Birth Trauma Survivor and Maternal Health Advocate

“Debriefing-style counseling after a trauma often aggravates a victim's stress-related symptoms, for example, and 4 in 10 bereaved people do better without grief therapy.” Winifred Gallagher

I never found any comfort in talking to my psychiatrist, Dr. Jones–I was only seeing her twice a week because she suggested it. I dreaded every appointment. Instead of feeling like I was making progress, I often left feeling much worse than I did before. During our sessions I saw her eyes constantly dart back and forth from her legal pad, to me, to her clock. We didn’t have conversations. I sat across from her and she interrogated me like I was a crime suspect. She kept me reflecting on the past. It was frustrating. We rarely discussed the surgery and blood. She insisted on discussing my childhood and past relationships. The sessions with her left me more exhausted, depressed, sad and angry. She would stir up my emotions and instead of helping me wind down by the end of a session, I was often so would up and distraught, that I was physically shaking when I left.

When we discussed my inability to sleep, she recommended I take Xanax. I was breastfeeding at the time and was very hesitant to take any type of medication. Because of childbirth and the surgery, my body was constantly in pain  for several weeks. I managed without taking any of the Tylenol, Vicodin and Ibuprofen that had been prescribed to me when I left the hospital.  I was worried about Miss J’s little system, so I decided I could deal with the pain rather than jeopardize her health in any way. I actually still have all the medications in their original bottles from four years ago.

Dr. Jones explained to me that it was possible for a nursing baby to feel side effects of Xanax, but that they were minimal.  She never gained my trust in the short time I had been seeing her so I was hesitant to take her for her word. She wrote me a prescription for .25mg to be taken twice per day.

After going home and googling Xanax and its side effects, I agonized over filling the prescription. I hadn’t slept in weeks. I was filled with anxiety and fear. My body was in pain. I just wanted to feel normal for one minute. I filled the prescription a couple of days later. I decided I would take the Xanax as late at night as possible, hoping that I could nurse Miss J enough so that she would sleep for a few hours in a row. I hoped that by the next feeding, the Xanax would mostly be out of my system and not transferred to her through my breast milk. However, from my research I learned that it was possible for Xanax to stay in my system for up to two days.

One night I decided to take it. I was desperate for sleep. I fed Miss J and put her in her bassinet next to our bed. I set the pill bottle on my nightstand stared at it. Several minutes went by and finally I swallowed one of the tiny white pills.  I dozed off after a few minutes.

I awoke to Miss J screaming. She was hungry. I looked at the clock. Two hours had gone by. It was the most consecutive sleep I had in several weeks. I was nervous to feed her but I didn’t have a choice. I had planned on pumping before I took the Xanax but I forgot.

I fed her and she fell asleep. I placed her back into her bassinet. I felt so guilty and upset with myself for taking the Xanax and then breast-feeding her. I stayed awake the rest of the night, staring at her. She slept peacefully. I watched her breath move through her tiny body. I could not go back to sleep. I stared for hours at her chest moving up and down. Every few minutes I would hold my index finger under her nose to make sure I could feel her breathing. Four hours went by. I was starting to get nervous. She had never slept that long. I decided to wake her up. I nudged her gently until she opened her big brown eyes. It could have been my mind playing tricks on me, but she did not seem the same. Miss J looked extremely lethargic compared to normal.

“Bobby! Wake up!” I screamed.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“Does she look okay? She looks weak! I think it was the Xanax!” I was in full panic mode.

“She will be okay honey, don’t worry. She looks fine to me.”

“I’m never taking this shit again!”

After a couple of months I decided that it was doing me more harm than good to continue to see Dr. Jones.  I felt as though she had been wasting my time in order to make more money. I felt betrayed and manipulated. Because she had never let me explain the depth of what I was feeling, she never understood how complicated my emotions were. My relationship with her felt abusive and controlling. I needed someone to let me tell my story and she was not capable of being a good listener. I needed someone to do more than write me a prescription in an attempt to heal my emotional wounds. In three months, I had made no progress and had not acquired any tools to process the trauma of the hemorrhage and move forward with my life.

I terminated my weekly appointments with Dr. Jones.

I didn’t bother to look for another therapist for a very long time.


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