This Is Your Life

The day got off to a bad start when I realised Smalls hadn’t done her morning poo. Mothers around the world will understand the anxiety of a missing poo. You know it’s there. You know it’s coming. You know it will arrive at the least convenient time – bigger and badder than ever.

We had plans to meet my mothers group at a nearby cafe. So after lengthy negotiations with Master D on what toys he could bring, pants he could wear and snacks he could have I hopefully checked Small’s nappy for the third time that hour (no poo) and proceeded to the vehicle where I spent approximately 5 hours strapping the kids into the car. I left the pram and opted for the baby carrier because, quite frankly, life is too short to spend wrestling prams into cars.

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About the time we pulled into the car park Master D gleefully informed me that he ”smelled a stink”.

Fabulous.

Somehow in the chaos of releasing both children and retrieving the mother load  of stuff I had somehow found it necessary to bring,  I neglected to close the car doors (that’s right people, doors, plural. I don’t do things by halves). Off we went on our merry way and I casually pressed the keys to lock the car. Alarms sounded. Smalls now not only antisocially pungent but borderline hysterical. Cops happened to be patrolling the area and had some sort of Pavlovian response to the sound. A sheepish trek back to close the doors. Wondered if it is even worth going out.

I finally arrived at the café, 20 minutes late, like some kind of Sherpa, laden with a bag containing half of Babies R Us and a smelly child strapped to my chest (#pramregrets). Immediately I had to source a toilet with change table facilities. The missing poo was found. The missing poo could potentially be utilised as a biological weapon.

Coffee was a little more relaxing. In between Smalls insisting on coming out of the baby carrier and being held while intermittently screaming, and Master D’s verbal diarrhoea and constant requirement for cuddles, I managed to talk to other mothers who were having similar dilemmas. Mum’s need other Mum’s. Or we would probably die out. True story.

Feeling encouraged and grossly optimistic I then decided to go grocery shopping, which is always risky business with two small children. Best case scenario you have completed a task in triple the time it takes to do alone. Worst case scenario you’re being sectioned in the dairy aisle, rocking back and forth while your kids hold you hostage with cheese sticks.

Let me tell you though, Master D took the title of favourite child that fateful day. He was an absolute pleasure, not least, I imagine, to highlight how bad his sister was being. It turned out that Smalls did not want to go shopping, or apparently, do life in general. She screamed and thrashed so ferociously that patrons looked on in alarm, all the while with Master D stating the obvious very loudly “She is very MAD Mummy! Her face is getting redder and redder Mummy! But I’m being VERY good Mummy”. I actually started laughing at one point because what can you do? Super Dad glided past with his four super behaved children including twin toddlers (is there anything more frightening than twin toddlers?). Smalls screamed some more. Fifteen year old check out chick was unimpressed. I paid the money and made a hasty exit (well, as hasty as you can with a five year old who could win an award for ‘worlds slowest walk’).

I came home and commenced my fifty million loads of washing (are there people who live in this house that I don’t know about?!) and prepped dinner to a symphony of dogs barking, Smalls crying and a lecture conducted by Master D on ant eaters. Debated on whether it was an acceptable hour to open a bottle of wine. Fought the urge to abandon all dinner plans and grab the 2 minute noodles. Then received a text from Hubster to say he was running late. Consider divorce, returning early to work, and running away to Fiji simultaneously.

Finally Hubster rescued me, the kids were in bed, the dishes were done, and I was holding a glass of wine. I stood in the doorway of their bedroom, and my heart burst with pride and love. I suddenly had this irrational desire to wake them up just so I could hold them. Then Smalls stirred and I quickly vacated the room lest we make eye contact. Close call. 

On the way downstairs I thanked my lucky stars that I was blessed with two such beautiful souls, and recognised how lucky I was to be able to stay at home with them, and how I need to treasure this time before going back to work.

This is my life. It’s hard. It’s wonderful. It’s tiring. It’s rewarding. The same as for every other mother out there.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sunshine and Rainbows

Some women float through pregnancy like frigging goddesses. They eat healthily, look amazing, work until they go into labour and run the odd half marathon in their downtime. (Only a half marathon because, you know, doctors orders.)

I am not one of those women.

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Regular Saturday Night for me!

I throw up so much I have to be rehydrated intravenously. I am still finding stashes of vomit bags and Zofran in the most unusual places.

I eat whatever the hell stays down. Which mainly consisted of potato chips and baked beans.

I hobble around like someone who has ridden a horse for far too long. Thank you symphysis pubis dysfunction. I didn’t realise how bad it was until I dropped a bag at the shops and a beautiful lady with a perm and blue rinse picked it up for me.

My body itself attempts to reject the pregnancy. I bleed and contract and end up on medication and bedrest to try and prevent preterm labour.

In fact, I spend so much time in hospital that my health insurance company – clearly less than impressed with having to pay for in excess of 15 admissions – offer to provide me with a personal health coach to improve my health and wellbeing. At first I was all ‘hell yeah – free health support’. Then I made the disturbing discovery that all the models featured in the brochure had white hair and walking sticks.

I had been invited to geriatric fitness classes.

This was my new demographic.

Awesome.

Still, much to everyones surprise, I struggled on and on until 36 weeks. Then on a Saturday night I went into labour. Of course, since I had been contracting on and off for weeks I didn’t realise it was *actual* labour. So Hubster went to a bucks night and I popped a few Panadol and went out to dinner with some mums from the school. As you do.

The next day things were still on the ouchie side, but certainly not akin to my labour with Master D. And I had been experiencing similar pain almost daily for several months, so I wasn’t particularly alarmed.

Spoiler alert: I should have been alarmed.

Around lunchtime we called the hospital. I knew the drill. CTG and admission for observation. I packed my bag like I had done so many times.

But this time was different. The hospital was eerily quiet on a Sunday and I was the only woman in labour ward. This time I was dilating and they could not stop the labour.

Suddenly I was being prepped for an emergency c section and I was crying because I didn’t get my baby to the magic full term 37 weeks. And the doctors were telling me my baby would be taken away to special care because it was early. That my baby might be sick or have trouble breathing. And there were suddenly lots of people in scrubs around asking me weird questions like “have you been to West Africa in the last 21 days” (umm yeah. Just after I trekked the Himalayas). And I didn’t get the chance to stop my Lithium which can make babies floppy at birth. And I just didn’t think it would happen this way.

Less than four hours after calling the hospital I was holding our beautiful healthy baby girl. No special care needed. And aside from jaundice, and extreme sleepiness due to prematurity, no major issues following the birth.

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Then came my recovery. With a history of postnatal depression, postnatal psychosis and bipolar disorder I was considered  high risk for relapse and transferred to a mother baby unit following my discharge from the maternity ward. I was put on higher doses of medication and observed for a few weeks.

And you know what? I was fine. Despite all of the worry and the grim statistics. Once I wasn’t in constant pain and constant worry and threat of miscarriage or preterm birth.  Once the stress of the pregnancy was taken away. Once I was holding my beautiful baby girl and my family was complete. My mind was freed once my body was my own again.

My Master D has always been sunshine to me. The brightness in my life that has kept me going through dark times. But Little Miss S is my rainbow. Something beautiful that has followed an unbelievable storm.

Welcome my beautiful rainbow girl. You are so very loved.

 

 

Because things are never simple…

I spent my entire first trimester expecting to miscarry.

I knew I was at high risk, given my history, and my autoimmune disease. And the fact that I had numerous episodes of spotting didn’t help to quell my fears.

The time that wasn’t spent worrying about miscarriage was spent dealing with dreadful morning sickness. At first I welcomed the nausea and vomiting, thinking “hey, this is great! It means my hormone levels are nice and high and the baby is healthy!”. So jolly I was not, however, by the time I was being prescribed Zofran and being admitted to hospital for rehydration.

Then for some reason my bladder decided to go on holiday, leaving me hospitalised with a catheter. That was a particularly “what the dickens”couple  of days, I can tell you.

And then there were the infections, and the allergic reactions to the antibiotics I took for said infections.

But you know, I got through it. Every scan showed a beautiful healthy baby, despite whatever the hell my body was doing. Eventually the morning sickness eased. I had the all important 12 week scan and was deemed low risk for any nasty pasties. And we told Master D. We told our families and friends. We told  the world.

Then a week later I woke up and quickly realised I was soaked in blood.

A lot of blood.

By the time we got to the hospital I was hysterical. I couldn’t believe it was happening. In my second trimester. Days after a perfect scan. After the risk for miscarriage was supposedly wildly reduced. After we had told EVERYONE.

Then the doctor switched on the ultrasound machine…one very active bouncing baby, and a healthy placenta.

Another “what the dickens?!” moment.

It turned out I had a blood clot in a place that was of no threat to the baby. The fact that I was on heavy duty blood  thinners at the time did not help matters. I stayed in hospital for about four days, took medication to try and stop the bleeding and put on bedrest. I may also need a cervical stitch put in (oh, yay) depending on the results of the next few scans.

So now I am back home again, and struggling emotionally.

I know there was nothing I did that caused this. That it is just a freak thing that could happen to anyone. But this all happened just as I let my guard down and trusted in my body, and my ability to carry a pregnancy. How can I possibly let my guard down again? How can I trust that everything will be ok, when me being admitted to hospital (for one reason or another) is like a broken record?

I’m taking each  day at a time, and I’m grateful every moment of every day for the beautiful little human that, against the odds, continues to thrive.

But sometimes, just sometimes, I wish things could be simpler.

 

 

 

 

I am the outlier.

In research we commonly deal with outliers.

Pesky scores that vary wildly from the general sample. They don’t fit into the norm. Their very presence can compromise the dataset. In my line of work outliers generally signal one of two things; a participant with radical views, or someone taking the piss.

Best to get rid of the sucker.

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But recently I realised that I am the outlier.

I am the nuance that doctors dismiss, reject, or refer, or tell me bluntly “I don’t know what to do with you”.

I am the difficult patient who doesn’t fit into the medical framework. Who doesn’t present the way others do. Who doesn’t respond to treatment in the manner expected.

Pharmaceutical psychiatric treatment has little success with me. Antidepressants make me suicidal. Antipsychotics have never stopped the voices. Sleeping pills fail to put me to sleep.

I’m tested for epilepsy because my psychosis is ”abnormal”. I’m “high functioning” to the point of rejection from doctors and hospitals because I am not sick enough. I’m misdiagnosed. I’m turned away. I don’t fit the stereotype of ”bipolar”; whatever that may be. Then I fall down to the darkest, bleakest most dreadful depths and the doctors don’t believe I will be able to function. But I do.

I am the outlier.

I am diagnosed with a rare subform of a rare autoimmune disease that no one has ever heard of. Random allergies that make no sense. Hubster marvels how I can chow down a spicy curry no problem, but end up in hospital after a sandwich. I’m told I need medication, I’m given a poor prognosis. And now, undedicated with no treatment other than dietary changes I shouldn’t be in remission. But I am.

I am the outlier.

After years of trying to have a child, and seven or so early miscarriages under my belt I seek medical assistance. At first no one takes me seriously because I am not even thirty. Then, at 29 years old it is discovered that my reproductive years are ending. I’m to descend into premature menopause. This doesn’t run in the family.

I am the outlier.

Suddenly I’m being thrust into the world of IVF.. ‘I’m told I need to act now. I’m told I need high doses of medication. Friends my age spend their money on holidays and drinks. We spend our money on medical bills.

Then I start the process and am told my bloodwork is bad. That IVF isn’t possible. That it may never be possible for me.

I am the outlier.

And as I put my hands on my growing belly, knowing of the tiny heart beating inside, I know that you, little one, are an outlier too.

The one that arrived the very month when I was told it wasn’t possible. The one that came when I had all but given up. The one that blessed me with its presence naturally, the very cycle IVF was cancelled. The one I didn’t lose.

You are my little outlier. The most beautiful outlier there ever was. Every child is a miracle, but you are an extra special. You beat the odds.

Together we may not be representative of the population. We may have different needs to others. We may be the outliers.

But who wants to be average anyway?

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What if I say I will never surrender?

Well, hey there.

Here I am.

It’s been a while so I will play catch up tonight, before writing about the more pressing things I have had on my mind.

A large part of why I have not been writing is that I have been in the throws of fertility treatment (which really deserves its own special place in hell). In between hormones and appointments and stress I haven’t had the emotional capacity to write. Though, lord knows I have tried.

Over the past few months I have learned again and again, that my body is doing it wrong. I am running out of eggs. My immune system is killing pregnancies. I have endometriosis. Ovarian cysts. Polyps. “Doctors appointment” to me, is synonymous with “Doom”.

On the plus side I now know more about human reproduction than I ever anticipated. So ya know, if I ever get a chance to go on Who Wants to be a Millionaire and there happens to be a question on zygote development or hormone production; I may be in with a chance for the big bucks. Don’t worry. I won’t let it change me.

One of the more interesting aspects of my treatment is the intralipids. Basically once a month I go into hospital for the day to have an IV of some soy/egg concoction. I am banned from taking steroids (according to my immunologist) due to the whole rampant psychosis thing. So the intralipid treatment is another way to suppress my immune system to allow a pregnancy to progress. Apparently anyway.

Intralipid infusion. 20 minutes after the nurse 'tissued' me, and my hand blew up like a balloon (which sadly, I don't have a photo of).

Intralipid infusion. 20 minutes after the nurse ’tissued’ me, and my hand blew up like a balloon (which sadly, I don’t have a photo of).

I also had a laparascopy surgery to treat my endometriosis, which wasn’t too bad. I have a history of waking up like a wild combative beast after a general anaesthetic, so my anaesthetist told me she was going to sedate me before I woke up. It must have worked because when I woke up there was no sign of a struggle, and my nurse seemed uncharacteristically relaxed.

One thing that really struck me was how NICE the nurses were. I’m used to nurses barking at me or being profoundly unsympathetic. After my hernia reconstruction (which was a fairly large operation that I spent a total of 7 days on a surgical ward for) I had the audacity to ask a nurse for some painkillers. I was told – in a rather snippy tone – that I HAD to expect SOME pain, and was very reluctant to offer me relief. I was an involuntary psychiatric patient at the time, with my own psychiatric nurse, and I half wonder if she thought I also had some sort of substance abuse problem as well. But even if I did; 24 hours post open surgery you hurt. You need painkillers.

Anyway, this time, during the night after surgery I was in a lot of pain. I left it for about three hours before, out of desperation, I pressed the call button and waited to be told off. Instead this lovely nurse came, and looked at my chart and dosed me with oxycodene in a rather maternal manner. I promptly got high (which was odd as I used to take the stuff 3 times daily and never felt remotely stoned) and then fell asleep. My sheets were changed. I was spoken to in a respectful manner. I was given options not orders. I was not a psychiatric patient, nor was my psychiatric history deemed particularly relevant. I was treated better. It’s hard not to make assumptions.

Of course, things never run smoothly in our household. So a few nights after the surgery Hubster and I woke to Master D coughing in an exceedingly ominous manner in our bedroom. Seconds later he threw up. Fifteen minutes later he hurled again. Master D climbed into bed with Hubster, and in an effort of self preservation I escaped to the couch – because gastro after abdominal surgery? HELL NO. But the damage was done, and we all went down with a despicable, no doubt Kindy acquired, stomach bug.

In the middle of everything I started to feel very negative about everything. I felt like we had too much on our plate. I had too many appointments. Too many health concerns. Every week I seemed to spend most of my time in hospitals or doctors waiting rooms. I felt drained.

So when Hubster announced he was going to Sydney on business I booked tickets, packed bags for Master D and I, took some of my annual leave and went with him. It was the most wonderful week spending quality time with Master D, seeing the sights of Sydney, and getting the hell away from everything that was going on. Only marred by reacting to some food, getting sick, and then having dreadful anxiety problems. Because autoimmune diseases never take holidays.

When we got back I saw my psychiatrist who put my back on Seroquel for the interim. I hadn’t slept properly in weeks, was having constant panic attacks, and was getting more and more unhinged. The med change seemed to help and I began sleeping again and my anxiety has subsided somewhat.

So here I am again. Just about to start another round of fertility treatment. Fighting to keep my autoimmune disease and mental health stable. Juggling a plethora of appointments. Trying to fit in a full time PhD and part time work in the mix.

I’m doing ok.

Each day at a time.

It takes a lot for me to surrender.

Runners Wall

It has been a less than ideal week. A chain of unfortunate events triggered by an unexpected tooth extraction and culminating in some gnarly medication interactions (oh Lithium, life would be so dull without you). I’ve pulled a back muscle and possibly an intercostal muscle vomiting. Because despite how much practice I have had, I puke like a savage hybrid of Linda Blair (in contrast to Hubster, who vomits like the Queen – dignified, silently, and very very rarely). The other night my kid woke up petrified because he thought there were monsters in the house.

There was, child. There was.

Anyway, so I’m chilling at home on my own today, shuffling around like Ozzy Osbourne and seriously contemplating the hole in my life that stone cookware and the “Ahh Bra” could fill. While attempting to be productive I decided to pay our bills and found all the prescriptions for our first injectable cycle next week.

And that’s about when I lost it.

I cried and cried. Which was not only painful (pulled muscles FTW!) but pretty unusual. I don’t really cry. As in truly cry, with tissues and red puffy eyes and snot and grossness, properly. Laugh inappropriately. Yes. Shed a few forlorn looking tears at appropriate moments. Perhaps. But not this gut wrenching howling shit. Thank God I was on my own. It was like Linda Blair all over again.

Then I realised that I’m just….tired. So tired. Emotionally that is. Though probably physically as well. My life for the past few years has been doctor, medication, hospital, repeat. I get the rare stuff. The weird side effect. I can’t even bloody well go and get a tooth extracted without all sorts of drama. I just want it all to go away.

I have hit the runners wall.

Why can’t my body cooperate? Why can’t I do something crazy, like, ya know, eat a piece of bread, without consequence. Why can’t I be one those women who just decide they want a baby, then BAM 9 months later they are presented with a squishy newborn? Who feel joy when they see a positive pregnancy test, not dread..already preparing to lose it. Why do I have to start this journey of invasive treatment when I have already had so much medical intervention? Why do I have to spend this extortinate amount of money on something that has around a 50% success rate – maybe less. In what other universe would we pay thousands of dollars for something we may not receive? Or that we may lose afterwards anyway?

Hope. That’s why.

Last weekend Hubster and I went to the clinic so I could learn how to inject myself. We really had no idea. I thought it would be one of those pen things like Diabetics use. While one medication is administered like this, the others involve cracking open ampoules and mixing powder with a watery solution. SO MUCH ROOM FOR PHAFFERY.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no qualms about physically injecting myself, but my name should be “Rachael Fumble Fingers” (Reason #103 why I could never be a surgeon).  I can imagine so many scenarios where I smash ampoules and have to hair like a bat out of hell to the compounding pharmacy across town to get replacements. Or I lose needles, get the dosage wrong, inject air into myself. The possibilities are endless. I just keep telling myself “If heroin addicts under heavy sedation can manage to inject themselves intravenously, I’m sure you in a (allegedly) conscious and informed state can figure out how to stab your stomach.” Surely.

I just feel myself hitting that wall. I think the past events of the last few years have caught up with me. I’m tired. The other morning I woke up and as Hubster kissed me good bye I told him “I don’t want to adult today. I may or may not be arrested for diving into the ball pit at IKEA. Just a heads up.”

Meanwhile my near four year old told me over breakfast that he couldn’t wait to be an adult because then he wouldn’t have to hold anyones hand in the carpark. It never ceases to amaze me the intensity in which children want to grow up. The biggest compliment I can give him is that he is “grown up.” And then you really DO grow up and suddenly you start buying anti-aging creams, getting cagey about your age, and recounting the “good old days” where your biggest problem was whether to choose the chocolate or rainbow paddle pop (still a dilemma. To be fair).

But I have had my cry and “poor me” whinge. Now, I will put on my big girl panties and do what I need to do. This is it. Three cycles and we’re done, whatever the outcome. We have had so much stress and disappointment and waiting. Now we are getting the help we need. It’s time. Time for me to “woman” up.

I have hit this runners wall in various situations before, and I have always managed to break through to the other side.

You can say many things about me. But I don’t give up easily.

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Dungeons and Doctors

It has only been recently that I have realised just how much I now mistrust doctors, and how little faith I have in the medical system.

I am the worst kind of patient. I spend hours trawling through medical journals before appointments, comparing random control trials. It must be the researcher in me.  I project my point of view in a fairly assertive manner. I am not afraid to ask for what I want. I am not afraid to offer my view on the treatment protocol and dosage. I don’t want to be told “you’re fine”, or “you’re not fine”. I want to be given print outs from all my tests and all my procedures  and given my exact blood levels so I can determine for myself my exact level of “fineness”.

I, with absolutely no medical training, believe I know more than doctors about my body and mind. And I really wish I could dampen this line of thinking. I wish I could trust the people that are responsible for my care. I wish I didn’t question every damn aspect of my treatment.

But you see, my past experiences have made me this way. Over the years I have had to learn how to navigate the medical system.  I am used to having to fight tooth and nail for the treatment I need. I expect to be dismissed. I expect to be turned away. I expect to be denied treatment. So I arrive at each appointment on the defence and ready for battle.

Amongst other nitwitish behaviour, I have had the privilege of doctors telling me that:
– I was just a new mother who needed a bit of sleep. Actually I was psychotic and suicidal, and had just spent 45 minutes describing my symptoms in detail to the doctor. My baby was seven months old and had been sleeping through the night for at least five of them. A week later I was admitted to a mother and baby unit where I was kept for 2 months. The hospital told me I was one of the worst cases they had seen.

– That I had a case of gastro, and perhaps some endometriosis pain. I was actually in agony due to my autoimmune disease. And when I say agony, I mean that I had to be tanked up on IV morphine. I feel this instance is partially forgivable since my disease is so incredibly rare. But surely the fact that I was screaming in pain and had to be administered morphine was a clue that this wasn’t a case of “normal” gastro, and warranted further investigation.

– When admitted to the psychiatric ward, I was initially refused treatment for my autoimmune disease. Apparently, despite having a formal diagnosis from biopsy results from another doctor, and despite my diagnostic doctor giving explicit written instructions on the type and dosage of medication I needed, my 25 year old registrar didn’t believe my condition existed as she hadn’t heard of it. Bitch, please. My specialist with decades of experience hadn’t heard of it until recently. And despite the fact that I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person I highly doubt I could fabricate such an elaborate diagnosis involving the infiltration of certain white blood cells.

– as a psychiatric inpatient, my gastroenterology team continually avoided seeing me. My nurses called them repeatedly. It was made abundantly clear that I was their least priority. I dunno. Maybe I smelled?

– as an inpatient my surgical team repeatedly prepped me for the surgery and procedures I needed, before cancelling at the last minute. I understand hospitals are busy places and things get bumped. But I was an inpatient at that hospital for 9 weeks, and each time I was told I was at the top of the list. To this day I am not sure why I wasn’t given the treatment I needed and why I eventually had to be referred to entirely different hospital to receive it. And how that hospital managed to conduct the surgery on the day and time they said they would.

– I was explicitly denied nutritional treatment because I was a psychiatric patient. Even though my autoimmune disease is heavily related to diet. They did tell me that if I were on a medical ward I could receive the treatment. Which didn’t improve the situation. Or my attitude towards them.

– I was left in severe pain, for eight hours, because an the on call doctor basically couldn’t be bothered to come down to the psych ward. When he did arrive the next morning it eventuated that I was actually extremely ill, and was rushed off for an emergency CT scan. Not a hypochondriac after all!

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I believe the core of the problem was that I was a psychiatric patient.

When you are a psychiatric patient you lose your voice. You lose your power. You are considered to be “crazy”. I was in a no win situation where I was given poor and sometimes downright neglectful medical treatment, but if I tried to object I was seen as over reacting, or causing trouble. I was “not in my right mind” after all. What the hell do I know? If I objected,I was medicated, because that’s what happens in psychiatric wards. And if I objected to that I was threatened with injections and security guards. I was silenced.

This would not happen to someone with a physical illness, and a physical illness only.

I often feel sorry for my newer doctors today. The ones who have done nothing wrong. The ones who are incredibly helpful and supportive. The ones who listen to me. The ones who are being punished for the actions of others.

But there is just this large part of me that refuses to hand over my trust to them. I NEED to be in control over my care. I never want to be in the powerless situation I was last year.

I just have this overwhelming feeling that to ensure my own wellbeing I need to keep fighting these Dungeons and Doctors.

The Great FMS Blog Hunt: I Need Your Help!

Bloggers of the world: I need your help. 

My reader is in need of a boost. I am looking for new blogs to follow. 

I was wondering if you guys could help me out by commenting and recommending one of your most favouritist mental health related blogs out there (not your own). 

This way you get to share who you admire, they get recognition, and I ( and perhaps, you) get some more awesome reading material. It’s a win win situation! 

I am looking forward to connecting with some more of the supremely talented writers out there. 

So … who do you rate? 

The Babies I Never Had. The Child I May Never Have.

Warning: This IS long. Partly because I tend to ramble, and partly because this is a post that has been in the workings for six months, and a difficult post to write. There is also no pretty picture. I did consider including an X-ray image of my uterus but figured Hubster might get miffed it he saw I was posting pictures of my womanly parts online. 

About six months ago, after several days of waking up and immediately wanting to puke I realised, with a fairly abrupt shock, that I was late. Now, I’m never late for work, I’m never late for deadlines, I’m never late for social engagements, and I’m sure as hell never, you know, late. So this could only mean one thing.

I hot footed it down to the shops and grabbed the first test I could see. When I got home I knew what the result would be before it even showed up. When the two lines appeared I burst into tears and then promptly had a panic attack.

An hour later I tested again, just in case I had gotten some weird designed-to-really-freak-you-out bum test. Yep. Still positive. I think the word that first came out of my mouth started with “F” and sounded a lot like “Duck”.

Totally unexpected. Totally not the plan.

Because of all my health problems any pregnancy I have will be high risk and will need to be closely monitored. Because of the medication I am on I have been told to go straight to a doctor if I ever find out I”m pregnant. There is absolutely no playing it cool, and just seeing what happens with me. It’s a giant pain in the posterior.

So I went to see my GP, brandishing my test and asking her if she thought it was a positive result (because apparently I need a medical doctor with worse eyesight than mine to confirm the presence of a second line). She laughed and said yes. Booked me into the hospital, gave me my due date, lectured me about folic acid, and sent me on my way to have a batch of bloods done (and a rather unexpected pap smear that I wasn’t informed about. The fun just never stops).

Then I had to break the news to Hubster. When he came home from work he found me sitting solemnly on the couch.
“I need to tell you something”. I started.
“Oh god. What?!” he asked rushing over.
“I can’t say it.” I told him, covering my eyes.
“Just tell me! What!”
“I’m…pregnant.” I whispered.
He looked at me incredulously. “That’s not possible.”
I handed him the test, and then he was all “What?! How?!” and then “This was not what I was expecting” (apparently he was expecting me to tell him I was dying. Gee thanks Hubster. Let’s not get too excited here ;)) And finally, in a rather stern manner, “Rachael. This CANNOT happen.”
“Er, well. It’s a bit late for that speech.”
Then we both looked at each other and burst into laughter. He gave me the biggest hug and told me we would work it out. We would be ok.

And then I was happy. I figured it was pretty much the ONLY real good thing that had happened that year. The baby was due on Hubsters 30th birthday, which has gotta be a good sign right?

Spoiler alert: it wasn’t a good sign.

The next morning I tested again. And once again, I knew what the result would say before it did.

Negative.

Hubster rolled over as I came back in our bedroom and asked how it went. I tossed him the test and told him I wasn’t pregnant anymore. I didn’t cry. I can’t say I was dreadfully upset. I wasn’t even surprised. Because it was the eighth time this has happened. I get pregnant easily. I just can’t seem to hold on to them.

Although the pregnancy was unplanned the whole event made us reassess our situation. We decided it was the right time to complete our family. I saw a doctor about the strange early losses, I was referred to a fertility specialist. We liked him instantly. Mainly because he looked like Dr. Who (though, sadly, not David Tennant).

This week, after weeks of being poked and prodded, hundreds of dollars worth of investigation and another failed pregnancy we found ourselves back in Dr. Who’s office. There are a few issues at play really. My physical health has, clearly, been less than ideal for a long time. But I heard myself being told that my ovarian reserve was diminishing. That at 28 years old I was essentially running out of eggs. What the actual flip? I had imagined all sorts of scenarios that were preventing us from having a viable pregnancy. This was not one of them. I’m not even 30.  I thought I had all the time in the world.

So the next few months are make or break for us. We will try two cycles of injections and hormone treatment to try and fall pregnant. If this doesn’t work it is on to a round of IVF. The doctor told us that it would be a good idea to freeze some embryos. Because I am running out of time. Awesome. I keep imagining my ovaries as having white perms and zimmerframes. Retiring early. Thanks girls!

So here’s the thing. Technically I am diagnosed as having had recurrent miscarriages. But I’ve never been really able to see them as that. It all happens so incredibly early. I feel I can’t compare a late monthly and a few positive tests to the horror of losing a pregnancy at a later stage. After seeing a heartbeat. After feeling movements. After knowingly carrying an unborn child for weeks. We almost lost Master D several times. I know these early losses don’t compare.

But I am at the crossroads now. I am beginning to realise that it is quite possible that Hubster and I will not be able to have another child. And that I spent the first year of my Master D’s life psychotic, depressed and in hospital. Then the third year of his life, psychotic, vomiting and in hospital. I have missed so much. I will never get that time back again. And I may not get another chance. Master D may grow up without having the experience of a sibling. In a way I wish I had never seen any of those positive tests. I wish I had never been aware that I was pregnant for that very short time. Because I start to feel grief over the babies I never had. Over the life we may not be able to have.

At the end of the day I know I will be ok with whatever happens. I am fortunate enough to have had the experience of being a mother – turbulent though it has been. I DO have a child. I’m one of the lucky ones.

Another child would be an absolute blessing. But my body is tired. The treatment is stressful and invasive (not to mention expensive). I’m not willing to cycle after cycle indefinitely.

I want to give the treatment a go. I know we would regret it if we didn’t at least try. But at the same time I need to put my health, and the child I already have before a child I may never have. I have no idea how pumping myself full of medication and hormones is going to affect my mood or my physical wellbeing. Master D has been without me enough. Theres a limit. And at this stage three cycles of treatment is our limit.

I feel strangely relaxed about the whole thing. I have suspected for years that there is something very wrong. There has been so much angst and worry and frustration. But I’m at the end now. This is now largely out of my hands. What will be will be.

In a few months I will be pregnant, or I won’t be. And I know I will be at peace with whatever the outcome.

I did it! And I didn’t CoC it up.

I’ve been distinctly absent from the ‘blogosphere’ over the last few months. It has been an interesting ride.

So I went back to the PhD and within the first six months you have to complete what they call your “Confirmation of Candidature” (or CoC as we PhD’s call it. Hubster, being the mature adult he is thought our term CoC was hilarious. It all started when I accidentally sent him an email meant for my supervisor where the first sentence was: “I’m concerned that my CoC is too long. Can you please give it a look and see what you think”.)

Anyway. I didn’t realise  the CoC it was such a big thing (heh.) until I would tell people in the office what I was doing and they would be all “Eeeee” with a strangled look on their faces, before regailing me with some kind of horror story from their own CoC. Then they would try and save it by saying “Oh, I’m sure you’ll be fine though.” Kind of like the last weeks of your pregnancy where everyone around you seems to have had a near death experience during labour.

So what is a CoC?. This is basically where you complete a long literature review and research proposal on your topic. Mine is a few thousand words off my Honours thesis. And it is pure blood, sweat and tears. Literally. I gave myself a paper cut on the damn thing.

So after writing the document you then to do a big presentation to the research board, all the faculty and grad students within the school attend as well. You yabber on about your topic and then everyone asks questions. There are three outcomes of this. You get through and are now officially a PhD Candidate. You get kicked out of the PhD program. Or you are asked to make some changes and once they are done you get through.

So basically I have been working full pelt on this stuff. Hubster and I were basically a tag team. I worked weekends for extra time. It was hard not spending time with my family, especially after I was away so much last year in hospital. I felt I was being pulled apart in different directions (the way, I’m sure many parents feel). It has not been easy.

One of my more relaxing Sundays…:)

One of my more relaxing Sundays…:)

Firstly, I had six months to complete this milestone. Problem is I completed three months. Got sick. Ended up in hospital forever. Had ECT. Returned in January to realise that because of my short term memory problems associated with the ETC…I HAD FORGOTTEN IT ALL!

The horror.

So I basically had to start again. Reread all these notes and diagrams I had made and try to make sense of it all. I now, basically, had 3 months to complete this task.

But of course, I have a three year old. I have very limited childcare. I was trying to achieve in three days a week, what other people achieve in five. Which is why I gave up and started working weekends, grabbing any extra time I could.

Then of course, I have two chronic illnesses that like to make themselves known occasionally. I have had flare ups. I am under the care of four different hospitals and have appointments with each. More time down the drain.

All in all it was a bit of disaster, and at times I felt like everything that could possibly prevent me from doing this PhD was happening. Maybe it was a sign? Maybe I should just give it up.

But one of my greatest assets and sometimes biggest downfalls, is that I am incredibly stubborn. I persist until the bitter end. I ignore people who tell me that is ok to give up. This can be a good thing, or a very bad thing.

So I continued. I worked my arse off. I took on board every ounce of feedback from my supervisors. I wrote a document I was damn proud of. I spent ages designing my presentation and then practicing it over and over again (alarming fellow grads who walked into the office to find me talking to myself). Then the day before my presentation, I stopped myself. I had done enough. There is nothing more I can do.

On the morning of the presentation Hubster very kindly made me breakfast and took Master D to daycare. On the way out he waved and called out “Don’t CoC it up!” Then I went….and I did it.

I stood up in front of all these academics that I greatly respect. The entire school. The research board. And I told them why I think we need to address mental illness stigma in the community. I talked about the complicated theoretical backing behind my design.  I told them how I wanted to achieve change. And, it really surprised me, but I loved doing it.

And I got some awesome feedback. My study design was “fascinating”, and “well thought out”. There were a few questions, but nothing major, and certainly nothing intimidating.

After I returned to my desk and found email upon email from people congratulating me which was so sweet. After the presentation the board have a big meeting to determine whether I am able to continue with my PhD (until you have achieved this milestone you are probationary). This process can take up to a week. I have heard it taking up to a month.

Within ten minutes I got a phone call saying that I was through (informally). A few minor budget adjustments and then I’m set to go.

I don’t often say this, but I am really proud of myself. After everything that has happened…I went back. I achieved what I wanted to do. I stuck with it. And from what everyone has been telling me…I did damn well.

My supervisor told me that a lot of people would have given up in my circumstances. And no one would have blamed them.

But I didn’t give up.

I did it!

This whole thing has been a confidence booster. And not just on the academic side.
I have proved to myself that I can fall down hard… and pick myself up again.

A year ago I was hooked up to a urinary catheter, in a psych ward, under involuntary status, pushing around an IV pole. I was completely dependant, psychologically and physically. I couldn’t even pee on my own.

A year on and I have learned to manage both of my illnesses. I get up every morning. I sleep every night. I earn an income. I achieved a major body of work. Hell, I can even pee by myself.

I did it. I came back. I have rebuilt my life.

And I didn’t CoC it up🙂