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.

 

 

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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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.

Let’s Just Settle This Matter Once and For All….

I’m not pregnant.

No. Not pregnant. Not even a little bit. Not now and not for a while. Not pregnant. Just “fat”.

You see, when I WAS pregnant, I was blessed with a big baby and a condition where I produced a lot of amniotic fluid. I was HUGE. I was MASSIVE. My belly pretty much had it’s own weather system going on. You get the picture.

Because I was underweight before my pregnancy, people noticed a change right away. I had people guessing  I was “in the family way” from five weeks pregnant. Five weeks. The pregnancy test had barely turned positive.

By 9 weeks I was in maternity clothes. By 28 weeks people thought I was full term. By 34 weeks none of my maternity clothes fit my enormous bump, and I constantly had people asking if I was having twins.

“No, no. Just the one” I would say, laughing.
“One! Wow! You’re HUGE!” they would respond, looking at my belly in awe. I would mutter a vague “yeah….” because in what universe is it OK to tell a strange woman she is huge. Even if she is.

Some people would continue to press. Telling me that I MIGHT actually be having twins and not know it. Someones brothers, girlfriends, aunts, cousin had that happen. They saw it on the Discovery channel. Whatever. I would explain to them that I was sure that wasn’t the case given the number of ultrasounds I had had, so detailed that I practically knew my kids’ hair colour. They would shake their head and say “well…I guess you’ll find out soon!” in a vaguely ominous tone that had ME starting to wonder whether I had a hiding twin in there.

Let me clarify. I wasn’t big everywhere. I was underweight when I became pregnant, and my arms and legs pretty much stayed the same as they always had. It was just my belly that was enormous. Now that sounds like a good thing, I’m sure there are women out there who want to hit me with a wooden stick right now. But I can assure you a gargantuan belly comes with its own set of problems.

For starters my hips couldn’t take the strain and started to pull apart. I suffered terrible pain for months, I had to strap my hips together each morning, and by the end of my pregnancy I could barely walk. My stomach muscles separated to an enormous degree (which ultimately resulted in my hernia), and the nerves were affected meaning much of my belly was actually numb. After the birth I had to wear a bandage over my stomach for weeks to train the muscles back together so my guts wouldn’t spill out. My skin literally started to rip apart. To this day I have stretch marks deep enough to fit a finger into. Ain’t no Bio Oil going to help with that!

Around 32 weeks I went for my antenatal appointment and the midwife asked how long I had to go.
“8 weeks.” I told her. She glanced at my bump.
“Oh, honey. You’re not going to make that.” she told me.

The decision was made for me to be induced. But luckily the midwife was right and Master D came of his own accord, 8 pound 4…a few weeks early.

So where am I going with all of this? What is the point?

The point is that I am now the owner of a post baby belly. Of course all mothers are to some extent, but mine is particularly horrendous. I have a mass of extra skin around my belly that no exercising, no diet, and nothing non surgical is ever going to fix. I’m 28 years old and I can never find a pair of jeans that fit, I can’t wear tight t-shirts, and I will never wear a bikini again.

I have noticed a few things on the internet recently celebrating the post baby bodies of mothers. Black and white pictures of stretch marks and women proudly baring their bodies and proclaiming how much they love their stretch marks because their belly was “a home for their child” etc etc. Don’t get me wrong I think it’s great that some women are celebrating themselves. Awesome. Good for you. But I certainly don’t celebrate my belly, and if you saw it you probably wouldn’t either.

The reason being is that I am constantly…CONSTANTLY…asked if I am pregnant. It happens all the time. My family tell me it is because it is only my belly that is fat, the rest of me is (allegedly) quite slim. My body doesn’t fit together so people put two and two together and get five. t don’t know if that makes things better or worse.

Anyway last night Hubster and I went to a work ‘do. I wore a dress that I THOUGHT looked quite good in. I had a glass of wine then switched to soft drink as Lorazapam and alcohol usually results in me falling asleep or making an arse out of myself. Possibly both.

I was introduced to a guy and he immediately said “Nice to meet you Rachael. My wife is pregnant too!”

Usually my response is “no, not pregnant. Just fat.” in a kind of apologetic “don’t-worry-you’re-not-the-first-to-make-that-mistake” kind of tone. But on this occasion, in front of everyone in their business get up, I was left speechless. Laughed, and then slipped away to the toilet to examine my abdomen.

While in there I took this incriminating photo as kind of a record, and started analysing the situation. I honestly the dress thought it hid my horrendous belly. But maybe it looks like a maternity dress? Maybe it was the soft drink? But you don’t go assuming women are pregnant because they drink Lemonade instead of wine. God! If this is me “looking good” then what the hell do people think when I’m having my “fat” days?!

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If it were a one off situation I would have laughed it off. But it’s not. It happens a lot. Sometimes it doesn’t bother me, but sometimes it strikes a nerve.

You see, I wanted to be pregnant this year. I never wanted a large age gap between children. But I became sick – physically and mentally. I guess life doesn’t always work out the way you want. I wish I was pregnant a lot of the time. Not just because I do want another child at some point. But because at least I wouldn’t have to go to great lengths to hide my belly. To avoid full length photos. To have to diffuse awkward conversations. Yes, I’m one of a small subset of women who feels better about her image when pregnant than not pregnant. You’re SUPPOSED to have a belly when you are pregnant! And as much as it irritated me; being told you are huge when you are pregnant is a whole lot better than being told you are pregnant when you’re not.

On the plus side (no pun intended), It has given me an idea for Dr. Seuss-esque book..

I’m not pregnant in a room, I’m not pregnant to a groom.
No not pregnant, not am I. Though I struggle to zip my fly.
But I’m not pregnant, I’m just fat. I’m happy with one son, and a cat,
Let’s settle this, for big, for small,
I’m not pregnant. Not at all.

Nice 😉

A Great Love


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Sometimes I feel like Master D and I have a special bond. Everything I have been through, he has been through too.

I had a tumultuous pregnancy, with a number of physical and emotional stressors. For the first 12 weeks I was at risk of miscarriage (most likely) due to low progesterone levels. At about the seven week mark I arrived at the hospital, soaked in blood, sure that this time I had lost my baby.

We waited for a few hours to be seen, enough time to see women with enormous babies arriving, excited and anxious, for their scheduled c-section, and families with “It’s a Boy!” balloons racing up to meet the new arrival.

When it was my turn to have an ultrasound I braced myself for the seemingly inevitable “I’m sorry…” but it never came. Amazingly my little bean was still there with a strong heartbeat. The technician gave us some pictures and I stared at them in wonder on the car ride home.

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And so he continued to thrive. And he still does. I watch him in wonder each day, amazed at the things he learns.  I can’t believe we made him!

He’s seen me at my worst, my most darkest worst. And he’s seen me at my highest of high. And he still calls me Mummy with pride. He cuddles me when my hair is a mess, and he say’s “pretty” when I put on a jewelery. It’s unconditional, for both of us.

And this is nothing out of the ordinary. The great love between mother and child has always been documented. This is no surprise to anyone.

Except perhaps me. I didn’t realise how much I could truly love someone until I became a mum. I didn’t know until I burst into uncontrollable sobs of joy as soon as I heard his first cry. I didn’t know.

I feel a kind of solidarity with Master D. Between us we managed to sustain the pregnancy, despite the problems. We went into hospital together, we bonded despite the bipolar and the depression and the psychosis. We got each other through it all, despite the circumstances.

And as much as he can get into mischief. As much as sometimes I lose my temper. As much as makes a mess and disrupts my plans. I wouldn’t change it for the world. He has taught me more about life than anyone else could.

But more than that he’s given me inspiration to keep going. Something to live for. Someone to make proud.

So thank you Master D, for choosing me as your Mummy.

Three

 

Over the past few months many people have asked me whether I will have another baby. My answer? “Of course!”

There is a reasonable chance, I suppose, that I will succumb to another ‘episode’ post partum. I also have a higher than average chance of developing post natal psychosis. But as cliché as it sounds, it’s worth it. He is worth it all, and I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Many mothers who undergo even the most traumatic of births choose to do it all again. This is no different to that.

If you had asked me a few months ago, my answer would have been “Hell, no!” I remember my doctor talking about future pregnancies while I was in hospital. I shut her down and told her I didn’t want another. I simply couldn’t go through this again.

 

But now…. I honestly don’t think I would go through it all again. The difference between now and then is that we know what we are dealing with. I have a diagnosis, I know which medication works for me. I have also been informed that any future pregnancies will be classified as “high risk”, so I will be taken care of by a clinic at the state’s main maternity hospital who specialises in mothers with severe mental illness. I have also been told I may be transferred back to the MBU following childbirth for a week or two so doctors can keep a careful eye on me.

In other words, there is a huge amount of support out there. If I showed any signs of instability I would have access to help. The people closest to me are aware and supportive. I’m certainly not alone.

The other week I asked my doctor, out of interest, about future pregnancies and the medication I am on. She looked vaguely horrified and encouraged me not to rush into things, and to just concentrate on maintaining my stability for now.

But I’m not rushing into things. I’m not ready for another baby now. There are things I want to achieve before being a mum of two. I also want to savour this time with Master d. I missed out so much of his first year through being so unwell. I want to enjoy now and him and us for a little while.

One day we will be a family of four, I have no doubt in that. But right now I’m enjoying the three of us. Me, you, and toddler too.