Bekah: [00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to today's episode from Power of MoMMA's Voices. My name is Bekah Bischoff and I am the Program Manager. Today we will highlight a certified patient family partner and talk about her journey to advocacy and to mama's voices. We hope this will show our listeners that while we all have different stories and advocacy styles, we are all a community and we all contribute to better outcomes in maternal health.
I am so excited to introduce our guest today, Melissa Gordon Metzler. Melissa is both a mental health provider and a HELLP syndrome survivor. She is now working as a marriage and family therapist, and we really go way back and so. So honored to have her with us today. Melissa, I just wanna thank you so much for taking time outta your schedule, your very busy schedule to be with us.
You have such a touching story and I would love for you to share a little bit about your birth story with us today. [00:01:00]
Melissa: Well, thanks Bekah for asking me to be on here to share my birth story. I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of MoMMA's Voices and to have the opportunity to share my story. So I am a mama of three.
HELLP syndrome came roaring into my life in 2012 with my first birth. I birthed twins. So my first two April 2nd, 2012. And basically the story goes, I had a somewhat normal pregnancy, twin pregnancy. So I was high risk right off the bat. I was being seen by maternal fetal medicine just making sure everything was looking good and those twins were amazing.
Everything was looking good. Every time I had an appointment, the non-stress tests were passing. But around 33 weeks, I just started to not feel well. I was getting very swollen. I was gaining weight. Really [00:02:00] fast. Speaking to the doctors about it. I was very grateful to be pregnant. I've always wanted to be a mom and have lots of kids.
So really kind of struggled with activating my voice and kind of sharing my distress because I never wanted to seem ungrateful. For everybody's help. We're all so grateful to be pregnant and to be a mom. Didn't wanna complain, so kind of lightly started to share my symptoms. And you know, the doctors kept reassuring me that it was just normal twin pregnancy stuff.
But then as we were heading closer towards like 35 weeks I just knew something was really, really wrong and was definitely advocating a little bit more for myself. But the non-stress tests continued to pass and the doctors were pretty much just like, Nope, you're okay. And I was like, well, you know, things don't look okay.
Physically. I'm very swollen. And you know, my urine was very dark and they're like, Nope, you're fine. You know, drinking a lot. Well, you can't be drinking that [00:03:00] much if it looks like this. And just kind of kept quiet and didn't really know what to do with it. I was 36 and a half weeks.
Thought I was in labor went to the hospital and my doctor was like, you know, walk, maybe you can get yourself dilated, you're not dilated enough. And I was really, really sick at that point. I had gained 30 pounds in about three days and could barely move off my couch. But I just kind of like when there's a will, there's a way, and took that inner strength.
I did a lot of prenatal yoga always work a lot on my mindset. And walked and walked and walked to the hospital. Had the, my doctor had gone home and the house doctor was on staff and , pretty much said to me, if you're walking like this, you're not in labor. And at that point I pretty much said, well, I think I'm dying actually and I'm taking everything in me to walk cuz I need these babies out.
I need them out right now, or I'm going to be dead. And the doctor kind of laughed and [00:04:00] told me I was a bit crazy and if I wasn't dilated, I would be on my way home. Which is what happened. Went home. That night felt really sick. I did a lot of vomiting which fill actually the bathtub cuz the toilet wasn't enough space and that was about a week of that.
My mom had flown in from Florida at that point cause we thought we were having the babies and she pretty much was like, we need to get you a hospital. And I said, Nope. I'm tired of everybody telling me that I'm dramatic and that I'm okay and this is normal and you know, if I die tonight then. It's on everybody else, and hopefully we can all learn a lesson.
And she kind of, it didn't sit well with her, but she said, well, you have your high-risk pregnancy appointment tomorrow and let's just go over at the opening and not wait for the time. And so I, I did that. I, you know, made it through the night and went to the MFM appointment. And they took one look at me and I was very yellow at that point and said, all right, we're gonna do the [00:05:00] non-stress test, but you don't look okay.
My appointments are actually all in the hospital that I delivered, and we're gonna send you up to your ob gyn after this, the twins, believe it or not were completely fine. Pass the non-stress test. I got to my gynecologist, he took one look at me and he said, I thought you delivered the babies other night when I saw you at the hospital.
And I said, no, I'm still pregnant. He looked at my chart, said, go in the room, and came in and said, how does today feel to have those babies? I said, well, I've been asking for this because, to be quite honest with you, I feel like I'm dying and something is really wrong with me. And he said, well, let's will you over to the other side of the hospital and we'll, we're gonna do a C-section, but today's the day.
And I said, okay. So I'll never forget that wheelchair ride over there was like, they have the people in the hospital to try to make it more comfortable. A clown gave me a sticker. I was just so excited to get my children out. I knew I needed it and I was just happy that we can move along.
And when I got to the room, there was [00:06:00] about 10 doctors that greeted me and I just knew something was not right. My doctor came over and held my hand and said to me you know, I, I'll feel guilty if I don't tell you what had happened. And I think you really need to know basically when you were here, the other night nobody read your blood labs before you left and your blood labs had already shown that you were in renal failure, kidney failure, pretty much complete organ failure.
You've lost most of your platelets, you would bleed out right now if you even got a cut. So we're gonna need to do a couple of blood transfusions. We're gonna put you on mag drip which is probably the most awful feeling in the world. And let's get your husband here. You might wanna talk to your family.
The only way that we can save the babies and save you is to deliver, but your body is very weak and we're all praying for a miracle that you'll survive the surgery. So at that moment just kind of started connecting with myself connecting with a higher power [00:07:00] and just really felt I needed to live.
And I was gonna do whatever it took to get there. And was just wanted the doctors to do whatever it took to save the babies. I was on the mag drip for about four days, so I have amnesia. I don't remember. I had general anesthesia. Nobody was in the delivery room. The babies were delivered April 2nd, 2012 at four o'clock and 4:01 and I woke up Thursday evening and met my babies for the first time that I can remember at that point.
And. I'd like to say that we had the most incredible miracle of our lives. I used to say that the birth of my first two was the worst day of my life, but I can say 11 years later it was the best day of my life. I woke up and we're here and on a mission to help other women to make sure that, that a story like mine doesn't live on for generations to come and we can, we can do better and, and learn from it.
So yeah, that's my birth story.
Bekah: Oh my [00:08:00] goodness. Well, wow. Thank you so much for sharing all of that. I think it's so interesting. You had all of the right tools. You had the mfm, you had the non-stress tests that were done. You had mm-hmm.
Bekah: the access right, to all the great healthcare and things, and you were still saying, I'm not feeling well.
Something is not normal. Still knowing something is not right and consistently being dismissed, which is something that we just hear so often. I just think it's so interesting that you had all of that. So often it'll be, you know, we'll hear like, oh, well they weren't with an MFM, or they didn't. Mm-hmm.
Mm-hmm. But you had all of that and you were still saying, okay, something is just not right. And I'm so glad that you have found your way to us. I know that you know, you have learned through your healing journey, how to share your story I'll let you talk about it.
I love how we both delivered in the [00:09:00] same year. Mm-hmm. I just think it's, I just love divine intervention when I see it happen. And so I would love for you to talk about how you found MoMMA's Voices and really what got you involved in sharing your story to begin with. Yes, definitely.
Melissa: So how I found MoMMA's Voices you know, I had said to you, Bekah, and I can tell everybody listening now that this is a big day for me for Bekah and I to sit here together.
So long story short, I was doing something for USA Today and trying to find out why the morbidity rate is so high in the s USA for women. And as you said, we have access to a lot of resources and I know a lot of families don't have the access that I did because I had come in high risk.
But, you know, I was presenting outwardly. Fine. And because we don't do blood tests to check our organs or you know, our platelets while we're pregnant regularly, unless [00:10:00] you have an outward symptom. And I was very healthy in mind and body, so my blood pressure never rose. So really, I was trying to be a part of this investigation.
I was very intrigued by it. In the beginning it was very hard for me to share my story. It was a lot of trauma. I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, would shake to even think about it or to even share. But with some good mental health resources, I learned sharing my story was my healing adventure.
And so, I decided to be on a mission to share my story. So when I had found out that there was an investigation happening with USA Today and I was, you know, get me involved at that point I just wanted to share my story and to help others to make this problem better. So I got involved with MoMMA's Voices because I had the wonderful opportunity to meet you, Bekah.
During that investigation, we were all interviewed and then they had picked a handful of us afterwards to video record so US A [00:11:00] today could show us sharing our stories. And after everything was said and done the reporter had called me and said, I need you to meet one other mom from this whole investigation.
She said, you and Bekah are like two peas in a pod. You need to meet you share a soul. What she had shared with me, she said she's from the south and blonde and, you know, you're this northeasterner and brunette. She was like, but the way you guys spoke of your story and what you wanted to do afterwards was just so aligned.
And so second, I had connected via Facebook and we would chat. I was actually supposed to go to Summit. I forget at the time what it was called or who it was through. It was right before the pandemic, and I was actually doing my clinical rotation and I couldn't walk away. I went back to school to be a therapist after all of this.
And you know, I said Bekah maybe another year, and then the pandemic happened, slightly lost touch, but then recently, Bekah, I saw you posting on Facebook about MoMMA's Voices and reactivated my interests and said, yes, I need to get back [00:12:00] involved. I need to share my story.
Bekah and a team through MoMMA's Voice created this incredible opportunity for other women like us who have had traumatic birth situations, to share our stories and to help one another and facilitate growth. So we no longer see such high morbidity and mortality rates. So, that's my long story of finding MoMMA's Voices started way back when in 2016, when Becca and I were connected.
And then Refinding. Seeing how much has grown since that investigation through MoMMA's Voices.
Bekah: my goodness. It like literally gives me goosebumps. It makes me cry to think about it because to all y'all that are listening, we really like, I think we both would've said back in 2016, even 2015 was kind of when the interviews and That's right.
Yeah. Mm-hmm. Emails all that kinda started, like, I know for me, like I said, like, oh, I'm just. To mom. Like I don't even have a story. Like whatever, like I kind of had buried all of it and mm-hmm. Didn't really ever talk about what had [00:13:00] happened. And then to be able to be on this side of it and be connected to someone like Melissa, who had a story so similar to mine, and now we get to be involved in advocacy work together.
It's just. Oh my goodness. There's just no word for it. It's just so amazing to be on the other side and see all that has happened. And kind of like what you said when you started Melissa, that you used to say it was the worst day of your life, but it was the best. And I can really say that the best thing that happened to me out of my experience was getting to meet amazing people such as yourself.
And those are friendships and bonds that just, they last a lifetime because we carried that trauma and all of that together. And I would love to also say a very fun fact is that not only did we deliver in 2012, not only were we part of the USA Today's Deadly Deliveries investigative series, but we both share the same birthday.
Yes. It's like [00:14:00] the stars have all aligned and it is amazing. I would love for you as we kind of close out here in just a few minutes, I'd love for you to talk about how you mentioned it how you were unable to attend Summit when you wanted to because of your professional career and how things have kind of shifted but merged together with your love of advocacy work.
Could you talk a little bit about that for us?
Melissa: Absolutely. So after the investigation and realizing how essential my story was, I realized. How much purpose I found through my pain and how if my storm could become somebody else's survival guide, then it all made everything worth it. And I had a lot of realization of actually how my mental health, cuz I've always been a mind and body person really helped me to survive.
I started to realize how little mental health are we provided when we are, you know, giving birth and it's such, [00:15:00] oh my goodness, we could do a whole other podcast on that alone, but just how much we need to incorporate the mental health piece as well as, you know, while we're still growing and shaping how we're physically maintained.
There's just not enough, but mental health should be just a part of the standard as well. So, you know, I really was just inspired to go back to school. So I was a special education teacher in my previous career, but while I was still a teacher, I was inspired to go back and to get my degree to become a therapist so I could help other people find their purpose through their pain.
And I realized like if everybody had access to sharing their story, how much. Healing could happen. And so I do a lot of narrative work as a therapist and creating the story and understanding the story. And then how do you utilize your story? Because if we can utilize our story, as painful as it is, I always tell , my clients and my patients, I say, you know what?
I'm so sorry for everything you've been through, but now you're a part of a club, and this is, [00:16:00] you know, Bekah, I feel like you can say this too, like this club that we are all a part of, unfortunate circumstances have happened to get us into it, but we all live differently, most of us. Right? And if you can really create your story and embrace your story rather than pushing it down or avoiding it or running from it because it's so hard and it's so painful, once you embrace it, you just get to live so differently.
I know I live each day with purpose and you know, I'm grateful and I feel inspired every single day. Because I'm just thankful that I got to live , and if I could provide that for the community and teach them how to do that through therapy or, you know, work with other people like OB GYNs and everybody at MoMMA's Voices to help facilitate how to find and access therapist. I just think that's one more step in the right direction to allow for best case scenarios in childbirth.
Bekah: Thank you [00:17:00] for sharing that. I love how you've just been able to to merge what you are passionate about with your professional skills and how it just oh, it's just, it's so amazing when people find their sweet spot, right?
And they find what they, mm-hmm. Do what advice would you give to somebody listening? Because sometimes we have people listening and they might think, you know what? I have not done anything in advocacy. I don't feel like I can do it. Or maybe they found us and they're not a certified patient family partner.
What advice would you give to somebody who's listening who feels kind of that itch? Like they wanna get involved?
Melissa: I think it's very scary, right? Because what brings most of us here is pain and who
wants to sit in that? And so I'll oftentimes say to people, if you can pick short-term pain, you'll have long-term gain.
So just knowing that it's gonna be hard, but what I love about MoMMA's Voices and going through the patient partnering is how much support you have [00:18:00] while you're doing that. Right? And so there's no push for time. You can pause, you can. You know, access other people who have gone through it if you might need just a little bit of support.
And so again, yes, I'm not gonna say it's not difficult to crack yourself open to go through the training or to, you know, reach out and get involved in advocacy, but I can promise you the more you do it, the more you heal. And then the more you inspire yourself, the more you inspire others. So, Every little step counts too.
You know, you don't have to be the person that's gonna stand up and speak in front of 500 people. Maybe you're, you're the person who gets to sit next to somebody in a hospital that's coming out of a very hard situation and just be there. Right? People say all the time, like nobody knows what to say or I don't know what to say, and then we say people just need time.
Just need time and space. And so again, maybe you wanna share your story, maybe you wanna [00:19:00] use your voice, or maybe you, you want to just be there for somebody. So I think, I hope that answers your question. But I think honestly, there's so many ways to get involved, and what I love about MoMMA's Voices is if you're on the other side listening, you don't have to figure that out.
That's the beauty of MoMMA's Voices. MoMMA's Voices comes together to help facilitate that. You get to share where you're comfortable and then they present to you opportunities. So it's just really awesome. I think sometimes what stops a lot of us isn't just the pain, but it's the where do I begin? And MoMMA's Voices allows for the logistical piece to not matter so much, and you just present fully as you are and where you're at.
Bekah: Oh my goodness. You could not have answered that better. So yes, absolutely. You answered it absolutely beautifully. And I love how you said, you know, you don't have to stand on a stage and speak to 500 people to make a difference. That you can do that in the small places. Right, like the hospital waiting room.
Mm-hmm. Yep. You know, standing in line at the grocery store sharing your [00:20:00] story, and there's so many different ways that you can do that. Well, thank you so much for being here today and for being so open to share about your pain and this great purpose that you have. I know that this will be such an inspiring episode for all of our listeners.
Thank you so much for tuning in today.
Melissa: Thank you.