I was about 34 weeks pregnant when my pubic symphysis separation went into full effect. In addition to having suffered from debilitating rheumatoid arthritis pain since week 24, this was bringing me to an extreme place. My knees had buckled under the pain since week 26, and I broke down and used a cane. (It was either that or I was stuck at home.) In addition to the pain, and the psychological effect of realizing I couldn’t walk unassisted, the stares and questions of why I had a cane were so humiliating. We moved across country at week 32, with all the bustle and busyness of moving, I am sure it exacerbated my situation. Between weeks 33 and 34, I could feel the pelvis shift and the separation of the pubic symphysis beginning. Even with medication, every step was agony.
This pregnancy was supposed to be full of joy. Yet I was torn, physically and emotionally, as I was still in grief from our baby son’s death the previous summer. I had rollercoaster emotions from weeping still over not ever seeing my son grow up and rejoicing at this new baby girl who grew within me. However, when the pubic separation occurred, I just couldn’t hold on any longer. I felt my whole emotional and psychological energy and resistance drained. Just being awake and moving around felt like knives jamming into my pelvis.
I felt such guilt for feeling so poorly. And then when I had waves of grief, it escalated the guilt “I should be happy! I am expecting my first baby girl! She is healthy and prefect! And yet I am sad…and crying from the constant pain…” In desperation, I asked for prayers. Many people reached out in support and love, but the sisterhood of the Guiding Star Project had a compassion that reached beyond. For many of these women had experienced the pain I was going through and could offer love and encouragement from a place of having gone through it themselves. I was overwhelmed by the tenderness of their messages. I felt very comforted but more than that I felt known. Someone else had gone through what I was going through and showed me there was a way out.
And when our beautiful daughter was born, she was so cute and tiny. She also had a little jaundice so her coloring was off. PTSD from the birth/death of my son hit me like a train wreck. I would wake up in the middle of the night and look at her sleeping in the co-sleeper and then my brain would freak out. All I could then see was the lifeless body of my son from a year ago. Panic would take over and I would begin hyperventilating; my heart was racing and my emotions swelled. I just sat there, frozen. For what seemed like forever, I couldn’t move and I just sat and stared. I knew it wasn’t really, but I couldn’t shut it off. I saw my son. I then reached down frantic and touched the baby, my sweet daughter stretched and whimpered and I snapped out of it. I cannot tell you how many times that happened in her first weeks. What I can tell you is that I thought I was out of my mind. I was scared by what was happening and embarrassed that I did not have control over my own mind.
When it didn’t stop, I reached out to a member of the Guiding Star Project who also works as a bereavement doula. She assured me I wasn’t alone and that as bizarre as it sounded, this was a normal PTSD reaction to the trauma I experienced. She gave me reassurance, support and love. She also gave me mental tools to use in the moment these experiences were triggered. I would then begin saying to myself, “this is not Giorgio, this is Thérèse. PierGiorgio Matteo is with the Father in heaven. I am feeling this way because I miss little Giorgio, but I won’t feel this way forever.” She also encouraged me to reach out to my doctor if I or my husband really saw me not acting like myself. We took her advice and also received medical help from my OB to work with me to try to stabilize the emotional swings and avoid the triggers of the PTSD.
If she hadn’t been as loving, consoling and knowing as she was, my emotional and psychological state would have suffered much more than it did and I would not have thought to ask for medical help. Many people can pray for you, many can love you tremendously, but without knowledge and experience of what you are experiencing, it is difficult for them to give you the help you need.
My OB doctor is wonderful, but he has so many patients and it is not his position to follow up daily on the emotional well-being of his post-partum mothers. They need to know to come to him. Yet, when you have a full service clinic, the doulas, the doctors, the lactation consultants, the counselors can all help to truly care for the whole person. A woman is a beautiful harmony of many systems. The psychological, physical, emotional, and spiritual all need to be cared for in order for her to feel whole. I do not live near a Guiding Star center, but I wish I did. If the kind of compassion, knowledge, love and support I received from members of their National Board is evidence of the care and ideal of their mission, then every woman would benefit from the care of a Guiding Star Center.
My daughter is almost 6 months old now. She is growing, gaining cute baby chubs and beginning to babble and smile a lot more. Every day I am feeling a little better emotionally. Equipped with the tools to work through this difficult time, I am no longer scared by what I am going through. I am being patient with myself and the healing process of grief. I am also free of the guilt. I am able to enjoy my sweet angel and allow my love for her to fill up my heart. I wrote this post to say “thank you” to the ladies associated with the Guiding Star who helped me through these challenging months, ladies who I am honored to call my friends.
Today is also Give to the Max day in Minnesota. GSP is working to organize a national network of centers all across America to give every woman wholistic life affirming care from early on until her elderly years. We need this. America needs this. Give to the Max today. Be a light to women. Give to Guiding Star.
(direct link: https://givemn.org/organization/the-guiding-star-project)