When I had RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy), I wrote a lot about what it felt like. The pain was excruciating and I didn't walk for 3 years... then took another 2 to re-learn to walk without crutches, a walker, or a cane.
I'd fallen at work at the back-up doctor's office when I was assisting midwives at a birth center in Orlando; tripped over a scale, ironically enought (I weighed 300 pounds at the time). During surgery to repair the extensive damage, I bled inside the joints and that caused the RSD. A description that is not mine can be found here:
During the time I didn't walk, during the height of the pain, I described it like this:
When air would go across my leg, it felt like razor blades... scraping across my skin. When I had physical therapy, I would vomit from the pain the therapist would "inflict" in the name of de-sensitization (the sand blowing machine was the WORST... tiny million pin pricks per minute as warm sand was blown around my lower leg). I couldn't walk, but I did swim and while that was excruciating, too, I needed to do something and I could leave my body in the water, for a while at least. The Y was very gracious about my disability and set up cones so no one would share my lane while I swam; most had to share lanes when it got crowded... everyone there knew me, though, so I got my own lane.
One time, while swimming laps, a kid of about 5 accidently crossed over the lane rope and when I was not looking, he kicked my leg, probably not very hard, but it was so overwhelmingly painful to me that I passed out. The lifeguard had to come in after me.
I couldn't wear dresses that hung down past my knees... pants because they touched my ankle... shoes that had anything like an ankle (even tennis shoes!) because it just hurt so, so much.
I share this because as sensitive as my ankle and lower right leg were from 1995-1998 (and, when I am tired or ill, even still today), that is how raw my heart and spirit feel right now.
As the days of autumn begin, I find myself, as the leaves in other parts of our country, falling.
* I feel the pain of the women who have been hurt in birth. My knees buckle sometimes under the weight of information I know about women in birth... the women who have been touched without permission, lied to, abused, mutilated, raped... in the normalcy of Western-style birth. I hear story after story, words after words, images after images that make me want to gouge my eyes out like the women who witnessed their children's torturous deaths in wars. These are my children being slaughtered, these women in birth. I cannot scream loudly enough. I cannot write fast enough. I cannot say enough. I feel insignificant. I make no change whatsoever. Why do I have to feel so much if I can't do anything to change it?
* The pain of the women who have been lied to and then lied to again to make them believe the coercions.
Two recent examples:
The woman who was stripped without her permission... the nurse on the phone laughed and told her that stripping was normal at 38 weeks... no big deal. At the doc appointment the next week, the doctor back-pedaled and said that she never strips at 38 weeks and never without permission. The woman didn't even ask where the hell the blood and mucous came from if she didn't have her hand all in her "tight and closed" cervix. The mom came back to the doula and said, "I feel SO much better now knowing she didn't strip me! You were wrong... she didn't do anything at all!"
The next example... a woman with a velamentous insertion of her umbilical cord with an anterior placenta that had a very vigorous doppler exam that caused dripping bright red blood into the toilet later that night. I sent her to the hospital (I am not her doula) and they didn't even do a sonogram. They sent her home after doing a urine test and other things and found nothing... baby had some funky heart patterns, but nothing to cause any worries (they said). Days later, I get a call that, oh, she just had a UTI... now is on antibiotics. I couldn't even call her for fear I would scream in the phone that UTIs don't cause bright red dripping blood.
* The pain of the ulcers in my nose and the ones on my vulva that won't heal.
* The pain of not having hair... the sweeping moments of humiliation that I have no hair.
* The pain of standing at the Torah as those who had been hospitalized in the last year were asked to come to the front.
* The pain of how tired I am and how I must find ways to let go because I have several babies coming up this fall... I have to get my shit together before mid-October!
* The pain of the fear of my death and how I can see her out of the corner of my eye most nights and how I hate to sleep and hate to wake because she is always there.