That We Might Have Joy: Jennie's Story

I have always struggled with anxiety, though I didn't know it at the time. It's in my blood. So is depression. Years ago, I traveled to Mozambique for a service mission of sorts with a non-profit organization. We went to an orphanage and held the babies and played with the kids. I felt an immediate connection with one of the babies I picked up, one of those connections where there aren't words to describe it. My heart knew him. My heart wanted him. One of the nurses we were with saw him and said that he wasn't going to make it. He had AIDS. I was devastated for him. Not knowing much about the disease, I held on to the hope that she was wrong, and I would some day be able to adopt him. About a month after I had been home, I found out that he had passed away. I didn't know it at the time, but that news sunk me into a deep depression. I struggled to get out of bed. I struggled to interact with people. Through much prayer to my Heavenly Father and counsel from my earthly father, I was able to pull out of it for the most part. Though my heart still longs for that boy daily.

Years passed, and I had my first child. Through complications with the pregnancy, I ended up needing a C-section. I felt as if my womanhood was stripped from me. I was broken. I could not deliver a baby the "normal" way. Again, I sunk deep into depression, post-partum depression. I resented myself for not being good enough, strong enough. I resented my child for being breach.

Again, I finally was able to talk it out and pull out of the funk. I did not believe in medication at the time. I had to be perfect. I had to put on my "perfect" face and check the boxes each day to ensure I never went back to that place. Of course, this was black and white thinking that never got me anywhere.

Over the years of having children, it was a whirlwind of emotions (as it always is).  One child contracted whooping cough that nearly killed her. (Trauma is real! And it plays a huge impact on how we deal with life!)  Then baby number 6 was conceived. Finally, after 5 girls, we would have a boy! The pregnancy was rocky from the moment we took the pregnancy test. I began bleeding, and it was pretty evident that we would miscarry, which we possibly did miscarry a twin. Our little guy hung on for dear life. I was told I had placenta previa at 16 weeks and was put on bed rest. Then about 21/22 weeks we found out that I also had another condition called placenta accreta, where the placenta inbeds itself into the scar tissue of the uterus (from previous C-sections) and often grows like a cancer through the uterus attaching itself to other organs.

After seeing a perinatologist, it was confirmed. I was still spotting daily, and they were concerned that I would hemorrhage (a common side effect of the accreta). So I said goodbye to my husband and kids and went over an hour away to a specialist hospital (about 24 weeks along).  They watched me for the next 6 weeks. I had two major bleeds during that time, and they told me that the third bleed is usually when things get critical. They didn't want me to get to that point, so we scheduled a C-section/hysterectomy for a few days later. My baby would be born 9 weeks early! His chances of living were decent, but the possibilities were endless of the complications he and I would both have. My chances of survival were unknown but not looking great. I did the hardest thing I ever had to do. I told my husband I wanted him to re-marry. Our children needed a mother, and he needed a companion. I wrote him and my children my final letters to let them know how much I loved them. We asked everyone we knew to envelope us in fasting and prayer.

Surgery day came, and the plan was to let me see the baby before they put me completely under for the crucial part of the surgery. We had a complication, and they ended up needing to put me under before delivery. When my husband came into the room for the delivery, he said there was blood everywhere. After an 11 hour surgery and 5 units of blood, I had survived! My baby was in the NICU. I was in the ICU. I woke up intubated, which brought on a whole new set of trauma. My finger, and well, everything was swollen to capacity. I was still in pretty critical condition, but I was alive. They had to take my uterus to keep me from bleeding out. They also had to remove it from my bladder.

After, it would be 24 hours until I could see my baby. 36 before I could hold him. He was stable but weak. I was stable now but weak. Three days after surgery, I looked very ill and pale. They gave me two more units of blood, which did wonders. 5 days after surgery, I was released from the hospital where I would spend the next week in a hotel, drain and catheter in tow.

Our last night/morning in the hotel, I ended up going back in to the hospital for complications. There I was told I needed another surgery. I was terrified. My poor husband was a wreck knowing I wasn't out of the woods yet. (He has is own very traumatic story watching all of the last two months happen and having no control.)

I went back "under" so that they could fix a hole that had broken through in my bladder. I was terrified to wake up intubated again. The surgery went well, and I was able to go home that day.

I got to see my children for the first time in a while. I sat there on the couch, an hour away from my baby, empty. He was still fighting for his life as he struggled with breathing. Despite the steroids, his lungs were still very underdeveloped. One of his doctors had been part of the team that developed a surfactant to be able to help give NICU babies the extra boost they needed. This did wonders for our little miracle man.

I was still so weak from being on bed rest for so long and having 2 surgeries in under 2 weeks. I had to resign myself to turning my baby over to the doctors to take care of him so that I could heal. I was so fragile that the trip to Phoenix and back was too much some days. I saw him when I could, but knew I had to get well so that when he did get home, I could take care of him.

9 weeks after surgery, I was able to finally ditch my catheter and pee like most human beings again! The next day, our little man was able to come home. A few months after surgery, I began to notice my anxiety was larger than normal. I would be terrified to go to sleep. I would lay in bed at night staring down the hallway just waiting for catastrophe to strike.

I noticed it in other areas of my life as well. I began researching this magnified level of anxiety and talked with professionals and others who had been through the same experience. That is when I learned that I had PTSD. I thought PTSD was something you only could get going off to war. I was quickly tearing up from the inside out. When the anniversaries came, I was a mess, re-living each and every moment of each and every day of it all. I saw a counselor who was amazing with trauma, and eventually was able to convince myself to get on medication. I tried everything to avoid it, thinking it would just prove what I already knew-- I was broken.

The trial and error of the medication took me on a roller coaster. I became very suicidal with a couple of them. I hung on to the hope that someday I would be able to be "normal" again.

We found one that worked, and I was thankful to be back to life, as normal as life could be. I continued to bake a little more than I had done in the past. I found it to be very therapeutic for me. I took on more challenges in that world, learning new things and pushing myself to be better. I found my nitch. I loved it. In those moments, I was able to let go of everything and just do what I loved.

Then we moved out of state. I forgot for a while how therapeutic it was and began to focus on the stress of getting cakes perfect and having them ready for weddings and parties on time, so I decided not to continue my little baking business that I had built.

Then this last winter hit. It was long. It was depressing. We had some close calls with the icy roads, and I began to just stay home to avoid them. Then I began to stay in bed to avoid looking out the window and facing reality. I knew I was getting depressed but didn't care. My two little children knew how to get their own snacks, and I let them take care of themselves as I watched them from my bed. I let the TV babysit us all while my husband and kids were at school.

I got to a very, very dark place in my life. I was frequently having panic attacks and suicidal thoughts. I knew I needed to go to a mental hospital, but I knew how rough it would be on my family. At least I was home with my kids, so my husband didn't have to worry. Although he did worry. Every day he worried. He dreaded each day, hoping he wouldn't get that phone call. He tried to keep it together and push through school, so he could provide better for his family.

He would offer help and advice. I didn't want it. He would keep offering it, offering love. Finally one day, he asked me to do one thing physical each day and that was all he wanted from me. Even if it was getting myself out of bed and going right back in. At least I would have something positive to say I accomplished that day, and I wouldn't have to beat myself up for all of the things I didn't do each day, which feeds the anxiety and depression.

I slowly began getting out of bed, wanting to live. It was long and hard, but I was getting better. I became strong enough to see a doctor about getting back on medication. I started going to a counselor. Then one day I knew; I knew I needed to bake again. Not just for my family but for others. I needed to connect. I needed someone outside of family to count on me. I began building my business back up, and it felt good. I had something to help me get out of bed in the mornings. I had something to look forward to each day.

My desire to end my life began to leave as I pushed myself to try and accomplish new things, as I put myself out there for others to see, as I created relationships and connected with people. I began to thrive. It has been about 6 months since I started dreaming and living again. Baking saved my life. (Of course the medication and therapy were huge factors in helping me get to the point that I could start baking again!)

I have been able to fulfill (with lots of help and connections) dreams I always wanted, but never thought possible. I have been able to put myself "out there" and challenge myself to reach greater heights, accomplish un-accomplishable tasks. I have been able to live again!

No comments:

Post a Comment