Last night, I was able to attend the Functional Forum (Evolution of Medicine) filmed live in Boulder.
The subject was the Evolution of Psychiatry, and it was a fantastic forum. The focus was the elusive connection between trauma (emotional wounds) and physical illness (physical ailment), particularly with autoimmunity. The most riveting speakers were a pair of MDs from the Wholeness Center, who use Integrative Medicine techniques to heal psychiatric issues in a profoundly effective way.
And of course, this subject is fascinating to me because I am working on a book that ties together the physical and emotional/mental aspects of autoimmmunity, and provides an explanation for it.
Is trauma and “mystery” genetic illness connected? Well, research says a resounding yes. But since all that info is on the recorded live-stream presented by the aforementioned docs, I wont repeat it. What I will say is something I have long known, and mourned (for my inability to shield her from it): Adahlia’s DBA was triggered by my own stress (elevated cortisol) while she was in-utero.
Now as I said before, I’m not about blame. But I AM about personal responsibility. You can’t forgive yourself unless after you accept that you had an impact. Goodness knows how I wept for how I couldn’t prevent what has happened to Adahlia, and all that she has gone through — despite being an educated medical professional who sought the best care while pregnant. I did everything possible to mitigate my stresses, but they were numerous: I was writing a Masters thesis, taking national board exams, and finishing my final (fourth) year of oriental medicine education. I had significant family and relationship stress. I was even in a car accident while pregnant (not my fault, not that it matters). And, I had suffered both Big-T and Little-t trauma of my own throughout my first 33 years of life.
But I think all that would have been mitigated – it all would have been okay and Adahlia would have been okay – if it weren’t for my right kidney going into acute kidney failure — leaving me bedridden in pain — at least four times during my final trimester. Up until this point, Adahlia’s “pulse” within my pulse was strong and healthy. After my kidney failed, her pulse disappeared within mine. And, surely, it was traumatic for her to experience me being flooded with all the pain signals of a kidney in colic and dying.
But, except for to have her born prematurely, there was nothing I could do but manage my pain as best as possible. Shoot — at the time, conventional medicine just thought I was having “back pain.”
It is upsetting, though, on one hand. I tried so hard to give her the perfect gestation! And yet, if it was not a car accident, it was a big fight with my mother and sister. If it wasn’t a fight with my family, it was stress over boards. And even when I was managing all that stress with acupuncture, chiropractic, herbs, qigong, meditation, and breathing — boom. My kidney fails.
As a wise woman recently told me: “Erika, you could not have prevented this. You read this.”
Take that for what you will.
It doens’t negate, however, that my poor child started out life — before she even took her first breath! – fearful and nervous, feeling unsafe, flooded with cortisol and inflammatory markers that surely wrecked havoc on her own developing parasympathetic/sympathetic system.
It would mean that I would have some serious “undoing” work to do, to try to get her body to manage its cortisol better. To purge it of opportunistic infections and pathogenic microbes that take hold in high-stress, high-cortisol environments. To return her microbiome to normal with “good” bugs. To help her realize she is safe.
Of course, her actual disorder does not help me in this regard. Her monthly blood transfusions mean that she has been held down and poked with needles up to seven times in one hour. She has been forced to drink nasty medicines multiple times a day. These are memories deep within her. Not helping her to feel safe. Not helping her to know that she can relax, that she won’t be wounded.
This is why today, to this day, I am the fiercest mama tiger-bear you’ve ever met. I am the spikiest, strongest shield that has ever surrounded a child. And I am a true DBAdvocate.
But its still not enough.
About a week ago, Adahlia awoke whining and wailing. Her voice tiny and pitiful, the most mournful cry.
“What happened?” I asked, pulling her close and kissing her. “Did you have a bad dream?”
She sniffled. “Yes,” she said. “I dreamed I was a little baby, and I wanted to drink your mama milk so bad, and I tried, and tried, but I couldn’t get any mama milk.”
Friends, this wasn’t a dream.
It really happened.
Before we realized she was anemic and wasting away before our eyes, as a new mom who had never breastfed a child before, without an experienced mother of my own and feeling too awkward and alienated to ask my friends who had birthed and breastfed, I did not realize that Adahlia was too weak to eat. I would wake to sheets soaked in milk from when she had latched on but was too weak to actually drink, and would let the milk spill out of her mouth and splash onto the bedclothes. In two weeks, I nearly lost my entire supply, as she drank less and less.
Until finally, insistent that something was really and truly wrong, Adahlia was rushed to the hospital with a hemoglobin of 1.9, barely alive, on the verge of heart failure, and having dropped from the 50%ile to 30%ile.
My baby had nearly starved to death.
I look at the pictures now — and actually, that’s a lie. We can’t look at her pictures from that time. She’s so pale, and so thin, and so listless… it’s too upsetting.
So now its about clearing trauma. Trauma in-utero, where it all began. And Big-T trauma in her first weeks of life: starvation and needles.
Yet there is hope. We’ve done some work on this, but there is much more we can do. And after talking with Janet last night, it may indeed be possible for some of the therapies used for adults — therapies that actually reprogram the number of cortisol receptors in the brain — to be used by a 4-year-old child.
It will be expensive. (Sigh. What hasn’t been.) Not only can we not afford it, we can’t put anything more onto credit cards or go further into debt. (The tricky thing about debt is that it needs paid back.).
But we will find a way someday, and soon, perhaps, if I work very very hard and the pieces come together.
Because as awesome as the last month’s blood reports were, Adahlia’s red blood cells plummeted this last month. She needs a blood transfusion now, and its only been 3 weeks since her last one. This is not typical — she usually goes at least 4 weeks between transfusions. But its also not necessarily bad. I think there is something we are clearing from her system, and it is taking a toll on her system to do it. But that’s okay, I’m not giving up.
As I told her last night as I held her:
“I’m not giving up on you. I love you. You’re safe.”