7 items found for ""
- Calming the Nerves
Over-Stimulation My baby's brain was on fire. It took too long for Brian and I to learn that our son's, (let's call him Dylan) "colic," his insistent screaming for peace and quiet, was because his neurological system was supercharged. His neurons were heavily streaming the chemical and electrical messages, relaying them at a rate that caused him (and still causes him 9 years later) great discomfort and anguish. My previous post, "Cry Babies, Both of Us" was a more thorough dive into the atypical behaviors of Dylan as an infant and toddler. I put ourselves on blast in hopes that it might help another caregiver to stave off the pain should they intervene early with sensory protecting gear, assuming or at least considering the possibility that her baby's "colic" or "acid reflux" could actually be a sensory integration uniqueness or even autism. Though it isn't likely, why not be assured you are doing everything possible to protect that brain on fire? I will forever resent myself for not helping to quiet the stimuli that so bothered him. I will forever wish I had known of noise-canceling headphones, weighted blankets, and sensory swings. I will forever shutter at myself for not having used seamless clothing, swaddles, and black-out shades. Could I have protected him from the pain he, and thus our entire family, endured? Might I be offered a do-over? Or perhaps, more realistically, it should now be my mission to help other mothers in a similar predicament. Late to Enter the School Scene Dylan didn't enter preschool until he was four years old. We did this to protect everyone involved, as he was a challenge in many ways. It took, for example, anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes to get him strapped in socks and shoes in the morning, as he was acutely aware of any tiny fabric particle or seam touching his toes (he still is, I should add, which is why we only do sockless crocks now). Any tightness or misalignment of the sock would send him into a frantic and anxious flapping spree and that would necessitate a break, a redirection, a new set of socks, turning socks inside out, cutting the toe box off the socks, etc. The struggle of getting neurotypical kids out the door seems so trivial when you compare it to the struggles of one who panics at the sight of a school-mandated article of clothes. As you might imagine, the socks were one of many battles. We couldn't put a comb through his hair without a chase. Brushing his teeth was like interacting with a teething alligator. Dylan only liked pureed vegetarian food at the time. He had zero desire to interact with other kids. Dylan despised noises louder than a toilet flushing. And, eloping (absent-mindedly running in random directions, usually when in a panic) was a strong possibility. But Dylan's epic meltdowns presented the primary challenge. I want to be clear here, meltdowns are NOT temper tantrums. Temper tantrums are emotional outbursts that occur when a child doesn't get their way or doesn't get what they desire. Think, "I WANT TO STAY AT THE PARK!!!" Meltdowns are when the neurological system is flooded or overwhelmed and the child panics or can no longer emotionally regulate. Think, "I want the pain to stop!!!" Meltdowns are NOT manipulative! Poor buddy had anywhere from 3 to 5 meltdowns per day at that age (we're finally down to ~3 per week on average at age nine). These panic attacks usually lasted from 30-60 minutes and were all-consuming. To make a teacher or teacher's aid responsible for fielding those seems cruel to all involved. So, we waited, thinking we'd learn the perfect strategies and eventually figure out this whole parenting thing. On a side: Thanks to well-intended feedback from the very few people to which we sparsely subjected our tumultuous family environment, my husband and I were confident that WE were the problem. We were too permissive. We were coddling. We needed to use more discipline. We needed to better and more strictly enforce boundaries. We needed to get out the belt... I agree with some of the feedback (100% opposed to corporal punishment), but we were gentle in all ways so as to never rile the meltdowns. It was self-protection, tbh. Again... The Diagnosis that Changed Our Course We were finally mentally prepared for preschool prior to Dylan's 5th birthday. We still struggled with the mentioned obstacles, but the balance dipped in favor of getting Dylan an educational head start. Our decision to put him in preschool was fortuitous, not that it was a great educational boost, but in that it helped us to see that the struggles we faced were, in fact, unique to Dylan and were, in fact, atypical. Our lives changed forever and immeasurably when Dylan's preschool teacher pulled me aside at the end of the day to show me a capture of what she said was the norm for Dylan. The video was of the class singing, dancing, and clapping in unison. I smiled excitedly searching for Dylan in the small chorus. Miss K had to direct me to the edge of the video, where Dylan stood completely disengaged, flapping his hands wildly out of rhythm with the rest of the class. At that moment, seeing him in this context, viewing him against the norm, is when it struck me. That was when, for the first time, I recognized his uniqueness and began to consider that, while we were far from perfect parents, perhaps we were not the direct cause of his misaligned behaviors. Weeks later, and after the recommended observations and evaluations, Brian and I cried in relief at our IEP intake meeting as the team of experts stated the suspected autism diagnosis. His dismissive pediatrician, the myriad urgent care and ER doctors, all the nurses, and even our family psychologist had missed it or had assumed it was apparent to us. But we had been treading water for so long, focused so hard on mere survival, that we had missed it too. Funnily enough, when we began telling others of the official medical diagnosis that we eventually secured through a battery of surveys, observations, and evaluations through Cortica, everyone we knew was like, "oh, well, yeah, of course. We've always thought Dylan was autistic." Through the Lens of Autism I imagine going back in time with the information I now have. It would profoundly change the way we interacted with Dylan and others regarding Dylan. There is so much we would have done to protect our boy, our family, our daughter, and our dignity. Might you be interested in knowing what strategies we would have employed? If so, visit my website, My Village, and sign up to receive notifications of the Villager posts related to pregnancy, parenting, autism, and more. There is much more to come!
- Cry Babies, Both of Us
Peace and War Dylan (not his real name), my second baby, didn’t cry for the first four days following birth: not when they pulled him out, not when they clipped the cord, not when the nurses gave him his first bath, nor when he was immunized nor punctured for blood. He quietly gurgled during changes and rooted his way to my chest for feedings, but never even whimpered. I resent myself for not running to Dylan when I heard his first terrorized screams, gaining momentum in pitch and decibels as he was transported back up the hall to our postpartum room. His pediatrician, Dr. Lim, had encouraged me to rest during his circumcision and insisted that he “would only feel it for a brief moment.” But the genital mutilation to which I subjected Dylan awoke the slumbering beast within him. (Side bar: there is an upcoming post related to circumcisions and, yes, I realize that I fucked up on this one. I will never forgive myself if that makes you feel better.) It seemed he never quit screaming after that procedure, after that day, week, month… Each time his screams initiated that biological fight-or-flight surge of chemicals to which my body had already been subjected countless times. I chose to "fight," for him and through my self-loathing for what I had done to him. In that fight, I spent hours of each day frantically attempting to settle what felt like rapidly progressing and never-ending emergencies. In my maternity leave, I found that I was the executive producer of the family, responsible for it all. The breast feeding, diaper changing, food prepping, toddler wrangling, toy orchestrating, pediatrician visiting, baby and toddler bathing, this was all IN ADDITION to the regular stuff we gotta do: the laundry, the cleaning, paying of bills, emptying of trash, maintaining the lawn, gassing up and cleaning the car, fixing the shit that breaks in houses... Oh my lord, does the list go on. (Feel free, by the way, to read in my last blog post about how all this must be done with an infant hanging on one nipple while playing "tune-in_Tokyo" with the other.) Unfortunately, this show that I was producing was an utter chaotic disaster. My nerves were raw and exposed to all elements, repeatedly getting scorched by the relentless screaming, the screaming that became increasingly unsettled, angry, persistent and piercing, hour after hour, day after day. I thought I was prepared for the challenges of parenting two and for multitasking all the stuff; but, no one can ever truly prepare for the torture of hearing someone you love so intensely suffering as life marches forward. Yes, I consulted with doctors regularly, almost obsessively. First they called it colic. Then the experts suspected gas. Next the doctors insisted it was acid refulx. And finally, they saddled me with the guilt of saying that I had conditioned within him a truly manipulative behavioral problem. Remember Those Unsustainable Chemical Highs? As the months of torture persisted, my self-hatred, guilt, and mourning for that baby-born-at-peace grew and grew. His colic became the background music first for my sadness, weeks later my depression, months later my severe post partum depression, and by a year, my death. The sweet, innocent, patient (and naïve) woman who entered matrimony and motherhood was laid to rest sometime that year. What stands in her place is a woman who was strengthened but also scorned and jaded. Caveat before I say this next part. I know; I know. I need to "put my oxygen mask on first in order to help them." I get it and have been in counseling and therapy for years. But, I like to keep it real... so here it is. I still have a depth of love for these children that you could never possibly imagine unless you have your own. But the true love for myself will never recover. I don't have the time to truly love myself anymore. It's all about the kids. What's My Point of Burdening YOU with This Story? There's no going back for me. I lost friends because I was acting like a lunatic. I aged rapidly and gained substantial weight. I suffered irreversible psychological damage. And worst of all, I probably messed up my kids because of my manic attempts to handle the stress. You, on the other hand, might glean important insight from this Villager's failures as a mom. Help For Colic As a mother of a colicky baby, it can be a challenging and stressful experience. However, it's important to remember that, typically, colic is a common and temporary condition that affects many infants. Here are some tips that might help you and your baby during this time: 1) Keep a routine: Maintaining a consistent routine for feedings, naps, and bedtime can help reduce stress for both you and your baby. This also helps them feel more secure and comforted. 2) Swaddle and rock: Swaddling your baby snugly and gently rocking them can help soothe them and reduce their distress. Check out one of my favorite baby gurus, Dr. Harvey Karp and his 5 S's). 3) Turn on White noise!!!: Colicky babies find white noise, such as the sound of a hair dryer or vacuum, soothing. You can also use a white noise machine specifically designed for infants. This one is the best-of-the-best and will be ESSENTIAL in calming that fussy baby. (note that as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases). I LOVE this one (click the pic) because it doesn't have a digital sound like so many others and doesn't loop. The sound is smooth and knocks that baby into a zone. 4) Take breaks: Caring for a colicky baby can be exhausting, so it's important to take breaks for your own mental and physical health. Ask for help from family or friends, or simply step outside for some fresh air. 5) Try different soothing techniques: Every baby is different, so what works for one may not work for another. Experiment with different techniques such as baby massage, using a baby carrier, or taking a walk to find what works best for your baby. It's also important to seek support from your partner, family, and friends. Additionally, don't hesitate to speak with your baby's doctor if you're feeling overwhelmed or if your baby's symptoms persist. They may be nicer to you then they were to me. Remember that this is a temporary phase, and with time and patience, your baby WILL grow out of it. YOU GOT THIS!!! Help For YOU if you are Suffering If you or someone you know is suffering from severe postpartum depression, it's important to seek help from a mental health professional as soon as possible. This is a serious condition that can have a significant impact on a person's well-being, and the earlier it is treated, the better the outcome is likely to be. Here are some steps you can take if you are struggling with postpartum depression: Reach out for support: Talk to your partner, family members, or friends about what you're going through. You don't have to go through this alone. Contact a mental health professional: A therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist can help you manage your symptoms and develop a treatment plan. Practice self-care: Take care of yourself by getting plenty of rest, eating well, and engaging in physical activity. It's also important to take time for yourself and do things that bring you joy. Consider medication (Tom Cruise can SUCK it): Antidepressants and other medications can be effective in treating postpartum depression. Your doctor can help you determine if this is a good option for you. It's also important to be aware of postpartum psychosis, which is a rare but serious condition that can occur after childbirth. Symptoms of postpartum psychosis include severe confusion, hallucinations, delusions, and manic behavior. If you experience any of these symptoms, it's critical to seek medical help immediately. Remember that postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis are treatable, and with the right support and care, you can make a full recovery. Did I Ever Discover the Problem? If you're curious as to why Dylan was in so much discomfort, stay tuned for my next post. We did determine the cause and still work fervently to provide for him peace and reprieve. Hint: Want to hear more self-deprecating stories? Visit my website, My Village, and sign up to receive notifications of the Villager posts related to HG and to alleviating other discomforts during pregnancy.
- Human Pacifier
I recognize how fortunate I was to have great breastfeeders and an ample milk supply. Many of my friends weren't so lucky and suffered massive emotional and physical setbacks as a result (no exaggeration if you haven't experienced the same). Breastfeeding was a painful and defeating experience for those friends and they would be livid to hear someone who had a strong fruitful latch complain. Yet, I do. I complain. Cram the Boob in the Open Mouth I attribute my favorable experience breastfeeding to my mother-of-four and doctor friend, Jill's, advice: "Wait until the baby's mouth is wide open and then cram as much of your boob in its mouth as you can. Let the baby do the rest." I used this technique, and guess what? It worked! There was no struggle with what the professionals seem to make so complicated and technical. I mean, listen to this advice from Mayo. "The cross-cradle hold is ideal for early breastfeeding. Sit up straight in a comfortable chair with armrests. Bring your baby across the front of your body, tummy to tummy. Hold your baby in the crook of the arm opposite the breast you're feeding from — left arm for right breast, right arm for left. Support the back of the baby's head with your open hand. With the other hand, support your breast from the underside in a U-shaped hold. Guide the baby's mouth to your breast. Don't bend over or lean forward. Instead, cradle your baby close to your breast." You lost me at "cross-cradle." I had a perfect latch, thanks to the "cram the boob in an open mouth" advice, and STILL the lactation consultant came in my L&D recovery room and offered her Aunt Lydia direction, slapping my hand into a c-shape and wrangling the baby into an awkward angle. She was effective at inducing anxiety and self-doubt but that was the extent of her help. Her take on the room's mounting fussiness was that it was all the result of my improper positioning. Mine was that SHE was the source of discomfort. Before I piss anyone off, I want to say that there are many women and babies who experience physiological barriers to breastfeeding. Here is a link to an article published by the Office of the Surgeon General in 2011 that better speaks to these concerns. There are a number of possible factors that can interfere with the process. Most certainly these mothers should be adequately supported as Jill's advice might not work for them. The only addition I have to her sage wisdom is to say that my breast friend was my Boppy. This, my friends, is a "Boppy." You can get just about any fabric and pattern pillowcase for it on Amazon. I put my favorites at the bottom of the post. You wrap it around your waist and gently lay the babe on their side, facing your breast. Easy! Now take a good look at this image of a proper latch. Keep in mind that this is what you're going for. Again, wide open baby mouth, cram that boob in. The Walking Binky Dillema Now (most hopefully) that you have a beautiful latch and a sufficient supply (this comes a few days following delivery assuming the baby is sucking regularly), welcome to being a walking milk supply! You, now and for several months to come, are on emergency alert and will be requested to whip out your nips at any given and random time so as to feed, pacify, and even entertain your baby. Yep, they will use you for food, comfort, and simply because they can. This babe (or multiple babes) will be locked onto your teets for literal hours a day and hours a night. These well-latched babies don't have any regard for your schedule, goals, personal hygiene regimen, rest, comfort, nor audience. They want it, and they want it now. Allow me to complain. Because I didn't do a few simple things to prevent enmeshment (I will mention soon), my babies suckled on me pretty much non-stop for about a year each. That means that 2 years of my life were spent carrying out daily tasks and co-sleeping with an 8-25 pound chest appendage, one that quickly learned to chew and bite. Because I apparently trained my babies to use me in soothing themselves, I quickly became the only one they wanted for anything. It's hard to imagine how the pure bliss from the breastfeeding oxytocin surge can slowly mutate into a toe-curling annoyance because you allowed yourself to become a binky that the babies want around the clock, every day, for months on end. I'm not even talking about the cringe that comes from their tiny fingers obsessively pinching your free nipple while they snack. It is beautiful bonding that can turn to bondage if you don't take precautionary measures. Two Simple Suggestions to NOT Become a Caged Dairy Cow 1) From early on, have your partner help feed at least once a day with bottles. It seemingly decreases the convenience factor, but TRUST ME, it will free you from your milk servitude and will also help the baby learn that they can be comforted and cared for by others. This will make for a much smoother maternity leave-to-work transition and will also allow you to hand off the night-time feeding baton. I personally LOVED the Nanobebe bottle pictured here. Feel free to click the pic (note that as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases). After spending hundreds on different bottles looking for perfection, I landed on these. I found these bottles and nipples were most breast-like and were designed with breastfeeding physiology in mind. 2) Help your baby to fall in love with a bottle-matching-binky, like the Nanobebe one in the picture above. Breastfeeding is so very comforting to babies, that they will gravitate toward this activity on the regular. You must help them gradually learn to self-soothe, and this is a great tool for that. Side bar: I am not personally an advocate of the cry-it-out method (no judgment if you are), so if you continue to read my blog, you will learn that this tool (the bottle-matching-binky) will be essential in tearless sleep training as well. Get them started early! My Favorite Boppy Pillow Cases (Soft fabric): Favorite that comes with the pillow:
- To C, or Not to C?
My doctor recommended a planned cesarian section, but were the risks worth it? My butthole was destroyed due to HG during pregnancy. (Feel free to punish yourself by reading the previous blog posts on HG and on my resulting rectal prolapse). I wasn't given the decision to opt for a vaginal delivery. My baby was measuring quite large and the concern was that I would again push my rectum out of my body should I try to squeeze out a 9-pounder. I was terrified of my doctor's orders. Was a highly invasive surgery worth saving my freshly healed bungholio? Would I be exposing the baby to the medications required for this surgery? Could I care for my child while recovering from having been sliced through several layers of anatomy? Would a planned C-section allow my child the time to bake according to her needs? Might the fluids not be effectively squeezed from her lungs and other orifices? Perhaps she wouldn't bond with me as effectively because I wasn't going through the biological ritual. All of these concerns and more flooded me and I tried to convince my beloved OBGYN that the C-section was unnecessary. He was obviously more educated and experienced than I, though, and informed me that he would ask me to change doctors should I try for a vaginal delivery. So, I hit the books to self-educate. What I found really surprised me and validated my decision to go for the C. Now, of course, any surgery carries risk. I have a good friend whose emergency c-section ended in her receiving life-saving CPR due to the spinal block traveling upwards and paralyzing her heart and lungs. The maternal mortality rate is higher for c-sections: 9.7 per 100,000 by c-section versus 1.8 per 100,000 by vaginal birth. Additionally, there is a greater risk for surgical lacerations and major bleeding in subsequent pregnancies. C-sections require surgically excising the skin, fat, fascia, peritoneum, and the layers of the uterus. They also require the rectus abdominis to be separated at the midpoint. C's require longer hospital stays, incur higher labor and delivery medical bills, are challenging to recover from when caring for a newborn, and do increase the risk of neonatal respiratory distress. With all that said, it seems that c-sections should be avoided at all costs. But, I must report that even had it not been for a bulging balloon knot of a butthole, I would opt for an elective c-section again. My Daughter's Birth Story is So Simple and Drama Free On 11-7-11, four days prior to her official due date, my husband and I casually strolled into the hospital. We spent about an hour registering and prepping and within two hours of my arrival, we welcomed our bouncing baby girl. I was stitched shut, given an extra suturing of my abdominal muscles (a little girdle bonus thrown in by my doc), and was wheeled to my recovery suite. My daughter and I spent the next five days doted on by nurses, lactation consultants, pediatric specialists, food deliverers, and maids. It was the most relaxed and well-taken care of I have been since delivering my babies and I might just have to have another baby in order to assure that type of peace in life once again. I ain't gonna lie, the recovery wasn't ideal. It was painful, difficult to get around, and limited my mobility. Post-surgical potty time was dreadful and I had to sleep on the lower level of our home for a week. It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows. Let's consider the alternatives though: vaginal deliveries and emergency C-sections. Vaginal Deliveries This beautiful right of passage is enviable. I mourned that I would never wear the badge of honor of having naturally delivered my babies. Growing up, I had this vision of a peaceful, unmedicated, doula-assisted home birth. I donned a flower crown and gauzy long sun dress. My husband massaged my lower back as I rested on my birthing ball. When time came, I effortlessly disregarded the discomfort and ab-crunched my glowing baby into the doula's hands, sans vaginal ripping and fetal distress. I wish I could have proven my fortitude and bravery by going this route. Truth is, though, not too many women experience the peaceful deliveries they envision and vaginal deliveries are certainly not without complications. According to a literature review, about 1 in every 200 birthing mothers died in their childbeds from the early 1700's to 1935, an indication of how risky a natural delivery can be. During this time, when we see thorough records, more complicated cases saw about 1 in 40 perish. In current days, deliveries are much safer in large part because of the many interventions employed. We now have forceps, vacuums, pain relief, antibiotics, better attention to hemorrhaging and health monitoring, etc, etc. Statistically, it is likely that you will have one or many interventions like an epidural (67%), IV fluids (62%), Pitocin to speed delivery (31%), membranes artificially ruptured (20%), an episiotomy to widen the birth canal (17%), and even an emergency C-section (18.2%). Emergency C-Section It must be mentioned that while C-sections carry the risk of maternal mortality, a majority of this risk involves those c-sections that were performed as an emergency rather than electively. The maternal mortality rate of elective C's are 5.9/100,000 versus the 18.2/100,000 rate of emergency C's. Emergency C's often come after long hours of laboriously attempting to vaginally deliver, only to find that the task is impossible or far too risky to the mother or child. By the time the procedure is performed, both the mother and child are often inflamed, exhausted, and traumatized. The Benies of a C There are actually so many benefits of elective c-sections. First of all, your baby won't be born with a smooshed cone-head (not that they aren't adorbs). But more than that, they won't experience brain bleeding! Check this out. In a study, MR images showed that 17 (26 percent) of the babies who had been delivered vaginally had intracranial hemorrhages! I mean, the baby's cranium contorts to fit through the canal and that brain is soft like jello. Evolutionarily, the brain is getting bigger but the size of that pelvic opening isn't keeping pace. There are other benefits to the baby like reduced cases of clinical chorioamnionitis, reduced fetal heart rate abnormalities, and reduced instances of cord prolapse. Additionally, a C can be nice for mama by reducing the risk of urinary incontinence (peeing your pants), fecal incontinence (pooping yourself), severe labor pain, and fear and anxiety related to labor. And don't forget that a c-section mama doesn't get thrown into the world of the unknown mere hours after delivery. In Sum Sure, I will forever be saddled with a sizable surgical scar on my pubic line, but worth it to me. It's a battle scar I wear with pride. It reminds me how fortunate my baby and I were to have experienced a well-planned, safe, and drama-free delivery. Going in for a Planned C? Here's what to pack: Toothbrush/ toothpaste/ floss Hair brush your personal hair essentials. (NOTE: I don't recommend spray-dry-shampoo because these airborne particles may be harmful to the baby's lungs) Light makeup for those photo ops Our favorite skin kit (The Ordinary Travel Pack) Hand sanitizer (it's a hospital, yuck) Your preferred soap Wet wipes for YOUR booty Nipple cream (trust me) Warm and cozy socks (hospital socks are no bueno) Slippers An extra comfort blanket for yourself (no blankets on newborns!) Your comfort pillow (Here's mine) Your preferred easy-access swaddle Your Preferred Binkies (We love the most breast-like Nanobebe) The most comfortable robe Your laptop and charger Your phone and your longest charger And exit outfit for yourself An exit outfit for your baby Have These Ready for the Drive Home Newborn-ready Rotating Car Seat installed by a professional (can be done at fire stations) Mirror for Newborn viewing What the Hospital Usually Provides Diapers Baby Wipes Breast Pumps and disposable formula bottles and sometimes nipple cream (lanolin) Really cheap toothbrush, toothpaste, and comb Stinky soap Adult diapers for your post-operative care Hospital gown and hospital socks Not-so-cozy blankets for mama Baby swaddles Baby onesies Pacifier Need More Help? It Does Take a Village! Visit my website, My Village (apologies that it is under construction), and sign up to receive notifications of the Villager posts related to HG and to alleviating other discomforts during pregnancy.
- An Excruciating Pain in the Butt (Literally)
Trigger Warning (Graphic Content) My asshole will never be the same. I've had one major and 6 minor corrective surgeries on my butthole in an effort to 1) get it properly tucked back and to 2) get it looking more "normal." And let me tell you, no pain... NO PAIN, could possibly be worse than the pain that I experienced as a result. The story is gruesome. You still have the opportunity to leave before never being able to look at me the same way again. In pregnancy, I suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) (See my last post) and, as is required in many cases of HG, I had to go on an antiemetic (medicine that keeps you from puking) so as to provide nutrition to the baby. On a side, it was an antiemetic or It was that or a PICC line. I was personally terrified of the PICC line risks and maintenance. In retrospect, I most certainly should have gone with the PICC line. Anyway, many antiemetics, including mine, cause severe constipation. I'm not talking about having to strain to poop. I mean, the poop is stubbornly lodged at the base of your colon, pounding on that chocolate starfish, begging for release, inducing hot flashes and sweating, involuntarily curling your toes and causing you to angrily grip the toilet seat as you push as if you're birthing a baby for hours, yet NOTHING exits the facility. When I say severe constipation, I mean, the poop WILL NOT come out without enemas, gloved digital manipulation, and lube suppositories. Severe constipation is a total nightmare of what should be a somewhat pleasurable daily event. It is a dreaded, terrifying, painful, forced weekly ritual that strips you of all dignity and eventually leads you to be so stripped that you write about your butthole in a public blog. Months of HG led to months of severe constipation, which eventually landed me in a proctologist's office inquiring why I had a significant bulging and terribly sore red bloody protrusion sticking out of my peach. I was informed that severe constipation, as I'm sure you could imagine, increases the risk of hemorrhoids or even rectal prolapse (I dare you to look up an image). "You, my dear, have both." I was 6 months pregnant, so surgery wasn't ideal. However, neither was the risk of significantly worsening my predicament as the baby grew and placed additional pressure on my colon and rectum. So, I went for it. For three days prior to the surgery, I was on a liquid diet to assure a clean colon and proper recovery. I wasn't surprised during this prep that very very little was expelled, considering my hyperemesis gravidarum and inability to keep foods down. The actual procedure wasn't remarkable. I had been given a spinal block and remained wide awake and unsedated. I felt nothing aside from slight pressure. Occasionally I smelled burning flesh from the cauterizations but there was no other discomfort. I was sent home a mere hour after the procedure and was given a little butt donut and numbing cream to ease any discomfort after the local anesthetic wore off. I was good to go... ...that was until the 3-day liquid diet kicked in about an hour after returning home. I had erroneously assumed that my intestines were cleared due to lack of nutritional intake (thanks, HG). I hadn't accounted for the sloughing of intestinal cells and the morsels of food that had in fact been digested over the many months that my body refused to eliminate wastes. I hadn't considered that for months my large intestine was slowly packed full from base to tip as the weeks upon weeks of severe constipation persisted. And what goes in must inevitably come out. My first post-operative elimination was painless, as the local anesthesia was still in effect. I simply felt the need for relief and effortlessly dropped off a sizeable plug of debris. I was concerned to see blood in the water but the on-call doctor explained that a small amount was to be expected and that blood in water appears to be much more than what is actually present. Eliminations number 2 and 3 were slightly more concerning as they prompted actual dripping of blood into the water below. I also was starting to feel a sharp and seering pain around the rim and an emerging fear that there was so much more to come. The number of bowel movements that followed became laughably unbelievable. It wasn't feasible that my body could have stored so much over time and was even more inconceivable that it would be dislodged AFTER a major rectal rehaul. I couldn't fathom the type of karma that landed me in the predicament of relieving a literal meter of fecal matter (if not more) through a recently sutured and soldered opening. Moreover, with all the blood I was now seeing, I knew that I was now ripping at sutures and tearing my fresh wound. The pain was unimaginable and indescribable. I can say with confidence that there is no greater pain. It may very well match an unmedicated childbirth, passing a large kidney stone, a bite from a few bullet ants, burns etc. But, you will NEVER convince me that what I experienced was less than a 10 on the pain scale. It swiftly landed me in the ER and soon after in the labor and delivery ward where I writhed for 5 days in the most terrible pain I had ever and hopefully will ever experience in my life. It was pure epic torture that necessitated the resuturing of my raw anus and that changed my appreciation for non-pregnant effortless pooping. Have I mentioned that pregnant women are superheroes? Want to hear self-deprecating stories? Visit my website, My Village, and sign up to receive notifications of the Villager posts related to HG and to alleviating other discomforts during pregnancy.
- "Morning" Sickness is a Joke!
Try morning, noon, and night sickness, with a sprinkle of wake-you-up-in-the-middle-night-to-waves-of-nausea. Yeah, for the lucky few, "morning" sickness is a misnomer. Mere days after conception and I was definitely feeling pregnant. But I wasn't feeling pregnant in that precious and glowing kind of way. I felt it in that super tired, bloated, sore boobed, and super nauseated type of way. It's kind of impressive how quickly the body responds, mine as if this tiny foreigner was a food-borne pathogen, of which my body needed to remove through constant vomiting. hCG, the "Pregnancy Hormone" Nonetheless, my OBGYN confidently proclaimed that my nagging nausea was a "very healthy sign of the pregnancy." These symptoms were indicative of raising hCG levels, and were to be expected throughout the first trimester. On a side, hCG is known as the "pregnancy hormone" and plays a vital role in maintaining a viable pregnancy. Be warned that abnormal hCG levels can mark ectopic pregnancies (not growing in the uterus), multiple pregnancies (thinks twins and triplets), and even miscarriages (loss of pregnancy); so, you definitely need to make those early prenatal checkup appointments. Docs will usually monitor your levels and assure you are on the right course. More Than Morning Sickness? My pregnancy was healthy, but I was increasingly miserable as the levels of both hCG and nausea continued to rise. By week 5, I was excessively gagging and unable to hold down most foods and liquids. Water was particularly difficult to stomach, as it was voluminous in the stomach. I quickly learned that volume of goods in the stomach ='s barfing. In week 5, I lived off of mandarin orange slices. They were truly the only things I could stomach... the the micro-hydration, the citrus flavor and subtle aroma. Before you righteously judge me, know that I judged myself far harder than you ever could. I entered pregnancy determined to offer my little embryo only the VERY best opportunity to thrive: rich in prenatal vitamins and wholesome clean foods and free from caffeine, alcohol, additives, pesticides, food dyes, and excessive sugar. My body had a mind of its own. Well, my body actually had a disease. Hyperemesis gravidarum, commonly referred to as HG, is a debilitating form of "morning" sickness that strikes throughout the day and night and may continue throughout pregnancy. It is marked by excessive nausea, gagging, and vomiting. Diagnostic criteria (AKA, getting insurance to recognize and pay for treatment) includes vomiting to the extent that the patient is dehydrated and malnourished, losing 5% or more of their initial body weight. In my volunteer work for Beyond Morning Sickness, I served patients who required hospitalization, PICC lines, medicine pumps, and one who even tore her esophagus from chronic vomiting. I served a ballerina who fell to a life threatening 90 pounds, a struggling single mother who could only hold down rice for 3 months, and a desperately miserable young woman who was bed-ridden throughout almost her entire pregnancy. I myself was miserable pretty much up until the date of my delivery, but was very fortunate to have an exceptional OBGYN, great health insurance, and a loving support system in the Beyond Morning Sickness organization. Effective Solutions for HG Ever wanted to cancel someone for recommending "ginger" or "saltine crackers," as if you haven't tried every proposed remedy out there? No? Well, then clearly you have never experienced HG. Yes? I'm just so very sorry. It is miserable and even potential deadly. You, my dear, are a super hero. You WILL get through this, but you may need a great deal of extra help. I hope I may offer some ideas for relief. So, what DOES work? Well, brace yourself and accept my apologies... I personally was never able to find complete relief from the nausea and gagging. I lost weight in the 1st trimester, maintained weight in the 2nd, and finally gained16 pounds in the 3rd. I was so insanely concerned and nervous about my insufficient weight gain, despite the fact that my doctor insisted that my baby was a parasite, gobbling up my stored nutrients, depleting me of my reserves, but gaining all it needed to thrive. Did I wholly believe my doctor? Not really. However, I did my best to feed the little one and I am here to help you do the same. Try these steps, IN ADDITION to staying hydrated and nourished to the best of your ability! Step 1 You NEED an exceptional OBGYN. This doctor must hear you and believe the struggle you face. This doctor needs to be prepared to support you more than his average patient and to refer you to home health care that can offer walking IV drips and perhaps even PICC lines to offer additional nutrients. HG affects about 1% or less of the pregnant population, so your OBGYN may chalk your pleas up to weak, whiny, annoyance. That would be so irresponsible and heartless, but it does happen. To avoid this, do a bit of research to find a doctor in your area who has experience with HG. You may even interview potential doctors by asking what treatments they recommend for HG. You are looking for a compassionate response and ample and educated suggestions. Step 2 Visit the HER Foundation website and reach out to the community for support. Note: I have no personal incentive to refer you to HER; I just think they are fabulous. Click on "Get Help Now," which I have highlighted in the picture below. They have volunteers available to help you immediately and a support group that you can join. Connect to know that you are not alone! Step 3 Acquire home health care. I received care through Alere and HIGHLY recommend their services. Note: I have no personal incentive to refer you to their services; I just think they are marvelous. Unfortunately, they only serve in the Bay Area of California. You may need to do a little online research to find a home health care service near you. The primary benefits they offer, aside from regularly checking in on your overall health are: Walking IV drips PICC line maintenance Medicine pumps Step 4 Get a bit of relief with these products (please note that although the price is unchanged, I may receive a small commission should you purchase through these links): Citrus scented essential oils are excellent for masking the odors that contribute to your nausea. I like Now oils because they are 100% pure, yet relatively inexpensive. You can probably smell people's armpits and breath from several feet away. Keep a dab of oil on your wrist and smell that whenever needed. This trio will Preggie Pops help to minimize nausea, as they help to keep your blood sugar in the nausea fighting zone between meals and the flavors and scents are pregnancy approved. I did the research for you and found you the most for your money. The Pulse Band anti-nausea wrist band was a true life saver for me. I pulsed myself whenever the twinges of nausea hit me. I conditioned myself over a few days and was able to significantly reduce the unrelenting discomfort. Step 5 Visit my website, My Village (apologies that it is under construction), and sign up to receive notifications of the Villager posts related to HG and to alleviating other discomforts during pregnancy.
- Obsessing Over Pregnancy
My longing for pregnancy was like no other longing I had experienced in life. Some intense and burning biological desire was spurred in me immediately after meeting my husband. It was as if my little ova knew they'd met their perfect sperm matches and wanted to combine immediately, no discussion nor negotiation allowed. So, we started trying right away and were pregnant just 2 months after marrying. I was so very eager to bring home little bouncing "Bralenas" (a combo of my husband Brian and my name Kalena) that I would start testing my urine for HCG mere moments after copulation. BTW: You can get super inexpensive test strips and ovulation strips from Natalist and other sources. These tests are about $1 a pop and made for obsessive testing where I would hold the little strips up to the light and squint in an effort to mind control an extra pink band indicating pregnancy. Feel free to click that paid link on the image. These tests detect even the tiniest amounts of HCG, so I started seeing the little test indicators about 7 days after conception, no joke! For those who don't know, that didn't mean I was a week pregnant; that meant I was 3 weeks pregnant in the language of medicine. Fun fact: Medical providers consider the two weeks prior to fertilization to be weeks 1 and 2 of pregnancy. Doctors count the start of pregnancy from the 1st day of you last period, which is generally 2 weeks prior to the next ovulation. I personally think this to be a flaw in the system because many woman, such as myself, are not regular. My periods were usually about 3-6 months apart due to some weird hormonal and amenorrhea issues. According to my "first date of last menses" I was estimated to be 3 months pregnant, which concerned my practitioners when they merely viewed a tiny gestational sac in the very first ultrasound. They speculated that the fetus wasn't developing normally and that it may be the start of a spontaneous abortion. But from those ovulation strips and from a strong skill in mittelschmerz'ing, I knew EXACTLY when I conceived. It was just days prior. I had to convince the doc that I had a bit of an understanding of the way these things work in order to lock in his confidence. On the image is a link to the strips, if you are interested. "Look doc, I know when I had sex" wasn't enough to convince him." Fortunately, as the weeks progressed, I developed beautifully and ultrasound measurements continued to verify my own estimations for a due date, which was quite magically set at 11.11.11. I was beyond delighted and wore the "told-ya-so" like a badge. Was pregnancy delightful? Oh hell no. Allow me to elucidate in my next blog post. Let me tell you, pregnancy is for super heros!