Birth Trauma Survivor and Maternal Health Advocate

“There was something in her eyes that made me trust her. Maybe it was because they held the same cynicism, the same world-weariness I saw in my own every morning when I looked at myself in the mirror.” Melika Dannese Lux, Corcitura

During our first meeting, Rachael told me that she was going to be my partner on this journey. She would reiterate that statement often during our sessions.  I used to think it was such an odd and corny thing to say. How can you be partners with someone you hardly know?  Plus, in order to allow her to be my partner, I had to make myself vulnerable and be willing to commit to the experience. I had to tell her things that I had only been able to tell Bobby and all the things I hadn’t . All the walls I had built up had to come down.  I knew that I had to be willing to start walking down the path to healing and never look back.

It was a gradual process. I don’t know exactly when I started to feel better, I just know that I owe a lot of it to Rachael. She is humble and probably won’t take any of the credit. Well, maybe a little. She would tell you that my success in overcoming PTSD and all the other obstacles in my life came solely from my willingness to do some extremely hard work. But she was able to give me what I had been searching for.  I needed guidance and a confidante. I needed someone to validate my feelings and help me work through them.

She gave me her all.

We probably would have ended up great friends if Rachael hadn’t come into my life as my therapist. I told her everything. Some weeks our entire sessions were teary-eyed cry fests. Other times, we laughed and cackled like two old friends sipping cocktails at Sunday brunch. I loved how she never held back her reactions to what I was saying and she challenged me too. She was non-judgemental and delicately blunt when necessary. I have a strong personality, yet she did not let me bulldoze over her.  She had the incredible gift of letting me think I was steering my own ship, but in reality she was the Captain. I realize now that Rachael saw the destination I was heading towards long before I did. Her job was to help me get there. She encouraged me to confront my fears, write more and rest when I needed to. In addition to that, she provided me with great coping skills for all the different emotions I was feeling at the time.

In July of 2012 I decided to take a break from promoting “The Heart of Beauty.” My email inbox was filled with encouraging messages from several network executives.  Many of them called me personally to say they liked me and the show concept. The problem was that I was trying to sell a self-help show in a new era of reality television that only wanted to invest in shows filled with family dysfunction, friends fighting and a showcase of materialism. The constant rejections were starting to wear me down. I needed to put all of my energy into healing myself. The show had become a distraction. I decided to focus on finding resources for postpartum PTSD, writing a memoir and developing my website. When I told Rachael of my decision to go public with my story, she was extremely supportive. We both knew that birth trauma, although extremely common, is a taboo subject and anyone admitting to having a mental health issue will have a lot of stigma attached to them.  I was never really afraid of the stigma. I really felt as though I didn’t have a choice. If “The Heart of Beauty” ever got sold, my birth story would become public knowledge anyway. I was mostly concerned at what effect it might have on Bobby and Miss J’s lives.

I was unsure of how to proceed and there were so many questions I needed to answer.

Did I still want to be a celebrity make-up artist?

Did I want the website to be about beauty?  Or was I going to be dedicated to helping women who had overcome life-altering circumstances?

I was confused.

What would my first post be about?

Was I going to tell the world what my favorite lip gloss is or was I going to tell the world that I had survived a postpartum hemorrhage, life-saving surgery and a PTSD diagnosis?

My life had changed so much. I still loved my job as a make-up artist, but my passion for it was waning. I was on a mission. I often wondered how many other women had suffered a birth or pregnancy trauma and had no resources to help them cope with the aftermath. How many women lived everyday with PTSD and didn’t know it? How many women had been misdiagnosed as having PPD or some other disorder?

I thought a lot about Miss J.  If she had an experience like I did, I would never want her to feel the type of loneliness and isolation I felt back then. I would never want her to replay the memories. I would want Miss J to know that she was not alone, that giving birth is beautiful but complications do happen. More than anything, I  would want to validate her feelings about her experience. I would want Miss J to know that talking about her feelings and having the courage to seek help is admirable, and the right thing to do for herself and her family.

I remember when I put the finishing touches on my website. I re-read my first blog post a million times. I knew there was no turning back. I would have to tell my story in its entirety if I truly wanted to help other women, as well as myself.

I paced back and forth across our kitchen floor. My heart was racing. I was sweaty and nervous. Finally, I sat down and poured myself a glass of wine.

Then, I hit the “publish” button.



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