31 December, 2010

The Complications Continued - The End!

Complication #11. The c-section “apron” and scar tissue.  Who knows where the moniker, the “apron,” really came from when referring what happens to the skin on the belly after a cesarean?  If you can answer this question, I’ll send you a prize.  There are some great sites out there that discuss the reality of women’s body’s after having babies, versus what we see in the popular media of movies stars having twins by c-section and magically getting back to their pre-baby bodies in six weeks.  I appreciated this woman’s and other’s courage here.  Still, I would say, I don’t have an apron; I have a fanny pack worn on the front.  Like the worst kind of computer nerd from high school.  I might as well have leaky ink pens in my front pocket and tape around my the nosepiece of my thick, black glasses. 
Since the birth, I’ve had weight loss and gain while trying to regulate my fat intake in order to be adequate enough to feed my child and also yet low enough to not experience another gallbladder attack.  My weight has fluctuated and what’s remained has all landed on the frontside of my stomach.  I still look like I did when I was six months pregnant.  And yep, I’ve had the experience many times where people asked if I was pregnant.  The first time was when I walked into the college where I taught one day, with my daughter in tow, and a colleague said, “Oh, you’re expecting another one?”  To which I patted my belly and replied, “Nope, this is just the leftover from my last one.”  I’ve now made this reply several times in the last two years.  Even my daughter, who is now becoming aware of babies in bellies, asked me one day if there was one in there, and when I replied no, she pulled out my shirt and stuck her head under and said she wanted to be in my belly, which about made me cry with cuteness and the reality that I still want her in there, too, so she can come out the other way.
I’ve had moments where I’m bummed and angry and annoyed about this extra weight and the heaviness I feel and the bulge that overhangs my belt, which others called the “muffin top,” which I thought was funny, though again the metaphor isn’t quite accurate for me – a danish, maybe.  The fact that there is such a clear delineation in flatness from my pelvic bone to above the scar is odd to me; again, a clear blockage of energy that hasn’t been released.
Lately, I’ve been the grateful guinea pig of a friend of mine who is in a healing school and needs practice clients.  One day, in her nice apartment, with a candle burning and me laying on top of soft blankets on a massage table with nice yogi music playing in the background, she laid her hands on me in various ways to check my energy and chakras and see what lurks beneath.  I was not surprised when she assessed my abdomen was murky and full of muscus-like energy she had to “clean out” just to “see” around in there.  I know the energy is stuck, I’ve written about it already, but the daily reminder via the “apron,” seems to me a bit of overkill.
The other part of the c-section apron that’s a bummer is the numbness and tingling and slight pain that still exists two years later around the scar.  I’ve written about this already, too, so all I’ll say is since the birth, I have to wear a belt with most pants, because otherwise they fall off.  The fashion world doesn’t design pants that are made with for a woman with a sideview like a fanny pack, unless, I suppose, I went back and bought more maternity pants, which would be confusing and sad.  That beltbuckle that I must wear, while it’s not a rodeo cowboy-sized buckle, presses right on my scar and hurts and numbs me out or somehow causes discomfort on my scar many days of the week, especially if my child is in a particularly cuddly mood and wants to sit all day on mama’s belly.  Again, that pain is just the reminder that she didn’t come out the way I’d hoped.
Still, I do wish society were different.  I wish, like the size of a man’s penis, the size of a woman’s stomach, or maybe, even, the size of her apron, was a badge of honor and an attribute to be envied.  I birthed a human being out of my body, for goodness sake, an adorable, smart, healthy kid who knocks me out most days with her “ideas” and the way she needs to line up her toys or the shoes at our front door with such persistence and vigor.  I wish that even I thought more often of my used-up belly not as a burden but as a beacon of womanhood and fertility and a miraculous god-given gift.  I wish that society thought the bulge and bumps of my belly, not the two by four of the typical next top model, was sexy, the way that I think hills and rolling valleys are more inspiring and interesting than flatlands; they offer more dynamic, lovely views with more mystery and intrigue.
Complication #12.  Delayed Post-Partum Depression.  I don’t know for sure what clinical depression is.  I don’t have an opinion on drugs or no drugs for depression.  But I do know “without help” sometimes “it,” whatever “it” is, is too much for me.  And to clarify, by help, I don't mean drugs, I mean help from another person, usually someone of the professional sort, but sometimes also a friend or plain old good listener.
The first eight months of my daughter’s life, I was coping.  I did my day to day work of meeting her needs and also worked at the college teaching writing, which started nine weeks after she was born.  I was grateful for the class work, because it took my mind off of the pain in my body and on my mind.  And keeping my mind off that pain was the best I could do.  So, I was coping rather than healing.
In my previous job as a non-violence educator, when I used to teach about creating healthy relationships, I often drew this model (see below).  The model helps people understand that in our day to day lives, we will be hurt by little or big hurts, and while we don’t have much of a choice about whether or not we will be hurt in our lifetime, we do have the choice to either heal from or cope with those hurts.  Here’s the model, pretty simple, and yes, I stole it from someone, somewhere a long time ago, and I’m sorry but I don’t remember from whom:
COPE                      HEAL
You can draw your own arrows from “YOU” to the “HURT” and it’s your choice how you get there, via coping or healing. 
Coping is not a bad thing, per se, I’ve done it a lot in my life – when I was drinking, I was coping, or when I’ve over-exercised or overworked, or surfed the Internet too much or watched too much T.V.  All of these activities and many others are pretty normal coping strategies and, sometimes, for some people, they do take the edge off of certain hurts.  But for me, and for others, too much coping often leads to more hurt, as it did in the case of my drinking.  Or even in the case of too much television watching, I’d argue, I’m hurting my brain and my intelligence.  Eventually, since I’m trying to create a healthy relationship with myself, I choose to do some healing.  And for me, healing usually requires help. 
After eight months post-birth, when I hadn’t really slept more than five hours in a row at night, and when I hadn’t dealt with my sadness of the birth, I found myself crying uncontrollably for no apparent reason, after doing the dishes, say, or in moments alone.  I was irritable, frustrated and getting out of bed was hard. 
I yelled one night at my daughter at for waking up out of a dead sleep. I actually went into her room, turned on the light, slapped the wall hard with my hand and screamed “what do you want?”  I startled her, which only made her wail more.  And then I felt so terrible, so guilty.  Later that week, I realized, I couldn’t even see my baby girl.  I was looking at her, but there was a dark silk veil over my eyes and I wasn’t seeing her.  I knew I needed help and I told my husband so. 
I sought that help, via two different professional counselors over the summer when I wasn’t teaching.  The counseling helped get me back on my feet, deal with much of the real sadness of the birth, and most importantly, help sink in that the birth did happen the way it did and there was no going back.  Up until that point, I wanted to will the experience to be different, and my pushing and forcing energy was not helping me move on, nor helping me be able to mother my child.  The counseling helped me integrate the trauma of the birth with the reality of my day to day life.  I felt happiness again, and joy at seeing my daughter grow.  Also, the counseling helped me start to see another side to the story, or at least to envision writing my own end to this saga. 
People have scoffed at post-partum depression and that fact conveniently brings me back to Oprah, where a few years ago there was some hullaballo that one famous person publicly judged another famous person’s experience of post-partum depression.  My point here is, for me, post-partum depression, while delayed, was real, and I had to make a choice, heal or cope.
So, why circle around all this writing about The Complications in order to talk about Oprah?  Because one day in that post-partum depression time frame, one late in the afternoon, I’d had enough of being a good mother and playing on the floor with my child and helping her sleep and loving her for the day; I wanted a break.  So, I turned on the television, when I knew Oprah was on, to see what she was up to.  I missed much of the first half of the show, but I caught last part of the episode about the woman who, after the c-section birth of her second child, contracted the flesh-eating virus, which subsequently and quickly meant she lost part of or all of each of her limbs.  This woman, after birth, had to learn how to cope with two new prosthetics on her arms, and eventually two more for her legs; essentially she had to learn how to live in an entire new body.  I was dumbfounded at her post-birth complications and instantly, I saw how I had it so good.  This woman was amazing and you can probably see a lot more about her all over the Internet. 
And one thing I heard on the show really helped me decide to start pulling myself together and go get some help to do so.  The woman said the whole time she was in the hospital dealing with her complications, what got her through, what made her work so hard, was so she could get home and be with her children.  She had to learn an entirely new way to move in the world, but her kids were what motivated her to move at all. Watching this woman made me say, “but for the grace of God go I” and count my blessings.  Watching her also made me decide to make some phone calls in the morning, which I vowed to do.  And then, I turned off the television and got back down on the floor to play with my child.
Happy New Year to all.


We Can Change the World Together said...

I love that when I feel most "pitifull" for me, the Universe opens the door for me too see how Good I really have it. Seems there is always one strong soul...ready to show me the way.

Thanks for your strength Nancy, and the courage to share your "pitifull" thoughts. It is soul strengthening.

Nancy Slavin said...

Thanks "We can change..." for your comments and for reading...I wish I knew who you were....

Anonymous said...

Nancy, you are so strong...and brave...and beautiful! ~Suzy

Karen said...

"the darkest hour is just before dawn"
Some people believe there are no coincidences in life. Every thing we go through helps prepare us for the rest of our life. You have experienced some extraordinary circumstances with the birth of your darling daughter and ensuing postpartum complications. You are a survivor, and it would appear you have much to offer the rest of us. I agree with Suzy - you are strong and brave and beautiful!