I'm a Military Blogger


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lost and Forgotten in the Military

My husband's unit recently deployed. With that deployment came a barrage of emails from the FRO, along with all sorts of other questions from other wives about how things were going, if I'd heard from my husband yet, what company he deployed with, etc. Part of me wants to lie. I can make up information to tell them, so that I can feel like I belong in their club. But another part of me wants them to leave me alone. I don't want to hear about things I'm not "allowed" to be a part of.

And it's not that I'm not "allowed" to be a part of them. I'm sure if I showed up to FRO functions, they'd welcome me. But I can't "allow" myself to be a part of them because I'm still incredibly angry about the way my husband and our family were treated by his unit after his accident, and I'm still trying to deal with the immediate effects of his accident.

He will never deploy again. Ever. This may sound like a dream come true to those in the midst of deployment, and sure 2 years ago when we were smack dab in the middle of a 13 month tour I would have thought the same. Anything that keeps him from deploying is good, right? No. My husband received permanent change of assignment orders specifically so he could deploy with this unit. He wanted to go on the MEU, wanted to see other countries, wanted to do his job and be given real responsibility as the CBRN Chief for his unit.

He will probably also never walk "effrotlessly" again, and it could be years before he's able to stop taking the pain meds. Right now, his nerves are traumatized. He has no sensation in portions of his foot, and his muscles spasm and twitch on their own. He gets shooting pains down his leg, pains that cause him to scream. He'll be medically retired, most likely, which I guess is better than just EASing with no benefits. But he didn't get injured for the bennies. Those benefits are what are going to sustain our family when he gets out and is unable to hold an 8 hour job, while still requiring medical care and physical therapy. If given the choice to be shot and receive benefits, or be able to deploy with his unit, HE would much rather deploy.

That's just the physical effects. That does not include the psychological and emotional effects of being shot. From thinking you're going to die, to thinking you're going to lose your leg, to realizng you haven't bled to death yet, so maybe there's hope. Then to being dumped on your front porch with a bag of pills. Did you read that right? Yes, you did. This is where the story gets gnarly, and where I'm going to point a shit ton of fingers. His unit, aside from being 100% responsible for him being shot, has completely mismanaged his care and dropped the ball as far as support is concerned.

My husband was shot during a live-fire training exercise on a deployment work-up. An official investigation was launched, but they were unable to determine the circumstances that resulted in a group of Marines being fired on by their own brothers. Was it one rogue kid not paying attention? Was it a range officer giving the wrong directions? Who knows. All we know is, my husband was doing his job and standing with his Marines, and a bullet went through his leg. Within 7 hours of being life-flighted out and given a blood transfusion, he was rolling up to the front of our house in the back of a Corpsman's jeep. The civilian hospital discharged him into the care of his Medical Officer, and they just brought him home. He crutched his own way into the house, as a medical officer looked on. Then they handed me a bag of medications and told me to bring him to the batallion aid station the next day.

We ended up back in the ER that night when he started bleeding through his bandage. A concerned Corpsman expressed disbelief that he had been discharged already. No matter though. The ER doctor changed the dressing, put his bloody ace bandages in a bag, and gave them back to me with instructions to wash them at home so I wouldn't have to come back in. I had a 3.5 month old infant at the time, and was struggling to juggle her needs as well as a husband who could not even stand up without assistance. So many times that first week I had to leave my daughter crying so I could help him get up off the couch, and go to the bathroom. I gave him sponge baths, and had to be vigilant with keeping track of the cacaphony of medications they gave me to give him. Every morning we drove to the Batallion Aid Station so a Corpsman could change his dressing.

After several days of that, they finally referred us to the surgery unit where he was able to get actual care for his wound (though the "quality" of that care is highly debatable, since it's been almost 4 months and he has yet to receive real treatment for his severe nerve pain or his growing depression, nightmares, or inability to sleep).

In the time period between his accident and now, his unit did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Occassionally someone would text him and ask if he was alive. The chaplain corned us while we were in the car once and asked him for an update. But that was really it. I don't know what I expected. I still don't know what support I should have expected, or even where to go to get it. But something just feels really "off" about a unit that shoots their own Marine and then leaves him to the wolves. I get that they were pre-occupied with their upcoming deployment. It happens. Everyone probably thought someone else was doing something, and thus no one did anything. But if they weren't going to do anything, I feel he would be better served in a Wounded Warrior Batallion, where at least he can be given things to work up to, extracurriculars, a "unit" to be part of.

As it stands right now, he has a scattering of appointments here and there, he goes to a physical therapist MAYBE once a month, and that's if they even bother to schedule him at all. He wants to take a transition assitance class, or start some college courses. He wants to feel like he belongs to a group still, where he won't just be cast aside like yesterday's news because he's non-deployable. But where would that group be? Does the Wounded Warrior Batallion even accept those who weren't injured in combat? His injury is unique. It is, by all accounts, a "combat-related" injury. He was shot, by a gun, during simulated combat. But because they weren't engaging an actual enemy and it happened stateside, he doesn't feel like he would belong with Wounded Warriors. Men and women who were injured while engaging the enemy, doing their duty. How would they, as Marines, receive the guy who was just standing in the wrong place at the wrong time when some fuck-up decided to negligently discharge their weapon?

So we're in limbo. I don't feel like I belong to this unit. How could I, when they cared SO LITTLE about him that they dropped him off into the care of just his wife, 7 hours after being shot? They knew we had an infant. Did anyone think that maybe a guy with a gaping, bleeding wound in his leg who can't walk wasn't a good match for a stressed-out, sleep-deprived mom? Even 24 hours in the hospital would have given me the time to prepare our home. I ended up running out at 9 PM and borrowing a wheelchair from a neighbor, because he couldn't get around on crutches because of the pain. There was one guy who's wife brought us a meal, and another guy in his unit did stop by with his wife and see him, but they couldn't stay long.

So when I see the other wives in our unit starting meal trains for the momma who just had a baby, or helping pick up and drop off kiddos for the mom who suddenly had her hours changed at work, I want to cry. I want to cry because we had no one. Our bank account has been drained from all the take-out I've had to order for the days I can't manage to cook. Our car mileage has soared through the roof from all the times I had to take my husband to work only to have him be told to go back home because they didn't want him there. And it's a 1-hour drive to the Naval Hospital. That wracks up a bit of a price tag. Maybe I should have asked someone for help, but I didn't know where to turn. We've only been with this unit for a few months. He wasn't even completely checked in yet when his accident occured. Who was there to ask for help? I'm a timid person, so we simply suffered in silence.

So I do feel a lot of animosity towards them. I don't want it to be that way, but how can I relax around a bunch of women who's husband are on a deployment that mine isn't on. He's supposed to be on that deployment. Not being able to go has left him pretty depressed. He's said, on numerous occassions, that he feels abandoned, discarded, useless, that no one cares about him. He doesn't sleep well at night (sometimes not at all), and has been struggling to find a way to get back to work. A workplace that's now pretty much non-existent, since they're all deployed.

I guess all I really want is for someone to acknowledge that we're even still part of this unit at all, or that we were ever part of it to begin with.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Raising a Child Outside Consumerism

This is something I've been trying to figure out how to write for a while, because it's one of those topics where, if done wrong, it's going to either piss off 90% of my followers or else make me just look like a soapbox crazy hippie.

Basically, over the past few years I've been trying to take a step back and really evaluate my life and how I live it, and what I'm getting from it. I've noticed a few common themes cropping up, especially pertaining to the environment, economics, and consumerism.

I have always been a pretty big consumer. I'm ashamed now to admit that our house actually looks somewhat like an IKEA catalog. The day my husband spilled olive oil on the couch, I didn't talk to him for almost 2 days because all I saw was a ruined $1,000 couch (FTR, it washed out. Couch saved! Yay?) I bought a coach bag, anthropologie clothes, gap pants and shopped at Sephora for overpriced make-up and perfume.

When I got pregnant I spent the first 4 months of my pregnancy in an absolute panic over the thought that I would never be rich enough to afford all the things for my child that my parents were able to afford and give to me. I grew up privledged. Not stinking rich, but I definitely had all of my needs plus a majority of my wants met. Now, my husband and I are definitely not as privledged. So, bringing a child into what I perceived as "the poorest time of my life" was terrifying to me. How would we afford everything we NEEDED?!?!

I went to the baby store and they were kind enough to give me a list of the essentials. Crib. Diapers. Swing. Bouncey Seat. Bottles. Breast Pump. 10-12 each of newborn onesies, body suits, hats, socks, rompers?? What the hell is a romper???? (seriously, what is a romper?). Jumperoo. Exersaucer. Bumbo. High Chair. Bibs, spoons, forks. Baby powder, soap, lotion, cream. Baby day cream, night cream, diaper cream, butt cream, elbow cream, face cream, scented cream, unscented cream. Blankets. Swaddlers. flannel swaddlers, muslin swaddlers, sleep sacks. The Sleep Sheep. The Twilight Turtle. Some sort of singing, talking heartbeat bear?

WE NEED IT ALL????!?!?!

No. We don't. In the past 6 months since my daughter was born I've become quite serious about rejecting consumerism. There is just something about it that leaves a really bad taste in my mouth. When I see kids in the store crying because they want the Tinkerbell fairy princess tea set I become irritated. Not at the kids (who are just expressing what they've been conditioned by TV and ads to express) but at corporations. These multi-billion dollar enterprises that make their jolly's by putting people into debt over cheap plastic shit assembled overseas by underpaid slave laborers. IT'S FUCKING SICK!

I remember being a kid and desperately wanting a Baby Tumbles Surprise. My parents, being smarter than I, saw that doll for what it was (a stupid piece of trash) and refused to buy it for me. Then my friend Jessica got a Baby Tumbles Surprise and I went over to her house to play with it and realized that, oh, it's actually not that fun anyways. Baby Tumbles. SURPRISE! There's only so much of that a kid can take. I wonder how many Baby Tumbles Surprise's are sitting in landfills now, not decomposing.

So I've realized the values I want to instill in my child:

1. Imaginative Play and creativity
2. Real Life Skills
3. Appreciation for hard work and craft
4. The honest value of goods and services
5. Respect for the environment

And I don't want to do it in a "do as I say, not as I do" kind of way. I want her to grow up living these values, just as a default. It has forced me to really re-evaluate how I do things, and how we live as a household.

I do not use commercial cleaners anymore. Our dishwasher hums away at night to the tune of my homemade detergent. My cloth diapers tumble in the washing machine along with my little satchel of soap nuts. I still get the shopping itch, especially around Christmas, so I hit up craft fair's and etsy (well, ok, and a lot of purchase-free mall walking these days). My daughter is the proud owner of 2 lovely playsilks hand dyed and rolled by another mommy crafter. She sits in the hand-me-down bouncey seat and smashes a plastic water bottle between her hands. She has no clue that it's not a "real" toy, or that the legos she throws around are actually just cut-up egg cartons. One day, when she's old enough, I will introduce her to all of the crafts that my mommy did with me, and I will teach her how to sew her own dolls and pillows like my mommy taught me. Watching a video will be a special treat.

Every Thursday we go to the farm stand and I pick up my organic community farm box and hopefully before we move I will be able to take her into the actual farm and we will go on a tour and see where our food is grown and maybe even pick a pumpkin from the field. She will see the price difference between that food and what is at the store and I will tell her that the reason it costs more is because that farmer is receiving a living wage, his workers are receiving a living wage.

And if she asks me why we do things differently in our house, why we do not have cable TV or branded toys (Disney, Dora, La La Loopsy, etc), why her diapers are made of cloth, and our shampoo is in the form of a bar, I will tell her it's because everything we do has an affect on the planet. We can't always see the affect, but it's there, and we should always try to do what is right by the planet. Idealist? Maybe. But she's a child. She's supposed to be an idealist. Then I'll tell her to run along and play and hopefully, if I've done my job right, she'll grab one of her handmade silk scarves and throw it over her shoulders like a cape and run outside to become queen of her very own world. You don't need batteries to run a pretend country.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Moms, STAY in the picture and STOP apologizing!

There has been an article recently, buzzing around the internet. "The Mom Stays in the Picture" was originally written by Allison Tate of Huffpost, and has since gone viral.

Tate speaks about many of us mothers' (nay, us WOMENS') concerns over appearing in photographs looking "uggy". Alas, it was this very fear that bred the "myspace angles" and "duck face".  Reading it, I did feel a surge of emotion. I've been hiding myself in photos since at least High School. The few pictures I do post of myself, either cut my face out entirely or come with an apology.

"Making pancakes in the balboa baby. Disregard the unkempt 90's-mom-hair" Reads the facebook caption on that photo.

That one doesn't even include my face at all.
Even the album from my daughter's birth includes the commentary of "I look like a derp in most of these." A derp. In photos of my daughter's birth!

This got me thinking. Why do women do this to themselves? I mean, I don't go around commenting on my friends' photos with "wow your morning hair looks like garbage!" nor do I recoil in fear from other women on the street. Women who, despite walking out the door and letting the public see them exactly as-is, probably won't allow someone to snap a photo of them without checking the back of the camera 40 times to ensure the perfect illusion.

I guess it makes sense. Photos are essentially our attempts at immortalizing ourselves, so that 50+ years from now we, and our children, and our children's children can look back and say "that's what she looked like in 2012". But I think the problem goes much deeper than just not wanting to immortilize imperfections. We flat out don't want to be captured on camera unless we are beautiful. We don't want future generations (or even friends, family, and strangers now) to look and think we are ugly. Our desire to achieve beauty is almost erasing out existence.

Which bring me to another point: How much time do you spend each day "achieving" your standard of beauty for the day. And I don't just mean how much time do you spend putting on your makeup or doing your hair. How much time do you spend trying to control the way the public sees you in person? Do you stare at reflections of yourself in car windows as you cross the parking lot to class? Do you put on lipstick to drop your kids off? Do you worry all day that you do not look "up to code"?And how often does this desire to control your appearance (even on a windy day at the beach) lapse over into your life, and your children's lives.

Our children are watching, even when we don't want them to. Everytime you look in the mirror and say "blah, these pants make my hips look fat" or "wow I really need some highlights" you are subconciously teaching your child that 1. Mommy is ugly 2. If they look like mommy, they are ugly 3. It's ok to make negative comments about themselves. And that rolls into their adult lives. For girls, it teaches them to always question their appearance. For boys, it teaches them to judge women based on their appearance.

Some of you may remember my "hair bleach" incident. Too ashamed and embarassed at the time to post a picture, I promised one at a future date. Well here you go. That's what I looked like. I ran to a wig shop and bought wigs, different colored wigs. Long wigs, short wigs, human hair wigs, fake hair wigs. I wore those wigs for almost a year before shaving my head.

I can't even remember now where this train of thought is going. I guess the point is, I've had some pretty bad hair days, and some no-hair days, and I pretty much avoided the camera. But now, look back on that bleaching photo. It's kind of hilarious! One day, when my daughter is older and is worrying about boys and shoes and her hair, I will pull that out and say "I survived that. You will survive this."

So, Like Allison Tate said, STAY in the picture. You don't have to plaster them all over your house, or in your family Christmas card, but stay in the picture and save the picture. You won't always feel the same about yourself as you do now and maybe later you will look back on those pictures and say "look how much fun I'm having!" and not "look at how much weight I gained". And for the love of God STOP apologizing for the way you look. It's YOU!

I'm staying in the photo. Are you?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Wife of a Wounded Marine

I still remember back to 2009 when my husband went off to boot camp. It was the beginning of what I thought would be the rest of my life as a military spouse. He was going to go career, and I was preparing myself for the deployments, the separations, the moves and the hardships.

In 2010 he deployed to Afghanistan, and when he came home 13 months later things were different. Not terribly, horribly, awefully different. Just different.

In 2012 we moved on base, and he transferred to a new unit, preparing to deploy again. This time, I swore I would be more ready than I was last time. I was almost anticipating the deployment, the first one we would go through with a new baby. It almost felt like a piece of cake compared to the 13 month one. DH put in his enlistment package.

Rewind to 5 days ago. DH was out at another base doing pre-deployment work-ups. During a live fire exercise something went horribly, terribly awry. Someone was shooting in the wrong direction, and as a result my husband took a bullet to the calf. It narrowly missed both his bone and his artery, before flying out, leaving a golf-ball-sized hole in the side of his leg. He was treated in the field by a Corpsman, before being life flighted to the nearest full-size hospital, received a blood transfusion and then a CT scan to check for underlying bone damage. Then after determining that there was nothing more that could be done at the hospital, they brought him home.

So where does that leave us? I have absolutely no idea. He has no feeling in his foot and after a consult with a neuropathic surgeon it was determined that the extent of the damage is currently unknown. It could be temporary, or it could be permanent nerve damage. The nerve may re-attach itself later, or it may not. He may be able to walk unassisted, or he may not. They can't do anything at all until the wound itself begins to heal, a process which could take months. He has a wound vac in, a negative pressure device that suctions the wound, pulling out fluid and infection and forcing the skin closed. We have a home care nurse who changes the suctioning sponge every 3 days (a process which DH says is more painful than actually being shot). Then there are consults with other doctors and therapists.

He should return to work by the end of the month, but on extremely limited duty. Obviously, he's not deploying. And I'm fairly certain he's not going to be able to re-enlist. I have absolutely no idea where this leaves our family, and with 7 months until his EAS date I'm almost in a panic. With a new baby and a disabled (temporarily? Permanently?) husband and all the therapy and appointments, I do not even know what's happening.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Drowning in the mommy sea

When I was in the hospital after Fairy's birth, one topic kept coming up: Post Partum Depression. "If you feel sad, tell someone, " they said. They told my husband to keep an eye on me and note any major personality changes. Everyone was so serious about it, like if I started to get some post partum crazies they would swoop in and make it all go away.

They lied.

Immediatly post partum was pretty rough for me. Not only did I have a preterm birth, but the labor itself was traumatic, I had breastfeeding complications, and I was in complete shock. I spent a lot of time just crying. I could never really place why I was crying, but I just was. Tears would well in my eyes while I ate dinner, and every night when the rest of the world was settling down and going to bed, I was crying. I felt so alone, like I was the only person awake. And it didn't help that my baby was also usually awake too, and I was pumping and trying to feed her, and feeling like a failure and trying to sort through the whole mess.

The day my parents left, DH had already gone to bed. Fairy was asleep, wrapped in her bilirubin blanket. I curled up on the couch and burst into tears. I was practically wailing, and still my husband slept. He slept through the night wakings, slept through my crying spells, slept through the baby's colicky grunting. I was averaging 3-4 hours of sleep each night, he was getting 9-12. I remember thinking "I don't understand how people have more than 1 of these. This is the worst time of my life."

The feeling of sadness finally started to wane, only to be replaced by...well I can't even explain. I stopped eating. I was never hungry, I never remembered to eat, I'd go to the fridge and open it and just stare, like I couldnt even process what was in it. I'd go to do something and just completely blank on how to do it. I couldnt remember how to turn the vacuum on, or where I put the diapers. Everything was stffling. Our house suddenly felt too big, our belongings were overwhelming. I wanted to get rid of everything. I didnt want to own anything. I wanted to run away and leave all that stuff behind.

When DH went to a month-long training, shit hit the fan. I cried every night as I walked fairy around the house, trying to get her to calm down. She had bad reflux and wouldn't ever let me sit her down for longer than 5 minutes. I didn't eat in almost a week. I was dehydrated, tired, gross, and I felt insane. I tried to tell people. I would say "I think I have some PPD" or "I'm feeling a little crazy." No one did anything. On the outside, I was making a good show. I tried to only come across as "sort of stressed." When people would ask me how things were, I said they were pretty good.

But inside I was screaming. I wanted someone to notice, wanted someone to finally say "hey, let me help you." I told people I was struggling to eat, wishing someone would notice and offer to bring me food or help me prepare some things ahead of time.

Then one morning, I woke up. Fairy was awake and she was fussing. I picked her up and put her in the sling and I began to walk around the house and as I walked around the house, I cried. I was a terrible mother. I was always forgetting to change her diaper, forgetting to give her baths. My feet hurt from all the walking and standing, my back hurt from the sling. I didn't want to do it anymore. I walked in circles around and around my kitchen, wailing and wishing I could disappear somewhere. I told my husband (who was gone), but he didn't understand. He called it "that postpartum sad shit or whatever" and took it personally. Like somehow my inability to function meant I didn't love him. There was a lot of fighting, even while he was gone.

I googled post partum resources and everyone said to get counseling. How? I couldn't even figure out how to toast a piece of bread, how was I supposed to coordinate therapy? At one point I contemplated just driving to the emergency room. Or calling the police and telling them to come get pick me up. I never had any dangerous thoughts, but I wasn't functioning. Every day was different. Some day I got a lot done and a full meal cooked, and then the next day I'd wake up unable to concentrate on brushing my teeth. I went home for a while, but that wasn't helpful and I just wanted to be alone.

I felt like the world had failed me. Where was the help that the hospital was SOOO serious about before they discharged me? Where was the spouse support? Everyone talked big about how serious post partum depression was and how it was imperative to get help...but that's about as detailed as it got. "Get help" they said. HOW?! HOW?! HOW?! How do you get help when you can barely leave your house?

Finally, someone helped. I don't even know her personally, but someone from an attachment parenting facebook group sent me a box of groceries. She shipped it all the way from Texas. Groceries. From Texas. She was the only one who did anything and I finally got on the phone and called military onesource. I told them I wanted to leave my husband and run away, I wasn't eating, I wasn't drinking.

I'm actually crying right now writing that out, because that feeling of abandonment is so fresh in my mind. It really sucks to feel like the whole world has just left you to fend for yourself, to feel like your husband doesn't care and to hate him SO MUCH, to look at your child and think that you fail as a parent and that being raised by you is akin to being raised by wolves.

I still see my mommy friends, and I see them getting up and going places, going to the zoo or the beach. And here I consider the day a success if I manage to get my daughter fully dressed.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Overcoming Birth Trauma

I know I haven't blogged in a while (a VERY long while). I almost feel like my blog died when DH came home from Afghanistan.

Last I wrote, I was 12 weeks pregnant and bemoaning the homebirth that would never be. By now, I have a 4 week old daughter. This is the story of her birth. I'm writing it because I have to. I have to get the entire thing out in the open so I can begin to cope with what was, basically, the single most traumatizing experience of my life.

This is not going to be an uplifting or happy post. If you're sensitive to swearing or graphic details, then this is not the post for you.

May 2, 2012 began like any other day. I sat my 36-week pregnant self down at the kitchen table around midnight and wrote out a list of everything that needed to be done before I went into labor. I was experiencing a weird sense of urgency, determined not to be one of those women who "weren't ready" for their labor. No, I was going to be ready. The house would be clean, meals cooked in advance. I was planning on spending the last 4-6 weeks of my pregnancy relaxing and doing nothing.

Feeling the draw of tiredness, I decided that before going to bed I would get at least one thing done on my list: cleaning the bathroom. On my hands and knees I scrubbed the bathtub, the floor, cleaned the toilet, emptied the trash, and wiped all the mirrors. I dropped a few drops of peppermint essential oil into the sink, which wafted through the house. Everything was lovely. I gave myself a perineal massage ("to prevent tearing" my friend told me). Then I curled up on the couch and lulled myself to sleep to the tune of Alton Brown narratoing "Iron Chef America". The theme food was pineapple, and I remember thinking that a pineapple sounded nice.

At 5:00 AM I awoke suddenly the the dreadful feeling of myself....peeing my pants? Seriously? 36 weeks pregnant and I've already lost all bladder control! I jumped off the couch, throwing out a swear word into the air because now I was going to have to clean the couch again. I skipped off to the bathroom, where DH had just jumped into the shower to get ready for work. I stripped my underwear off and sat on the toilet.

That was when I caught a glimpse of my undies. They were tinged pink. Did I pee blood? I picked them up and smelled them. Definitely NOT urine. Oh shit oh shit oh shit. I didn't have any pads, so I rolled up a wad of toilet paper and shoved it in the crotch of some clean underwear. I wasn't contracting, so I got on my phone and called my mom, who told me to call the hospital where I was supposed to deliver and ask them when to come in. *cue first contraction*.

The first contraction wasn't so bad. It felt more like gas pain. I got on the phone with the maternity ward at the hospital and explained the situation to them. We lived about an hour from the hospital, so figuring out how soon to come in was something that had been bothering me for a few weeks. The nurse put me on hold for a minute and as I listened to the hold music I buzzed around the house throwing clothes haphazardly into an open suitcase, left over from when I went home for my baby shower 2 weeks prior.

I had a few more contractions, slightly more painful than the other ones. And they seemed suspiciously close together, but surely that was just coincidence. I had only just starting contracting, and women simply didn't deliver babies that fast. The nurse came back onto the line then.

"We don't want you to come here," she said. "We need you to go to the nearest hospital. That would be Tri-city in Vista."

"Tri-city in Vista? But that's just as far away as you guys are! Why do I have to go there?!" I was angry. What do you mean don't come to your hospital?

That's when she uttered the few words that would set the tone for the whole rest of the labor and delivery.

"We aren't equipped for premature infants."

I hung up the phone. Premature? I was 36 weeks. Babies were born at 36 weeks all the time. As DH loaded my hastily thrown together hospital bag into the van I stood over the couch and scrubbed my own amniotic fluid off the couch cushions. There was no way in hell I was going to deliver a baby with a dirty couch lingering in the back of my mind. I'd stop every few minutes and brace myself up against the wall to ride out a contraction. I knew I was supposed to be timing them, but frankly I didn't know how. I relied simply on my own guestimating skills (which I have since learned are TERRIBLE).

At 5:45 I climbed into the van and we began the drive to the unfamiliar Tri-city hospital. I called my doula. No answer. I texted her that I was in labor. Then I remembere she had delivered her first child at a hospital only 20 minutes from us. She said it was a wonderful experience. Lets go there!

I directed DH onto the freeway. We got off at the exit that said "hospital". By now my contractions were closer and closer together. I knew they were way closer than the recommended 4 minutes, but I still didn't think anything of it. Women simply didn't deliver babies that fast. I would be in labor for several hours, I knew it. I even had the forethought to throw in a copy of my birth plan, just in case the L&D nurses were mean.

When we arrived at the hospital my heart sank. This was....not a hospital. It was a free-standing emergency clinic. By then, contractions had taken over and I really didn't even care where we were. I waddled into the waiting room and the receptionist took one look at me and I was whisked into a triage room. The room was tiny and there wasn't a door, only a canvas curtain. They laid me down on a hospital gurny. By now my contractions were right on top of each other.

"Tell me when your next contraction starts," a nurse told me.

"Ok, it's starting."

"Now tell me when it ends."

The contraction never actually ended.

Another nurse came over to start an IV. I objected to the IV. It wasn't in my birth plan and frankly, I hate needles.

"Do I have to have an IV?" I asked.

The nurse smirked at me. "Yup."

As I turned my head away and contorted my body with the pain she put in a central IV line. Once that central line was in, I had no control anymore. People came and went, hung up various different bags of liquids. No one told me what they were pumping into me. I think someone drew blood, but I don't know.

Another nurse came over and took my underwear off for me. Someone had their hand inside me, checking my dilation. Someone else had their hand inside me, double checking me. A blizzard of nurses swarmed in and out, and around the hall outside. The privacy curtain was flying left and right. Open, closed, open, closed, as people bustled in and out of my triage room. I heard the words "NICU" and "premature" thrown around out in the hallway. Someone shouted at someone to get the obstetrician on the phone. Another person called for an ambulance transport.

Someones hands were in my vagina again. The bag of fluids was being changed out. Oxygen tubes were shoved up my nose. They talked to each other, over me, around me, to DH. No one spoke TO me. No one said "this is what is going on. This is what's in your IV. Here is some oxygen, now let me check to see how dilated you are." For all anyone cared, I may as well have been unconscious.

People threw paperwork at DH to sign, authorizing permission for various things (because, obviously, I was unconscious and couldn't sign, right?) He would tell me later that as the baby was crowning, he was being practically force-fed paperwork.

Finally, the room cleared. I sat there on the gurny, tears in my eyes, clenching DH's hand. I tried to rip the oxygen tubes from out of my nostrils. Pure oxygen has a way of drifting into the back of your throat so you can taste it. It tastes like rust. Unable to get the plastic tubing untangled from my face, I just let it hang around my neck.

The head nurse came back in. There was a man standing behind her wearing a paramedics shirt and hat. He was smiling as he wheeled a transport gurny right up beside me. I rolled over on my side and the contraction stopped. For the first time since we arrived, I wasn't in any pain. I tried to embrace the feeling, knowing that in a few minutes another contraction would start. At that point I still honestly believed that I would be in labor for several more hours. I tried to psyche myself up, prepare myself to endure more pain, talk myself out of getting the epidural that I suddenly found myself desiring.

The head nurse approached.

"We're going to transport you to Saddleback hospital. Your only job is to keep your legs closed, and whatever happens, don't push."


Someone drove a mack truck into me. Not really, but that's what it felt like. Without any notice at all, all the air left my lungs. Pain ripped through the my nether regions and my body started writhing on the bed. I gasped, trying to breathe. I gasped again and again. A nurse rolled me over on my back. I had no control over my body anymore. I bucked on the gurny, screaming and sobbing. My back arched itself. My body was pushing something out on it's own, with absolutely no assistance from me at all. I couldn't stop it or control it. My body bucked and arched repeatedly. I was clutching DH's hand and sobbing in agony.

Someone grabbed my legs and dragged me down to the edge of the bed. People ran in and out. DH walked out into the hall and a nurse took his place, holding my hand.

Someone told me to push, so I did. Or at least, I tried to. I don't think I was actually doing anything of consequence, as my body at that point had taken over with almost perfect efficiency. I felt something come out so I stopped pushing. The room went really quiet.

"Keep pushing?" I asked.

Someone said yes, so I pushed once more. I felt her little body fall out of me. All the pain and agony was gone.

I was no longer pregnant. It was 6:18 AM. I was pregnant a minute ago, now I wasn't. There was a baby crying. It was mine. Where was she?

Right after I delivered, I knew the baby was healthy and fine. Don't ask me how I knew that, I just did. I tried to reach down, to sit up to see her. I could hear her crying. The head nurse who delivered her picked her up, clamped and cut the cord, wrapped her in a blanket, and they carried her over to the corner of the room and placed her under heat lamps. I tried to sit up to see, but there was a crowd of nurses. The crying stopped.

I could hear them performing the APGAR. They weighed and measured her. They performed another APGAR. They tested her blood sugar. DH came back into the room. He went over to the corner and looked at her.

I sat there on the gurny. I could feel blood and fluid leaking out of me. Every once in a while I'd get a gush and it would shoot up my back. My shirt was soaked, the bed was soaked. No one paid me any attention anymore. At one point a nurse switched out my IV fluids for pitocin (the first time someone actually TOLD me what they were doing) to get my uterus contracting again.

Finally one of the nurses turned around.

"Oh, would you like to see her?" She turned to DH. "Why don't you take a picture."

Take a picture? That's my fucking child and you want me to just look at a picture? Why is she not on my chest? Why is she over there? Why is she not at my breast as we practice nursing? What in the everloving fuck is going on!

I didn't say any of that, though. Instead I turned over and faced the wall, as an empty feeling crept over me. I tried to rationalize it to myself. She's my child, so I'll have plenty of time later to see her. Whatever they're doing must be necessary. It must be because I can't cope with the fact that she was separated UNnecessarily. Therefore, it must be necessary. But I knew it wasn't. You can't deceive your own maternal instincts and I knew from the get-go that all the tests they were running on her were not only frivolous, but potentially detrimental.

DH showed me the picture. She was beautiful. Perfect. But she wasn't mine. If she was mine, she'd be in my arms. In fact, if she was mine, she would still be inside be. I was 36 weeks pregnant. I wasn't supposed to give birth for another 4 weeks, maybe even longer. I was supposed to have a doula-assisted, natural birth at the hospital where my OB worked. I was not supposed to have a 1-hour labor at 36 weeks and birth by myself in an ER triage room.

A lot of women say they would kill for a 1-hour labor. It must be SOOO easy compared to 4, 7, or even 12+ hour labors. But I know better. I know now that there is a reason that the female body labors for prolonged periods of time. It's because your mind has to catch up to your body. You need time to process what is happening to you, that you're about to become a mother. Not to mention you need time (yes, even several hours worth of time) to experience childbirth. Birth is one of the few experiences that imprints itself quite heavily on a woman. It's a heavy emotional and physical experience, and I can't comprehend why a woman would want to give up having that experience just to get it over with quickly.

Perhaps I would feel differently if I was in labor for 12 hours. But I wasn't. I was in labor for 1 hour. And it was 1 hour of intense and gripping agony, contractions stacked on top of each other, my body basically taking over. I can only describe the experience as being similar to what it might feel like to be possessed, with your body doing something that your mind can't comprehend. And women who give birth that quickly have a higher chance of hemmorhaging and being ripped from crotch to bum.

I only vaguely remember what happened after the birth. The empty feeling that was creeping up on me when they took her way had completely taken over. I remember holding her for a few minutes as a nurse tried to show me how to breastfeed. But I was doing it wrong. My boobs were too big, I was suffocating her. The obstetrician arrived.

They told me to put the baby down so I could deliver the placenta. They told me I couldn't hold her yet because I needed to be stitched up. I handed her back to DH.

Then a nurse came up to me.

"Her blood sugar dropped. We have to give her formula."

I said no. She didn't need formula. She needed to nurse and be close to me. Studies ALWAYS show that babies who are kept with their moms and allowed to practice breastfeeding have higher blood sugar levels.

"We have to. Her blood sugar is down to 43."

I said no. The nurse persisted. I said fine. Then I said no. I cried. I told DH not to let them give her formula.

"If you don't give her formula, her blood sugar could go lower and she will have seizures. Do you want your child to have a seizure?"

I said fine and withdrew back into myself. I didn't find out until later that newborn blood sugar can be as low as 30 and still be considered normal. In fact, it's NORMAL for their blood sugar to drop within the first hour of birth. But I didn't know that at the time. Overall they tested her blood sugar 7 times in the first 2 hours and then several more times over the next 3 days. When we left the hospital she had 15 heelpricks.

People then crowded around my bed and began pushing on my abdomen, trying to get my uterus to begin contracting. The OB took her first look at what had once been my vagina. It was a mess. They doused me in water and iodine, trying to clean the area. She dug around with her hands while some nurses pushed on my abdomen some more. It was almost as painful as the birth had been. It took her almost 45 minutes to clean and stitch me.

By that point, the NICU transport team had arrived to take the baby to the hospital. I asked if I could be transported with her. They said no. DH went instead. I waited another 20 minutes before my own transport team loaded me into the ambulance and took me to the actual hospital. The driver was very nice, even put on the lights and sirens so that we could get there faster and I could see my baby.

I sat in the back of the ambulance, still wearing my fluid-soaked t-shirt and sitting on a bed of towels soaked in my own blood.

"Are you ok?" the female paramedic asked me.

I nodded.

"Just in shock?"

I nodded again. The rest of the 20 minute ride was spent in silence as I just stared out the window in the back of the ambulance.

When I arrived at the hospital they wheeled me into a post partum room. I was surprised to see DH sitting in a chair. If he was here...where was the baby?

Where in the name of Christ was my child and why was he not with her? People buzzed in and out of the room, dropping off paperwork, picking up other paperwork. I asked when I would get to see my baby.


15 minutes later I asked again.

Soon. They're almost done with her.


15 minutes later I asked DH where she was and why they wouldn't bring her to me. He went out into the hallway and a few minutes later a nurse came in.

"Your husband said you were crying. We're bringing her in now."

Jesus fucking Christ, is that seriously what it takes to get your own damn child brought to you? Shitballs. Like you couldn't have brought her in the first 3 times I asked?

It took me several weeks to even process her birth. I asked DH over and over again to tell me what was in my IV, what they did to her in the nursery, how my own labor progressed. I went over the details repeatedly. For a while, I was just empty. Then I just got angry. Angry at SOOO many people.

I'm angry at the ER staff for treating me like an unconscious emergency victim. For forcing things on me that I didn't want, like IV's.

I'm angry at the head nurse for traumatizing me into letting them force feed my baby formula, when it was COMPLETELY unnecessary. I had a lot of issues breastfeeding and who knows if the formula was a factor in that.

I'm angry at my OB (who was not even there, or involved at all) for not having me come into his office sooner. Maybe he would have noticed something?

I'm angry at the nurse I spoke to on the phone who told me to go to a different hospital. Sure, there's a chance that I would have been giving birth in the car on the way, but at least MY OB would have been on the other end.

I'm angry at my husband for not being in the room when she was born. I'm angry at him for not staying with her in the nursery. I'm angry at him for all the beer drinking and video game playing and overall uselessness he's exibited in the weeks since.

I'm angry at myself for not leaving the house sooner. For not going to my hospital. For not trusting my instincts and demanding they place her with me. For not standing up for myself and my child when the nurse tried to bully me. I'm angry at myself for whatever I did to have a preterm labor. I'm also pretty sure I lost my mucus plug, but I didn't call my doctor. The whole thing could have been prevented had I paid closer attention and trusted my own instincts.

I'm aware that, compared to other women's stories, mine is nothing. In fact, some women ASK for those exact same procedures I tried to decline. And maybe there are some women who would love to have speedy labors, and have their babies all cleaned and checked over before being brought in. Not me.

I will never have those first moments back. They were stolen from me. I will never be able to see my gooey, just-born baby, only seconds old. I will never know what it's like to experience that immediate rush of love when your baby is placed on your chest. I listen to other women's birth stories, how they describe how they felt in the moments afterwards. I hate them for it. I hate complete and total strangers for what they got that I had stolen from me.

For a while I even hated my pregnant friends for still being pregnant. Contrary to how others felt, I LOVED being pregnant. I felt good, I was not uncomfortable either. Many women reach a point where they're just done being pregnant. I never got far enough to reach that point. Maybe I would have reached that point, had I been allowed to carry to term. But at 36 weeks I was feeling pretty good, and was looking forward to 4 more weeks of pregnancy. So in a way, I had my pregnancy stolen from me as well.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

How Insurance Ruined My Pregnancy

(I'm pregnant, did I mention that? Yes, 3 years paid off and we didn't even need to start fertility meds). maybe insurance didn't ruin the ENTIRE pregnancy. Morning sickness and my insane amount of bloating have already ensured that this pregnancy was ruined long before beaurocracy even played a part at all.

As a first time TTCer, I had...expectations. Expectations about how I was going to endure pregnancy, expectations about what maternity styles I was going to wear, and expectations about how I wanted to give birth. So, of course, it stands to reason that I sit here in my living wearing sweatpants the size of a tent (and I'm only 12 weeks, Jesus), gaping down at the mysterious fat rolls that suddenly appeared out of nowhere, crying because I can't have the birth I want.

Why can't I have the birth I want? Because I live in America, where ones prenatal care and birth options are decided upon by socio-economic status. And I want to give birth in my own home. But unfortunately for me, everything about my pregnancy, from the cost of a flu shot to the hospital I deliver at was pre-determined by my insurance companies, before the sperm even met the egg.

I thought I would be in a better standing. I have 2 insurance plans, for crying out loud! I live in a progressive state with better birth legislation! In California, insurance companies are almost required to cover home birth. The state even has their own licensing program, where women can become Certified Professional Midwives. Status as a CPM guarantees that you can accept almost all California insurances, including Medi-Cal.

But I don't have Medi-cal. I have Tricare. And Blue Cross.

Tricare is better than Blue Cross. They'll cover a homebirth 100% if I had a Certified NursesMidwife. Nevermind that CNM's are the least likely to actually attend home births and they work almost exclusively in hospitals. Blue Cross, on the other hand, almost laughed me off the phone. By the time the conversation with the benefits agent was over, not only did I feel like I wasn't even taken seriously, but I was also told, flat out, that my plan does not cover home birth. It doesn't cover birth centers. It doesn't cover midwives...ay kind of midwife. Not LM's, CPM's, or CNM's. They cover obstetricians and only obstetricians.

Most people would say so what? Give birth at the damn hospital. I mean, your hospital is ranked very high in the nation for women and children, so high in fact that they boast an obscene number of births per year, with state of the art equipment, highly trained staff, and top notch post natal care.

But for me, I don't care about that. I don't care that my hospital delivers a million babies per month, or that they have a rolling glow-in-the-dark NICU that runs on fairy dust. I don't even care that the post-delivery meal is a steak garnished in gold leaf (clearly I'm exaggerating, but you get the idea). What I care about is that it's not where I want to give birth. It's not my home.

And it doesn't matter that they have all that fancy stuff. That just means more interventions for me to turn down. No, I don't want an IV. I don't want fetal monitoring. Don't come near me with an epidural needle, and for Christ's sake don't make me lay on my back, legs splayed in the air, like a thanksgiving turkey waiting to be stuffed.

Why is this the norm in America? Why is pregnancy care determined by your employer's insurance plan? By all accounts, I clearly have very excellent insurance coverage that many people would feel lucky to have. So why do I feel jealous of the Medi-Cal patients? They get the homebirths. And I get to feel like a cog in a wheel...a wheel that is supposed to be the beautiful, unmedicated home birth I've been dreaming of for over 3 years, that's been replaced by a sterile white room filled with people who's only concern is how long until I end up on the C-section table.