora left us at just five days old but those five days have made a huge difference in Kristine’s life.

I’ve asked Kristine to share her story here because it’s important to remember that Mothers with Angel Babies are still mommies too. They hurt just like we do. And while those of us who have never lost a baby will never truly understand their pain and grief, it’s just as important for us to hold them close as well, to check in on them to see how they are holding up. Mothers with Angel Babies don’t deserve to be hidden in a corner simply because we’re not sure of what to say. You can help by simply asking “How ARE you today?” and then listening without judging. It’s okay to admit you don’t know what to say. Chances are they don’t know either. But we can learn together.

Thank you, Kristine, for sharing so openly here. Your words and experience are truly invaluable. You’ve already helped so many and I know there are many more waiting to be touched by Cora’s Story. You’re both making a huge difference in this world!

And now, in Kristine’s own words, her postpartum voice, is her story and advice to those in the PPD Community:


The no-baby blues? Post-partum depression in the baby loss community

For over ten months, my body was taxed and tolled and hormones and body chemistry changed. Then I labored, which sometimes is traumatic, sometimes goes beautifully, but always means work. I gave birth to a beautiful daughter after laboring for a day. For days, I wasn’t allowed more than an hour of two or sleep, and finding time to was a feat.

After going through all that and then adjusting to life with a new baby, depression seems so a given.

But, what if there is no baby? What if there are no late night feedings? What if your body goes through all the pain and change of child birth and then the baby dies?

I still gave birth, so I am post-partum, and my daughter, Cora, died in my arms early one morning while breastfeeding, so I certainly feel depressed.

When diagnosing me, professionals and laypeople usually call my depression Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, certainly applicable because I watched my daughter die, or simply manic depression.

I’ve started a quest to learn more about post-partum depression, because after all, my days aren’t that much different than mothers with babies here.

I’m kept up late with insomnia. My eating habits are terrible. I get pressure from family and friends to act a certain way. I feel alone and isolated because grieving mothers sometimes get treated like they suffer from a contagious disease. All conditions new mothers find themselves in for the first few months after giving birth.

Only, I have trouble relating. Other grieving mothers get it, most of the time, but I find it difficult to not feel badly for them. And, them for me, too. So we’re a tightknit group, but with so much pressure on ourselves, we’re not always the best support for the times we’re hidden away taking care of ourselves.

Mothers suffering from post-partum depression seem apprehensive to say anything. They fear us being offended that they’d dare relate their depression to ours. And, no doubt, some grieving moms would be offended, but in the end, we’re all in the same bout.

Grieving mothers need the support of the PPD community. PPD might only be one of the many daily mental struggles for a grieving mom, but I think it’s the forgotten factor. My doctors haven’t really wanted to label what I’m going through at this point, but, sometimes I wish they would, just to acknowledge that I might suffer from more than one disorder at a time.

I don’t want to speak for every grieving mother, but I’m glad I’ve found an online PPD community and find value in joining more than one community, communities for grieving mothers, communities for new moms, communities for children that suffer the same condition that killed my daughter, congenital heart disease because in doing so I can relate to everything I face a bit better.

I hope more grieving mothers realize they too have a multi-headed dragon to slay and begin reaching out. Depression after giving birth, whether you have a baby on Earth or somewhere else, only gets better with help.


Kristine Brite McCormick writes about her daughter Cora (almost) daily on her blog, Cora’s Story , where she often opens up about grief and depression.

If not on her blog, she can be found on Twitter, @kristinebrite or Cora’s Facebook Fan page, telling Cora’s Story.