Medical Trauma Has Been on My Mind

Medical trauma has been on my mind. Despite, or maybe because of, the current pandemic that is disrupting all of our lives, I’m pressing onward in writing my story. I want to remember every detail; all of the moments of anguish just as much as the squeals of delight. Medical problems are traumatizing and often overlooked when we study trauma-informed care. I knew my mom would have more answers for me but I also knew that a hard conversation needed to occur.

“Mom, I need a favor. I’m working on a writing project and need for you to try to remember all of the details about my surgery and the time you spent at the hospital with me.”

“Um…well…I remember it as if it was yesterday but then I also have times during it that I’ve blocked out or something. I’ll try…I just don’t know if I can remember all of it.”

Within seconds, Mom started pouring out details of that fateful time in 1983. The paper quickly filled up with notes. I barely kept up with her. Her voice cracked a few times, followed by a drawn-out silence until picking back up where she left off. I knew she was holding back tears. I knew this was hard for her to go there again. As you can see in the image, Mom thought she couldn’t remember that much because of the stress involved at that time, but she did.

What I experienced is considered medical trauma. For her (and my Dad), it is also trauma induced by the near-death experience of their daughter.

Why am I telling this to you? Because medical trauma has been on my mind. I’ve been trying to dodge the fear of getting sick with this virus. I know, however, that it is a trauma-trigger for me. And, for anyone who has experienced significant, life-changing illness. It is also triggering for people who cared for those of us who survived serious illness.

Tonight, I’m thinking of all the people around the world who have just narrowly escaped death or the ones who are fighting it. I’m thinking about the health care professionals who are battling exhaustion and fear so they can keep someone else alive. My heart is with those who couldn’t be there for their loved one’s final days.

This virus is traumatizing for our society. As we push through it and prayerfully get through it, we will come out okay, but changed. Medical trauma is just as real and valid as any other form of trauma.

Let’s keep each other close in thought. Let’s check on each other, show grace and kindness. We will all remember the fear or worry that we are feeling right now, but we can also do our part in letting compassion and putting others’ needs in front of our own become just as memorable.

Podcast Interview and Thankfulness

Hey friends – Just a little note about a recent podcast interview and thankfulness.

It was 1983 when the words infertility/not being able to ever give birth first became a part of my vocabulary. People just didn’t talk about it, then. Not.At.All. To think of women (and men) throughout centuries who suffered in silence makes me ever-so-thankful for where we are now when it comes to this topic. We still have a long way to go for it to be understood, but we have made significant progress.

Recently, I had so much fun on a podcast called: Foster Care – An Unparalleled Journey. You can listen to my interview by clicking here.

As an adolescent, I knew that I had a lot to say about it but also wanted to keep it hidden out of shame. I thought, “maybe one day, I will write a book”, but it was a burden to carry, becoming heavier as each year passed. When given the opportunity to tell it now or write about it, I still feel a measure of the pain unpeel itself from me – even after all of these years.

Reminded of what the Lord can do with hardship. The Enemy can’t stand for us to be free of the things that were meant to bring us suffering. He would rather us live in misery, sticking to the labels we often give ourselves.

Keep speaking of those things. Keep walking in faith. Keep believing. YOUR story matters.

I also just want to say a big, “THANK YOU” for those of you who have reached out or have read my posts. Your kindness truly means so much.

The 11-yr-old girl I used to be would not believe how far we’ve come; how far she has come. She would be thrilled and dance with joy.

She would also be so encouraged and thankful for you.

What Every Healthcare Provider Needs to Know About Adoption

If you are a foster or adoptive parent, you have probably been both amused and frustrated at things some healthcare providers say and ask you during your child’s appointments.  For me, dealing with medical professionals has been quite the learning curve.

Here is an article I recently wrote for Adoption.com about this very subject.  It was a timely article as I had just experienced an uncomfortable (to say the least) appointment with my child!

Please click on the link to read it:  What Every Healthcare Provider Needs to Know

Hope you all are doing well and thank you for reading my blog!

Blessings,

Caroline

“I Wish I Had a Hysterectomy at Eleven.”

Me (at the ER for kidney stones following the typical question regarding last menstrual cycle): “I had a hysterectomy when I was eleven-years-old so I do not have periods.” Nurse: “Oh. I wish I had a hysterectomy at eleven.”

Um…really? Let’s break that down just a bit.

1) You wish you would have had a major surgery as a child.

2) You wish you would have been in the hospital for nearly a month.

3) You wished you would have missed nearly half of a year of school.

4) You wish you would have felt completely different from girls your own age.

5) You wish you grew up knowing you would never have biological children.

6) You wish you would have believed that your lot in life was your fault and that God was punishing you for some reason.

7) You wish you would have attended baby showers with the full pressure of grief on your heart.

8) You wish you would have cried until you could not cry anymore over what life had thrown you.

9) You wish you would have walked around with the weight of the world on your shoulders.

10) You wish you would have fought the physical, emotional and spiritual battles that encompasses infertility.

11) You wish you would have had to make the decision to be courageous enough to explore foster care and adoption.

12) You wish you had to look into your children’s eyes and try your best to explain why they did not grow in your tummy and why they are not able to grow up with their biological parents.

Don’t get me wrong.  I so appreciate nurses.  Nurses sustained me throughout the many operations and medical issues in my life (both in childhood and adulthood).  The compassion I felt from the nursing staff was incredible and even at a young age, I recognized it.   They are the front-line warriors of so many tragic endings and for that, I have great respect.

However, there have been a handful of medical professionals who have reacted oddly when learning of my surgery.  Some have questioned why the medical team felt it necessary to remove my uterus and other organs.  Others have given flighty statements like the one described above.  The bottom line is that if you do not know what to say to someone, then just either don’t say anything or say something like, “That must have been really hard for you to go through.”

I have found that people who experienced severe medical issues as children are some of the most resilient adults.  I know I may be assuming a lot and that’s okay.  Those of us who have been delivered from the brink of death get that compassion and understanding are so important to the human experience.

If you are someone who experienced a tragic medical history, you’re strong.  You got this.  You know that a select few can truly relate to what you have been through and that’s okay.

If you are someone experiencing infertility, close your heart off to the silly notions and words of others.  You know what you are going through.  You get that others don’t get it.

If you are a nurse, you have the most incredible opportunity to show love, kindness, and compassion.  Keep doing that.  Mind your words, of course, but continue to fulfill the calling on your life to tend to the hurts of so many who need you.

“I wish I had a hysterectomy at eleven.” After all these years, I haven’t forgotten these words. Let’s just all commit to minding our tongues.

After all, words do hurt and if given the choice, wouldn’t you want your words to heal?

Dear Parent of a Sick Child {letter #5}

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I sat on my bed soaking up the silence of an empty house with the knowledge that soon the kids would be home and I would hear, “Mom! I want this!” and “Mom, he’s bugging me!”  “Mom!”  “Mom!”  “MOMMMMM!!”

Silence sure is golden when it seems so evasive these days.

But then, Dear Parent of a Sick Child, I thought of you.

The beeps of machines are the only sounds you hear.  The pacing of your own anxious feet, the hustle of nurses in and out the door, and the frenzied whispered prayers that roll off your tongue are the sounds that surround your life right now.

The sound of silence is deafening, isn’t it?

You are beginning to despise silence.  Day in and day out, you wait for a noise…any noise…that would alert your anxious heart to the awakening of your child.  Sure, you hear the occasional whimper and you engage in conversations with others, but you know these things do not equate for the joyful, full-on, beautiful noise of your child.

During the times when I’m frustrated by my four-year-old asking for “More kisses, Mommy” as I’m trying to get him to go to sleep, you are praying for your little one to wake up from the drug-induced haze of sleep.  The moments when I’ve told my eight-year-old daughter that I need some space, you have craved more time and more space with yours.  When I’ve had to get on to my ten-year-old because he decided to put off a homework assignment, the furthest thing from your mind is worrying about late schoolwork.

These things and these noises are ones that parents of well children take for granted.

You’ve heard people say, “Everything happens for a reason.”  That just seems like a load of nonsense, doesn’t it?  There doesn’t seem to be any good reason that your child is struggling to survive.  It doesn’t make sense that your child has to endure the pain and hardship of a severe, life-threatening illness.  If ever you wished for silence, it would be the times when those five words were spoken to you as if you needed enlightenment or some form of justification for the unjust attack on your child’s body.

You never imagined how painfully loud silence could be until you were forced to sit in the same non-comforting hospital chair for days, months even, and you became engulfed by it.  You long to hear the heavy pitter-patter of your little one’s thick feet bouncing down the floor.  You yearn to hear the slightly off-key voice of your daughter belting out her favorite song.  You wish you could hear just one more of your son’s goofy excuses for not getting his homework done.

This.  

This sits so heavy on my heart.

The loud and painful sound of silence.

The ugly truth is that none of us are prepared for what you have been living the past few months or years.  It is hard to prepare for hell when you are living a seemingly, heavenly life, but this is what you are going through, isn’t it?  When you hear other parents complain about how loud their kids are, you just want to escape inside your own skin in order to maintain a sense of control and not lose your cool.

When the laughter of a child barrels its way in your direction, you notice it and you enjoy it, but those feelings are fleeting.  Your joy dissolves into despair as you turn to the sound of silence surrounding you while holding your child’s hand, and you go right back to whispering words like these that have become your mantra:

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silencefor my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.  On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God.”  -Psalms 62:5-7

Dear Parent of a Sick Child,

Hang in there.  Don’t be too proud to ask for help or too timid to ask for prayer. Celebrate the slightest of improvements.  Never give up on the healing power of hope.  May God filter the silence with grace.

For Parents of Well Children – May we never, ever take for granted the noises of our children.

Author’s Note:  I am not a parent of a sick child, thankfully, but I was a sick child.  As an adult, I now understand what my parents went through and the trauma that still touches their lives from watching me dance within the shadow of death. I have such compassion for parents of sick children.  This is the fifth letter in my, “Dear Parent of a Sick Child Series.”  I truly hope this letter series brings a small measure of comfort for the families waiting for their children to be well.

 

The Fall-Out After a Hysterectomy {what I want others to know}

One purpose for my blog is to share my experience with other women who are going through a hysterectomy or facing infertility.  I’ve had multiple conversations with women who have undergone a hysterectomy and while some women were like “Good Riddance!”, this is not the case for the majority of ones that I’ve spoken to.  Even though my hysterectomy occurred before I could really conceptualize the impact of it, I still had overwhelming thoughts about what had happened.  Not only was I confused by them, I couldn’t even appreciate or understood why confusion existed.

Although having a hysterectomy may be required at times and has become a bit more simple of a surgery, the emotional experience can be very difficult to navigate.  I want to help others going through a hysterectomy by sharing a few of the thoughts that I have experienced in my life.  (Please note that not everyone may feel this way)

  • “I am not female anymore.”  Believe it or not, this is a thought that can occur once someone has a hysterectomy.  The question of “What am I?” may cross a woman’s mind.
  • “I am no longer attractive to my mate.”  Yep.  Women DO struggle with this after a hysterectomy.  I used to believe that other girls/women put off a sexier or more womanly vibe that I possessed and that guys could tell; like men could tell that I was infertile. Seem crazy to me now, but it was a truth in my life that I had to overcome.  I compensated for it; sometimes, with bad decisions and other times with the “I don’t care about any of it” attitude.
  • “I must have done something wrong.”  Shame. Guilt.  Unworthy.  Although ridiculous in many ways, these words can describe the feelings that come about after undergoing a hysterectomy.  Infertility has a way of shouting this to us as well.
  • “I am broken.”  Despair upon despair.  Damaged goods.  It is hard to put a word that truly gives the meaning of what women go through after a hysterectomy.  Broken seems just about right.

Often, women do not want to talk about their feelings because they are embarrassed to feel the way they do or fear they might be misunderstood.  This seems to be especially true for younger women who are faced with the onslaught of friends complaining about periods and announcing pregnancies.  Infertility is one thing but when you throw in a hysterectomy, the game changes.

For most people, these doubts and feelings will not make sense.  For many others, though, there is great emotional fall-out after a hysterectomy, and, it is one that is surprising in nature.

If you have had a hysterectomy and are struggling, please know that what you are experiencing is normal.  Don’t be too hard on yourself.  Allow yourself time to grieve, and know that there are others who have had shared your emotions time and again.

This is how I remember Childhood {illness doesn’t do that}

The breeze, the sun, the smell, and the blanket.  The blue skies on top of me, and the green grass below.  This is how I remember childhood…laying down on a blanket surrounded by the outside and looking up in the skies.  The warm sun kissed my face, and the breeze wrapped itself around my skin.  My eyes full of wonder as I imagined dragons, birds, and all sorts of things formed by the billowing, fluffy clouds that captured my sight.

Mom’s baked goods coming fresh out of the oven. Sweet morsels filled with sugar, and love.  This is how I remember childhood…knowing that I was deeply loved, and that Mom could whip up just about anything out of nothing, but it all tasted so good.

Dancing, the smell of the studio, tights and leotards, blisters on my feet, and the laughter of my dancing friends.  This is how I remember childhood…sweet memories of performing,  and dance teachers applauding and critiquing.  Dancing filled my head with dreams, and my soul with passion.

The records, the station wagon, Friday nights at the skating rink, and racing Big Wheels up and down the street.  Neighborhood streets with children playing kickball, the sound of crickets, and coming inside when the sun kissed the Earth goodnight.  This is how I remember childhood…carefree, adventurous, independent, and fun.

Sickness, needles, doctors, machines bleeping, white sheets, blood, in and out of consciousness, surgery, more surgery, bad news, terrible news…this is also how I remember childhood.  Strength, prayer, the power to overcome, the persistence of parents, and the love that enveloped my life before illness took hold, and after, also depict the script of my life.

When serious illness strikes a child down, it sure does its best to erase the goodness that came before.  It doesn’t, though.  All of the cherished times become just that…more cherished, sweeter, and fondly remembered.

In my life, when I think about my childhood, my mind does not automatically go back to the hospital and illness.  No.  It goes back to the warm breeze, the sun, Mom’s goodies, the dance studio, the rink, and the streets filled with children and crickets.  This is how I remember childhood.

I suspect, or at least I hope, that the same is for anyone who has experienced a traumatic illness in childhood.  Illness cannot capture all that came before.  It does not do that.

Remember that.  

Remember the good, the great, and the laughter.  Remember friendships, family, and fun.

Remember that illness does not dictate who you truly are.

Remember, illness doesn’t do that.

 

 

7 Billion Ones {photography/storytelling project}

In the latter part of 2015, I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting photographer Randy Bacon, and his sweet wife, Shannon.  They invited me to be a part of their amazing movement/project/mission called “7 Billion Ones”.  Their goal is to excite others in believing that “Your Story Matters”, and to instill inspiration through images and words.

I am not a person who takes a ton of selfies, and I certainly don’t like to have my picture taken, but the purpose and validation through this cause was well worth stepping in front of the lens.  My purpose for being in it was this:  to share my story so that others in similar circumstances can be inspired to never give up.

Even if I only have an audience of one, but that one person is moved to encouragement by my story, then it is well worth it.  We never know how sharing ourselves with others can directly impact lives.

You can check out my story by clicking the link below.  Spend some time exploring all of the stories on the 7 Billion Ones website.  I promise you will find a great deal of inspiration from the multitude of others who have stood in front of the camera and told their stories.

7 Billion Ones Story

And, dear friends, keep telling your own stories.  Our lives, full of characters, drama, sadness, and joy, are what makes this big ‘ole world go round.  You never know how your story will affect others; even if it is only an audience of one.

Blessings,

Caroline

Seven Wishes for My 7-Year-Old Daughter {and yours}

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This week we celebrated my daughter’s 7th birthday.  I can hardly believe that she is already seven, and even though I used to huff when people would say “It goes by fast”, now I get it.  Life does go by quickly.

To honor my daughter during this special week of her birth, here are seven wishes I have for her as she grows up.  They are also wishes for all daughters around the world.

  1. I wish for you to be bold. Bold in your actions.  Bold in your wisdom.  Strong in your determination, spirit, relationships, and faith.  Be brave in your choices; especially the ones that are difficult to make.  Take a stand, even if other people do not see the value of it.  Do not be afraid to be a strong, independent girl.  The world needs them.
  2. I wish for you to find glimpses of humor throughout life’s circumstances.  Laugh at the whimsy and silly things.  Giggle at the irony that life will throw you sometimes.  Enjoy those gut-busting, pee-your-pants moments.  Humor is essential for survival, and for recovery.  Seek it.  Keep it.  Help others to find it.
  3. I wish for you to find love and friendship that is defined by acceptance, commitment, and contentment.  Love and friendships are both the most blessed experiences in life.  May they be filled with people who accept the whole of who you are, because you are incredibly special.  Don’t ever forget that, and don’t settle for anyone who doesn’t see you the same way.  (And, the best kinds of friends are the ones who will cry with you, and share in those gut-busting, pee-your-pants times of laughter.)
  4. I wish for so many moments that will give thrill to the adventure-seeking, curious little thing that you are.  Don’t be scared to try new things.  Try exotic foods.  Seek to conquer your fears.  Meet exciting, and slightly unusual people (I have found that they are usually the most entertaining and loyal).  If you dream of it, then go for it.  And, it’s okay to skydive…just don’t tell me when you do.
  5. I wish for you to see life as one big learning curve.  You will make mistakes and have some regrets (when you are a little older, I might just share a few of mine with you), and that’s okay.  Your mistakes, regrets, and need for a do-over are what refine you as a human being.  Don’t be scared to fail.  Failing is a part of success.  Just don’t be scared to try.  Let others teach you, but also teach others. Continue learning throughout your life, as there is always something new to learn.
  6. I wish for you to look in the mirror and see the reflection of a beautiful, purposeful, precious soul created by our Heavenly Father.  Embrace your flaws, but also embrace your beauty.  From the strands of your hair, to the tips of your eyelashes, fingers, and toes, every ounce of your being was put on this Earth for a specific purpose that only you can fulfill.  Carry that thought with you, sweetie.  When you are down, remember it.  When you are scared, embrace it.  When you forget it, pick up your Bible, and be reminded.
  7. I wish for you to always cling to the fact that you are so deeply loved by your family, and always will be.  Our life intertwining was not by accident.  You were meant to be our daughter, and we were meant to be your parents (even though at times we are the “meanest parents in the world”).  Nothing you can ever do will make us love you less.  With each passing day, I marvel at the unique little girl that you are.  It is an honor to call you daughter.

Happy Birthday, Sis.

“In my daughter’s eyes, I can see the future.
  A reflection of who I am, and what we’ll be.
 And though she’ll grow and someday leave, maybe raise a family.
 When I’m gone I hope you’ll see how happy she made me.
 For I’ll be there in my daughter’s eyes.”

-Martina McBride, “In My Daughter’s Eyes”

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The Marks of Life {Our Stories Matter}

I came home after tending to a foster/adoptive parent recruitment booth at a local church’s celebration of Orphan Sunday, and found my husband squirting something around our wooden dining room table.  I paused for a moment and said, “Um…is that toothpaste?”

20151108_185122Before he could answer, I saw what was under the paste.  Our 3-yr-old apparently decided that the table needed a little “design” to it, and decided to draw swirly marks up and down the entire table with a black, permanent magic marker.

My husband was furiously scrubbing the paste into the wood in hopes that the ink would lift.  The paste lifted the ink a bit, but you can still see the markings.

Surprisingly, I really was not that upset about it.  Even now as I stare at the table, I kind of think the marks give it character, and adds to stories I can tell in later years about the antics of our children.

I cannot help but to think about the comparison of our marked up, slightly battered, but full-of-character dinner table to our own stories as human beings.  There are days when all is well.  Not a mark is left on us, and we rest our heads in peace. There are other days when we stumble into the paths of others whose intent is to hurt us, thus leaving marks on our hearts.  We revel in good health, and wonderful relationships, and then suddenly the good health and the people we love leave.

Although healing does come, scars have been left on our lives.  The pain fades, but there is still that twinge of remembrance that is left on our souls.  Our stories involve so many moments where our lives have been interrupted by trauma, hurt, sickness, loneliness, and despair.  However, our stories also embrace moments of laughter, kindness, courage, love, and hope.

Within each of our stories are moments that completely capture the essence of what it is to be human.  This, my friends, is what I see as the beauty of life.  Like the markings on my table that might never fully go away, the nicks on our lives also may never leave us, but they definitely enrich us.

Do not be afraid of your marks.  Share your stories with others.  Celebrate your ability to overcome and endure.  Do not be ashamed.  The scars of your lives might just carry the determination that others desperately need.

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. -Romans 5:35