Category Archives: on my mind

We Need More Words For Mental Illness

We Need More Words For Mental Illness

In the U.S. mass shooters are described as mentally ill. People argue and fight on social media about what needs to be done and we scream for the mentally ill to be screened before purchasing a gun. We blame the shooters behavior on some type of mental defect. We are looking for answers. We want something or someone to blame. We want the shooter’s behavior to make sense.

As we toss around the words “mental illness” we lump a lot of innocent people into the mix. Is there something fundamentally wrong with the mind of a person that commits this type of horrific crime? Probably. Should we lump everyone that has been diagnosed and treated for anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, attention deficit disorder, or obsessive compulsive disorder into the same category as a mass murderer? No.

I don’t know what is wrong with people who go out and shoot a bunch of innocent people. There is definitely something wrong with them, we all agree on that, but what it is exactly is hard to pin down.  It’s too difficult to wrap our minds around the possibility that they are just bad people. We want to analyze and figure them out. Maybe they aren’t evil. Maybe there is a reason for their behavior…maybe there is a way we can prevent this from happening again. If we just solve the puzzle and figure it out we can all feel safe again, right?

Maybe there is a solution and maybe there isn’t.  I’m no expert, but in the mean time I do know that we need more words. The words “mental illness” are failing us when it comes to describing mass shooters. The brave souls fighting for their mental health on a daily basis are courageous people. They do not deserve to be disparaged with the same label we award mass murderers. That’s not the right thing to do.

We need a way to categorize this particular disorder of the mind. This is a different kind of mental illness when compared to bipolar or schizophrenia. It’s not the same as adjustment disorder or arachnophobia either. It’s more like the legal definition of insanity mixed with delusion and a breakdown in what it means to be human. It’s bigger than mental illness.

We need a new word for this particular affliction because calling mass shooters mentally ill is a disservice to all of the people who struggle with mental illness and who, despite their challenges, never harm or kill a single person in the process.

 

How About A Mom Friendly Hospital Initiative?

I recently gave birth in a “baby friendly” hospital. My newborn was with me through out my entire hospital stay, except for a few minutes when they gave her a bath and a few more minutes when our pediatrician took her to another room to suction mucus out of her throat. There was no mention of formula and lots of breastfeeding support. From what I have read, having babies room-in with mothers (infant and mother bonding) and encouraging breastfeeding (classified as the optimal way to feed an infant) seem to be the corner stones of the baby friendly initiative. Sounds good, right? For the most part I am sure it is, but I think we can do even better by working towards a mom friendly hospital experience too.

Everyone knows it’s nearly impossible to get any sleep in the hospital, but I don’t think it has to be that way. For new mothers, sleeping, while in the hospital, should be more of a priority. If you’ve been in labor for hours, given birth, and then spent 48 hours not sleeping because hospital staff kept interrupting, you’re going to be a hot mess by the time you get home. I calculated that I got exactly 20 minutes of sleep during my most recent hospital stay. I’m pretty sure this lack of sleep, after the tiring exercise of pushing a tiny human out of your body,  doesn’t help in the prevention of postpartum depression. Exhausted isn’t exactly a baby friendly or mom friendly way to begin parenthood.

How About A Mom Friendly Hospital Initiative?
Sisters

After giving birth people were coming in and out of my room day and night. At one point during my stay the nurse was hooking me up to receive some antibiotics while the pharmacist, the phlebotomist, and the hospital ombudsmen were all waiting in my room to speak to me. Through out the day the medical records clerk stopped by twice, the lactation specialist came by three times, and someone stopped to offer a prayer.  These visits all happened in between the nurses, the medical technicians (blood draw every four hours, blood pressure, oxygen levels, and temperature check every two – for both me and baby) and the doctors visiting. Basically we got 5-8 minutes of quiet and privacy at a time. The second night, when it finally seemed like we might get a reprieve, we turned off the lights and tried to get some sleep. Just as we started to doze-off a nurse came into our dark room to ask us if we needed anything. In a polite, clench teethed sort of way, I said, “Some sleep would be nice.” She laughed. Of course she did because everyone knows there is no sleeping in the hospital.

In a mom friendly hospital there would be a coordination of medical visits so moms would have uninterrupted stretches of time to sleep or bond with baby. There would also be a checklist provided early on so mom could choose who they wanted visiting. Don’t want to be visited by the hospital pastor or lactation consultant? Don’t check them off. Prefer to have your medications explained on paper instead of a visit from the pharmacist? Don’t check off the pharmacist. You see where I am going with this.

I don’t want to get into a debate about breastfeeding versus formula feeding (but you can find my thoughts on it here), but I wonder, why do we have to go to such extremes? I’ve read some baby friendly hospitals keep formula under lock and key and that a doctor has to write a prescription for it. Formula is not a controlled substance. This doesn’t make any sense to me. We were told if we wanted to give our baby formula we’d have to bring it into the hospital ourselves. So we did just in case we needed it. I have a history of low milk production and we didn’t want to starve our second child like we did the first one. On the other hand, hospitals used to push formula on people who didn’t want it. Wouldn’t it be more baby and mom friendly to find a balance here? Mothers want to do the best they can for their child. They don’t need to feel guilty on the first day they become a parent. In a mom friendly hospital, both feeding options would be equally available and supported without judgement. I think this is baby friendly too.

Another confusing thing baby friendly hospitals are doing is getting rid of the nursery. I get it. The baby rooms with mom so there is no need for a nursery, except sometimes there is. When I had my first child I spent a little over 24 hours in the ICU after giving birth. I couldn’t stand or get up on my own so I wasn’t allowed to have my baby with me unless someone else (like my mom or husband) was in the room with me. I wonder, what happens now under similar circumstances? Where will the baby go? Does mom take care of the baby anyway even though it may not be safe for her to do so?

How about we keep the nursery just in case so mom doesn’t have one more thing to worry about after giving birth? Can we be a little more mom friendly and provide space and time for mom to heal when she needs it? Again, we are going from one extreme to another. Mom’s couldn’t room with their baby before and now they have to no matter what the circumstances are. Where is the balance and sensible decision making?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m pro baby friendly. It’s a terrific idea to push hospitals to do better. I’d just like to see some effort in making hospitals a little more mom friendly too. And a little more balanced. Hospitals don’t have to be friendly to one group and not to the other. We can be kind and supportive to both mom and baby…at the same time.

 

 

Is This Your Last Baby?

I was at the doctor’s the other day getting my monthly pregnancy check up when my doctor asked me, “Is this your last baby?” My answer was a mixed up mess filled with probablys, I think so’s, and of course it is. I’m 40 years old after all. Jim is in his fifties. I mean, we’re old parents so two kids is probably all we’re going to successfully produce, but still, the idea that this is it for us feels so final. Like a big “THE END” on our family…even though two kids is probably all we really wanted to begin with. All we can afford. All we have room for in our home. Still, I can’t bring myself to embrace this ending.

After my discussion with the doctor he went on to explain how he could tie my tubes right after delivering our second bundle of joy. Or,  after he saw my face scrunch up as I processed the idea of labor, delivery, and surgery all at the same time, he explained that we could also wait and tie them up a few months later using a procedure that he could perform in less than 15 minutes. I suggested vasectomy as the only reasonable option and he laughed and laughed and wished me good luck with that one.

I was left thinking about how much can change in just a short five years. Minutes after Tiny-Small was born people were asking me when we were going to have a second one. After going through a fairly traumatic labor, and struggling with breastfeeding, I felt like a washed-up failure of a mother so my first thought was: NEVER. Still, people kept asking. Strangers, family members, and even the odd grocery store clerk took it upon themselves to inform me that I was ruining my daughters life by sentencing her to a lifetime of only-child status. At the time I seriously thought we were a one and done kind of family. After all, Tiny-Small was awesome and kind of wild so I simultaneously thought we’d never get so lucky again while bemoaning the fact that I probably couldn’t handle two of her at the same time anyway!

Fast forward five years later and strangers, family members, and even the odd store clerk are asking us a different question: You don’t want anymore do you? Apparently two kids is the perfect number. Especially when you are 40. I mean, the horror on their faces says it all as they watch me squirm under the question and answer them with sentences that begin with a long, drawn out, “Well….” It’s not that I don’t understand the risks of having more children or the fact that pregnant woman my age are jokingly referred to as “geriatric mothers” behind closed doors. I get it. I’m not the ideal age to be birthing a giant brood. I mean, one of the midwives at our clinic even asked me if this second baby was planned. I guess most babies born to the over 40 crowd are accidents.

It’s still kind of a shock that just a few years ago people were demanding I pop out more kids and now the idea of me having one more child leads them to admonish me in incredulous tones. It’s only been five years since Tiny-Small was born and I don’t really feel that much different. I still feel like I am 25 most of the time. It’s not super comfortable to have your doctor and the world constantly reminding you that you are getting closer and closer to deaths door. Nothing makes you feel quite like an old crone as being pregnant and over 40 at the OBGYN’s office.

The truth is I’m kind of assuming that after giving birth for the second time, and going through whatever fresh hell this one has in store for me, I’ll be begging my doctor to sterilize me immediately after birth. If he’d asked me a month or so ago when I spent my days vomiting into the porcelain god I probably would have asked him to sterilize me in that very moment. So, I am confident this urge to have just one more baby will pass right along with the placenta and then, maybe, return five years from now when I’ll be exceptionally decrepit as far as motherhood goes. So, in reality, this probably is our last baby. Which gives me pause.

Is this your last baby?

I have the usual feelings about slowing down and taking it all in. The whole stay in the moment more thing and “enjoy every precious fleeting second of childhood” and pregnancy and birth that I see plastered all over the internet on a daily basis. But I also have  another competing feeling squeaking it’s way through my consciousness and that is: HURRY UP! My life is going by quickly and there are so many things I haven’t accomplished yet. So many thing unfinished. All of this talk about my age has made me acutely aware of how much time I may or may not have left on this planet.

I’m over here singing “Whatever will be will be…” while frantically making bucket lists and business goals as I straddle the abyss and let my existential crisis consume me. All this over one simple question…is this your last baby?

Yes it is. Maybe. I’m not sure. Just stop asking because I am too busy staying in the moment and trying to check things off my to-do list to make a definite decision. Besides, I think nature might make that decision for us in the long run.