Tiny hand

Tiny hand
November 20, 2010 (one day old)

Lilypie Premature Baby tickers

Lilypie Premature Baby tickers

Friday, January 18, 2013


What follows is something I wrote about two months ago, sometime in late November.  My intention was to edit it and then post a more relevant, less rambling revision here on this blog, hoping that getting it off my chest would make me feel better and make what I was feeling go away:

Hot, salty tears have streamed unstoppably down my cheeks more times than I can count over this past month.  So many emotions have been stirred up between National Prematurity Awareness Day, Cayden’s birthday, visiting the NICU, and sorting through all of my pictures for Cayden’s first year baby album.  I’m fairly certain I have some degree of post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of our experience, and I think it’s about time I look into how I can get help. 

Just looking at a picture from the early days in the NICU will set off a round of sobbing and crying that makes me want to curl up in a ball and hide. 

Hearing that unique, unforgettable ring tone of a nurse’s phone while visiting the NICU one afternoon set me off. 
I cried the entire day of November 18th.  With every minute that passed, I couldn’t stop thinking about what was happening at that moment two years ago – sitting on the stairs, talking on the phone, about to leave the house to go get a pedicure.  My water breaking.  Reliving the ride to the doctor’s office, then to the hospital.  Finding out they had to induce me.  Hearing the grim statistics about babies who were born at 25 weeks and received only one dose of steroids before birth. 

All that, of course, leads to thinking about the panic that ensued when things got even worse and my doctor discovered the baby had a prolapsed cord that required immediate surgery.  Thinking about the doctor riding on top of me on the gurney as I was rushed to the OR, with her hand inside me, trying to hold the cord so it wouldn’t get pinched and cut off the baby’s lifeline in seconds.  I’m sobbing again just typing about it.

Soon after I put all those words on paper, Jason returned home from his third 2-month stint in Egypt.  The flurry of holiday activities commenced, so I never got around to posting it. The feelings of anxiety sort of got pushed down deeper and weren't surfacing as frequently, but I knew they were still there, and I knew I had to take the opportunity while Jason was home for a month to find a professional to talk to about it.
Finally, on December 14th, I met with Dr. Gratia Meyer and got confirmation of what I had suspected:  I have PTSD as a result of our NICU experience with Cayden. 
It's no wonder.  What I went through WAS traumatic.  It was one hundred and eleven days of worrying about our baby in the NICU, then another year after that living in fear of germs that could send us back to the hospital.  It wasn't until this past summer, once I started realizing that things really were going to be o.k., that Cayden was most likely going to have a normal life, that my brain could stop living in fight or flight/survival mode and had a chance to actually process what we had been through that I started having the symptoms of PTSD.  Up until then, I was too busy worrying and just trying to survive another day.  Once my brain was allowed to relax and venture back to all that had happened, it was like the TILT button went off on a pinball machine - it was too much to handle.
I had reservations about being diagnosed.  I was afraid someone would just want to prescribe some pills, tell me to come back once or twice a week to talk about it, and that would supposedly be enough to make it all go away.  I don't like taking medicine (not even ibuprofen for a headache - ask Jason!), and I still can't wrap my head around how talking to someone can make something better.  I'll talk to my friends or talk on this blog for free instead of paying a co-pay to talk to some stranger!
I think simply having a doctor confirm it made me feel better to some degree, although I'm by no means "over it". It will take time to deal with it and learn how to manage it, but with time, I hope I will be able to recall those traumatic memories without breaking down in tears. 

One nice thing about Dr. Meyer is that she takes a more holistic approach to brain chemistry.  Instead of prescribing a drug, she recommended several vitamins and supplements to try.  Despite my aversion to taking medicines, for some reason, I'm o.k. with taking "natural" pills and supplements.  5-HTP and GABA are two things she suggested, as well as taking omega-3, calcium, magnesium, and manganese supplements.  She also discussed dietary and nutritional changes I could make to help me feel better:  more protein, less sugar, no alcohol, no chocolate.  (I don't know how no chocolate is going to make me feel better, though, so I haven't given that one up!)
Without her telling me, I knew that I needed to get more sleep and to get regular exercise.  I really notice changes in my mood when I don't get enough sleep and when I don't get to exercise! 
I took her advice on most things and started taking a literal handful of supplements after my first appointment.  Although she said the effects of those things could take up to a month to reach their full potential, I swear I started feeling better within days.  But perhaps it was the holiday cheer, the fact that Jason was home and I was getting more sleep and a bit of exercise, that contributed to me feeling better so quickly?
I saw her two more times in December while Jason was still home.  We spent those appointments primarily talking about things.  Today was the first time I've seen her since Jason left on January 2nd.  I was afraid once he left, I would fall apart again, but I've been doing o.k.  I still have an occasional meltdown, but not as often as I was having them back in November.  At today's appointment, we did something called EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing.  (For more detailed information on EMDR, check out this link.)
I guess my whole reason for this post is to share with others who may be feeling the same things and encourage them to seek help.  I can't say I feel 100% normal again, but I do feel better.
A great article about PTSD in preemie parents can be found on Graham's Foundation's website .
For more information on PTSD in general, check out Web MD .