A mama, a warrior, and an advocate shares a bit about her journey with nerve damage over the holiday season. We are so appreciative to Jodi. Thank you for being willing to share your story with us, thank you for helping others, and thank you for digging into the tough topics.
Wishing everyone an amazing end to December. But, if it doesn’t feel so amazing right now, that is okay too. You are not alone.
My husband and I couldn’t believe how long the line was as we pulled up to the outlet mall. It didn’t make any sense! We got there early and Christmas was still several weeks away. “Let’s just see what the wait looks like inside,” my husband said. I hesitantly agreed. I was going to feel really bad for my husband if we had to turn around and come right back. It was such an ordeal to go anywhere. My husband had to get out of the car, bring me my walker, make sure I am stable and able to move away from any traffic, then get my daughter out of the car. I felt like such an inconvenience.
“It could be about an hour’s wait,” said the lady who was managing the line. She said it directly to me with a look of pity as she noticed my walker. This happened to me a lot which is why I hated going out in public. I mean it’s not every day you see a mom on a walker with her baby.
“So what do you want to do? It’s up to you if you think your legs can take it or not,” my husband asked. My legs were already tired and it had only been a few minutes. I saw all the moms standing in line with their babies without walkers. This was supposed to be our most joyful Christmas yet but in that moment I was filled with a heaviness in my chest. I wanted to leave and go cry all the way home but I didn’t want my daughter to grow up without memories of her first Christmas. Didn’t she deserve good memories? It wasn’t her fault my nerves were damaged during labor and delivery.
“How are you feeling?” My husband asked interrupting my thoughts. At first I didn’t know how to answer the question because in all honesty I was happy to be creating family traditions but I also felt sadness, anger, exhaustion, fear, pain, and loneliness all at the same time. “I’m fine,” I said with a forced smile. I realized in that moment as we waited for my daughter to have her first picture made with Santa, I was not fully ready to handle the holiday season.
It sounds cliché but the holidays are so hard aren’t they? They bring out an array of emotions and sometimes you’re left not really knowing how you feel. For me, holiday season 2016 was one of the lowest points in my journey with severe bilateral drop foot. By that December I had had a million tests run (or at least that’s how it felt), neurologists who wouldn’t properly go over my records or even diagnose me, my in home physical therapy had ended with no game plan to start outpatient therapy, I was in constant pain, I had undiagnosed birth trauma which caused severe depression, and all of this on top of trying to navigate being a first time mom. The whole situation when we took my daughter to see Santa made me realize how close to mentally crashing I was.
I didn’t want to be around family who just didn’t understand what I was going through. I didn’t want to deal with the questions, the stares, the looks of pity, the not knowing what to say, and I definitely didn’t want to hear the worst statement of them all, “I know you’ve been through a lot but at least your baby is healthy.” This last statement always made me feel ashamed to be depressed. Was I being ungrateful or selfish? My daughter was healthy and would be experiencing her first Christmas but why was that not bringing me joy?
I talked to family members that Christmas giving them fake smiles and pretending like I was happy when really I was about to burst into tears at any second. I suffered through the holidays because I felt like if I had stayed at home and didn’t go to be around family, it would have made me look selfish and only consumed in my own problems. People didn’t understand that my depression from birth trauma was not self-pity so it became easier to act like I wasn’t falling apart inside. I learned that positivity of the situation was admired because it showed strength whereas negativity and hopelessness tended to be received as weakness. Looking back, I wish I had put my mental health higher on the list and had just been more honest about how I was feeling.
For those who are struggling through the holidays right now whether you’re newly injured, still healing, or still dealing with trauma/depression I would highly recommend seeking help whether that be from family members or someone professional. These types of maternal injuries are too much to deal with alone. Make sure that people know how you are doing so you’re not suffering in silence.
I also cannot stress enough the importance of leaning on the advocacy groups that are now available to help get you through this tough time. During that holiday season with my daughter I had not become a member of the group Moms With Femoral/Peroneal/Sciatic Nerve Damage From Labor/Delivery, so at the time I felt so isolated because I had no support from others going through the same emotions during the holidays. There were no success stories that I could share with family members because as far as I knew I was the only one who had something like this happen during childbirth. There was no website (https://nervedamagefromchildbirth.com/) or advocacy groups like Maternal Nerve Injury From Childbirth Awareness (MICA) and Unhindered Steps. If I had had these resources I could have had an entire audience who understood me and encouragement to get me through one of the toughest times of my life. I could have educated myself and my family as well. Most importantly these resources would have given me hope which is something I desperately needed that Christmas!!
If you are struggling with some of the incredible challenges that I faced in 2016, know that you are not alone. Please visit www.nervedamagefromchildbirth.com. This website will direct you to a wealth of resources including a supportive Facebook group.
I hope everyone has a blessed holiday season and may the New Year bring you physical, mental, and emotional healing!!!