Monday, July 8, 2013

Eye of the Tiger Should Be My Theme Song

A picture of my sweet Liberty Grace at one year of age.
I'm going to go with she was worth it!

Excited as I was to be pregnant for a second time, there was much difficulty in the beginning containing my fear.  Being only four months removed from my miscarriage, I wondered at what point I would be begin to feel safe.  Each time I would hit a milestone, I would breathe a short sigh of relief, but then I would look toward the next milestone and wait for the shoe to drop.  I think things finally started feeling okay when I finished the first trimester and things felt much better when I went for the ultrasound at the 20 week mark.  I was excited for the ultrasound because I wanted to know the sex.  I was absolutely certain I was having a girl, and not being the most patient person in the world; I needed to know for sure.  The tech couldn’t say with all certainty I was having a girl, but she was pretty sure there was no male equipment present.  I happily began snapping up all kinds of pink.

The first 20 weeks of the pregnancy weren’t that bad.  I had horrific nausea, but rarely vomited.  However, because of the severity of the nausea, I had a very difficult time eating.  (I never had any strange cravings but I developed an aversion to bacon almost immediately.  The mere sight of it would make my stomach lurch.)  As a result of the nausea, I actually had a net weight loss during the first two trimesters of my pregnancy.  I certainly wasn’t trying to lose weight and my abdominal measurements and ultrasounds indicated the baby was growing, so, I was content to let my pregnancy serve as an awesome weight loss plan.  I know that’s not generally how it works for folks, but that’s what happened with me.  There is, of course, the fact I was not a small gal to begin with.  My body had plenty of stores to draw from and I was taking my pre-natal vitamins and necessary supplements as I went anemic early in the pregnancy.  Of course there is a draw-back to only gaining between five and ten pounds throughout your pregnancy: when you come out of the hospital weighing less than you did the day you got pregnant, it’s really difficult to blame the weight you later gain on your poor kid.  I never had the luxury of saying, “Oh, I’ve really got to drop this baby weight.”  Um, yeah, no.  She was never going to get saddled with that guilt!

The real fun began after the first trimester.  During the second trimester of my pregnancy, I developed a severe UTI.  I had made it almost 30 years of my life without a UTI.  I had no pain from it, but had other symptoms that were, for a woman who was pregnant and unaware, extremely frightening.  I’ll spare the gory details, but just know a call to the on-call doctor led to a trip to the emergency room.  Although it completely shot my nerves, everything turned out okay with that issue and remained calm for a bit.  Once the third trimester hit, things were going to go less smoothly.  Despite the almost complete lack of weight gain, the pregnancy was really stressing my body.  I wound up developing preeclampsia which led to a great many more doctor visits, ultrasounds, tests, and bed rest.  Between the anemia, high blood pressure, sporadic back issues, and my seemingly weakened immune system, I was more tired and exhausted than anything else and almost looked forward to bed rest just so I could sleep more.   I recognize most pregnant women are tired and face increased health risks, I just didn’t realize then the inner health demons I was fighting to get through each day.  And there were just so many appointments between the OB/GYN, ultrasounds, blood specialist, emergency room trips, and the chiropractor, I’m not completely sure how I was managing to even go to work.  But I did.

Word came ten days before my due date I would have to be induced.  At that point, I had started spilling protein and it was no longer a better option for my baby girl to remain in utero.   Between the blood pressure, swelling, and protein, it was time to get her out of there and into the world.  It was off to the hospital with me to have an induction.  I had no idea the wild ride I was in for that night.  The induction began easily enough, but got pretty hard in a few hours.  My contractions went full throttle after my water broke, and my blood pressure was spinning wildly out of control and dangerously into stroke territory.  An epidural at least got the blood pressure down, but did nothing in assisting with getting my baby girl out.  She was perfectly content where she was and had no plans whatsoever to leave her comfy little nest.

After 17 and a-half-hours of labor, two and a half which were active pushing and delivery, I finally laid eyes on my baby girl.  Liberty Grace had arrived; my sweet baby aptly named as she was born on a Tuesday and “Tuesday’s child is full of grace”.  I scanned her over and over, looking at her face and limbs, counting her fingers and toes (yes, I seriously did), and just marveling at this little miracle in my hands.  A few tears slid down my cheeks as I took in her absolute perfection.  I would have gone through a pregnancy ten times worse to have her.  She was beautiful and she was mine.  As I looked at her, I recapped the stats in my head on her weight, height, time of birth, and date, a thought entered my mind.  I remember distinctly as I said the date of her birth in my head.  The realization hit me I had given birth to her on October 21st exactly one year to the day I had miscarried was almost too much irony for me.  I thought of the child I had grieved, and looked at the child I was already in love with after only a few moments.  It was such a bitter-sweet irony to be had on that joyous occasion.

It’s true what they say about forgetting the pain though.  Obviously I remember the discomfort and pain of miscarriage, pregnancy and childbirth, but time allows you to forget enough to do it again.  No different than falling in love a second, third or fourth time when you remember being burned before.  Living and loving requires risk-taking.  It would be five years before I took those risks again to have my second child.  It was no cake walk between the two pregnancies as pregnancy seemed to unleash the full wrath of my unknown condition.  Dang it all though.  Regardless of the cost, I was going to do it again someday though I wasn’t really sure how.

After giving birth the first time, I knew it would take a while for my body to “get back to normal” whatever that means.  I just didn’t realize so many things were going to linger or that new issues would crop up afterward.  I had to continue with supplements long after her birth as the pregnancy had literally wiped me clean.  I was still anemic, I still had high blood pressure, and the pregnancy seemed to spur on new conditions and make old ones worse.  One of the absolute worst days of my life came when I was home alone with my infant baby girl.  Mr. Right had already gone back to work and Libby was about 12 weeks old.  She was still oh, so tiny.  My back had been giving me fits and I was still seeing my chiropractor just as I had done throughout my pregnancy.  There just was no relief, and it continued to get worse.

Home alone one day, I was carrying her and I collapsed.  The pain was so excruciating I wanted to scream.  I have no idea to this day how I managed to fall forward to the ground with her cradled in my arms without even waking her.  I sucked my breath in as hard as I could when I hit the floor, and turned my head sideways to exhale heavily.  I was breathing the pain in and out and trying desperately not to cry.  I laid her down on the floor so I could try to get myself in such a position that I could get up.  I crawled around my bedroom floor to the side of my bed.  I thought if I could at least make it to the side of the bed, I could possibly pull up on it and use the bedpost as a support.  As I raised the upper half of my body, that familiar jolt surged through my body.  I cupped my hand over my mouth to keep myself from screaming and waking my baby.  I literally closed my eyes, looked Heavenward and pleaded for relief.  I didn’t know what else to do.

It was not the first time, nor would it be the last, I had been stricken with such excruciating back pain that I literally went down.  It wasn’t even a matter of something in me hurting and me putting myself down to relieve it.  It was a matter of my legs literally giving way when that pain seared through me.  I just couldn’t for the life of me understand why.  Even at that point, a decade ago, I had been given multiple explanations for the cause of my pain: ruptured disc, pinched nerve, degenerative disc disease, and so on.  While everyone seemed to have a differing opinion on what the cause was, everyone seemed to agree on the treatment.  It was the same story no matter where I went: I would just have to learn to deal with it through pain management.  That’s the best advice a 28 year old mother with a newborn infant could get?  Take pain pills?  Seriously.  Perhaps you can see where the hopelessness of my situation began.  It began right with the people charged to care for me.

That’s when my love affair with Ibuprofen began.  I couldn’t constantly remain doped up on opiates.  I would occasionally take one or two just to get me through the most acute points, and then I would load up on Ibuprofen.  I know it wasn’t necessarily a healthier choice for me.  I can’t imagine the damage I must have done to my stomach and liver all of those years, but I couldn’t walk around in a haze either.  How could I take care of my child if I wound up addicted to drugs?  That just wasn’t going to happen.  So, I invested in Ibuprofen and I sucked it up.

I’ve had to do a lot of sucking it up over the years.  That’s fine.  Each time I have had to go through a round, it just made me that much tougher for the next round.  I won’t lie and say I took each punch with aplomb, but each time I got through it.  I would have my moments.  There have been plenty of pity parties over the years.  There were so many nights I cried and wanted to give up.  I didn’t though.  And as the hits kept on coming, I kept right on sticking it out.  I had no plans to go down without a fight.

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