Wednesday, April 6, 2016

2 years since the best selling Childrens book; "Why Does Mommy Hurt?" was published!

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Two years ago, I self-published "Why Does Mommy Hurt? Helping Children Cope with Having a Caregiver with Chronic Pain, Fibromyalgia, or Autoimmune Disease?"  It was a long process, taking almost a year of planning, writing, illustrations (by my father James Miller), and fundraising through Kickstarter.  On Mothers Day 2014, the book was published and became available to the world through  Much to my surprise, it quickly became a best seller in its category (Chronic Pain and "Children: difficult issues," and I started receiving passionate thank you letters and emails from parents and children all over the world.

I decided to write the book for my son, Jimmy, who was 3 at the time.  After talking to a few friends who also had chronic pain, I realized that there was potential for the book to help some of the millions of families going through the extreme challenge of raising children while suffering from a chronic illness.  I had no idea the impact it would have, or the wonderful path I'd soon embark on: writing and speaking about self-advocacy, guilt and shame, and building up the parenting-with-pain community.

In the past two years, I've been contacted for interviews by dozens of newspapers, blogs, and organizations to speak about issues and concerns related to parenting with chronic illness.  I also presented at two conferences; the National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain "TAP" conference in Washington DC, and the Hemophilia Federation of America's symposium in Las Vegas.  I've met hundreds of wonderful, strong, and dedicated families, practitioners, and non-profit organizations, and been introduced to a massive community of parents with chronic illness.

I started off on this journey in 2007, feeling very alone, struggling to get through each day.  I now am part of a wonderful community of parents, and can't wait to continue my work on writing, speaking, and working to help support families dealing with chronic illness!

Author and Illustrator, HFA Symposium Las Vegas, 2016

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Experiencing the Extremes of Childbirth; This Mom has Done it All!

For mother-of-two Jessica Utt, childbirth has been anything but typical.  Her first child, daughter Lillian, was born after 37 hours of grueling labor. Two years later, her second daughter, Evelyn, brought her to the extreme by arriving so suddenly that she never made it to the hospital, and gave birth to Evelyn in her bedroom. Both of Jessica’s birthing experiences are extremely rare, according to Denita Speyer, MD, OB/GYN of Reston Hospital

“In my career I have treated only three or four patients that weren’t able to make it to the hospital in time, and in each case it was not their first delivery”. 

Evelyn was born July 30th, 2014, less than two minutes after a team of paramedics arrived, and after only an hour of intense “active” labor.  She had her first contraction around 8pm, after attending a prenatal yoga class.  They were mild, and longer than seven minutes apart until about 1:45 am, when she suddenly experienced what she termed a “monster” contraction that made her fall to her knees.  This wasn’t something she that had been prepared for.  “They told me to go to the hospital when they were five minutes apart, but that never happened!”  Soon the contractions had moved from two to one minute apart, and Evelyn was born about an hour later. Jessica recounts: 
Jessica Utt with her daughters Lillian (left) and Evelyn.
Photo Credit Jacki G Photography, Richmond. 

"Around 2am, I finally made it upstairs to tell my husband Tyson that I was in labor. I had a contraction and lay on the bed moaning. He said "You need to relax, we have a long way to go!" Based on what happened with our first child, he thought I was in early labor!  At that point, I decided to get in the shower to try and slow things down, but I never made it. I was having contractions one on top of another, and within minutes I feel myself pushing!  I had him call 911- I could feel her head! Thankfully, the paramedics arrived fast, because the baby was crowning when they walked in! The next contraction I pushed her shoulders out and there she was!

Most women experience shorter labors in 2nd or later pregnancies, though typically the difference in duration is nowhere near so dramatic as Jessica’s.

Jessica approached her first delivery, of baby Lillian, hoping for a natural, drug-free experience.  But as a trained Physician Assistant at a Richmond area family practice, she was resolved to prepare herself for anything that may come. Two years before Lillian was born, Jessica also had the unusual opportunity to serve as a doula for the delivery of her identical twin sister’s first child.  Her nephew’s birth had been the result of more than 22 hours of labor, so Jessica had some suspicion that her own labor might be on the long side. However, a 37-hour labor wasn’t even on her radar.  Dr. Speyer would have concurred, stating that “labors lasting 24-30 hours occur in less than 5% of all births, and a 37-hour labor is extremely rare.”

 According to Jessica, however, the length wasn’t even the worst part-- it was the extended, unrelenting pain.  Her midwife later confessed that Jessica’s early labor contractions seemed “on par with the pain level most women experience towards the end of active labor, which is called transition.”  In fact, Utt had strong contractions one or two minutes apart or less for 28 hours straight.  She went into labor at 3am on April 17th, 2012. She labored at home and in the birth center for almost 24 hours before her water broke and showed mecomium- a sign of fetal distress.  She was transferred to the hospital immediately, and received an epidural as well as pitocin, but it took an additional 13 hours for daughter, Lillian Christine, to arrive.

Asked if she would’ve done anything differently, Jessica said that with her first, she may have tried to spend more time at home before going to the birthing center, but that she probably wouldn’t have gotten an epidural any sooner. “My contractions slowed down dramatically when I got the epidural.”  With her 2nd, she admits she probably should’ve woken her husband sooner, but doesn’t believe she would’ve made it to the hospital either way.  Besides, who can blame her? She was expecting another marathon labor!  Jessica also has some hard-earned advice for new moms: “Babies come when they want and how they want. Accept your birth as your experience and embrace it. Labor is not easy, it's the most difficult thing a women can do, but women are strong!”  I also asked Dr. Speyer if she had any advice for moms worried about either of the above scenarios happening to them: “Be prepared for both a marathon and a sprint!”