Birth Trauma Survivor and Maternal Health Advocate

“If you are going through hell, keep going.” Winston Churchill

It would have been easier to understand and accept what happened to my body if the doctors had been able to diagnose me with something.  Besides the PTSD diagnosis I needed something concrete about the blood that I could research, obsess over and google- but there was no explanation. The miscarriage was easier to understand than the embolization. Miscarriages are common and often due to chromosomal abnormalities in a fetus. The causes of postpartum hemorrhages vary and remain a mystery in most cases. Postpartum hemorrhages occur often but those that have lived through them tend to remain silent.

By the Fall of 2011, I was working more frequently. I was also given the opportunity to try and bring my idea of creating a television show called “The Heart of Beauty” to life. I wanted to create a show that helped women who had survived life-altering circumstances. I wanted to tell their stories and encourage them to stay positive on their road to recovery. If you have been reading my blog since the beginning, you know the story of the MacPherson family. Christine, Michael and Mikey. Christine was our wedding planner. Shortly after our wedding we found out that her son, Mikey, had been diagnosed with Autism. I knew that Christine and her family would be perfect to film the show sizzle reel because she was always very candid about what her life was like after learning about Mikey’s diagnosis.

During the two-day shoot, the reality of what Christine’s life being a mom to an autistic child hit me like a ton of bricks. The love and dedication she had for Mikey touched me deeply but what I connected to the most was how stressful, chaotic and constantly unpredictable her life could be at times. During the interview, she and her husband Michael were so open and honest that I wanted to take a break so that I could go into the bathroom and cry. I don’t know how I held myself together, but I did. I remember thinking that although our circumstances were vastly different, we had both experienced a traumatic situation that required us both to remain focused on the well being of our children. The difference was that Christine was living her truth. She was willing to tell her story to anyone and everyone who would listen, holding fundraisers and researching therapy treatments. At the time I was more comfortable keeping my story semi-private, only sharing it when necessary, secretly hoping that I would be healed from helping others.

After interviewing the Macpherson family and viewing the tape several times, I knew that the time had come to tell my story. How could I encourage others to be brave and share their stories of surviving trauma or life-altering circumstances, if I was not ready to do so myself?

I requested all of my medical records and began to write about every detail of what life had been like since Miss J’s birth. Bobby and I had been through more in that year than most people in a lifetime.

As I wrote down the series of events, it read like the outline for the development of a Lifetime Original Movie.

  • The postpartum hemorrhage after Miss J’s birth.
  • Miss J having jaundice and possibly needing phototherapy.
  • Miss J was born with a hernia that required her to have surgery at fifteen months old.
  •  When she was less than two weeks old, Miss J choked  on Vitamin D drops, turned blue and had to be taken to the emergency room.  
  • The miscarriage in public.
  • When I was around six weeks postpartum, some family members decided to let Bobby and I know how unhappy they were with a personal decision we had made. I was on the receiving end of most of their wrath and was called several names (feel free to use your imagination-almost any bad word will fit) that I will not repeat here. I was still recovering from surgery, not sleeping and doing the best I could to get through every day as a new mom. The anger and  expression of disappointment that was unleashed upon us added immensely to the stress we were under at the time. In addition to replaying the trauma of my hemorrhage, I began replaying the awful words that were said to us over and over again. We spent months in shock and disbelief at what had happened. I apologize for being so vague with the details, but this is a delicate situation.  Just remember this: Words, both spoken and written are very powerful. Think about your relationships and what you want them to be. Don’t get caught up in a moment and lose control. Several months passed and eventually we received an apology, but for me it was too late. There are certain lines that once you cross, you can never go back to the way things were before. It has been four years and sometimes I still ask myself why we didn’t just hang up the phone as it was happening. I’m telling you about this because trauma comes in so many forms. We’ve all heard the phrase “Sticks and stones may brake my bones, but words will never hurt me”. Well, in my experience words can hurt so much more than anything physical. In most circumstances, your body will heal from a physical wound. My body has healed from the embolization and the D&C. Miss J didn’t have jaundice, never needed phototherapy and she made it through the hernia surgery with no complications.  But the words of these family members haunted me.What made it worse  were all the times we had to be in a room with them and pretend like it never happened. Every time I saw them I relived that phone call over and over again. It was hard for me to separate the people from their words, sometimes it still is.

As I began to promote “The Heart of Beauty”, I was forced to share my personal story with network executives several times. I could see that as I told my story, people genuinely connected with me. While they viewed the tape of the MacPherson family, many of the stone cold poker-faced television executives would reach for tissues.  We received a lot of positive feedback about the show, but unfortunately we weren’t able to sell it.  The landscape of televison had changed and a show like mine just had no place to fit in with what networks were showing interest in buying at the time. I vowed to keep trying. I often thought about the words I had seen embroidered on a pillow at Christine’s house. “Never Give Up”. It was Christine’s mantra and soon it became mine for not only continuing to pitch the show to networks, but also for myself.

I decided to  give therapy one more try. I searched for a therapist who specialized in treating people with PTSD. My search turned up few results. I kept coming across the same website, Tribeca Therapy. I bookmarked it. Every couple of weeks I would click on the website and read every page. Just reading the website was comforting. It was the first time I had come across a therapy website where PTSD was a main category of treatment.

Several more months passed and in May of 2012,  I finally sent an email inquiry to the director of Tribeca Therapy, Matt Lundquist. He emailed me back promptly and we scheduled a phone conversation. I never considered having a male therapist, but he was so comforting over the phone I could see myself opening up to him very easily.I told him everything. He sent me an email later letting me know that he was going to pair me up with Rachael Benjamin, an LCSW( licensed clinical social worker) with his practice.

I scheduled an appointment with Rachael for the following week.  I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew the time had come to let it all out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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