trauma

Jun08

Sunday Specials: SPU, DDay and Self-Acceptance

*Sunday Specials are a weekly round-up of happenings on the web-o-sphere. So enjoy your coffee while checking out what’s caught our attention. 

#NotOneMore

Every single time I learn of a new school shooting my heart is cut deeper and deeper. What disturbs me most is the familiarity of the ache. It isn’t a desensitization that I feel, but rather a continuous echoing of the cry “How long, O Lord…how long?” But I do wonder when more of us will be able to have real conversations about the nature of this form of violence. Do I believe that issues of mental health care, access to treatment and community awareness are a part of this cultural reality? Absolutely. I also believe that our nation’s commitment to gun rights which often seems deeply rooted in fear, clouds our judgment and consideration of the other (those most impacted by these devastating incidents). I honestly don’t think these are the only two issues at play, but we are so quick to pledge allegiance to one side or the other rather than allow our defenses to rest so that we might have more meaningful dialogue regarding these issues.

In regards to the gun issue, I will state my bias- the Jesus I continue to try to understand was a peacemaker. He was man who advised his followers to turn the other cheek. This bias means that my own thinking is very much in alignment with Eugene Cho in his post What would Jesus do with guns?. I am not looking for an internet battle, but instead by stating my own opinion, I am opening myself up to a conversation regarding this issue. Care to suspend defenses and engage in a mutually-open and mutually-respectful conversation? Please share in the comments section.

In regards to mental health issues, I am also deeply aware of the multi-layered complexities of this issue. We need to have more conversations around mental health issues – ESPECIALLY in churches or communities who identify themselves as Christian.

Beyond these necessary conversations, may those of us who remember all to well the impact of such violence upon a community remember to hold the SPU community in our minds and hearts in the coming days, months, years of processing.

D-Day

I was mesmerized by these photographs and how they reflect the interwoven nature of our stories. We are connected to those who have gone before us. We are connected to history whether we are aware of it or not.
DDAY/

DDAY/

 

The Beauty and Power of Self-Acceptance

What caught your attention this week? Share with us in the comments section!

May28

Don’t Worry Too Much: Part 2

*A continuation of Shauna’s story which began in Don’t Worry Too Much: Part 1

.IMG_1048 - Version 2

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Not this time around. We were older now, wiser even and far more engaged in our own story together than ever before. Though we had always imagined we would have four children, life took some twists and turns when the youngest of our three older daughters turned two so we decided to hold off on solidifying that dream. We needed the waves of chaos to recede long enough to catch our breath and sort out where we were headed to next. It took us nearly six years of processing life, healing and rebuilding enough to determine that having one more child was indeed the desire of our hearts.

I don’t think I was surprised when the details of this narrative began to reveal that nothing would actually go according to the initial plans I had formulated and held loosely in my own mind. I learned early on that there would be no chance for a home birth given Colorado laws attempting to prevent high risk deliveries from occurring outside of a hospital setting. Having had a caesarean section with our second daughter relegated me to the non-negotiable high risk category. I was still hopeful at that point to at least see my midwife throughout my pregnancy as opposed to the standard OB/GYN Doctor. My last visit with her came shortly after I was diagnosed with placenta previa. I remember her reflecting on the early years of her midwifery work where she assisted countless catholic women who had multiple ceseareans. She was trying to comfort me with her assurance that it was unlikely that my placenta previa was a result of accreta (a condition where the placenta attaches too deeply into the uterine wall and in rare cases attaches to other organs outside of the uterus). This condition was treated like the plague by nearly every medical professional I had conversed with, but she didn’t seem all that concerned. She said in all of those years of working with women who had experienced numerous c-sections she had never once witnessed accreta. I tried really hard to find comfort in her words throughout the remaining 20 weeks of countless appointments, but every ultrasound remained inconclusive. So we simply had to wait. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The doctor responsible for performing the cesarean even said so that very morning. He was a specialist, trained to conduct these types of risky deliveries, and he affirmed what my OB had already indicated – that given the fact that my placenta never migrated up the uterine wall throughout the duration of the pregnancy there was a 25% chance that I had accreta. But he was feeling hopeful that morning and he said so as my three nervous daughters and terrified husband gathered around my hospital bed just before the surgery. He assured us that he was taking extra precautions that morning, however, and had ordered four units of blood to be ready if needed. But he was hopeful and I was prayerful.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I could tell something was wrong. It was taking too long. The stated plan was that once he got in there and was able to inspect my uterus we would know if he’d be able to take the baby out while I was still conscious. We had already been in the operating room for nearly an hour and I hadn’t yet been able to lay eyes on my baby or hear those first precious cries. The doctor was sweating profusely and had quit making small talk. I looked at my mom, not wanting to worry my husband unnecessarily (he had already nearly passed out prior the start of the surgery), and asked her if she could tell what was causing the delay. It was only moments after I made that inquiry, when panic seemed to ensue all around me. Doctors and nurses flooded the room, the temperature rose dramatically and some nurses began furiously trying to adjust the thermostat, someone was calling for another anesthesiologist and then I knew…it wasn’t supposed to be this way. They ushered Brian and my mother out the door and all I could do was release a quick “I love you” in the midst of the chaos just before it all went black.

The next thing I remember was trying desperately to wake up so I could figure out what was going on. I was in a different room and I was hooked up to all sorts of machines making all sorts of noises. Everything was hazy…until I heard her name. Briella. It was the first time I heard her name spoken as an indication that she was really here. My mind was struggling to hold onto the reality that I had delivered my forth child and that she was another precious baby girl. I fought that cloud of darkness with a longing that only a mother can know. I wanted to hold her, to see her, to smell her, to know her. So I fought tirelessly to keep my eyes from closing and there she was before me.

She was real. She was alive. I was breathing through a tube and I didn’t understand why, but she was here. That is all that mattered in those moments that Brian held her up to my face. I stroked her head as best as I could with my own cheek and she began to coo. It was a miracle. She was a miracle. I was a miracle. Maybe it was supposed to be this way.

IMG_0987

Time became a strange thing that day. In moments it seemed to stand still, in others it raced right on by. I’m not sure of the passage of time that occurred between those blissful moments of greeting Briella and when Faith and Bailey entered the room, their eyes searching my own for reassurance. The ventilator robbed me of a voice while the drugs continued to cloud my mind. All I could think to do was give them a thumbs up and squeeze each of their hands three times – our code for “I love you.” I later learned that poor Krisalyn was too frightened to enter my hospital room. My poor babies. All four of them.

Eventually the propofol became too much for my tired and traumatized body to resist. It had to have been evening which meant that it had been a full day since I had arrived at 6:30 that morning. I somehow knew that my own mother was in the room, resting in a chair behind me. I felt comfort in her presence as I tried to surrender to that damn tube in my throat. The rhythm of the machines became hypnotic as I drifted to an entirely different state of consciousness. I thought to myself in that moment, “It is finished.” I still wasn’t clear on what had happened and why I was in the ICU but I knew that Briella was safe and that I was still here. It was enough peace of mind to welcome the sleep I knew I needed.

And then the gush came. There is no other way to describe it. It was a warm gush of fluid, spreading upon the bedding beneath my immovable body. But what was it? Hadn’t I already had a baby? So that meant it couldn’t have been my water breaking. And I assumed that since I was in the condition I was in that I must have had the dreaded accreta which would have necessitated a hysterectomy. Was it even possible to be bleeding if I didn’t have a uterus any longer? I couldn’t make any sense of the experience. Perhaps I was hallucinating – God knows I was on enough drugs to make that a likely scenario. But something inside of me knew it wasn’t supposed to be like this. 

 

Apr23

Collision

In the end, we’ll all become stories. ~Margaret Atwood

Trauma has the power to strip us of all the layers we’ve worn around like clothing through most of our lives. It can bring us into contact with our primal, more fragile and vulnerable self. It reveals who we are when we come face to face with the possibility and reality of our inevitable death.

I am not trying to be dark and dismal as I am keenly aware of the fact that we all just emerged on the other side of Holy Week and are supposed to be lingering in the afterglow delight of sayings like “He is Risen” and “the tomb is empty”. We were only supposed to sit with the heaviness of death from Friday through Sunday morning…right? I’m not so sure that’s true at this point in my life. In actuality, the lengthier my story becomes, the greater my capacity to hold both life and death simultaneously. I’m beginning to think that this correlation between my days on earth and my capacity to bear the heaviness of both life and death is in part due to the time I’ve spent getting to know that more vulnerable part of me in the face of indirect and direct forms of trauma.

Last night I wound up observing the traumatic experience of another. My mother was helping out with childcare while I was finishing up a workday. She delivered our nine year old to her soccer practice and was entertaining our one year old until I was able to arrive at the field. Shortly after she settled onto a blanket on the sideline there was a freak accident in the parking lot involving three vehicles and one of the cars striking a mother and her four children while she was loading two of the children into a stroller. The mother and her children were all transported to the hospital but fortunately none of them suffered life-threatening injuries.

I pulled into the parking lot nearly 20 minutes after the mother and her children were taken by ambulance, but the evidence of this horrific scene remained. The vehicles had not moved. There was glass everywhere. People surrounded the area and watched as police officers tended to the ensuing investigation and firemen managed the aftermath. After surveying the expanse of the scene, my eyes eventually rested on the man responsible for striking the woman and her children. That’s when I felt an all too familiar shudder within my own body.

I woke up this morning still feeling the weight of what had happened inside my own body. In the few moments of quiet throughout this day, I have been wrestling to understand the implications of that shudder. I was overwhelmed with compassion for the man most likely deemed responsible for the accident, so I knew that the shudder was in no way reflective of judgment or repulsion. If I felt anything toward this stranger it was curiosity around how his story had collided into the stories of the victims. We often go through the motions of life exhibiting little to no awareness of just how interconnected all of us really are until our stories bump against each other in some way. Beyond the curiosity, however, I began to recognize that I was projecting my own experience of trauma upon this distraught man. I imagined he was feeling incredibly raw, vulnerable and stripped down in those moments following the accident.

Therein lies my visceral response. The shudder. The stripped down naked shudder. The raw shudder. The shudder that is more appropriately linked to a category of awe than of fear, though they’re difficult to distinguish from one another at times. It was a shudder of remembrance of what it is like to come face to face with my own fragility. It was a shudder that conjured up a recollection of moments where all of the noise and inconsequential stuff that fills our days and the pages of our stories was held at bay. The shudder was the reminder of what happens in the aftermath of trauma when we are left begging the question – what is all of this really about anyway? The shudder recalls the given answer to that proverbial question. The given answer that could be heard and known in a deeper way when trauma had left me utterly naked and entirely aware of my own fragility. The answer that still reverberates throughout my being in moments of stillness – that LOVE is all that matters, it is the truth, the reason we are all here. It is what lives on when we do not.

Sometimes in the aftermath of trauma death and life kiss and give birth to love.