Thursday, February 23

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

I'll be the first to admit that I'm the last to admit I need help. Maybe it's an only child thing, a trait inherited from two strong willed parents or just who I am. Whatever it is, I am fully aware without the ability to overcome.

This was never so painfully obvious as it was in the first year after Bryce was born.  In the beginning, I could hardly put together a coherent thought let alone ask for help.  And as I learned to cope by bottling my fear and emotions, pulling away from close connections and trying to control every possible situation my PTSD raged out of control.

My OB prescribed Zoloft and though I despise daily dose drugs, avoid plastics and generally hug a lot of trees, I took it without question.  For awhile anyway, but that's another story.  It helped me shift out of overdrive and find a bit of balance in my upside down world.

But as we brought Bryce home and transitioned into the solitary confinement of bringing home a micro-preemie during flu and RSV season, we faced new and different challenges.  Now all of the people that I'd been forced to let into my life and heart - the nurses, respiratory techs, clinical techs and neonatologists at Dell - were suddenly and completely gone.

Over time therapists and other service providers have come into our lives, we reconnected with old friends and found ways to stay in touch with our dear Dell friends but some of the most valuable people in my life, some of my most valauble resources for raising a medically fragile child and coping with the stresses that come with that tough job are my fellow Hand to Hold moms.

My Hand to Hold mentor proves to me everyday that we can get through and find a way to keep coping.  The quarterly discussion series have taught me that I don't have to be nice all of the time (for instance, to gawkers in line at the grocery store) and where the best therapists in town are, and the Preemie Mom monthly dinner gives me a night to look forward to every month.  We've done play groups and have plans for more, we've become friends and connected beyond our initial shared experiences. And Kelli Kelley, Hand to Hold's founder, is a friend, mentor and one of my most admired people.

No one of these things alone would have gotten me to where I am today - which is a far cry from where I was a year or two years ago.  So, thank you Hand to Hold for coming into my life and giving me so many things (& people) to be grateful for.  PTSD isn't something that just goes away but with the right resources you can get better.

{The following video, which shows here Bryce's NICU-mate Luke and his awe inspiring momma Kathryn, was produced for Hand to Hold by DadLabs with the support of St. David's Foundation and just so happens to feature yours truly at about 8 minutes in...I hope you enjoy!}


Tuesday, February 21

House Arrest

It's been a week today since my cerclage surgery and I'm finally feeling pretty normal. I was instructed to try to do nothing for at least a week, which seemed like a prescribed vacation the first day but by day three began feeling like cruel and unusual punishment.

Fortunately, we got me mostly set up to work remotely so it's not just sleeping, reading and catching up on this season's House episodes on Hulu anymore.  It's all too reminiscent of rearranging our lives while living in the Ronald McDonald house and Dell's NICU after Bryce was born.

The worst of it, by a landslide, though has been not being able to pick up Bryce.  I was told that I should avoid it completely for two weeks and as much as possible for the remainder of the pregnancy. 

Do you know how you show a 2 1/2 year old who doesn't walk or talk that you love them?  You PICK HIM UP!  He is so used to crawling up to me wherever we are, reaching up and having me pick him up or help him get to where he wants to go that his world is undoubtedly a little upside down as well all of a sudden.  And it's not like I could prepare him for this in any way, even if some one of the nine million doctors I've seen had bothered to mention this little bit of information beforehand. 

The look in his sweet little confused face when he's trying his hardest to claw his way into my lap and and I'm not helping him up is enough to send a mother over the edge.  Granted I may be overly emotional and sensitive from the hormones, anxiety and week of house arrest but dammit it feels real to me!

I may wallow in a shallow pool of self pity but don't doubt for a second that I know just how blessed we are.  To have family around that is willing and able to help, whether with nourishment, child care  or dishes, has gotten us through these seven days mostly unscathed. 

It's hard for me to see everyone else taking care of my baby while I sit back and watch - so hard.  But what would we do if we didn't have them here to do so???!!!  I shudder to think.

Speaking of shuddering at the thought, we did have an ER visit on Thursday evening.  The verdict is that a clot from the surgery broke loose and caused the sudden onslaught of bleeding and cramping.  I was hanging in there with it for a bit but when I started to have what felt like contractions (exactly like the night Bryce was born - and I thought I might not remember, ha) 10 minutes apart we decided we'd rather waste an ER trip than risk it.  I have this overwhelming need to remove any possibility of self doubt or guilt from the pregnancy. 

And this is harder than you might think.  A million times a day I think about doing something, picking up a basket full of laundry or giving in to Bryce just this one time, and I have to check myself against this impossibly high bar I've set.

You see, the guilt of not getting to a hospital the night Bryce was born consumed me for the first year of his too hard life.  It's impossible not to wonder how different he and his battles might have been had I been overly cautious and gone to the ER.  Maybe they could have stopped the labor or at least he would have been born in a place where they knew how to care for him. 

I've since learned many a coping skill and manage to live my daily life without much thought on the subject.  But this pregnancy, especially this last week, has brought all of that flooding back in.  I should have just taken some home baked treats to that ER staff at Scott & White Round Rock because there is a good chance they'll be getting to know me.  I simply refuse to increase the chance, even in the slightest, that I'll have any regrets with BOTW.  Once is more than enough for a lifetime, thank you.

On the up side, we had another ultrasound in the ER to make sure BOTW was doing well and boy oh boy was he!  {By the way, I say "he" hoping that there is some chance fate might like to prove me and that boy part seeing doctor wrong} BOTW was somersaulting all around, making it incredibly difficult for them to get a good heart rate read.  We finally got one and several pictures that actually look like baby - very exciting!

I haven't had any more unusual pain or cramping since and am generally relieved that we went, even if it is already getting incredibly old showing my hoo ha to yet another stranger.  I could quite possibly be working on a Guiness record at this point.  Maybe I should be keeping track?