Once we arrived at Pine Rest's contact center, we met with a social worker for my assessment. A question kept circling my brain...was I really at a psychiatric facility? A mental ward? This couldn't be happening to someone like me. While in the consultation room, I remember kneeling down in front of John in desperation, apologizing profusely for putting him through this awful situation while vowing that I was somehow going to get better so he could have his wife back.
The admissions process seemed long and a bit redundant. Explaining myself over and over again added to my exhaustion. Questions about suicide ideation and plans to hurt myself or others created new intrusive thoughts that I hadn't dealt with prior to these conversations. I really wanted to see the unit but John and I weren't able to due to patient privacy policies. Visions from Girl, Interuppted flashed through my head. To ease my inquires, I was told that I'd be on a high functioning unit, "The Taj Mahal" of Pine Rest, where pregnant women and new moms came to be treated for numerous things. To me, this meant that I'd have someone to relate to, someone who was battling the same hell as me. Then, as the initial assessment was coming to an end, I had to sign a waiver stating that the hospital could keep me for up to 72 hours if they deemed it necessary, or could petition the court to have me detained longer. This meant I wouldn't be able to leave voluntarily. Once again my hope was shattered. John and I discussed other possible options but there were none. Staying in a hotel for 24 hours to rest was not going to "fix" me and I knew that. I made one of the hardest decisions of my life, one that probably saved me. I had to stay.
We made the long walk down the winding hallway to the Van Andel-East unit. I remember it vividly. I said a tearful good-bye to John at the desk, they cut the strings off of my sweatshirt and took me to room #636. I was told by the nurse that I would have to endure a visual body inspection or "strip search". Though I had no history of self harm, they had to record and document any and all scars. With this news, my terror turned to humiliation and anger. I stepped into my new bathroom, took my clothes off and there I stood, naked in my new surroundings, while two women investigated my postpartum body. I recall pointing out my fresh c-section scar, a scar that reminded me everyday of my first failure as a mother. There were 2 things that were very important to me: a vaginal delivery and successful breastfeeding. A grade of 50% was not acceptable in my world.
John returned with some of my belongings, which to my surprise, were delivered in a basic brown grocery bag. Everything had been searched. Items not allowed on the unit were removed. Besides a toothbrush, I didn't have any of my usual toiletries. I said another teary good bye to John, got one last hug from my husband. We parted ways and I watched as he walked through the locked doors. I was left all alone to climb out of the darkness.
That night, I decided to join the group session that was taking place versus retreat back to my room. I'd do anything to distract the constant racing thoughts in my head. The strangers that surrounded me were more comforting than the four walls of my room. While in group, I noticed that there was no one there like me. There wasn't a pregnant or postpartum woman anywhere in sight as they had stated during my admission. I felt betrayed, I really was in this alone
Little did I know that things were going to get worse before they got better. That night was going to be my worst night yet...
Thanks to those of you that read my first blog post and all of your kind comments. Please continue to follow my story as I document my weeklong stay at Pine Rest, my road to recovery and the journey that inspired The Village Doula.
Your Village Doula,