Posts tagged my story
Eating is Hard
I have been working on this blog post for months. I started 6 months ago and then it sat here. I would open it periodically and stare at my screen, type some things, delete them, type some more, delete those. This is a very personal piece of my story that i haven't shared publically, but I want you to know the real and raw parts of my story. Not just the polished bits that can take over when you share yourself online. So I never gave up on this post even though I was tempted to trash it completely. Finally the right words came, but it got really long, so I broke it up into two parts.
Look for Part 2 on Monday.

In late 2007, I couldn't eat.

Seriously, literally, I was UNABLE to perform the act of eating food. Such a basic thing I never knew I took for granted, but there it was. I was in the hospital, unable to chew or swallow and my food was delivered through a tube in my nose, directly into my stomach. Forget room service! I had gastric service that would feed me while I lay in a coma.

On Nov. 24, 2007 I was hit head-on by a drunk driver while driving from the airport to visit my dad in Nova Scotia.

The feeding tube delivered calories (because I can't really call it "nutrition") while I was in a coma and continued to feed me even after I woke up. The tube came out after a few weeks but my body had forgotten how to eat. I remembered what do in theory, but my muscles and reflexes didn't do what they were supposed to. And the empty space where my front teeth had been made it even harder.

In the hospital with a feeding tube, 2007.

In the hospital with a feeding tube, 2007.

My toddler who is learning how to eat for the very first time in his life right now, chews, swallows and drinks better than me at that time. I was severely brain injured, my swallowing reflex was gone, and I had to relearn this most basic skill.

It all began with thickened water.

This gelatinous liquid was supposed to help train my swallowing muscles while minimizing the risk of choking, but my god, it was vile. Solid food wasn't any better. My meat, veggies, and potatoes were delivered in pureed stripes of pink, green, and white, which in my unwitting state, I happily spooned into my mouth. And coughed. A lot. Nothing seemed to go down the right way.

Then came the cups full of paste-colored Ensure, or fluorescent-but-somehow-chalky pink Boost.

Then the day came that I successfully chewed and swallowed a bite of banana.

Oh, hooray! That was such a good day. It meant I could stop eating purées and I was allowed to eat soft foods! REAL food. My missing teeth and broken jaw made anything crunchy a no-no, but oh, BLISS, I could have FOOD!!!!

But it was still hospital food.

My doctors and nurses said I could eat whatever I wanted though, as long as it didn't require work to chew. After being fed through a feeding tube for weeks, and lying motionless in a hospital bed, my healthy, athletic, 6-foot-one-inch, 170 pound frame had dropped to a very skinny and unhealthy 140 pounds. I was officially given the green light to chow down as much as possible because I needed to regain that weight, and I was burning insane amounts of calories to heal.

My first request was for fast food.

There's no way I could bite into a burger, but my seriously loving fiancé would go out and pick up whatever I asked for (often in the freezing Canadian winter weather), come back to my room, and take bites for me, chew it, and feed me like a baby bird. I'm not kidding. Talk about love, and that greasy, salty food tasted so, so good. 

My doctors, of all people, should have known the impact my nutrition could have on my healing, and especially the healing of my injured brain. But all they cared about at that time was the quantity of calories I was consuming. The quality didn't seem to matter and it certainly made my taste buds happy.

Now I know those fast food meals are engineered to excite our taste buds without providing the nutrition we really need, but back then, all I knew was that it tasted good, and made me feel  more "normal."

In the hospital with 8 missing teeth

In the hospital with 8 missing teeth

My Partial Dentures

My Partial Dentures

When I left the hospital, I was still missing eight of my front teeth. 

The ninth was so damaged it was just waiting to be pulled out. I finally had a partial denture made that made my smile appear normal at first glance, but it was anything but functional. I just wanted to feel like myself again so changing my diet was not at the top of my priority list.

Wearing my new partial

Wearing my new partial

I ate mostly home cooked meals, but I still reached for processed comfort foods almost every day. Eating wasn't fun. My partial didn't stay put. One afternoon when I was out with a visiting friend, we went to a popular sandwich shop for lunch and I ordered the roast beef and cheese. When we brought our orders outside and I took my first bite, I found I couldn't bite through the meat and the pressure on my front false teeth would flip them off my molars where the partial clipped on. I ended up picking the sandwich apart and eating it with my fingers. Eating an apple? Forget it. 

I wore the partial denture for 4 years and it limited my food choices in a big way because everything that went into my mouth had to be super soft, or cut up into small pieces. My diet gradually improved, but I didn't know how to eat for wellness and healing. I was wooed by health claims on food packaging and their loud, colorful promises. And my brain injury made me especially susceptible.  And although I was injured when I was 23, I couldn't get dental implants until I was 27 years old.

I just wanted to stay home where I could take my partial out and eat comfortably with a fork or spoon, missing teeth and all. I couldn't think clearly or do much more than get through each day, so I just ate what was easiest. Almost everything had to be cut up like I was a small child. I handled it well enough and I laughed about it a lot. But eating was hard. I was miserable.

When it was finally time to get oral surgery and install my dental implants, I was so happy that I didn't care that I was having invasive, reconstructive surgery. My surgeon removed metal plates, rebuilt my jaw, removed my wisdom teeth, and installed titanium posts that would eventually hold my new teeth. I was given some serious drugs for conscious sedation that made me so loopy and relaxed, I remember seeing chunks of bone leave my mouth and thinking, "oh, there it goes."

I. DID. NOT. CARE.

It was pretty amazing stuff but the elation I felt was completely real and independent of any drug. Throughout my recovery period, I remember being amazed as I ran my tongue over my implants, feeling the new posts that would give me my smile back. My whole face was in agony but I was smiling already.

TEETH. I would finally have teeth again.

READ PART 2: How Eating Became Easy...

 
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What My Full Recovery From A Severe Traumatic Brain Injury Looks Like

On Nov. 24, 2007, I survived near death when I was hit head-on by a drunk driver. I fell into a coma, my body was a broken mess, I had to be resuscitated in the ambulance, and I was hospitalized for three months.

But after working hard to heal for over seven years, I achieved a full recovery.

My Whole Healthy | Maggie Yount | Broken humerus | broken bones |motor vehicle accident | Drunk Driver | TBI | Traumatic Brain Injury | Recovery

Not every victim of traumatic brain injury can say that. I think most probably can't. These photos are just a peek inside what my injuries looked like in the early stages of my recovery, and I know that NOT achieving anything close to a full recovery was a very real possibility.

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month and I hope my story can inspire others and perhaps be a stepping stone to the next level of recovery for anyone who is a victim of TBI like me. Instead of writing about it, I made a  video so I could just talk to you. This is by no means a complete account of what I experienced following the accident, or what I still live with every day. But I think it helps me connect with you in a more personal way and shows a more accurate picture of who I am now.

After making this video, and even trying to write this little post, I know I thought of things to add, and promptly forgot them again. Like exercise (the aerobic type)! That helped me in a huge way. And I forgot to talk about it and only just remembered it now two days after recording the video. So there you go.

We've all experienced trauma, but it's what we do with it that defines us. Watch the video and let me know in the comments how you transform your trauma! Share this post if you found it helpful and let me know if you have any questions. I'm here for you. 

xoxo

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How I Almost Had Our Baby in the Car and Why That Matters For You

A few weeks ago, we joyfully welcomed our little boy into the world. The entire car ride to the hospital though, my body was pushing even though I didn't want to (not yet!) - anyone who's had a baby knows the feeling of your body just taking over! It was all I could do to just breathe and beg my little one to slow down, praying he could sense it wasn't time yet. I actually almost could have had the baby at home before getting into the car so we didn't really know what would happen as we tried to make it safely to the hospital!

So why the hell did I wait so long to go to the hospital, right? Lots of reasons, but mainly, I hadn't felt the need to go. The hypnobirthing class my husband and I took as part of our birth preparations gave me such amazing tools, knowledge and confidence in my body, that I was in an unshakeable birthing zone. I had no concept, or fear, of how far or fast I was progressing. It was beautiful and amazing and I wish I'd had these tools for every other time I went through an intense hospital experience - even the ones unrelated to birth - it was that powerful.

Hypnobirthing might sound a little wacky, or "woo" but I found it to be grounded in evidence with some meditation (also grounded in science now) mixed in. The course I took was taught by the amazing doulas at Cap Wellness Center but was created by the Hypnobirthing Institute and according to their website, "The HypnoBirthing program is built around an educational process that includes special breathing, relaxation, visualization, meditative practice, attention to nutrition and positive body toning. Most importantly it fosters an air of mutual respect for the birthing family, as well as the health-care provider in a traditional health-care system or an alternative setting."

I learned so much through hypnobirthing to ease pain, relax, eliminate ALL my fears about birth, build confidence in my body's capabilities and build an amazing team to help me have the exact experience I wanted, that I want everyone to experience it, whether or not you're having a baby! If I had known the hypnobirthing tools before many of my medical experiences and surgeries, I know my stress and pain would have been greatly reduced and I would have felt so much better before, during and after my time in the hospital. So let me tell you about my birth because it can help you.

Labor started for me just after I woke up on a Friday morning. My husband woke up for work and decided to stay home with me because we had a feeling about this particular day being "The Day" and after he crawled back into bed and told me he was staying home, I started feeling some deep, fairly intense low back aches. 

I told my husband, "something's different" and we started trying to time my surges but they seemed to be about 10 minutes apart and of varying intensity and so I thought, "there's no way this is real labor. I should have contractions like an hour apart, and then every 20 minutes, or something. This must be more Braxton Hicks practice labor. It feels different but I'll just wait and see."  I did text my doula, Britney Murillo, though, and let her know what was up. Her response text was,  "Oooohhhh interesting!" Haha. Clearly neither of us were concerned.

So my husband made me breakfast and we decided to swing by the plant nursery to get a new plant for our front step. Our ficus tree had died and I did not want to have a dead plant on the front step when we brought a new baby home. It felt like very bad Feng Shui to me and not how I wanted to welcome our new baby. So off we went and I realized these surges I was feeling had to be the real thing. They made me have to stop and and breathe, and my Braxton Hicks contractions never really had that effect on me. We got home and continued trying to time my surges but they seemed to stay at that 10-minutes-apart frequency for a long time and I was managing fine, just breathing through each one. I knew I was in labor now but I just wasn't worried. I was confident in my body's ability to birth a baby, despite my plethora of previous injuries (including a broken hip and pelvis). My Hypnobirthing course and all the classes I took at Cap Wellness Center had instilled in me the knowledge that I could do this. 

Hypnobirthing had allowed me to release all of my fears (I had a few 'sticky' ones that I couldn't shake on my own) and had instilled in me the knowledge that as women, we are designed to do this and I could have this baby with ease. It would be perfect and beautiful and I could handle whatever turn my and my baby's birth might take. It also educated me better than I could have hoped for about what to expect, what all the different birth scenarios might entail, which drugs were used for different purposes, what my rights were once I was in the hospital, what to expect in different situations, which interventions and exams I could safely refuse , etc. And no matter how the birth unfolded, even if there were special circumstances (complications), we could still have a beautiful birth with our Hypnobirthing tools in hand.

Part of what we learned was that laboring at home for as long as possible was usually the best option because it was the place most of us feel the most relaxed. It would allow things to progress more easily because reduced tension meant less pain and an easier trip for the baby. So that's what we did.

I had lunch, chatted with my husband, put on some music and sang to the baby and danced through a few surges. Then went to my knees with my arms and chest up on the couch as the surges intensified. But still, I wasn't scared and I couldn't think beyond each moment. My husband did think about it but couldn't really tell where I was in my laboring process or what to tell my doula even though she texted and asked him how things were going. It being our first baby, we were kind of flying blind and perhaps a little over confident because I was handling the process so well.

It was late in the afternoon when I decided to have a bath to relax and help ease my labor discomfort, but when I got out, I was suddenly drenched in sweat and complaining of feeling a bit nauseated. Those symptoms rang a bell to my husband and I that things were progressing but we were still thinking, "I dunno..." I was still handling every surge and while I was a lot more vocal at this point, groaning and using my voice in loud, low tones to help me through each surge, things definitely felt a lot more intense and I remember wishing I could get a break because the surges just seemed to keep coming and the intensity was tiring.

Luckily my doula texted me to ask how things were going and that triggered me to ask her to finally come be with me. I knew having her with me would help at this point, and I told my birth photographer, Daniella DeVarney,  to come over too. I still wasn't thinking it was time to go to the hospital though, and I figured we'd hang out at home for a while longer. We hadn't even informed my obstetrician that I was in labor! (Sorry Dr. Cap)

I guess now I can look back and see that I had reached the desired state of self-hypnosis that hypnobirthing teaches. This isn't like the stage version of hypnosis that we typically think of (there was no clucking like a chicken) but rather a state of deep relaxation and calm, where nothing can rattle you. All hypnosis, even the stage kind, is actually self-hypnosis and we cannot get to that state of mind without being willing participants.  So my training had taught me how to relax quickly and stay there, release all my fears, and become more and more connected to my body and my baby.

Through my labor that day, I had spoken some of my positive affirmations aloud , for myself and for baby, and I used my breathing techniques to help ease my discomfort but while my surges were intense and uncomfortable, I was still totally relaxed. This state of mind and being was so beneficial, I know I can use variations of it for every intense, uncomfortable experience I might experience in the future. 

Birth is unique because you know it's temporary and there is the most incredible reward waiting for you when it's over (your baby!!!), but using a lot of the hypnobirthing tools could have made my surgeries, physical therapy and even uncomfortable conversations much easier and less stressful.

Once Britney arrived, she helped me get comfortable by giving me counter-pressure on my low back and helping me breathe "up" through my surges more effectively than I was doing on my own - a way of breathing that helps with pushing because it works with what my uterus was doing. Then, after a short time, she helped me get comfortable in a supported side-lying position on the floor for a few more contractions but I suddenly felt the need to get up and I grabbed my husband and leaned heavily on him, swaying side to side a bit. Then my water broke.

It wasn't the dramatic flood TV and movies like to portray, but it was pretty obvious what I was feeling in my underwear. Still, Britney suggested we go to the bathroom to check and it was confirmed. Then I had a big, very intense surge in the bathroom and she suggested I reach down and see if I could feel anything. 

I felt something round and soft. "I think I feel a head!!!!" I cried. 

We all thought I was going to deliver right then and there and someone fetched a sheet and a towel while my husband jumped on the phone to call for paramedics. Britney said to him, "You realize you are delivering this baby...!" but as I walked out of the bathroom, my water broke fully in a much more TV-worthy gush all over the floor. What I had been touching was actually the amniotic sac getting pushed out by the descending baby and now I couldn't feel anything in my birth canal. No head. A few more surges gripped me and I realized I was now feeling my body PUSH. No more deep, intense aching that I had to just breathe through...my body was  bringing my baby to me!

But he wasn't here yet. We still had some time. 

I walked as quickly as I could to the car, pausing as two big pushing surges gripped me on the way, then climbed into the backseat on my hands and knees. It was about a half hour drive to the hospital from our house, and of course my husband hit every red light on the way, but he never let me know it (my head was down, pressed against a pillow and the car door) and he totally kept his cool (which allowed me to keep mine) while calling Dr. Cap and the hospital to tell them we were on our way. 

The whole car ride, I talked to my baby and told him what was happening but also asked him (begged him?) to slow down and repeated, "not yet not yet not yet. It's not safe yet." Every bump in the road triggered a big push but we made it to the hospital safely and I walked into the labor wing after having a giant surge in the lobby of the hospital! I was offered a wheelchair but there was no way I could sit at this point.

Once in the delivery room, Britney informed the nurse that I had been bearing down for about an hour and she nonchalantly said, "ok, we'll check" but didn't seem to really believe I was about to have my baby. Then I had a big surge standing next to the bed. That got her attention! I was helped onto the bed and another nurse, Sarah, checked my dilation, announcing, "ok, there's a head!!!"

Now the nurses scurried to get a monitor on my belly and told me I could push now because I was fully dilated. They also asked me if I wanted a hep-lock (the start for an IV without being hooked up to anything) despite being so close to giving birth. This had actually been my plan if  I had labored in the hospital for a while, but my wonderful doula now whispered in my ear that I could refuse if I wanted to. This baby was coming, it really didn't matter now. So while I had reflexively said yes, now I turned around and said, "wait, yeah no! I don't need to be poked with needles right now." Thank you for the reminder, Britney! The hospital nurses were fine with my choice (knowing your rights and what is or isn't medically necessary is crucial to having the birth/and or hospital experience you want!) and I got back to focusing on having my baby.

Then Dr. Cap came running in, literally out of breath (according to my husband). But he was all smiles, saying "Hi guys! Ok, let's have a baby!" And he sat down, immediately assessing the situation and giving me the guidance I needed to push effectively and get that baby out. He was with me for about 5 pushes until the head was out, then he helped clear the baby's shoulder and then my husband was able to put his hands out and catch our baby as he entered the world, eyes wide open. Even though he wasn't there long, having Dr. Cap as my OB throughout my pregnancy allowed me to completely trust him so when it came time to give birth, his presence helped me relax rather than tense up. Choosing him as my care provider for my pregnancy was the best decision I made and it's through his wellness center in Encinitas, California that I had access to prenatal yoga, chiropractic, acupuncture, massage and all the AMAZING classes we took to be educated and prepared for our birth. It really shows how important choosing the right care provider (for anything!) is.

From left: Dr. Cap, my husband, me and baby, Britney - my doula.

From left: Dr. Cap, my husband, me and baby, Britney - my doula.

Even though I had not planned on laboring at home for so long and having a tense race to get to the hospital, in the end I had exactly the birth I wanted. One of my fears/stresses had been possible medical interventions (even though I was prepared to make even a C-Section birth, a beautiful birth) and just being back in a hospital with all the memories of my past experience from my accident. But by being happy at home for so long, there wasn't enough time for the hospital staff to realistically think about doing medical stuff to me once we arrived, and I didn't have time or the mental space for my past hospital memories to intrude or stress me out! I just showed up and had my baby, and after he was born, it was all about him so none of my past injury-related stuff could ruin it. It also allowed me to have a new hospital experience that was completely positive and pushes aside all my painful memories of being broken.

The whole birth experience and my classes and education leading up to it showed me the power of an educated, empowered preparation for birth or any other "health" event or procedure. Birth is NOT a medical event (although it gets turned into one all too often), but the stress, tension and often pain can be removed from so many physical experiences by using the tools I learned in Hypnobirthing, and through getting educated about you're going to experience! Knowledge IS power (and freedom, and relaxation, and preparation) so I hope you can see from my experience that taking the time to learn everything you can about what you're going through and what to expect, what your rights are in a medical setting, and by taking the time to assemble a healthcare team that will help you through it the way YOU want it to unfold can work wonders for you and the entire experience you have. There is so much about this I can share about how it applies to helping everyone, so keep your eyes peeled for future posts and maybe videos with the amazing doulas who taught me about this!

What about you? Have you had a scary medical experience that could have been helped by having more education or less stress and the tools to navigate it? Or have you used some of the same tools and had them help you through a tough experience? Let me know in the comments below!


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Heartbreak and Healing

* Before anyone thinks the worst, the baby and I are fine! I only just realized this morning how the title and photo could give the impression otherwise *

I struggled with how to write this post this week. I want to say so much but then I second guess myself. I want to share and be totally honest and real with you, but I've experienced some dark, heavy stuff and I get scared of dragging you down by writing about it here, but then it doesn't do you (or me!) any good to just gloss over what's real, even if it's hard to write. The positivity that you see in me is real, that's a huge part of my personality, but I struggle with a lot, too. So instead of just telling you that and moving on, I want to dive even deeper this week than I have so far.

Waiting for my occupational therapist in the rehab hospital.

When I was healing from my accident for the first few years, I yearned for someone who would just "get it." My heart was hurting so much and I was so tired of trying to explain what I was going through all the time, and even my amazing husband who was with me through the entire hospital ordeal had no way of fully understanding the effect the crash itself and the TBI had had on me.

I remember nights where I would cry so hard I would wail and scream to the point I couldn't breathe. I felt like my heart was breaking in half. Once, my husband said to me (at the time he was still my fiancé), "I know" when I expressed how hard it was for me emotionally. But instead of feeling comforted, I yelled at him, "NO! you DON'T KNOW!" and angrily sobbed some more into a pillow. Then I felt really bad for snapping at him but he quietly left the room with an, "ok" and let me cry it out.

I was frustrated and hurting and so desperate to just feel "better" like, YESTERDAY. I didn't know myself and I felt like a huge piece of me was lost, never to be found. I was healing but I still felt broken, inside and out, and I felt like I had been robbed of my joy. The worst part was fully remembering who I'd been before I got hurt and how all the things I was capable of "before" now seemed so out of reach. I felt like a stranger to myself because the new me was so foreign, and unwanted!

Learning to walk with a cane in the rehab hospital, my physiotherapist, Karen, guiding me.

I hated that new, unknown me. I hated myself for  being "weak", sad all the time, and incapable of just bouncing back to "normal". I just wanted to get the old me back and I wasn't willing to accept this person I had seemed to become. I knew I would never be exactly the same but I wanted to be a normal human being again, not this broken, brain-injured girl. I felt so frustrated and impatient and angry. I still wanted to do epic things with my life! To have a fulfilling career, change the world, help people, have a family, travel the world... basically DO IT ALL. I think I set even higher expectations for myself after being injured than I'd had for myself before I got hurt. Probably not the kindest thing I could do for my body that was already doing the best it could...

But with my bar set super high for myself, I worked hard to heal. It was a slow process but I tried everything I could think of and afford. I even used a few sessions paid for by my health insurance to try getting therapy to treat my PTSD and the grief I knew I hadn't fully processed. The therapists I went to didn't help though. One just let me talk, but didn't give me any tools, really, to deal with what I was telling her. And the other, she told me that I should just accept who I was now instead of striving to get better. Cue the raised eyebrows and, "EXCUSE ME?!" that ran through my head.

Learning to climb stairs with my right leg doing all the work. I was wearing an eyepatch when not in PT to help correct my double vision.

I already understood that there were many things that I couldn't change about my body and my life, and I had to accept them. I have hardware in my body that will never come out. I have scars, my brain works a little differently and I need more rest than I used to. I can never run for exercise again. But now I know I can live with and manage those things. I can accept them. What I couldn't accept was allowing myself to slip into a mindset of "this is good enough," where I would just stop trying. No way. I'm a fighter and a problem solver... even to my own detriment.

When I was in the hospital with a feeding tube, I was too brain injured to understand its necessity. All I felt was this awful tube taped to my face, going up my nose and down into my stomach and I hated it. To me it was a problem and it made me uncomfortable, so I figured out a way to fix the problem.

I pulled it out.

17 times.

And when they tied my hand to the bed so I couldn't reach it, I brought my face to my hand and continued to pull it out! Seriously. Even after all those times, I never realized that pulling it out meant that it would have to go back in again. That realization really sucked, every time. But my problem solving skills were intact! Just not that little part of my brain that understood consequences...

I used to wear this face all too often. Frustrated, confused, mad, upset... With time, I learned to move past that and find joy again.

When it came to my recovery though, having something to focus on and fight for was giving me purpose and it's that feeling of purpose that helped me get to where I am now. And now, my focus and my purpose, and many of you probably guessed, is this baby that's growing inside me.

Obviously the baby brings me a lot of joy and has totally shifted my focus away from trying to "fix" the remaining challenges I still face due to my injuries, but before I conceived, I found that giving more attention to my passions and following my heart was creating space for my joy to return. The less I let what "happened to me" control how I felt and the less attention I gave to my "cognitive deficiencies", the more I could do more of what made me happy and gave me confidence. But this whole pregnancy thing is opening up a whole new level of understanding, knowledge and perspective on healing and wellness.

You know what's amazing? Despite the TBI and 14 broken bones, including my hip and my pelvis, I have a NORMAL pregnancy! It's not high risk! I was so sure it would be and I was so scared, but our bodies are AMAZING.  From conception, everything has been perfect. Normal ultrasounds, normal wellness checks, happy and healthy mama and baby. Can you believe it?!  It's teaching me to trust my body and what it can do. Obviously I help it out where I can through food, movement and staying mindful, but it knows what to do and I'm trusting it.

One thing my husband and I are doing before my due date is taking a hypnobirthing course together to help both of us prepare for the birth. Before you get all "oh no she's just going to talk about weird pregnancy stuff now," bear with me because this applies to all of us.

It's actually not a weird woo woo thing (it really needs a new name) and it will give us the tools, knowledge and techniques to have a beautiful birth, without fear. We're aiming for a natural birth and from what I've learned so far is that regardless of how the baby decides to be born and no matter what happens (even if a c-section or other intervention becomes necessary, which were big fears of mine going into it ), the hypnobirthing course will give us the ability to navigate it all without a ton of stress and fear. 

Peace is totally possible.

So how does that apply to you? Learning about birth, which is another big, life changing event (although much more positive than my accident was), is teaching me that so many of the same things apply to life, healing and wellness. Education is key, and so is your team - the people you have around you who are supposed to help you. I need to trust the people who have so much control over my and our baby's health, and our whole birth experience! If I don't feel comfortable with them, I'll be tense, birth will be harder and it may mean a higher likelihood of medical intervention, and all that means healing may take longer and be harder, and I could be in more pain.

Trusting my team allows me to relax and trust the process, and sets me up for healing and recovery before labor even starts. Education, knowing what to expect (as much as you can), knowing your options ahead of time and knowing what your rights are are all vital to feeling calm and  prepared when I go into labor, too... but those things ALL apply to any experience with healthcare providers and  hospitals and treatment! It doesn't matter if you need surgery, or physical therapy, or a prescription. We all need a good team around us, we need to be able to ask all the questions we want to ask, and we need to have our healthcare team respect our wishes and our personal plan for wellness. My team after my accident was amazing and I'm still in touch with many of the people who cared for me at the accident scene and in the hospital. And now, the doctors I have in my life make me feel totally cared for. It really makes all the difference.

I'm in my third trimester now - the home stretch! I am so grateful for everything I'm learning and even more so for how it applies to my wellness journey overall but while I still feel great, fatigue is starting to mount and I still have so much prep to do! I hope you'll forgive me for taking some time away. A little self-imposed maternity leave of sorts. I am growing a little person after all, and I need to take time to properly prepare for his arrival, but it means the world to me to stay connected to you. I'll still be posting to social media and maybe blogging if I can, so make sure you're following me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter so you don't miss any posts and so we can keep getting to know each other. All of you reading are truly in my heart and I don't want to lose touch with you.

And I'd love to know, what are some really hard things you've dealt with and how did you get through it? How do you take care of yourself and your healing process? What do you do to make sure you're getting the help and support you need? Let me know in the comments below.


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How I Transformed My Scars
This week's post is a lot more personal than I've been getting. Honestly, it's hard for me to go down this road and share with you like this. It's much easier for me to share information that I've experienced to be vital for wellness and healing, but is still mostly objective. I hide behind my journalism training, I'll admit. I know it can make it harder for you to connect with me in a more personal way. But now I'm ready to share this with you.

My accident left me with 14 broken bones. From my left foot to my cheeks, I was in pieces and my orthopedic surgeon literally put me back together. I am so grateful and because of him, I can walk but the accident and the repair of my body left me with scars. Big ones. Many visible, many unseen, and all difficult to bear.

The images below are different stages of repair in my left femur. Broken, after the rod was placed and a year and a half later. The uneven modeling of the healed bone is still like that - I can feel it -  and the rod will stay in my leg for life.

For years, every time I'd look in the mirror, I'd cringe when I saw the marks on my skin reminding me of the trauma and fear and pain I had experienced. And the emotional scars inside, usually kept safely out of sight, would surface at the most unexpected and inopportune times, making me cry spontaneously in front of complete strangers. It was awful. I hated how my physical scars looked and I was so sick of CRYING so damn much. I have never cried so much in my life as I have over The Accident.

But one day one of my best friends, Mel Says, showed me the Instagram account of a tattoo artist named Dr. Woo who tattoos at the Shamrock Social Club in West Hollywood . I already had a few smallish tattoos on my back but when I saw his work, I was enchanted.

I NEEDED to get a tattoo from this man and although my first ideas where for something small to fit with what I already had, I suddenly had the idea of covering one of the scars on my thigh. And then I realized if I was considering covering one, why not cover all of the scars on my upper leg?! I felt they were my most glaring and ugly scars and I hated them so much. Living in California, we can go to the beach year round and I'd had people ask me, "what happened?!" when they saw them. Those scars forced me to re-live what had happened every time they were exposed and I needed to be free of them in order to continue my healing. I also knew that plastic surgery or cosmetic dermatology meant more medical intervention and likely over $10,000, neither of which appealed to me!

So I got in touch with Dr. Woo and scheduled my first session for around my birthday. When we started, he used a pencil sketch and some photos that I brought him to draw a freehand design directly on my leg with markers.

There were very few changes. His design was perfect. 

As he started to tattoo the outline and I felt the pain of the tattoo needle, I remember being overcome with gratitude. Even though it hurt, I felt so grateful to be alive, to be feeling the discomfort, and to be there in that moment, getting this incredible piece of custom art tattooed on my body. The emotion brought tears to my eyes but I breathed through it, desperately not wanting to cry in front of the "tough" tattoo guys in this iconic shop on Sunset Boulevard! I know now they would have been very sweet if I had cried, but still.

Click to view larger

This tattoo started as a way to cover my scars, to hide the ugly and try to erase this piece of the trauma... but as time went by, I realized this tattoo had allowed me to transform these scars into something beautiful. The scars are still there, I cannot erase them and they are still deep and painful and I feel them every day, but they no longer have power over me. When I look in the mirror and see my tattoo, I don't see my scars anymore and I can smile.

My completed tattoo.

What I see now is this amazing, gorgeous tree. Gnarled and weathered, twisted by growth and wind and life, but standing strong and budding out as if in the spring, full of life. When I see it, I remember the experience of my sessions at Shamrock where I was in amazing company, instead of being reminded of the worst moment of my life. It was truly transformative, physically and emotionally.

Dr. Woo and the other tattooers in the shop laughed and talked with me through hours-long sessions (my longest one was 5 hours!) and made the whole experience more positive than I could have hoped for, and guys, if you read this, I am still so grateful. Thanks.
Dr. Woo was incredibly kind and easy to talk to, and he made the whole experience more than worth the 2+ hour drive to see him. This video about Dr. Woo went up on MrPorter.com recently and  you should watch it and read the article. It'll give you a good idea of the man he is.  I feel really blessed to have discovered him and had him be the one to do this tattoo for me.

The script written in the bark of the tree carries a lot of meaning for me, as well. If you follow me on social media, you've probably seen me post some images with quotes about courage. This script is a quote about courage too, from my favorite book,The Deed of Paksenarrion. It reads: "It is courage that splits the acorn and sends the rootlet down into the soil..." and speaks to how courage is inherent in all living things. It is not a thirst for conflict, but just a quiet little piece of ourselves that is incredibly brave and always present. It reminds me that courage is not something I need to get from somewhere else - it is in me already and is always there when I need it. This idea, and that whole book, pulled me through some very dark times. If you enjoy well-written fantasy novels (not cheesy), I highly recommend it.

My tattoo made an appearance while shooting photos for next week's post. If I look closely, I can still see the scars underneath but even I have to look for them now. Click to view larger. Photo by Mel Says

The tattoo also helped me feel like I had control over what happens to my body again. I didn't ask for the injuries, and as grateful as I am to my surgeons, I didn't get to consent to surgery either. I was unconscious (or close to) and all the repair was done out of necessity - not because I asked for it. It all led to me feeling like I had given up control over my body, which is not like me at all under normal circumstances! Getting tattooed was a way for me to take what had happened to me and make it my own again. I was now in control of what my skin looked like, of what people saw, and what it meant.

 My body has many other scars that are not tattooed, but tattooing this part of me helped me to start accepting my other scars as they are. It helps that they are fading with time, for sure, but I still feel them running deep through every layer of skin, fascia and muscle, right to the bone. I feel the adhesions that restrict my movement, I feel the changes in the bones that keep me from using my body in every way I'd like to. I'd be lying if I said I've fully accepted my body the way it is now because I truly believe I can still regain more of what my injuries took from me. But I've come to terms, more or less, with how my scars look and I know that they serve a purpose. My scars are part of me and they help me to practice yoga everywhere in my everyday. They help me with mindfulness. Did you know yoga means union? Yoga stretches far beyond the mat and my scars remind me to be grateful for everything I have and also serve to show others who have been through similar stuff that I know what they suffer. 

That's really the driving force behind my desire to help people; to help you. I've been through some of the worst imaginable stuff, but I got through it. I've been "there" and I know suffering. But I also know it gets better and I want to help people achieve a recovery they feel equals "better".  Because that's all that matters - that you feel "better", not that other people see you that way. No one can know what it is to be "all better" except you, the one who went through it.

Am I the same? No way. But no matter what we go through, life changes us and we are never the same. The trick is knowing how to accept the things we cannot change and integrate them into who we are now, and love those parts of ourselves! It is also having the strength to put in the time and work needed to heal or strengthen what can be changed. And to seek help when it's needed because no one can do it all, alone. It's not easy but there is a way. I want to help you find your way.

The banner image at the top of the page (and cropped below) shows the surgical scar on my left arm. It is where my humerus was repaired with a plate and screws. When I squeeze my arm, I can feel the lumps where the bone healed in a less-than-perfect way but it's part of me now. I still have some pain in my elbow when I lift weight or do certain exercises at the gym, and even in some yoga poses, but it's getting better and I'm learning how best to use my arm so it doesn't hurt. Feeling cute, comfortable, and supported in my YOGiiZA top helps too. Funny how feeling good in other ways, like a wearing a cute outfit, can make the tough stuff a little easier but it totally does!

I am bionic now and this hardware will be in me until the end. I've inquired about having it removed - I had the rod taken out of my left tibia last year! But the rest is too difficult to remove and could do more harm than good. My arm has delicate nerves that could be irreversibly damaged by more surgery, and the rod in my femur is completely inside the bone - removing it would mean essentially breaking my leg again. No thanks. 

I am scarred but now I know that my scars show that I have lived. None of us get through life without them, whether they're physical or emotional. Learning to make my scars my own and accept them has allowed me to reach another level of healing. It's like forgiveness, when we stop being angry. Hating my scars was only hurting me more and preventing me from healing a part of myself. I am still aware of every mark of my body but I am simply mindful of them. Aware, but not grieving their presence. They serve me now, in a way, to bring yoga and mindfulness into my life every day. If you read my interview with Bethany at From the Pasture, I talked about how yoga was one of the most helpful things I did for my healing. It still is.

You will probably see my other scars show up in photos in my blogs or on social media... I hope seeing mine helps you to accept yours in some way. I can talk about them now so if you have questions or need to share something, please feel free. Comments, email, I'm always listening.

xoxo Maggie

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