Mojo Monday ~ The Letter That Needed To Be Written

Goddess Leonie with her beautiful daughter.

This morning I read a powerful and honest account regarding pregnancy, birthing and post partum depression. It was written by Goddess Leonie and I applaud her bravery in sharing her personal experience.  I believe that it will touch lives and comfort thousands of women who have felt alone or suffered in shame.  You can find her story by clicking here:

I wrote Leonie a private heartfelt letter.  It isn’t one I will share here.  What I can share is that it struck a chord with me. It seriously had me blubbering early this morning, because I can so relate to her story. The pressure of caring for twins was really hard, but adding to that was marriage challenges, low self-esteem and on top of it all trouble in friendship land. I felt so incredibly depressed and so alone for quite some time. 

As I began to do intensive work on myself and my marriage, finding my voice was a part of the journey.  An important step I took was to write to some medical professionals about my birthing experience.  I wasn’t treated the way I needed to be treated and I wanted to speak up because I didn’t want any other women to experience what I did.  I originally posted this back in January of 2009 on my first blog, which started off mainly to be about raising twins.  That post was called “The Letter That Needed To Be Written.”

Today when I awoke my mind was already in the middle of composing a letter. I lay there in the dark listening as the words weaved their way through my mind and to my fingers. I went straight to a journal and began to write in long hand, the words flowing and pouring forth onto the pages. My letter was in regards to a very personal experience, the birth of my children. I am finally sending a letter I feel could have been sent much sooner. I won’t say “should have” because for whatever reason it must not have been time quite yet for me to write this letter. Perhaps this is the right time because I am feeling so much more open to messages from the greater universe and I find synchronicity glittering along this path I am traveling. I wanted to share my letter as I wrote it not just for myself but for all women. I write it for all women who have or will birth a child. Symbolically this letter can also be for anyone who births a painting, a book, a song, a dance…

I share to empower you to speak up when someone has not shown you or your birthing respect and consideration.

Dear Dr. Skipitis,

This letter has been residing in me for a long time. There was a point in time I thought of not writing one at all. Yet just this morning I awoke with the words flying through my head. I hadn’t even been thinking about this for quite a long time. Yet I suddenly felt compelled to write this letter, not just for myself, but for all women who will seek your care or will inadvertently find you are the physician on duty when they arrive to deliver their baby at Mercy Medical Center.

My intent in writing this letter is to share with you an experience I had almost three years ago. You played a role in the experience. I am hopeful that you will really hear me and give thought to the role you play and the impact you can have on the lives of the women you serve. You see I believe that doctors in your position serve in a beautiful way. You are there to help bring new life into this world. You are a witness to a human being’s arrival.

A little less than three years ago I arrived at the Mercy Medical Center with my husband to deliver, not just one baby, but two. I was expecting identical twin daughters. I was 36 weeks along when my water broke. The girls had been growing and developing beautifully according to the many ultrasounds. The estimates of their weights and sizes were right on track.

Early on in my pregnancy there had been a concern that the girls were monoamniotic. This was troubling when we read about the complications that could arise. Fortunately this was ruled out by an advanced ultrasound. We traveled to Sacramento several more times, as our doctor felt it was necessary, due to concerns about twin-to-twin transfusion. Again, fortunately we had no such problem.

Except for my own discomfort throughout the pregnancy, nausea that lasted for months and months, a persistent cough and the swelling, the girls appeared healthy and perfect in their safe first home. As we grew closer to the estimated delivery date the weekly monitoring of the girls heart rates began. I would lay uncomfortably propped up with pillows on a table, wires and monitors strapped to my belly. I couldn’t lay flat and being on my back, even though propped up, was quite uncomfortable. A few times during the monitoring I even experienced painful contractions. Yet this is what was required of me in order to ensure my daughters were healthy and thriving.

You were not my doctor so I had not shared any of this journey with you. It really is a journey. One that changes the contours and map of your body. It is also a journey that affects your mind, spirit and emotions profoundly. Your body is no longer your own. You are sharing it with another human being, in my case, two new human beings. My body was giving them life, feeding them and sustaining them.

While you were not my doctor and did not know me, you were the doctor on duty that night I arrived at the hospital. I learned later that my own doctor, Dr. Mooney, was attempting to celebrate an anniversary that same evening. He would eventually be disturbed with a phone call about me, his patient. He tried to assist from a distance the best he could that night.

When I arrived at the hospital that evening with my husband, bags in tow, I was beginning to feel the first tugs of the contractions. I had been feeling so completely calm ever since my water broke at home on the bathroom floor. I felt prepared. My bags were packed. I had drafted an email to family and friends already. All I had to do was hit send and load up the car.

The nursing staff was incredibly welcoming upon our arrival. I was quickly admitted and we were shown to our room. I changed into a hospital gown, leaving all sense of modesty at the door. The staff efficiently helped me into bed and began placing heart monitors on my belly and wheeled in a portable ultrasound machine.

The ultrasound showed that Baby A – our Maya – was head down and in position for delivery. Baby B – our Aubrey – had been head down for months, but just a few weeks back turned into a transverse position. This being a fairly recent change in positioning my doctor had not talked about what this might mean in regards to delivering.

It is about this point in the story, babies’ heart beats being monitored, me trying to find a more comfortable position, and the contractions beginning to intensify, that I received a phone call from you there in the room. You introduced yourself as the physician on duty and explained you would be delivering my children. The conversation we shared was rather brief so the next part of your message came out rather quickly. You said that you would be performing a c-section. I responded that we had wanted to deliver vaginally. You stated that a c-section was necessary. I asked why we couldn’t still consider a regular delivery. Instead of explaining or speaking to me as if I was an intelligent person you responded that this was the only way you’d deliver the babies. I said I needed to speak with my husband. You added at the end that if we didn’t agree then you’d have to have me removed from the hospital and flown by helicopter to a distant hospital.

I was holding the phone, lying in a bed in a hospital, in a hospital gown, contractions pulling at me more strongly, baby heart monitor beeping and I was calmly registering your statement that if I didn’t agree to a c-section with you that you would have me removed from the hospital.

There was some final statement from you about calling me back in a few minutes to find out our decision. The phone was hung up and I relayed your message to my husband. My husband felt a twinge of fear as he wondered if you really had the power to make such a decision. The idea of his wife being removed from the hospital while in labor with his children was rather terrifying. The staff in the room was listening and hearing what you had said too.

At that point in time the saving grace in this situation was the supportive and caring, truly caring, responses from the medical staff in my room and my husband. I could feel the women in that room circling around me protectively, offering me their strength and support. I was comforted with statements like “You aren’t going anywhere,” “This is your delivery,” and “You have choices.” Their statements were true and I knew it.

The mere idea that a doctor would threaten a patient in labor with twins that she could be removed from the hospital seemed ridiculous. It felt like a scare tactic to get me to do what you wanted, with no discussion or questioning of your opinion. It made me think of the old cliché “My way or the highway.” If I didn’t acquiesce immediately to your orders I needed to hit the road.

I am an intelligent and reasonable person. I needed you to explain to me and I needed you to converse with me. I didn’t need to be ordered around or spoken at.In light of what you had told me the staff made phone calls to other doctors. We awaited another doctor’s call or arrival. In the meantime the babies were still being monitored and my contractions were growing more intense and painful.

When you called back I was focused on what was happening with my body and the babies so my husband took your call. You asked what we had decided. My husband responded that we were waiting to hear from another doctor. You sounded angry on the other end of the phone and asked who was this other doctor that was being called. My husband replied that he didn’t need to tell you that. You again sounded quite angry over the phone and stated that you wouldn’t be our doctor and would not be delivering our babies. My husband told you that he thought that had already been decided.

Not too long after that phone call from you Dr. Pena arrived to speak with us. He was kind, gentle and reasonable. He performed another ultrasound himself to check the babies’positions. I asked him why we couldn’t try for a regular delivery since Maya was head down. I suggested maybe Aubrey would then have room to turn around. Dr. Pena explained he had not heard of that happening in all his years of delivering. He calmly explained the risks. He said that if Maya was the smaller baby and she came out first we ran a risk of trying to deliver Aubrey breech and the vaginal opening not being big enough for her head to come through last. The danger was lack of oxygen and rushing to perform an emergency c-section to save her. He explained all this and shared that he was not comfortable with such a delivery, but there was no ultimatum or orders. He simply said he would give us time to ourselves to talk about it and make our decision.

Upon his departure we had our discussion. While I had hoped for an old fashioned delivery I knew that I had not carried these two beautiful and healthy girls all these months to risk something happening to one of them. We did not want to risk their safety and so we had a nurse let Dr. Pena know we would go forward with the c-section.

The exchange we shared with Dr. Pena is how I felt it should have been from the very beginning. Speak to me reasonably. Don’t just toss out orders. Especially when it comes to something so amazingly intense and personal as the birthing of ones’ children.

The story of course continues without you. Dr. Pena delivered our girls and they were healthy and beautiful. There was a complication with my recovery as I hemorrhaged and a code blue was called. There was a bit of excitement as the hospital staff worked on me to stop the bleeding and save my life. In the end I was okay and I began my recovery. In a few days we went home with our daughters and began the journey of being parents and caretakers.

Family and friends asked us about the delivery. Some of our contacts were with people in the local medical community. When they heard the story of what had been told to us about being removed from the hospital they asked who it was that said such a thing. We told them.

I am insightful and I am willing to consider that anyone can have a bad day or an off night. At one point I wondered if you were having a bad day. I was willing to make an excuse for your treatment of us. I was willing to consider that maybe this was very out of the ordinary for you. Yet, there were several people who heard the story and who either knew you or knew of you, and they gave a knowing smile and a nod of the head. This story did not appear to surprise them.

I trust that you are a good doctor. Perhaps you are even exceptional. I am sure that you have had patients who have liked you and found you to care for them in all the right ways. I have seen you on television in support of public television. In fact that was the first time I ever “saw” you. Seeing that made me think that you must be a thoughtful and caring man. I noticed at the local Kids Kingdom playground your name on a plaque as a donor. It made me think that you must also be a generous person who gives to the community and cares for children and families. I don’t think you are a horrible person from my one experience with you.

What I do still wonder though is how many patients have you treated and spoken to the way you did me that night. How many women have been scared by the threat of being removed from the hospital by you? Perhaps I am the only one. It seems doubtful, but maybe that is the case. Yet if that is the case, what made my particular situation the one where you would say such a thing?

I don’t expect or even want a response from you. You may choose to crumple up this letter and throw it away. Yet I write with the hope that you will stop, listen and really be able to see through a woman’s eyes what it was like to interact with you on a momentous occasion in her life, a night like no other. I write with the hope that you will never speak to another patient the way you spoke to me that night. The women you serve as a doctor deserve more respect and consideration than I was shown that night. I hope that will always be the case for the women you serve in the future.



P.S. I am sharing this letter with my previous physician Dr. Richard Mooney, my delivering physician Dr. Pena and with President/CEO Rick Barnett with Mercy Hospital. I believe it is also important for them to hear this story in hopes that they too will be reminded of the very important role you all play in caring for a patient and providing him or her with respect and understanding, in addition to the best medical care you know how to provide.

Cc: Dr. Richard Mooney
Dr. Jorge Pena
President/CEO Rick Barnett

Fat Cow

Fat cow.

I would say that most of the people I know wouldn’t dream of calling someone a fat cow. Saying something mean and hurtful like that just wouldn’t happen. While I don’t know Oprah Winfrey personally I would hedge a bet that she also wouldn’t dream of calling someone a fat cow. She is just too nice and too respectful to do such a thing. She is the type of person who works on helping people feel better about themselves. She sincerely wants people to have better self esteem. This is why she moved years ago to covering all the positive topics on her program.

It is interesting that while many of us wouldn’t consider calling someone else something like fat cow, we might easily take a verbal punch at our self and call our self a nasty name.

“I felt like a fat cow.” This is a statement Oprah makes in the January 2009 issue of her magazine. This particular remark was made in regards to her feeling she had hit bottom when she wanted to stay home from a show as fun as one with Tina Turner and Cher in Las Vegas. She said she was supposed to stand between them onstage and wanted to disappear. She added that she was thinking to herself, “God help me now. How can I hide myself?”

I went looking for photos of Oprah with Cher and Tina as I hadn’t seen the show. In the photo above I see Oprah looking attractive as usual. She is wearing some sassy heels and a gorgeous dress. When I finally found a clip of Tina and Cher performing Proud Mary at the end Oprah joins them on the stage. It was amazing to think that she actually thought she looked like a fat cow. Her dress was very flattering and she looked like she had a nice figure.

Truly I felt a little disturbed by Oprah’s comments about herself. When I think of Oprah my thoughts travel first to her amazing life story. I believe that Oprah has the following she does and is loved by thousands because of that life story. People love to see someone rise up from the bottom. She has succeeded in spite of being born to two young people who weren’t prepared to have a child. In spite of the poverty. In spite of being female and a minority. In spite of being molested as a young girl. In spite of working in a field that is very competitive. In spite of her weight.

Once my thoughts get past all of that I then think of all the good works she is doing in the world. Her school in South Africa for girls and the Angel Network are just two examples. Oprah is an amazing woman who is extremely hard working and intelligent. It is thinking about these accomplishments that makes it so sad to hear how she could be so reduced to focusing on the physical that she would feel like a fat cow. She also fell into the trap of comparing herself to others and in this case it was none other than Tina Turner and Cher. Oprah shared “As I interviewed them, I was thinking, ‘Who’s the real older woman here? I am. They didn’t just sparkle; they glittered.” I believe that MANY women, if put on the same stage with Cher and Tina Turner, would find themselves lacking if they began a comparison game.

Oprah talks about the struggles with some health issues, medications, and letting her life get out of balance, to the point she wasn’t making time for herself. She is honest about her frustration and how she began eating whatever she wanted. She says specifically “My drug of choice is food. I use food for the same reasons an addict uses drugs; to comfort, to soothe, to ease stress.” I also took note of her sharing a comment made by her friend and author Marianne Williamson. Marianne said “Your overweight self doesn’t stand before you craving food. She’s craving love.” Oprah added to that observation, “Falling off the wagon isn’t a food issue; it’s a love issue.”

Reading Oprah’s self disclosing article was also a powerful reminder to me about my own issues with my current weight. I too have felt embarrassed about my weight gain. I too have avoided gatherings, parties, photos, going to my old town with the fear of running into someone who would quickly notice how much weight I had gained. Like Oprah I also thought I had the weight thing all figured out and that the battle of the bulge was finally over once and for all. I worked out six to seven days a week for one to two hours for a good number of years. I watched what I ate all the time. It seemed like I could do that forever. It helped that I didn’t have a relationship or children. The two biggest portions of my life consisted of work and working out. I filled in all the other moments with playing on two volleyball teams, riding my bike, gardening, dancing, rollerskating, swimming, doing arts and crafts.

I think that some of us, maybe lots of us, have that tendency towards wanting perfection. I sense that even though Oprah says she wants her new program to be about her health and not about being thin, she also really wants to look like she did in 2005. She wants to look like Tina Turner and Cher. How many of us strive and desire to look like the stars and models who taunt us from the covers of magazines? This focus on how we look can create such dissatisfaction with ourselves. Even when I was a skinny size 10 and looked great in clothes and in workout wear I knew that I wasn’t completely satisfied with how I looked naked. I actually had thoughts that the only way I would ever look “perfect” was if I elected to have surgery.

I believe Oprah is right about health being the ultimate goal. Health is truly the golden chalice. If you do not have your health the quality of life can begin a tailspin off a cliff very quickly. I attended a conference where the speaker was a woman who had an impressive career as an endurance athlete. When she stood in front of the audience even I would admit she certainly didn’t look the part of an exceptional athlete. She wasn’t a model and she didn’t have an exceptional figure. In fact she was an older, shorter, slightly overweight woman. The people in that audience were from the local community and I recognized many as top trainers from the local gyms who happened to be impressive athletes in their own right. A number of these trainers happened to be in their 40’s and 50’s. I also knew some in their 20’s and 30’s and while some of them might fit the expected look of a gym trainer, that certainly didn’t pertain to all.

I ended up sitting next to a young man who introduced himself as a sales rep for body building supplements. He was attractive with muscles bulging. I suspect he was willing to talk to me because I was young, thin and had defined muscles of my own. As he looked around the room he stated that he expected to see more athletes and body builders at this talk. I figured he was looking to make some contacts, do some networking, with the ultimate goal of making some sales of his products. I realized as he spoke that he had no idea who was in that room. I shared with him that some of the top physical trainers from the local gyms were present and that many were impressive athletes. What I left unsaid is that he wasn’t recognizing this because these people weren’t matching his expectations of what you see in the magazines. Not all athletes or people with great health look like Olympic models. Not all athletes have muscles in all the right places.

It is an adjustment to anyone who has craved to look attractive and beautiful to change their mindset. There may be a certain internal struggle about “settling” and about not striving to be the best. Questions may start to spiral. Can I settle for being healthy? Can I settle for not attaining the type of thinness that the media propagates as ideal? Can I quit beating myself up? Can I quit feeling like I failed? Can I quit thinking that I am a disappointment to my husband? Can I quit fearing that I am an embarrassment to my children?

The deeper and more real questions to start posing are the following: What do I win for being thin? Am I a better person if I wear a size 6, 2 or zero? Will I really have the perfect life if I look perfect? What do I accomplish by beating myself up? What do I gain by pointing out all my flaws and imperfections? What good comes of comparing myself to others, especially women who find it necessary to meet the physical expectations of Hollywood?

The truth is that barraging oneself with negativity leads to lowering self-esteem, greater self loathing, depression, more fear, increasing stress and this can easily cycle into believing we are worthless. The worst case scenario is that it can even steal our desire to live.

We get to make choices about what really matters. Some may make career choices that dictate they need to look a certain way. I for one would never want a career that was based on my appearance. I believe that more people need to set examples about what really matters in this world. It shouldn’t be about looking like Tina Turner or Cher.

We are each unique with our own set of genetic DNA that can dictate a whole lot about the size of our behind or how easily we gain and lose weight. It is about time that we begin to truly value and respect diversity and that means not just diversity of skin color or culture. We need to respect that we aren’t all meant to be a size 0. We aren’t all meant to fit into a size 6 shoe. We aren’t all meant to be 6 feet tall with legs that last forever. A woman can be larger and healthy. Just as a woman can be skinny as a rail and completely unhealthy with high cholesterol and a heart condition.

Copyrighted to Himalayan Academy Publications, Kapaa, Kauai, Hawaii.
I would love to have a conversation with Oprah and remind her that in some cultures a fat cow is revered, almost like a God. A cow is one of God’s creatures. It is almost humorous that the poor cows are getting a bad rap from her again and this time it isn’t about their meat. Oprah was once sued by the beef industry and had to appear in court. The beef industry lost its case as it grew apparent she hadn’t meant to defame their industry intentionally. Hopefully the Hindus won’t take her to task for insulting one of their most sacred animals. They love all cows -fat, skinny, tall, short, young or old. It doesn’t matter. They all get the same amount of respect. Isn’t that how it should be for us all?

Suggested Reading ~ You Can Heal Your Life by Louise L. Hay
“Overweight is another good example of how we can waste a lot of energy trying to correct a problem that is not the real problem. People often spend years fighting fat and are still overweight. They blame all their problems on being overweight. The excess weight is only an outer effect of a deep inner problem. To me, it is always fear and a need for protection. When we feel frightened or insecure or “not good enough” many of us will put on extra weight for protection.
To spend our time berating ourselves for being too heavy, to feel guilty about every bite of food we eat, to do all the numbers we do on ourselves when we gain weight, is just a waste of time. Twenty years later we can still be in the same situation because we have not even begun to deal with the real problem. All that we have done is to make ourselves more frightened and insecure, and then we need more weight for protection.
So I refuse to focus on excess weight or on diets. For diets do not work. The only diet that does work is a mental diet—dieting from negative thoughts. I say to clients, ‘Let us just put that issue to one side for the time being while we work on a few other things first.’
They will often tell me they can’t love themselves because they are so fat, or as one girl put it, ‘too round at the edges.’ I explain that they are fat because they don’t love themselves. When we begin to love and approve of ourselves, it’s amazing how weight just disappears from our bodies.
Sometimes clients even get angry with me as I explain how simple it is to change their live. They may feel I do not understand their problems. One woman became very upset and said, ‘I came her to get help with my dissertation, not to learn to love myself.’ To me it was so obvious that her main problem was a lot of self-hatred, and this permeated every part of her life, including the writing of her dissertation. She could not succeed at anything as long as she felt so worthless.”