Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My Story (part 2)


So fast forward to getting married…. I started college courses two weeks after Tom and I married. A few weeks after that, we found out that we were expecting. I was overjoyed, and Tom was a little freaked out at first, but quickly warmed up to the idea. All was great until I hit six weeks. I remember that quite well. I felt absolutely wonderful and then one day I woke up and thought I just might die.

My OB doctor said it was normal. He said that all women have morning sickness and to just eat crackers and take it easy. Well… okay… I guess. A few months into it, I had lost about 12 pounds, couldn’t drink anything, and had a very difficult time functioning. My OB told me to suck it up. I was just being a baby, and maybe I shouldn’t be having babies at such a young age.  I pretty much thought he’d know best…right?  Being my first baby, how would I know if this was normal or not? 

There were days that I could function okay. I might be able to eat some peanut butter. Or ice cream sundaes. I had developed a routine in the mornings. Wake up, eat some peanut butter toast, sit with a trash can in hand. Get sick. About ten times. Get ready for school. And sleep the whole way there (Tom would drive). Drag myself through classes. Cry. And be sick about twenty times in between. The doctors said if I could still function then I couldn’t be that sick. I suppose. Or maybe I’m just that awesome.

There were many trips to the ER for fluid IV lines and blood work. Some days I just couldn’t get off the couch I was so weak. I remember wanting to suck on ice because I was so dehydrated, but I couldn’t without getting sick. I really wanted to cry, but I didn’t want to let go of any more water than I already had.

At 20+ weeks, I finally went into the OB and said “this is not normal.” He asked in a very condescending tone “do you even throw up five times a day?”  I laughed and said “try thirty.”   I left his office with a diagnosis of Hyperemesis Gravidarum (Latin for: throwing up all the freakin’ time) and a prescription for Zofran. Zofran is a medication that they give chemo patients to try and keep the nausea at bay. It worked okay. I would still get sick, and the constant nausea was still there. It just allowed me to drink fluids—sometimes—and eat a little here and there. Towards the end of the pregnancy I was so mentally exhausted  from the turmoil this condition causes, I remember being sick in the bathroom and trying to knock my head on the toilet hard enough so that I could knock myself out. Looking back, it really makes me sad to think of that. I should have been hospitalized, but nobody –including me—knew how sick I was.

Towards the end of the pregnancy I developed mild pre-eclampsia. I had no amniotic fluid, which was not surprising given that I couldn’t even keep my body probably hydrated, and my mental state was pretty precarious.

I kept talking to the doctors, telling them something was wrong, that I couldn’t do this much longer, and to please help me. All I ever got (and I saw many doctors) was “you poor young thing. This is why little girls shouldn’t have babies.”  What the heck? They were treating me like a 13 year old girl who decided pregnancy would be a fun experiment. I was married (before I fell pregnant, I might add) and I was very responsible, thank you very much. And, anyway, I’m paying them, so what do they care?

I figured I must just be a big baby when it came to pregnancy. I recalled my days of being on birth control and wondered if there was a link. I mentioned that to my OB, but he laughed and said “the thing about being on birth control early is that it tells you how your pregnancies will be later.” 

Regina was born nine days late. Every day past her due date was absolute torture. I just needed this to be over. I was so mentally out of it, and physically ruined by the time she was born that I couldn’t even deal with her being born. All I could think was “glad that’s over. Now, let me eat and sleep.”  It took six months for me to be able to bond with her. Not because I resented her, but because I just had no energy for emotional stuff. The pregnancy had taken everything out of me. I was able to take care of her well enough, but my body was drained of nutrients, sleep, and strength… how do you bond with a new person while you have all that going on?

Thankfully she breastfed well, but by two weeks old she had her issues, and then I had to deal with colic for the next nine months, which meant I couldn't recover the way I needed to. And by the time she was ten months old, I found out I was pregnant with Veronica.

The doctor said not to worry, that most moms who have HG only get it with the first one. Not true. Yet again I was the 1% of women who get it with each pregnancy, and not only that, but I would also be one of the lucky few who would have it the entire pregnancy.
Veronica pregnancy was horrid. Again, all the stuff of vomiting like crazy, being on pills, and being in and out of the hospital. Only this time, I had a toddler to deal with.  At 18 weeks along, I woke up with a massive migraine. It. Never. Went. Away.  It was one long migraine from 18 weeks and lasted until a month after Veronica was born. How is that even possible?  I saw a brain doctor and he tried several narcotics, migraine meds, and tests. Nothing worked. He finally decided that it could be a brain tumor, so I was scheduled for an MRI at seven months pregnant. It was clear. Thank God.

At this point I was a zombie. I just didn’t have anything in me. My head constantly felt as if it were in a vice. I just wanted a hammer so somebody could knock me out.  The pills I had to take for the nausea (Zofran) had its own set of problems. I can’t eve remember all the side-effects it had, but I know severe constipation and dry mouth was amoung them. The cure was worse than the problem at times.

I was pretty miserable. I’m sure Tom was too. I did my best with Regina. I took her out places, we watched movies, we read books and played games, but I couldn’t be fully present because I was always thinking either “don’t throw up, don’t throw up” or  “can I put her in bed yet, so I can take a nap?”.

It was really sad. 

As with Regina, I developed pre eclampsia and no fluid with Veronica, so I was induced the day before she was due. Fine with me, let’s get this over with. When she was born I cried. The nurses thought it was cute. I was really crying because I couldn’t believe all this suffering was at an end. Of course I was very happy to have two healthy little girls, too.

Back at home I felt like I was barely alive. I don’t know how to explain it other than I had this overwhelming desire to just sleep all day, every day. Poor Tom had it rough. I tried to be happy and upbeat, but I’m sure I failed miserably most of the time. I know now that my body just didn’t have any reserves and the idea of running around with two babies, keeping up the house, and being a nice person AFTER surviving two horrific pregnancies is just laughable. I probably needed to be admitted to the hospital for IV vitamins and minerals, but … my doctors said everything I was experiencing was normal, and stop complaining about it.

I am not a complainer. At least, I try not to be… so it was very difficult to say “I can’t do this” to only be met with “you’re such a wuss.”  I wish I had known how sick I was, because if I did, I would have told Tom who would have stopped at nothing to get me well. And I wish I hadn’t been so afraid of doctors who were jerks.

Pregnancy with Amy was about the same. Only this time I was also battling severe depression. I didn’t know that at the time, though. Sometimes when you’re Catholic, you know you’ll be popping out sweet little babies all the time, and I just couldn’t cope with the idea that my whole life would consist of throwing up, going to the hospital all the time, fighting with doctors, and not being able to walk from my couch to the bathroom because I was so out of it.

Amy’s came into the world too early and that caused a whole new set of worries. I was constantly paranoid that she’d die suddenly. I don’t know why, but it was a real fear, and it really drained me of anything I might have had left in my body’s stores.

When Amy was 3 weeks (maybe a little older) we moved from NY to AL. I thought it would get better. And it was okay in the sense that I didn’t get pregnant immediately (thank you, Jesus), but I was almost catatonic. Being a good mom and wife was my only goal, so sleeping the day away was not an option for me… however, I still had a very difficult time waking up in the mornings. Many times I couldn’t even get out of bed until 10am… sometimes it was later. I hated it because I wanted to be up at dawn doing all those wonderful supermom things, like having breakfast before the kids woke up, the dishes done, and the orange juice freshly squeezed… but I couldn’t do.

I remember one day Tom very gently mentioned something about me being up as soon as the kids woke up because it would be great for them to see that. I think I cried for a week about it. The worst thing about being physically and emotionally run down is that nobody understands it. Tom was always great, and very patient and kind to me. He picked up the slack even when I didn’t ask him to… he was always wonderful. So in no way was his comment meant to be an insult to me, but it hurt just the same.

When Amy was five months old Tom said we should get a babysitter to come in a help me out. I said absolutely not. What kind of mom would I be if I didn’t work, I barely cleaned, and on top of that I couldn’t even take care of my kids?  In my mind having a sitter would have just screamed :”you’ve failed at it all.”  So I trudged along. There were days when I would get the girls all dressed, fed, napped, and hair brushed, snacks ready, so we could go to the park or to Chuck E Cheese, I’d buckle them into their carseats,, I’d plop into the drivers seat, and just sit there. I’d sit and stare for about ten minutes, and then realize there was no way I could take them out. I’d get out of the van, unbuckle all the kids, and put them in for a nap. Those poor babies.

 There were many of those days. It was pretty depressing.

One day (Amy must have been about six months old) I had to take a forgotten phone to Tom’s office. He walked out and said “Dear…! What is wrong?”  And all I could do was cry and say “I don’t know what’s wrong with me!”  He then ordered me to find a babysitter, so we did.

She was awesome. I loved her. She was young, but very responsible. She didn’t even blink at having three kids ages 3 and under to care for. She came for four hours a day, three days a week. I lived for those times. Every time I thought I might die I could say “but in just a few hours, she’ll be here.”
On the weekends, Tom’s mother would take Regina and Veronica. Our babysitter left at 3pm on Friday. Walda would pick the girls up at 4pm. The saddest thing was in that one hour I had to take care of them myself, I would panic “how am I going to do this?!”  That one hour or Fridays always dragged. And it wasn’t that I didn’t want to be with my kids… as far as kids go they were pretty awesome. It was more that all of my energy had to go into standing, or walking, or not crying, and I didn’t have anything left to give.

I figured three pregnancies had taken their toll and eventually I would feel okay. I didn’t realize how sick I truly was. And I wonder now how different things might have been for the girls if I had realized it, and if I had known what to do about it? But… you can’t change the past, I suppose.

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