III: I'm Sorry, Part II

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III: I'm Sorry, Part II

The three of us on Easter, when I knew I was pregnant but it was too early to take a test.

The three of us on Easter, when I knew I was pregnant but it was too early to take a test.

Dear Loreleisla,

Remember this summer when I was pregnant? Remember how I peed in a cup to do pregnancy tests every morning for weeks? Remember me taking pictures of them and calling Grandmar and my doctor and looking at my huge bloated belly in the mirror? Remember how I cringed every time you came near my boobs because they hurt so bad? We all thought it was funny that they were producing milk so soon.

I bet you at least remember me crying all the time because my doctor kept telling me I wasn’t pregnant. I had about 14 positive pregnancy tests, a few verified by other eyes and all clear as day to me. But the blood work kept coming back negative, and I continued to get two periods, but they weren’t really periods. They were light bleeding. And then the unbearable back pain and cramping started and I knew I was losing the pregnancy, or at least passing what had been lost weeks before.

But my doctor kept telling me I wasn’t ever pregnant to begin with. And they thought I was being ridiculous. They did not know that I was not trying to get pregnant; that this was a surprise. They did not know how in tune I am with my body, and how I knew I was pregnant the moment I conceived. They did not know that I am a doula and very familiar with pregnancy, birth and motherhood. They did not know that I am an avid researcher and knew an incredible amount about false negatives and hCG levels. They knew nothing about me, except that their test kept saying I was wrong.

But I was right, and I was losing my baby.

Do you remember when Auntie Christine passed away around that same time? I remember that night so well. I got another positive pregnancy test, and then received the news that she was gone. I cried as I cleaned up the toys scattered across the living room, and you, Lorelei, you came downstairs because you heard me crying. You asked me what was wrong and I told you, and you hugged me. You told me to go sit down so you could clean everything up, and then you brought me pretend tea from your toy kitchen. I drank it, then took you back to bed and snuggled for a bit. You slept peacefully, and my heart was so full. I still cried a bunch afterward but it was good for me to do that. I needed that release. You made it less intense, and I am so grateful for that.

After that night, I passed what was remaining of the pregnancy over the following days. I saw a different doctor who told me that it still wasn’t possible I was ever pregnant to begin with, but I did have high cancer markers that required me to get further blood work done to see if I had cancer. That week sucked too. I felt so betrayed by my body, and my life. With all of this going on I STILL had that damn headache I was telling you about before, and my entire body felt as though it was falling apart, piece by piece.

But, did you know that in the first trimester of pregnancy your cancer markers can sometimes go up? I learned that thanks to Grandmar, who found it out via Google. When the second round of tests came back the markers went back down, so, yeah. I was pregnant like I thought, and then I wasn’t. And yet I had this huge weight of doubt on me for those two months that had ruined all of the trust and belief and faith I had in my own body. I couldn’t hear it talking to me anymore. In fact, I hated it. I hated it so much. I was still super bloated, I was in so much pain and I was sad that we weren’t going to have a sweet baby by our sides nine months from then. I spiraled further, which I didn’t know was possible, but it was.

I’m sure you guys felt it as much as I did. I remember you, Isla, always asking about the baby. The fact that you both had to see me in my worst state ever absolutely breaks my heart. I try to tell myself that maybe it will benefit you in some way; that maybe seeing me fall apart and then eventually come back together would show you what it means to be resilient.

But the even bigger lesson was yet to come, as the symptoms that remained after the pregnancy loss prompted me to type every single remaining ailment I had into a WebMD symptom checker. That was how I figured out I have fibromyalgia, which was clearly connected to my headache, which I learned was being caused by fibromyalgia-induced TMJ. I solved a problem no doctor had been able to help me figure out for that past year-and-a-half, and it felt good. Really fucking good.

So every time you saw me on my phone instead of watching you play; every time I was reading a book and talking in depth about health and medical terms with Grandmar and dad; every time I was crying on the phone or dropping you off at someone else’s house for an hour at a time for appointments - it was because I was trying to fix my body, to understand what it was telling me, to make sense of the life I was now living. I did all of this to find a treatment that would relieve me just enough to be the mom I desperately wanted to be for you.

I wasn’t ignoring you because I don’t love you. I wasn’t leaving you places where I was not because I didn’t want to be with you. I wasn’t crying all of the time because you made me sad. I promise, and I'm sorry that my sadness made you feel sad too at times. All of this effort was made because I wanted the old me back, or to at least find a new me that would be a better mom than I felt I was currently being. A new me that could cope with this diagnosis and recover from the sadness that follows the loss of a pregnancy. A new me with better balance.

Although, something you’ll learn when you’re older is that balance is a really lame word that should never have been applied to life. There is nothing in place in American society that makes balance achievable for families like ours. My illness, which I self-diagnosed and then had confirmed by two other doctors so that everyone would believe me, is one that gets worse with stress. It’s sometimes brought on by PTSD or other physical events that take a toll on the body. For some women that’s childbirth, and sadly, Isla, my experience birthing you started out quite traumatically, as I was violated by my doctor.

After that event, which was followed by the toxic work situation I went on and on about in my last letter, I’d be more surprised if I hadn’t been attacked by shot nerves and an inability to regulate stress hormones in my body. How could I not be stressed? I felt tortured in so many ways, with the worst being my deep desire to be better for you but being unable to do so.

With this diagnosis, I was ready to move forward. For myself, but primarily for the both of you. I wanted to be there for you again without any distraction, and without questions and doubt about my body getting in the way of playing with you for more than five minutes at a time.

I felt peace with my diagnosis, until I learned more about fibromyalgia. Then I felt very, very hopeless and needed a lot of help to get me up on my feet and ready for the hardest battle I’ve ever fought.

But that, my loves, is a story I will save for the next letter - one I can dedicate to my village of family and friends who have helped us over this hellish time period. They deserve it, and so much more.

Love,
Mom/my

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II: I'm Sorry, Part I

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II: I'm Sorry, Part I

The four of us in February 2016 celebrating Isla's first birthday. I'm for sure powering through a lot of pain in this photo.

The four of us in February 2016 celebrating Isla's first birthday. I'm for sure powering through a lot of pain in this photo.

Dear Loreleisla,

Here’s your first official letter after the intro letter, and this one is an apology of sorts. It’s also an explanation of why life became really hard for everyone when I went back to work after Isla was born. It’s not super fun to read about but it’s real and may help you guys understand why I was so sad.

But first, the apology.

I am so, so sorry, my loves.

As you know, January 2016 began a disheartening cycle of physical challenges, emotional suffering, constant change and lack of understanding. I was crippled by a gnarly headache - unlike anything I had ever experienced before in my short but deeply affected life. It began instantaneously with a pop near my right temple during a loving moment with your dad. Pain made its way quickly through and around my entire skull. It never faded, but I fell asleep regardless.

I awoke the next morning dreading the day before me. I was to return to a Catholic elementary school teaching job I hated. The one where no one was speaking to me, but I had no idea why. The one where the teacher I worked with literally said two words to me per day: hi and bye, and even then, only sometimes.

This was a change that happened after returning to work post-maternity leave. The need (and legal right) to pump had angered those who needed me most, and seemed to then set them on a path of distrust and irritation. From then on, my every move (as well as some made up moves) was documented without my knowing, and used against me at the end of the year. It was awful, but before that end-of-the-year meeting took place, I simply had a wild headache that made me dizzy, nauseous and ruthlessly pained 24/7. And yet, no one cared, or understood or sympathized. Rather they deemed me whiny, lazy, irresponsible, moody and unreliable.

I needed sick days, but they rolled their eyes every time I needed to go home early. I needed accommodations for my new pain-related disability of sorts, but was looked at as though I thought I was too good for the tasks I was asking to be relieved of. I needed patience, kindness, care and, hell, prayer!, but instead I was given the silent treatment and side-eyed glances down the hall.

No one believed me or cared to ask me why I had changed so much in such a short amount of time. Rather, they chose to judge me, and deemed my behavior as that of a girl who thought she was better than everyone else, and could do whatever she wanted. I could tell by the way they laughed at me and then said weird comments in my direction, and also because it couldn’t really be the fact that I had to pump breastmilk for my new baby, could it?

If not, maybe it was because they assumed I would now suck at my job since I was a mom of two. Or, was it because I said we shouldn’t require kids to make their parents go to church every Sunday and announce to their class whether or not they were successful? Was it because I was confident? Was it because I was smart? Was it because I was happy with my husband and kids? Was it because I personally didn’t go to church? Was it because you, Lorelei, didn’t go to their preschool?

Seriously, wtf was it?


Woah.

I’m sorry, girls, for that tangent. As you can tell, that time in my life was really difficult for me, and I still can’t wrap my mind around why I was so hated at a job I actually really liked, a job where I actually enjoyed being around these women every day. In fact, I liked it so much I almost became an elementary school teacher myself instead of becoming a doula. (For real though, I am so thankful I didn’t. This is totally my calling.)

Nevertheless, on the day my superiors surprised me with their notes of my lack of competence (which was all incorrect or falsified info, by the way, that I immediately corrected them on), I let them know that I would never, ever let my kids attend their private school. After the way I was treated, after the way the students were treated, after the way sexually inappropriate parents were allowed to watch over the students during school hours (with the kids being told to just go play somewhere else, and me being revealed to him as the teacher who filed a complaint about his actions)...how could I possibly send you guys to that place? I would never subject you sweet girls to that kind of environment, knowing what I knew.

I also let them know that I would finish the current school year, but I would not be returning the following year, and I cried for days thereafter, because I was hurt, offended and broke af. I was also still in a scary amount of pain and couldn't figure out if it was ever going to go away. At that point I had had a migraine-style headache every single day for six straight months, so the chances of ever being rid of it were looking slim. That was very depressing.

Before I go on, it’s important for you to know that I was brave saying what I said and standing up for myself. It’s extremely important to always do the right thing and to express your most important thoughts when appropriate. It’s important to tell people when what they are doing is wrong, especially if it’s affecting the well being of others. It's also important to question authority when appropriate, and to not immediately back down just because someone said their title is worth more money than yours. I'm sure we will talk about this so many times throughout your life. Be prepared; I'm full of thoughts and opinions on the topic.

Now, for what it’s worth, the teacher I worked with put a vase of flowers on my desk the next morning, with a gift certificate to a nail salon. She told me many times that she was sorry - she had no idea I was going through all I was going through (chronic pain, a violent and threatening neighbor, (remember him?), a baby (you, Isla) suffering from what I now know was a reaction to vaccines, persistent colds between you guys and no sleep whatsoever for any of us.

But, the thing is, I tried to talk to her about it so many times, and she literally would walk away when I was in the middle of a sentence. So yes, she did have an idea. She just didn’t care to find out more or allow me the opportunity to explain with more than the words, “My head hurts again today.” It’s truly upsetting to me that the notion of “women helping women” isn’t one shared amongst all women, even though it’s easy to see that in taking part in this movement you will definitely benefit time and time again, because, you know, it’s about helping all women, including you! More on that topic later for sure. For now, remember that women helping women is basically the most important thing ever.

I really, really missed you guys when I would have to go to that job that year. I felt like I was being forced to leave my love nest every morning at 6:30 a.m. just to throw myself to the wolves. Not the good ones. Not the strong, mystic wolf mothers whose pack I aspire to always be immersed in, but the bitchy ones who feed off the beauty of others; who rip the beauty apart until those wolf mothers no longer have that inner light and outer warmth that all wolves deeply desire to have. They ruin them so they will be one in the same; no better or worse. Just tragically angry, abusive and always, always hungry.

Don’t be those lame hungry wolves, girls. Be the cool ones that work together for the greater good. Be like me - ever growing and blooming through life’s many seasons; using the downs as lessons and the ups as motivation for many more ups. Yeah. Be the mystic mama wolves the three of us love to sing about (thanks, Devendra).


Back to the initial subject of this story: the headache.

It all started with this headache that came out of nowhere. The headache ruined my prospective teaching career, as previously mentioned, but it also drove me a little bit insane. Isla, you were not even one yet and I couldn’t hold you as often as you needed and wanted me to. Your dad had to take care of you by himself a bunch of times when I was home, so the routine became me going to work and then coming home and laying down in excruciating pain, most likely crying because of how terrible my coworkers were to me. This happened constantly for days, then weeks, then months. The headache lasted forever and nothing would make it go away. Not steroids. Not antibiotics. Not probiotics.

Not sleep. Not water. Not days off.

Not sex. Not ibuprofen. Not tylenol with codeine.

Not the many, many doctors appointments. Not massage. Not acupuncture.

Not the chiropractor. Not supplements. Not vitamins.

Not the gluten-free diet. Not the sugar-free diet. Not the meat-free diet.

Not the egg-free diet. Not therapy. Not anti-anxiety meds.

Not yoga. Not meditation. Not craniosacral therapy. Not essential oils.

Literally nothing eased my pain. I spiraled into a deep, deep fog of anxiety, depression, hopelessness and surrender. I surrendered daily, but nothing ever changed. I woke up hopeful but always cursed my entire body by 8 a.m. The pain was big, and it was overpowering all that drove me to live the way I had been living just months before. I was the happiest mom on the block and you guys were totally rockin’ it before the headache blocked our path.

But you guys know this part so well. Probably better than me. You guys know that I went from being an awesome, loving, happy mom to the loudest, angriest, meanest bitch of a mom you had ever seen. A mom you should never have seen. A mom that sucks and honestly needs to disappear just as quickly as she appeared in the first place.

I had no patience. I yelled too much. I let you watch way too much T.V. I put you in bed hours before your bedtime because I just couldn’t mom anymore. I never gave you chances to do things on your own because I knew it would be more work for me. I didn’t play with you as often as I should have. I didn’t hold you in spite of the pain when I should have. I passed you off to your grandmother too often. I didn’t cook for you enough and relied on cheap boxed food way too often. I told you I didn’t care about the things you insisted were important. I took away your toys and put you in timeouts.

Oh man. Did you pick up on all of that verbal perfectionism? Clearly, I am way too hard on myself, because none of this sounds as bad as I had initially implied it was, but I didn’t realize it until I had typed it out and read it over...and over...and over. More on that later. I’m sure this is an important lesson for you guys to learn at some point, too, you know, the one about perfection. Here’s a quick lesson summary: No one is perfect, which means everyone is already perfect just the way they are in spite of their small misgivings, because there is no such thing as perfect or imperfect...if that makes sense. If not, we’ll get there.

All of this is why I’m writing you this letter. Because ever since January 2016, I’ve really been a challenged mother, and I need you to understand why, because it had absolutely nothing to do with you. Rather, it had everything to do with the mean people I worked with, the toxic work environment that created them, the physical pain I was dealing with, my anxiety issues and a complete lack of control over every aspect of my life.

I also really need you to understand that you should never stay at a job (or with a person or a group of people) that mistreats you and makes you feel bad about yourself and your life. You can always leave a situation and you will ALWAYS find something better waiting for you at the end of that path. There's always a new path and a new journey to be had. Never forget that, and quit any and all shit that does not serve you and your greater purpose. You are beautiful beings that can totally conquer the many challenges that will come your way. Remember that any difficulty you come through is one more thing you've lived through and owned. Be proud of that. A lesson can always be learned, and knowledge is power.

At this point of blog post length, you’re for sure spinning in circles together with stuffed cats tucked into your shirts, begging the nearest adult to feed you a delicious snack. So, let’s take a break. I’ll write more to you when my spare time, energy and creativity are all in alignment once more. Fingers crossed that’s tomorrow.

Love,
Mom/my

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I: Where I Left Off

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I: Where I Left Off

kaitlin coghill doula ventura santa barbara thousand oaks ojai woodland hills birth postpartum blog

Dear Loreleisla*,

Many moons ago I told myself I would write to each of you every day of your lives. I love writing. I love you. And, clearly, I love overburdening myself with many small tasks to accomplish throughout the day while working and raising small children.

Picture this, because I have, many times: I’m dead (don’t worry, this is many many decades in the future because I think someone will soon figure out how to make us all live forever until we literally can’t take it anymore). So I’m dead and we all knew this was going to happen because in the future we get to plan our deaths. I’ve left huge tomes for each of you (and the future siblings you’ll probably have because I suffer from chronic baby fever that’s only cured with the births of babies), all filled with daily, beautiful, poetic journal entries and printed photographs. Accompanying each gigantic tome are boxes filled with your most memorable keepsakes, like your stuffed cat Olivia, Lorelei, and for you, Isla, little Pudgy (the bunny thing you wanted at the Irvine Spectrum).

The vibe of everything is super vintage because in the future nothing’s printed anymore, and all of my children feel so loved because I spent time commemorating your perfect childhoods. You get to relive them over and over again and this makes you incredibly stable as adults because you remember what it means to actually enjoy life in the way kids do.

Yeah, this was my dream as I began journaling to Lorelei when she was a baby. Then I went back to work and felt like I lost half of my brain and all of my happiness. I was journaling completely wrong (it was more like documenting all of your milestones that I was missing while I was at work) and it became super stressful trying to remember everything that I was essentially missing out on and learning of second hand from those who got to spend the day with you. It was torturous.

Then, I quit that shitty job (yay, mom!) and got to spend lots of time with you, but I was suffering from some serious anxiety, as well as trying to figure out how to become this thing I heard about called a “doula.” More on that later, but healing and learning and momming was all-consuming. Trying to find the time to calm myself and write actual meaningful letters to you was completely undoable.

Do I regret this? Yes, absolutely, but I’m also pretty sure anything I wrote at that time would have read as super fake and mushy and inherently sad, because I was inherently sad about the way my first year of motherhood turned out. I kind of didn’t want to remember it. Not because of you, but because it felt like a bunch of terrible events one after the other that made it so hard to be the mom I wanted to be.

Then I had Isla, and Isla, that was an interesting time. You didn’t like to sleep much during the day, and neither did Lorelei. So I had a potty-training toddler and a newborn baby who wanted to be awake and interacting with me constantly. I was breastfeeding every hour and Isla wouldn’t let anyone else hold her. Oddly, I loved this time because I was so into spending every moment with you guys, but it left me no time to write in the way I wanted to, and little did I know this lack of sleep was slowly contributing to an underlying illness I had but didn’t yet know about.

Then, I went back to work at a new but also toxic job, and from that point on I was the most stressed out person I had ever been in my entire life. Do you think that led to much poetic writing? Um, hell no! My mind was in survival mood, and it wasn’t doing that great of a job. Luckily I had been making lots of progress toward becoming a doula and having my own birth worker business, so I was able to quit my other job with somewhat of a backup plan in mind.

But THEN, I got sicker and couldn’t work any job at all, nor could I write anything because it literally hurt my entire body to do so (again, more on that later). So, I stopped writing completely. Mind you, writing is how my brain works. I think in novels. Since I’m intimidated by the idea of writing a novel at this point in my life, I turn my mental paragraphs into Instagram captions and blog posts instead, and I feel somewhat satisfied because, for me, writing is a really important form of self care. So, to sum this up, not only was I suffering physically, but I had no way to take care of myself mentally and emotionally anymore. It was, to put it mildly, awful (as you both know very well, because you lived through it too).

Now, it’s November of 2017. It’s been almost two years since I’ve been dealing with this illness and I am totally kicking its ass. I stayed on top of my symptoms, found a good doctor to help me get rid of them and am totally on a healing path now. The two best parts of it all? I'm a more patient mom (but still working on being better at it, for sure) and I can finally write again! So here I am, typing faster than ever in case this ability is taken away from me once more, and I’m making sure to write to you about everything I’ll ever want to tell you and teach you as you grow older and become adults (yikes!).

Essentially, these letters are going to be like little explanations for my crazy. They are ways to document my motherhood in relation to your childhood, so that one day you can see why I made the choices I did, why your family life was the way it was and, you know, why you turned into such amazing little people. I will never, ever be perfect (and, ahem, neither will you), but I will always have a really good reason for doing the things I do, and raising you the way I raise you. I want you to know that if I’m ever sad or in a bad mood, it’s not because of you, it’s because Donald Trump is president and I have a chronic pain disorder. It’s also because all of our food is crap and messes with the way our body functions. But mostly, it’s because I’ve never been a mom before, and I’m learning big time through trial, error, Facebook groups and Google.

I love you both so much and I hope that one day, when you can read and understand these letters, you will really appreciate them. Some are gonna be downers, some will be uplifting, but all will be intensely honest and real and like a window into the “behind the scenes” of your childhood. I also guarantee they will be a useful resource for your future therapists.

Love,
Mom/my*

*Do you like I how I began the letter with both of your names combined, and then signed it with both of my names combined and artfully separated with a / since you both call me something different right now? I thought it was clever, so if you also think you’re clever one day, you’ll know where it came from (me).

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