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I Thought I Would Go Crazy When My Child Died. Hypnotherapy Saved Me
PHOTO BY courtesy of Karen Ostil-Principe
  • When my husband and I found out we were pregnant with our first child, we were ecstatic! As a newly-married couple, this was part of the natural progression of our life together.

    But it was a complicated pregnancy. I had always been strong and the pain was something I could easily endure, but nothing could prepare me for this.

    I was about to go on my third trimester, and I went to my ob-gyn for a routine check-up. The OB commented that I had too much water in my tummy. She then mentioned that she saw a “bubble” in the throat area of the baby. But she didn't want to assume anything, so she asked me to get another ultrasound

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    Karen and her husband were excited to welcome a new baby to their family. Little did they know that it will be filled with challenges.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Karen Ostil-Principe
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    The second ultrasound showed the same, but the bubble was seen this time in the stomach area. She confirmed that this was a high-risk pregnancy case and referred me to another doctor from another hospital. That doctor, after requesting a third scan, confirmed there was a congenital issue with my baby’s stomach. She insisted I get an elective CS immediately so that they could operate on her.

    I went to a third ob-gyn because my parents also wanted a third opinion. I went on a Thursday, got an ultrasound on a Monday, and prematurely gave birth on a Tuesday. Then everything thereafter was a blur.

    My baby, whom we named Summer, was five weeks premature and she was rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). On her fourth day, she was operated on. On the first day of recovery, we thought everything was going well. But unexpectedly, she had gotten a fever, which aggravated into sepsis. She went into a coma twice.

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    The first time, they were able to revive her, but by the second one, her frail body gave up. My Summer passed away.

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    Losing Summer

    This grainy picture is the only photo Karen has of Summer.
    PHOTO BY courtesy of Karen Ostil-Principe

    Losing our baby left us both inconsolable. I was heartbroken, but more so my husband. Because everything happened so fast, we didn't even get the chance to hold her or hug her in the NICU.

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    'At one point, I thought, “Hindi pwede na pareho pa kami mabaliw.”'

    In between surgery and taking care of me, he was the one who had to run and beg for neighboring medical facilities to take in Summer's blood and have it tested because the hospital where we were confined in didn't have the tools to do the test. He would run around holding a cup filled with ice to make sure the blood sample didn't go bad or else the hospital staff would need to draw another batch of blood from Summer's premature body.

    I believe the pressure of holding the very thing that would tell us whether Summer was going to make it or not had taken a toll on him. And then her passing away only further deepened the sorrow.

    As first-time parents, we didn’t know how to deal with Summer’s death. My husband completely shut down and didn’t talk. I escaped to sleeping hours and days at length. And when awake, I depended on drinking and bingeing on food. We were inconsolable. But then at one point, I thought, “Hindi pwede na pareho pa kami mabaliw.” And so we sought help.

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    How hypnotherapy helped me

    My husband had read about Neuro-Linguistic Programming or hypnotherapy, and that, I can honestly say, saved me.

    In essence, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is about re-wiring your brain based on thought and behavior patterns and language to reach a certain desired outcome (i.e. getting over a trauma or some other goal). It’s worth reading up on, but I’ll share with you one of the most important exercises that helped me cope with my depression.

    Life in frames

    This exercise is something visual people can do. First, remember the very moment of trauma. Recall it fully with all your senses  sights, sounds, and smells. Then, imagine slowly turning that scene into a black and white picture where the sounds are gradually muted and the color begins to fade away until that moment turns into a picture in your hand. Imagine then putting that picture in a frame and placing it on the wall or table. Then imagine walking away slowly with the picture getting hazier as you move away.

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    Essentially, this exercise teaches you that you do not need to forget that painful moment in your life and you are not doing any disrespect to your child by “detaching” from that moment. Just like a picture on your mantel, you can take a look at it when you want to, but you don’t have dwell and be trapped in that memory forever.

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    After dealing with their loss, Karen and her husband were blessed with a baby boy, their rainbow baby.
     PHOTO BY COURTESY OF KAREN OSTIL-PRINCIPE

     

    Tapping into healing

    Another exercise I learned just recently is the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which becomes an alternative treatment for physical pain and emotional distress. It's also referred to as "tapping" or psychological acupressure, helping to relieve anxiety and depression. It’s a little more complicated to explain, but I do encourage women to read up on it.

    Therapy isn't cheap, and I'm just so lucky that I have such a supportive network of friends and family.  But if you really think you need help, there are therapists who offer free sessions or I highly recommend joining group therapy.

    Postpartum depression can easily turn into a psychosis, so don't wait until it gets worse. Mothers, do not forget to take care of yourselves as it is very important that you stay sane and healthy for your baby, your husband, and the rest of your family.

    Thankfully after dealing with the trauma, we were blessed with a beautiful baby boy named Adam, our rainbow baby. He’s very stubborn and determined — just like his mama! — and also a sweet, sensitive and inquisitive little boy.

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    It took a while, but I’m thankful that I didn’t decline the help offered to me. Filipinos think getting therapy means you're going crazy, but it's really just another form of a medical check-up. Getting help doesn't equate to weakness; it actually makes you stronger. 

    If you want to learn more about hypnotherapy, you may reach out to NLP and HypnosisPhilippines through their Facebook @NLPandHypnosisPhilippines or email them at nlpandhypnosisphilippines@gmail.com.

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