This is a guest blog post from Kristal, a C. diff survivor. She shared her original C. diff story with us in 2018. You can read it here. For more updates on her journey and healing, you can follow her on IG @GUTSYMAMACDIFFERENTLY.
Most of the stories I read when I was battling C. diff were from people still suffering or stories of those who had died. I remember my dad saying, “You always read the worst stories online, you don’t hear about the people who get over it, because they are off living their lives.” But dealing with a serious illness changes you. My story could have been very different, I could have stayed stuck in the past, but life goes on. I choose to rewrite my story and for that I am so proud of myself.
I have worked hard to raise awareness and support others long after my diagnosis. I spent years living in fear doing everything I could to survive, believing that I would never get rid of it or see my daughter start school. It has taken me a while to feel comfortable enough to share this story, but I am finally ready to share my positive post C. diff birth experience. I hope it reaches someone who may feel helpless like I did.
I knew I was healing from PTSD when I started responding to my emotions instead of just reacting to them. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I allowed myself to slow down. I put my own health and wellness first. I realized I didn’t want what I had gone through after the birth of my daughter (C. diff, the physical and mental impact) to define me for the rest of my life. It may have taken 5 years of healing physically and mentally, but I contacted the doctor who supported me when I was suffering. After referrals, and with the support of my family and friends, birth trauma therapist, consultant appointments, and microbiology involvement, I was finally able to let go of the fear and take control of my life again. I was finally able to move past my past.
Although I shared a lot about the traumatic birth experience I had with my first pregnancy, I decided not to share my second pregnancy with the world. I decided to invest the time in myself and keep my pregnancy private. After not feeling in control of my life for such a long time, I needed to do it on my own and I needed to feel in control of the things I was able to control. It has been a truly calming inner experience that I will cherish forever.
Having dealt with a life-threatening illness and antibiotic resistance which almost ruined my life, I decided I had to take an active role with the care I was going to receive in hospital. I knew that I had to be my own advocate this time round.
A client recommended Jan Butler who is a birth trauma resolution (BTR) practitioner and specializes in supporting women with debilitating symptoms of birth trauma. My treatment involved rewind therapy, where we safely went back over what caused my PTSD and by being in control, we were able to retrain the brain to feel safe with these memories and stop flashbacks. It was one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had.
I had an elective cesarean for my second pregnancy and the techniques I learned from birth trauma therapy helped me to feel in control which made it a really calm and positive birth experience. After my consultant reviewed my previous birth experience, she contacted microbiology for advice. After a lot of consideration, I was given prophylactic antibiotics during my cesarean section but only ones that were low risk for causing C. diff as advised by the microbiologist. Be your own advocate and always ASK THE QUESTIONS!
My son was born at the beginning of March (International women’s day), and I found the whole experience liberating. Knowing that being in a hospital could be a trigger for my anxiety, I requested to go to a different hospital from the one I had my traumatic delivery in. I took my own PPE, antibacterial cleaning wipes, and this time I took probiotics. I wanted to get home as soon as possible and with no complications. I was discharged less than 24 hours after surgery.
We had no visitors for 2 weeks while I focused on healing my wound and spending time with just the four of us. To prevent infections I used Medihoney, an antibacterial wound gel which creates an antibacterial environment that is effective against a broad spectrum of bacteria including antibiotic-resistant organisms to aid healing. I rested and embraced every second of newborn life being in our own little bubble.
I am breastfeeding my son, something else C. diff took away from my daughter. But we will always have a special bond because of what we went through together and I couldn’t be happier that I was finally able to give her a brother. He is her friend for life who is extra special because I had convinced myself I was never going to have another baby.
Trauma can last a lifetime and so many people will suffer in silence developing depression, anxiety, paranoia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) which can also have negative effects on your relationships with family and friends. Although I can’t get that time back, birth trauma therapy helped me to no longer live in fear. I accept what happened after the birth of my daughter and I am proud of myself for not giving up and for finally having the courage to achieve my dream of having another child. I hope others can avoid the loneliness, desperation, and pain that I felt for such a long time by reading positive stories and seeking help when they need it.
I also hope that healthcare professionals understand the importance of listening to their patients and that having empathy towards their situation, physical or mental, is just as important and can make a huge difference to the patient experience. I wish I had known then what I know now, but I am here to support others with a cause that’s close to my heart. I continue to heal my gut through my diet and love of probiotics, you can follow my journey on Instagram. @GUTSYMAMACDIFFERENTLY