Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Things are Weird Right Now

Much has happened since I last posted. Most of it isn't particularly good or happy. Before anyone gets too worried, everyone in my family is physically healthy. It's not that kind of bad thing...

I've been following the Instagram account of a psychotherapist who is also a birth trauma survivor (@thebirthtrauma_mama) and listening to her podcast. One of her comments in a recent episode is highly relevant to what's been going on in my life lately: If you don't take care of your trauma, your trauma will take care of you. (I think I'm paraphrasing somewhat, but the gist is there.) 

I'm currently on medical leave from work. It's complicated. I'm definitely still processing everything since LB's birth, and I'm getting a lot of therapy and working with a psychiatrist. 

The entire situation wasn't that dramatic in some ways, I've still been able to care for LB quite happily, even in my worst times. But there've been days where walking around on sidewalks near typical NYC traffic - or even suburban car traffic in my somewhat quiet town - made me repeatedly flinch, feel the physical effects of fear. It's all been a lot. I feel like a mess. 

That's an awkward segue into saying I highly recommend the podcast series "The Retrievals." It's about a Yale-New Haven Hospital fertility treatment clinic where a nurse repeatedly diverted fentanyl intended for anesthesia for patients, refilling the vials with saline. Obvious content warnings apply, given that premise. 

By its nature, the subject matter can be extremely triggering. I personally recall reading a long-form article about this situation that included interviews with many affected patients back when I was pregnant. I remember that I found it viscerally painful to read about their experiences and pain. The podcast treats that side of things with a gentle hand. Given my current condition, I'm extra-sensitive to detailed descriptions about gynecologic or obstetric procedures that don't go well, but I didn't feel triggered in that way by this podcast.

By laying out the stories of many affected patients in their own words, and also their complicated feelings after what they went through - including in future interactions with OB-GYN or fertility care, whether at the same hospital or other ones - this podcast really hits on so many themes that are highly relevant to what I'm feeling. I feel like discussions on my blog and your responses to my posts have touched on these types of themes a number of times over the years, about how society at large - and the medical establishment in particular - dismiss women, minimize their concerns. 

I've said several times, in various settings, that after LB's birth I can't imagine any first-time birthing person coming away from that experience without being deeply and truly traumatized in some way, no matter how smoothly things went. There's just no adequate preparation for all the things that are to come, and so much that can't be predicted.  

The things that hurt me are obviously not the same at all as what happened to the patients in "The Retrievals," but we share some of the questions that haunt us in the aftermath: 

  • Why does society at large - including many of our doctors and nurses, and maybe some of our friends and loved ones as well -  so readily dismiss and minimize our negative experiences or pain related to pregnancy and birth, especially if the outcome included a healthy baby? 
  • Why are women so often ignored in the context of medical care when they say they're in pain, or that they need help? 
  • Why does it feel like almost no one is really fully talking about these types of things most of the time? About how much can be lost or be forever changed in the process of becoming a mother. 

One silver lining about being on medical leave is that I think I actually will finally have more time to blog, though naturally I won't be able to tell the entire story of what I've been going through here. I've missed writing here, I really have. I deeply hope that other people had things go better, such that they can't relate that much to the darker, more painful aspects of what I'm describing. (Yet, selfishly, I also... want to feel not as alone in all this. It's all incredibly complicated, and I don't have all the words for it yet.) 

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