August 15, 2016 12:01 pm

PTSD

The biggest thing I haven’t yet mentioned here is that I was diagnosed with PTSD stemming from events surrounding my births.

After struggling with symptoms by myself for over five years, I finally chose to seek help because I felt like I couldn’t turn my brain off. If I woke up at night, or if I was sitting quietly by myself, or trying to fall asleep, or anything that involved some downtime for my brain, I couldn’t stop replaying and obsessing over details of my births. This symptom is called intrusive thoughts (or persistent re-experiencing) and I was tired of it. I wanted my brain back.

I was treated using EMDR therapy and I found it really, really effective. We mostly did “tones” (listening to beep-boop sounds that alternate left and right) instead of the eye movements and she also tapped my knees left and right.

After working through a bunch of situations, I began to notice a pattern of behavior from my care providers that directly contributed to my issues. I wrote about several incidents here as they happened, but I minimized my feelings or explained their actions away even though some of them really hurt me. When I was gaining weight like mad and they simply told me to “lay off the fast food and soda” without even asking me what I ate in a typical day? HUGE, STARK CONTRAST to my midwife with Thora’s birth, who preemptively had me keep a food journal for a week so we could identify things to work on and we had a discussion about nutrition and based on my journal, I was advised to up my protein intake and then continue my food journal for another week to see how I felt.

Or telling me I was supposed to do the glucose test at 16 weeks (normally it’s not until 28ish weeks) without explaining why they were having me complete it twice or revealing that I had the right to refuse the extra test.

Or calling me a month before I was due to tell me I could “have a baby tonight if I wanted” and then laughing, as though they didn’t care I may have a premature baby and it was all a big joke.

Or brushing off my concerns that I had Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction and merely telling me it would only get worse. They didn’t recommend a specific support belt, or physiotherapy, or suggest chiropractic care, or exercises I could do to lessen the pain. They didn’t offer ANYTHING except to tell me that it would only get worse and made it seem like a support belt might not help.

Good care providers recognize that you are a human capable of rational thought with the capacity to consent to or deny various procedures, and they inform you of the risks and benefits of those procedures ahead of time. Bad care providers take everything as a given and don’t bother with your input – they inform you they will be performing a vaginal exam instead of asking if you would like one performed. They shove consent forms in your face while you sob and people are streaming into the room to start the procedure you are “consenting” to. You are coerced; you feel like you can’t say no. Or maybe you do say no, and they ignore it and continue anyway – like the time during my labor with Wesley when someone roughly checked my cervix during a vaginal exam while I cried and protested. They didn’t stop. Then they said my cervix was “high and difficult to find” and made it seem as though the rough exam was my fault.

It wasn’t.

It’s hard to not beat yourself up over choosing sub-par care, or not recognizing red flags for what they are, but I just have to keep reminding myself that I did the best I could with the information I had at the time. Hindsight is 20/20 and all.

After several months of treatment, those intrusive thoughts? They almost never happen anymore and I am so thankful. I can sleep! I can talk about Wesley’s birth without feeling “triggered” – I can just do my little elevator speech and not feel panicked or like I need to explain all my life choices that led to the circumstances I found myself in. I can talk about how much more empowered I felt with Thora’s birth while recognizing I was grieving the loss of my homebirth at the same time.

I still get sad about things sometimes; just today I was marveling over the fact that I am the only person I know who has attempted a VBAC but didn’t achieve one. Everyone else I know who has attempted a VBAC has been successful, which is AWESOME for them but still gives me pangs of jealousy when I think about it.

On the whole though, I am feeling so much better. I even wrote to the clinic I went to in Portland describing my care and how it resulted in a mental health diagnosis for me, and they called me to apologize and tell me that they took my story very seriously and would be referencing it in an upcoming patient care meeting to improve patient outcomes. They also assured me that they’ve put several policies in place (in the intervening six years) to prevent the sort of “care” I received. For instance, they now give moms a moment alone with their support person after handing them the cesarean consent forms. It doesn’t change anything for the hospital, but it could really influence how a mom feels about her birth ending in surgery. I know I would have felt much more involved in the decision with that process vs the surgery being treated as a fait accompli. I’m also considering posting the text of that letter here, since I felt I articulated my issues well.

Mental health is a complicated topic and I’ve told only a few people in person that I received treatment, but I am truly, deeply grateful for the lovely lady helping me work through my trauma and I wish I had done it sooner. In that vein, I’m happy to answer any questions about my treatment, as I think helping demystify the therapeutic process is important and might have encouraged me to seek help sooner.

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August 13, 2016 6:52 pm

Mundane

· It seems like every time it rains or snows, our internet sucks for like three days. I don’t know why this happens because it’s supposedly cable, not satellite, but it’s irritating. 

Theoretically Ting high-speed fiber internet is coming to my tiny town and I signed up to get it once it’s here, but I have no idea how long it’s supposed to take to get here. 

· Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries is one of the best kept secrets on Netflix. Highly recommended. 

· After having lived through my first summer vacation as a parent, I see now why parents are excited for school to start. It is exhausting to have them home all day! 

· It’s looking like we might not make our annual fall Portland trip this year which is kind of bumming me out. We just didn’t really plan for it during summer vacation and I don’t feel like we can do it during the school year. I’m hoping we can sneak down for a long weekend or something. 

· I want to do more writing here but it’s all on pretty heavy topics. It feels weird to jump right into that, but maybe that’s what I need to do in order to feel okay posting about fluffy stuff. 

· We passed our one year homeownership anniversary! It’s still great to have our own place and right now I’m slowly but surely painting our bathroom white. I tried to find the perfect shade of aqua-bluey-green but the bathroom is some kind of color Bermuda Triangle and everything I tried looked either baby blue or dumpy gray or electric green and I finally gave up and painted it Benjamin Moore White Dove and am very pleased. I also spray painted the already-painted-green light fixture matte black as that was easier and cheaper than finding a new matte black fixture. My Indoor Decor Pinterest board is chock full of pretty, high-contrast bathrooms and I’m inching closer to that look where I can. 

· I am still killing succulents left and right. The death toll went down once I bought some specific cactus soil to pot them in, and it went down again once I realized I was smothering them with attention and they probably all rotted from overwatering, but I still can’t keep the ones in the bathroom alive! Maybe not enough direct sunlight? They’re my favorite kind of houseplant but MAN am I terrible at caring for them. 

· Thora chose to potty train herself last month and she’s mostly great but then she goes through phases where she’ll have three accidents in 30 minutes. Like, you’re two! How can you even produce that much pee?! And I won’t even begin to describe the events that led me to borrow a carpet shampooer so I could attempt to salvage her bedroom carpet but it was BAD and I hope I never have to do that again. 

· I keep buying clothes for Wesley that are way too big. I keep telling myself I’m buying ahead and I am, but I apparently think he’s a lot bigger than he actually is. I just got a winter coat for him in a size 7/8 because he’s six going on seven and lanky and I want the coat to fit for more than one winter, but it’s, uh, pretty big. 

Related: I can’t get enough of this app called Kidizen. It’s like Craigslist but for nice kids clothes. You have to hunt for stuff, but I’ve gotten super good deals on Mini Boden and Hanna Andersson stuff that I would never pay full price for but would love to have. I’m also noticing that (for us anyway) the best deals are in shoes and coats since they grow out of those slower. 

· I started rewatching Buffy and I didn’t remember Xander being such an embodiment of #masculinitysofragile the first time. Yikes. He says some pretty terrible stuff in seasons one and two. 

I also still don’t understand what Buffy sees in Angel. I feel like you don’t really get to know Angel (versus Angelus) until he ends up with his own show and you see what he’s like outside of the Scoobies. 

· I couldn’t sleep last night and accidentally stayed up past 2am catching up on Orange is the New Black and decided that Piper is kind of a terrible person. So, SO many bad, unnecessary decisions. 

(Is it weird if I just talk about TV a lot here? Haha.)

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January 15, 2016 12:53 pm

Dentistry

A few years ago, one of Wesley’s routine dental checkups revealed he had a few cavities on his molars. We are very good about brushing his teeth, but everybody’s bacterial flora is different and his seems to trend toward the tooth decay kind. My beloved family dentist referred us out to a pediatric dentist because, he said, he could do the work but can’t do the sedation, and he doesn’t want to traumatize him and make him hate the dentist, so it’d be better to go to an actual pediatric dentist who will make it a friendly procedure.

That dentist was located in a bigger town an hour away, because while they have an office here where we live, Wesley’s dental plan is through Medicaid and the office here doesn’t take Medicaid.

At our first appointment, with a two-month-old Thora in tow, the dentist asked if I breastfed her. I replied that I did, and he (a dentist, mind you, with no formal lactation training) told me not to breastfeed her on demand – I should instead keep her in a crib, take her out to feed her, swab her mouth with a cloth or a special infant toothbrush, and then put her back in her crib. To prevent cavities. I guess? On the teeth she didn’t have yet? This is patently incorrect information and I was SEETHING and he must have noticed the face I was making because he backtracked a little and said, “Well, it’s your choice but that’s what we recommend.” I was texting my IBCLC mom in a fury before we even left the parking lot.

Later in the appointment he made a point to tell me that “juice is bad for kids’ teeth” as though I had no idea, and without first asking me if we let Wesley drink juice. (He’s allowed to have it elsewhere, but we don’t keep it in the house.) I was convinced it was because he was on Medicaid, and OBVIOUSLY if you are on Medicaid you are the sort of person to put Mountain Dew in your baby’s bottle at night.

So! We got off to a bad start, but this was the only dentist that would do the kind of sedation required for the appointment who also took Medicaid (I called EVERYBODY in a 60 mile radius) so we were essentially stuck.

He had caps put on four of his bottom molars. This was done at two separate appointments, because they failed to explain to me at the first appointment that they wouldn’t be doing all of them at once and I was confused why they were having me schedule another appointment.

After he had the caps put on, he was in INTENSE PAIN for… weeks? I’d say? The caps go a little below the gumline, so I assumed this was par for the course and we gave him ibuprofen for the pain for a few days, and while he continued to complain about it occasionally, it eventually went away and we assumed everything was fine.

He had a cleaning several months later and everything looked good. I should note here, that every single time I spoke with them on the phone, I requested the office in our town as it was mere blocks from where we lived versus an hour’s drive away. I was told every single time that while yes, it’s the same dentist and many of the same hygienists, it was a completely separate business and they don’t take Medicaid so nope, had to be the office an hour away.

(This makes me so annoyed for people who don’t have it as easy as we do – what if you only have one car and your spouse takes it to work? What if your car won’t make the hour’s drive in wintertime? What if you can’t find childcare for your kids’ siblings? What if you can’t afford to take off work for most of the day to travel for an appointment? The whole system is so stupid.)

The next appointment for a cleaning was set for the beginning of December. Daniel took the morning off of work and we made the drive down there (because siblings are not allowed back with older children, one of us had to stay with Thora and the other was allowed to go with Wesley). During his cleaning, the hygienist was asking about the weather and school and we revealed that I actually had to get him out of school early to make the hour’s drive to their office. She looked very surprised and said, “Well, you know we have an office where you live, right?” And I replied that of course I did, but I’ve asked about it every single time and was told we couldn’t go there because he has Medicaid and they don’t accept it. She exclaimed, “Oh! Well our main dentist retired in July, and we hired a new lady and changed some things around, so that office actually accepts Medicaid now!”

What. WHAT?! Why was a letter not sent? Why was I never told I had the option to take him to our local office? I initially scheduled for November and they ended up canceling due to weather, so I spoke with them several times on the phone making this appointment. Why did they not mention any of that info to me?!

Wesley got his annual x-rays, had his cleaning, and then the dentist (the breastfeeding comment guy’s son) came by and very quickly showed me a glimpse of Wesley’s x-rays and pointed out a darkish area underneath a molar and was like, “Welp, looks like that tooth is dead so it’s like a sliver the body is trying to get out and there’s a small infection so we’ll just pull it and put in a spacer to keep the gap open for his permanent tooth and it’ll be a piece of cake okay see you later bye” and hustled us out to reception.

I was extremely stunned and didn’t have any questions because it was all so fast and I really didn’t even know what sort of questions to ask. I dutifully scheduled the appointment for his extraction at our local office since that was apparently an option now, and we left. I felt sick. The appointment was three days before Christmas, and if it was anything like having his caps put on, it would ruin his entire Christmas vacation, not to mention the holiday itself.

After working myself up into a frenzy about it for days, I finally typed up a page-long list of questions I had for the dentist, dropped it off at their office (since it’s approximately a 90 second drive from my house), rescheduled Wesley’s appt for January, and waited for a call back. The dentist called me back and addressed most of my concerns. He kept saying it would be “really easy” and would be “a piece of cake” and it’s “really no big deal.” He interrupted me and talked over me many times, which is a huge pet peeve of mine. He also indicated that “once this is all over, you’ll laugh at how worried you were about it” which I found incredibly condescending. Don’t talk down to me because I’m advocating for my child! And I wouldn’t have to do it if you would just explain things thoroughly the first time around.

The closer we got to his original appointment date, the more he started complaining that his tooth hurt. I decided to attempt to reschedule his extraction and got his original date back, December 22, with only a slight time change. The hygienist tasked with administering his “loopy medicine” (I’m not actually sure what it is, but it makes him a little more relaxed and silly so he’s easier to work with, I guess) got tired of negotiating with him to take it and smushed the Dixie cup up to his face, spilling it all over his cheeks, hair, shirt, pants, and the bench he was sitting on, and then wiped the medicine from his cheeks into his mouth with her hand, smiled at me, and said brightly, “it’s the squeegee method!”

I texted Daniel angrily.

The extraction itself went pretty smoothly; Wesley got a minuscule amount of the loopy meds so he wasn’t very loopy when they did it, but he cooperated okay and they let him pick out two prizes and he got to go home for a day of popsicles and movies.

I felt like he healed just fine. He wasn’t complaining of any pain, the spacer didn’t seem to bother him, and the gums looked pink and healthy.

Until three weeks later when he started complaining that his tongue hurt. It seemed like maybe it was rubbing on the spacer, like what happens when you have braces, so we tried to get him to tough it out. When that didn’t work, he also started saying his cheek hurt. I kept peeking in his mouth but I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. No redness or swelling, no “rubbed” areas, nothing, except that I could see his bottom 6yr molar coming in, so we assumed it was severe teething pain. We started giving him ibuprofen at night to take away the pain so he could sleep.

After a few days, he started complaining of the pain during the day. This was unusual – he would be fine one second and then would clutch his face and start howling. Friday it happened a few times, and he got up a few times at night because it hurt. Saturday was MISERABLE. He was howling on and off all day, constantly clutching his face, and then he was up every hour all night long. I think he finally slept from 3-5am and that was the longest stretch all night. And this was WITH ibuprofen on board! Something seemed wrong.

I called his pediatrician, who advised that yeah, six year molars can be tough but maybe call his dentist? So I called his terrible dentist and they said it sounded unusual and that I should bring him in.

We went in this past Tuesday. They took an x-ray of the area that hurt, and after the dentist took a look, he informed me that THAT molar was infected, maybe abscessed, possibly dead, and they would need to pull that one too and here’s a prescription for antibiotics your appointment is on Tuesday any questions okay byeeeee

I was too overwhelmed and stunned to think of any questions to ask in the moment – since we were doing this all over again less than a month later I mostly felt like my questions had been answered the last time. He then suggested that perhaps this was a congenital thing and those teeth were just doomed to begin with, which I think is complete BS. As though the caps his office put on had nothing to do with his teeth dying?! Way to absolve yourself of all responsibility, sir. That comment made me furious.

He said it’s sort of unusual for an infection to travel from one tooth to another like that, but I am convinced that it happened because they didn’t prescribe antibiotics the first time around. I know antibiotics are over-prescribed and I don’t like contributing to antibiotic resistance and all that, but this would mark the first time in his life that he’ll have had antibiotics for anything. I even asked, in my page-long list of questions, if we could leave the tooth and treat with antibiotics, but he said that the tooth is like a sliver that the body is trying to work out of itself so we can’t just do antibiotics and leave the tooth. He never mentioned prescribing antibiotics to get rid of the existing infection.

I asked him how we could have possibly missed this the last time around, because we were JUST HERE. He pulled up Wesley’s x-rays and we discovered that the x-ray had taken a picture of the top of the problem tooth, but not anything under the gumline, so there was really no way to tell at our routine appt in December if that tooth was also bad. There’s a chance it could have been infected then too, I guess, but since their stupid x-ray didn’t even show the roots of the tooth there’s no way to tell.

When he was writing the prescription for the antibiotics, he asked if Wesley remembered his last appointment. I was like, “Yes? What do you mean?” and he was like, “Well, I mean does he remember coming in and getting his tooth pulled?” and I was even more flummoxed and was like, “He’s nearly six and not a potted plant. Yes, he remembers coming in here. And every time we come in, it seems like it’s something new and more terrible.” and he was like, “Okay, I’ll prescribe Versed for this next extraction – it takes away your memory so he won’t even remember having it done.” I didn’t really have a response to that, other than shrugging.

I dropped Wesley off at school, filled his prescription, and started freaking the hell out.

He’ll have no left bottom molars for the next four to six years until his 10-year and 12-year permanent molars come in. That seems like a LONG time to be chewing on the other side of your mouth – is that going to mess up his musculature? His bite? Is it going to make his top molars weird or loose or something because they won’t have any pressure on them for six years? Is he going to need expensive orthodonture in the future to fix the problems this plan will create?

WHO KNOWS, BECAUSE THIS DENTIST DOESN’T OFFER INFORMATION TO ME

The next day, I called the other office in town that takes Medicaid. They were sort of helpful and offered an emergency appointment to see him the next morning, but they also indicated that they’d take additional x-rays (versus using the ones he JUST HAD the day before) and that they refer any “special” cases out to Wesley’s terrible dentist anyway – it doesn’t usually go the other way around. They’re kind of the basic level of care and if anything is complex at all we’d be right back at that office.

Based on that info, I declined the emergency appointment. I felt like what I needed was somebody to look at his chart, look at what has been done to him over the last year or so, and tell me if anything hinky is going on. I mean, yeah, bring him in if you need to but it doesn’t need to be another full exam with x-rays – we literally just had that done. Request those records instead!

Another day went by with me freaking the hell out, trying to figure out who to call and what to ask of whom and just feeling sick about the whole thing. This morning, I finally called my dentist (the one that referred us to this terrible place to begin with two years ago) and his office was so reassuring and helpful. The lady on the phone was like oh gosh, yeah, I’ve got his chart here – let me just ask the dentist what he thinks.

They came back and told me no problem, bring him in on Monday for a consultation, we can request his records, and we’ll take a look at them and see what options you have. I quickly asked if they could give me a ballpark estimate on what that might cost because we’d be paying for it out of pocket, and she took a moment and then said the dentist agreed there would be no charge for the consultation.

I am in tears writing this right now, because THEY ARE SO NICE. I have been so stressed out over this dentistry debacle for going on two months now and the fact that they are willing to take a look at Wesley at no cost to me is such a relief that I almost don’t have words for it. I have been going to this practice since I was three years old and even though my dentist has now retired and someone new has taken over, they are just as compassionate as ever and I will happily recommend them to anybody.

Based on this consultation, we may end up keeping the appointment for the extraction, but at least I will feel like I exercised all my options to figure out if we have any alternatives. Plus, if that recommendation comes from my dentist, who I trust, I can feel confident choosing that plan of action versus being suckered into it by the other guy and not having my questions answered. Or having them answered in a way designed to make me feel stupid for asking.

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