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Posts Tagged ‘health’

out with the tide

I’ve been trying for days to write about where we’re at with my son; his behavioral challenges have anted up significantly over the last few weeks and I know I need both the venting and commenter insights this space affords. However I just can’t. Maybe it’s too fresh, I don’t know. Words just won’t come. So, I’m going to punt that topic for now and try to do Peep’s birth story instead, which itself is 4+ months overdue.

So!

I’ll skip the days (weeks!) of prodromal labor, during which I contracted sporadically during the day and regularly during the evenings, for hours on end. Instead I’ll start two days before Peep arrived. It was early Thursday morning, around 3:30 am, when the contractions hadn’t stopped all night and seemed to be worsening, that I finally woke my husband and pronounced it Go Time. We called our friends, and husband took the two big kids over to their house while I put a few last-minute items in the hospital bag.

While husband parked, I shuffled and panted my way up to L&D triage, which was blessedly slow and they got me in a “bed” very quickly. We watched my contractions on the monitor, and I felt so validated as the enormous double peaks scrawled across the paper; the contractions weren’t a figment of my imagination nor just trifling little cramps. They were real, they were strong, and they were frequent. They just weren’t doing anything much, so I was sent home after a few hours. Oh, that long, hangdog slog back out of L&D. I felt like Napoleon, slinking from Waterloo.

We arrived home just as the kids would be heading to school. We let our friends know, and that we’d play pickup by ear, and I grumpily settled in bed to continue laboring ineffectively. (I should mention, at this point, that my separated pubic symphysis prevented me from walking or exercising my way into stronger labor; any movement hurt, even rolling over or trying to sit up.) 

The minutes and hours crept by in a strange, slow blur. My mother arrived in the afternoon, and she and my husband talked in hushed voices while I tried to rest. The contractions didn’t diminish, but they didn’t worsen, either. I manuevered and re-positioned constantly, trying to find any spot that would give even the slightest relief. We decided that while we didn’t know when things would actually get going, it was best not to let the kids come home and see me in this much distress. I was having a hard time moving through the contractions, and I didn’t even want to see them and try to put a happy face on. Our friends picked them up from school and would keep them for the night. I knew they’d be thrilled to have this extended sleepover with their besties, so I didn’t worry about them too much.

That evening found us back in triage, I was contracting regularly still, and they felt stronger and more intense to me, but upon being checked – by the resident with the world’s biggest hands, just think on that for a minute – I hadn’t progressed beyond 3ish cm and so I couldn’t be admitted. 

I can’t remember if I cried. I probably did. By now it was late Friday night, I’d been awake for two days, was in constant pain, and was SO TIRED. They gave me a shot of morphine and sent me home again. By the time I was back in my own bed, the morphine was working and the contractions felt like a mere dull roar. I slept for three hours, until I woke again to pain so intense I white-knuckled the headboard and moaned – no, growled – for my husband to apply counter pressure. (I’ve heard women speak with awe and amazement at how primal childbirth is, and how our animal nature takes over, etc. That may be true, and I do truly appreciate the magical insanity that is labor and birth. However. I do not like the strange, deep, bellowing sounds I emit when in that kind of pain. It just makes the whole experience feel even more out of control and surreal.)

This phase lasted until dawn, every contraction rendering me a gasping, sobbing wreck, desperately clutching my own ass in an undignified attempt to find leverage on the pain and subdue it. At some point during the morning I decided I had to go back to the hospital, if only to get more morphine. While the thought of riding in the car was unbearable, and the thought of having to walk out of L&D again even more so, I just could not manage the pain at home on my own. The breathing, the stretching, the focal points, the meditation, the music… I’d tried it all and come up short. I needed help.

Saturday mid morning found me in the same bed in triage, getting checked by the same large-handed resident. (“That’s the guy,” I hissed at my mom when I saw him outside the door.) I dreaded what he would say, dreaded hearing that my cervix continued to clamp itself at an uncooperative number, dreaded being in labor purgatory for another indefinite, insufferable stretch.

“Well, that’s a six!” he pronounced brightly, and everyone in the room cheered. I was beyond relieved. So far beyond. I think my husband was, too. He’s one for action, and all the limbo was driving him crazy.

It took the usual amount of rigamarole to get me up to a delivery room, and I remember upon arrival my mom and husband exclaiming over the beautiful view of the mountains, and feeling a twinge of sadness that I couldn’t enjoy it properly, what with the miserable pain and all. I decided I wanted an epidural, despite my desire to go without this time. When I had imagined myself having an unmedicated labor, I had imagined that the hours leading up to delivery would be brief; third babies, after all, have had the way well-paved. What I didn’t know was that I’d be awake for nearly 48 hours and be in active labor for more than 20 of those hours prior to delivery, and would have burned through all my reserves before the action even got started. So even though it wasn’t what I wanted, it was what I WANTED. 

My nurse was super nice, young but warmly maternal and gentle, getting all her intake chores done while making me feel like she was completely focused on me. My mom and husband called various family, letting everyone know that things were happening. I sweated and struggled through every contraction, hoping that the anesthesiologist would hustle it up already. She arrived, young like the nurse but brisk and utterly lacking in bedside manner. “Hold still,” I remember her saying, as I shook silently with the effort of not writhing through a contraction, trying to curl into the proper C-shape that would open my vertebrae. My husband held my shoulders, and as the epidural took effect, I said something about how it was weirdly working feet-first, looked up at him, and that’s the last thing I remember for a while.

It turns out the anesthesiologist punched the needle too far, into the subdural space, but didn’t realize it and injected the full drug load, which instantly bottomed out my blood pressure and caused me to lose consciousness. I was out for about two hours, which on the bright side gave me a nice break from the pain marathon, however it did cause my mom, husband and nurse a serious case of fretting. Fortunately I didn’t go into respiratory distress, which can be common in these situations; unfortunately later that night I would get the first pangs of a resulting spinal headache, something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

The return to consciousness was slow. At first I was aware of voices and sounds around me; slowly I realized they were talking about me, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying. I didn’t know what had happened, or even if the baby was ok. I managed to open my eyes and my OB’s face hovered over mine. Her lips were moving, but nothing was making any sense. I must have managed to ask about the baby, because I remember finally understanding her say “the baby is fine” over and over. I think I was crying, I was certainly disoriented and scared.

As my head cleared, I realized I had no sensation in my body and couldn’t move. The perks of this situation were immediately obvious: no pain! Gradually I was able to talk and understand more about what had happened. I was still in labor – the contractions were merrily chugging away on the monitor – but couldn’t feel a thing. My OB pulled up a chair and said it was time to go over the game plan.

Up until now, the game plan had been to go for an unmedicated, vaginal delivery if circumstances allowed. My previous baby had macrosomia and shoulder dystocia, and we’d had conversations about the probability of it happening again with this baby, and what the best management strategies would be. (You can read more about it in my last post.) 

Now, the long labor and failed epidural threw me a curve ball. At least, I felt it did. The OB was honest and said she really didn’t know at this point what to recommend. A c-section would obviously eliminate the chance of shoulder dystocia, but carried its own risks and difficult recovery. However, she said, if I was going to proceed with a vaginal delivery, I had to be ok with her breaking the baby’s collar bone or breaking my pelvis to get her out, should a dystocia occur. No, I said. No. I’m not ok with breaking the baby.

I thought and thought and thought, and felt like a c-section would be the safest path for both me and the baby. I couldn’t face getting another epidural after the last one failed so spectacularly, but I didn’t think I could get through delivery at this point without one. I was afraid I didn’t have the strength to push, after everything I’d been through. I didn’t think I could squat or get into optimal positions for getting the baby’s shoulders through. I just didn’t think I had it in me anymore, as much as it hurt to admit it.

My husband told me he’d respect my decision, but reminded me how much I wanted to do this naturally, and told me he believed in me, that everything that had led us here was fate. He wanted me to try. That he had so much faith in me meant a lot, though I didn’t think fate had anything to do with anything. 

During this conversation the feeling was returning to my body. The contractions broke over me in waves, bearable at first, but growing quickly in intensity. The pressure was on to make a decision. I really was leaning towards a c-section, the last thing I thought I wanted, but now suddenly seemed like the safest path. I looked at my mom; she nodded. She wanted me to choose safety. She believed in me too, believed that I knew myself enough to make the best choice.

As the decision slid into place in my mind, another kind of sliding was happening. I felt something shift and move down below, a strange but unmistakable sensation. “Oh my god, she’s here,” I gasped. “THE BABY IS IN MY BUTT.” (Because that’s what it felt like, and because my subconscious knew this birth story would need some humor later, apparently.)

The doctor’s eyebrows went up, she checked me, and it was true: I was at a 10 and ready to push. “It looks like she made this decision for us,” the OB said, and the room kind of started whirring around me, suddenly full of people running back and forth and moving things around and clanking the bed into its fully functional position. I remember looking down and everyone had white galoshes on. It’s one of the visual details from the entire experience that stands out the most.

Meanwhile the contractions were raging full steam ahead, and while I was relieved not to have to dither about what to do, I was also having an incredibly difficult time getting through each contraction. Grabbing my hips, scrabbling backwards in the bed like I could escape them, breathing through pursed lips so hard I was spitting all over everything. My husband and mom were holding my hands, encouraging me, but none of it got through. I was very near panic.

“Open your eyes,” my OB said quietly. “Open your eyes. Look at me.” So I did, and it somehow helped. “Stay here, stay with me.” She was gentle but so authoritative that I just somehow did. I still felt crazed with pain, but also more grounded in knowing that the only person who could finish this was me. I took a huge breath and started pushing.

The pain was unbelievable. Indescribable. Stretching, searing, hot, impossible. Just as I thought to myself I wouldn’t be able to do it long enough to get the baby out, the OB said, “Her head is out!” and I was stunned with gratitude. I pushed again, against the stirrups, against the pain, against the fear that had been building to this moment. I felt like a wild thing, a hurricane, a supernova: the sensation of opening was slithery and explosive and unbearable.

“It’s out,” the OB said, her shoulder is out.” Everyone cheered, and I cried, incredulous. Her shoulder was out. She was going to be ok. One final push and the rest of her slid through me, like the tide going out. And suddenly there she was, nestled in the OB’s lap, a deep yellowish purple, eyes tightly closed. I stared and stared, drinking her in. “She’s not crying,” I cried, as they lifted her to my chest. She opened her eyes. 

I don’t remember the order of what happened next. I know she spent some time in the warmer, and I got cleaned and stitched up, and she nursed, and my husband and mom held her. I know we all marveled at her, and the path her coming had taken. Mostly though I just remember holding her, looking into her face, and her looking back into mine.

 

 

*David Copperfield

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spark of life

Big news! I’m pregnant! And… due in ten days! Uh, and absolutely terrible at updating this blog. Sorry. But anyway, baby #3 is coming soon, and we’re very happy and excited about that, despite knowing full well that the impact of a newborn will be a mixed bag for our family. With a 10 year old and almost 7 year old, we’ve gotten accustomed to the luxuries of life without nap schedules, or diapers, or choking hazards, and revisiting all that will be… interesting, especially for the big kids.

If you follow me on twitter, you’ve probably blocked me by now, because in recent weeks I’ve gotten very vocal (ok whiny) about wanting to get this baby OUT already. I feel like an asshole about it, because I know so many people would give anything to be pregnant and can’t, or have had horribly frightening experiences with preterm birth, and that my seemingly “I’m so uncomfortable I can’t stand being preggo ANY MORE” tweets must appear shallow or offensive or both. I don’t want to offend or alienate anyone, of course, yet I can’t be disingenuous about my own truth, either.

Here’s the thing. I want this baby out NOW because I am absolutely terrified what will happen if she stays in another minute more. My last baby was macrosomic, and his shoulder got stuck during childbirth. This is called dystocia, and is highly risky both to mother and baby; because the head is already delivered but not the chest, the cord is compressed against the baby in the birth canal and the baby suffers oxygen deprivation. This can be fatal, or cause brain damage, or permanent nerve damage and paralysis, or or or. 

There are a few things the medical team can do to help free the stuck shoulder, including breaking the baby’s collarbone (GAH, I KNOW) or performing something called the McRobert’s maneuver on the mother: pushing her knees up somewhere behind her ears and then applying significant pressure to her pubic bone to release the baby’s shoulder. The latter is what they did in my delivery experience, resulting in a perfectly healthy baby, thank the stars, and a separated pubic symphysis and dislocated pelvis for me. This took months and months to recover from, was extremely painful, and limited my physical activities (such as, you know, walking) severely. But I eventually recovered, and life went on, save for the occasional modified yoga pose so the teacher wouldn’t get sued if I dislocated my hip.

Flash forward to this pregnancy: pubic bone separation begins around month 7, which, ow, but ok, I’ll try to work with it. And then an ultrasound at 36/37 weeks shows the baby is already clocking in at eight and a half pounds, “on track” to be a little more than 9 and a half pounds by my due date (same as my son was), according to the doctor. I sputter something about margins of error with ultrasound sizing and am reassured that a previous history of macrosomia reduces that margin. Not to mention, a previous delivery with shoulder dystocia significantly increases the odds for a repeat scenario.

So. My pelvis is already destabilizing, there’s a giant baby percolating in my belly, and she’s likely to get stuck. Obviously the risk to her scares me, obviously I’d prefer not to dislocate my own bones to get her out, obviously this is a double-plus ungood scenario and excuse me if I feel perfectly justified in eating pineapples, eggplant and sriracha in an attempt to jumpstart labor. Yes it’s early and generally not recommended, but: macrosomia, dystocia, pubic symphysis — maybe not on the same panic scale as preterm labor and NICU stays for some people, but definitely waaaay up there on mine.

We all have the lens of our own personal experience that colors how we view the experiences and decisions of others, and I am not guilt-free when it comes to judging others based on my singularly anecdotal evidence in some situations. But lately I’ve felt guarded in expressing my fears and frustrations with remaining pregnant, because the common party line is that it is always better to wait for a fully cooked baby than risk getting her out early, and I feel like people must thing I’m some kind of shallow idiot to want otherwise.

I’m lucky that my OB has made me a solemn vow to do everything to protect both the baby and I no matter what happens, that we will make decisions together as a team, that my fears are completely valid and if the baby gets stuck we can try some other techniques first (for example the Gaskin maneuver) if time and circumstance allow. She supports my idea that going without an epidural will give me greater flexibility to get into positions that could reduce the risk for dystocia and promises that the nursing team will also be very supportive in helping me get through an unmedicated labor. She gives great and reassuring hugs at the end of each visit and I feel safe in her hands. I wish I felt just as safe in talking about it out in the world at large, but the truth is, I don’t. 

And I know that’s part of the joy of living in a world of free & unfettered speech; that we don’t always hear what we want to hear, or get validated in the way we hope. That people may not agree with or even disapprove of our ideas. That even a civil and respectful dialogue about it may still hurt. I know all this, and yet, a part of me wonders if my body isn’t releasing the baby yet because my heart is still in its own infancy and needs the validation and support of entire, multiple communities before it can let go and fully trust that all will be well. 

This self-doubt, it’s frustrating. And also oddly reassuring; I’m just one little human, trying to make another. Wish me luck?

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the epoch of belief

So. I went to the doctor and based on my complaints he was thinking gallbladder with a side of thyroid. Off I went to the lab and suffered the usual indignities: I had to refrain from asking the phlebotomist who shook worse than Loma Prieta if he’d logged enough time on his orange before graduation. I got a nice hematoma as a reward for my patience. And my ultrasound tech, while cheerful and lovely in every way, was a student. I think they must have drilled them in class not to be afraid of really getting in there with the wand, because she was merciless. My pancreas is now likely embedded deep within my liver due to her exuberant probing. I was on the table for an hour. An hour.

My follow-up appointment was today, and the good news is my labs and ultrasound were all unequivocally normal. The not-as-good news is that I’m likely having either a long-winded virus or an IBS flare or both, either of which will go away in their own sweet time. Prescription: rest. Oh ha ha ha. But then a strange thing happened. “Let’s talk about depression,” my doctor said.

Me: blank stare.

Him: steady gaze.

Me: uncomfortable hemming and hawing.

Him: steady gaze.

Me: sudden tears leaking quietly everywhere.

He talked about how some people are genetically predisposed to depression (check) and how sometimes things happen in our lives that can cause situational depression (two deaths in the family, child’s health scare, unemployment, marital strife, hmm, I’d say that’s a check) and how especially, when those things combine, the depression becomes a steep-walled crater that is very, very difficult to climb out of. And then he offered me a rope. He suggested that I take that rope. And he handed it to me, and on the rope was the word Prozac.

I’ve thought about it before, medication, and I do take Xanax on occasion when anxiety gets the best of me. But something about going on a steady diet of anti-depressants feels, in a way, to me (and let me be clear, I judge no one else for whatever psych meds they take), like succumbing. Like saying I give up, I can’t do this anymore. I’m too tired. It’s too hard. Like my kid gets about her homework. Like it’s, I don’t know, trivial, but I’m just not applying myself. I also worry that by taking the pills I’m somehow negating my blessings. That I’m pathological in my inability to enjoy and appreciate my children, my home, my privileged life of organic food and a car to drive and shelter and school. And when I say pathological, I think I mean spiritually pathological: that it is a fault, a lack, deep in my psyche, that I could fix if I truly wanted to, if I really tried.

Several of you very kindly twittered with me this evening and reassured me that it’s ok, there’s no shame in needing help to manage these things, that you take pills too. I’m so grateful for the support, and  I’m going to keep checking in with you about this, because I need that support and reassurance, and I need it from people like me — mothers, writers, people who understand this life of domestic drudgery and the angst of trying to meet internal and external parenting standards and identity crises and baby blues and all the rest. I’m going to talk to people in my “real” life also: my parents, my sister, my best friend, because I need that part of me who is in the physical world to also own up to and get over these feelings of inadequacy and shame. I’m going to find a therapist, because even though I feel like I have already done so much therapy, clearly there is so much more.

But here’s the even weirder thing: I start my new job next week. Yes, I am once again gainfully employed, doing something I think I will love in a company whose mission I believe in and with hours that will still allow me to pick my kids up from school. My morale immediately shot up when I got the offer, and I’ve been buzzing ever since. So, as my husband wondered, do I even really need antidepressants now? Will I be happier and more fulfilled working outside the home and being a contributor and a person of tangible value? (And, please, do not for a minute think I think SAHMs/WAHMs don’t have tangible value, merely that sometimes they — I — don’t feel validated. There is a difference!)

I don’t know. I certainly don’t want to start crazy-head meds my first day of work and turn into some seemingly coked-out free-associating chatterbox of nonsense or pass out altogether (have you read the list of side effects for Prozac? I wish I hadn’t). So I may wait. But looking at this piece of paper, this prescription, and remembering the stealthy flood of tears that came in the doctor’s office . . .  I think they were tears of relief. I think I was ready for someone to throw me a rope, and to climb up into the world again.

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rough the spade, finesse the heart

Monsieur Shriek keeps insisting I need to post. But I’m in limbo. Waiting for word on a business opportunity that will change my personal/professional landscape rather drastically. I’m so hopeful about it yet trying to be cautiously hopeful — emphasis on cautiously — that I can’t really think about anything else. Cross your fingers and toes for me please, it is really unremarkable in the overall scheme of things, but big potatoes for a small fish like me. (I like mixing metaphors for lunch. Have a bowl!)

Anyway I needed a distraction (besides Twitter, as I can’t spend all day on there without my husband giving me the stinkeye) and I got one — medical drama for the win! Actually not so much a drama as a minor but puzzling annoyance, one that doubled me over on occasion and had me playing Dr. House and poring over mayoclinic.com for hours at a stretch.

I’m no stranger to abdominal pain — it’s what started my long process to the diagnosis of celiac disease after all — but this was different. On the midline, just to the right of my belly button or creeping slightly up under my ribcage, the pain sometimes felt like a hard, tearing pinch and sometimes like a plain old piercing stab.  Sometimes it radiated (don’t you love pain vocabulary? so poetic) up into my shoulder and jaw, other times it just pulsated nauseatingly in it’s little abdominal nest.

I had a whole litany of possibilities: failure of the appendix, kidney, gall bladder or spleen; an ovary popping a cyst the size of Delaware; bowel obstruction; coronary of my previously undetected right-sided heart. Someone on Twitter suggested shingles which pulled me up pretty short. But I didn’t have a fever, so that pretty much ruled out anything truly ominous. I tried Ibuprofen, and deep breathing, and cursing. I took one of my IBS pills, which, if I correctly understood my gastroenterologist, is sort of an anti-depressant for the pooper. Nothing helped. It just keeps hurting, and I just keep alternating between trying to ignore it and compulsively, hypochondriacally obsessing on it.

So here I sit, waiting for good employment news, blogging tediously (bellyaching! oh ho!) about about my stultifying ailment like a chatty old lady in the checkout line with her vat of Metamucil and her Fleet’s. I do have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow, scheduled earlier this week when I decided I needed to have a thyroid check (BTW, I hereby nominate Jonniker to star in a Magic Schoolbus / Slim Goodbody hybrid about Your Powerhouse! Thrill of the Thyroid!) so if things don’t clear up in the next 24 hours at least someone will be palpating my middle and going “hmmm” reassuringly.

Until then, dear readers, I got nothin.

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on a lonely shore

Thank you to everyone who commented or tweeted or messaged me your good wishes and encouragement. I’ve been keeping my head down and trying to follow the advice of that WWII poster while coming slightly unglued at the seams nonetheless. The short of it is, my husband was laid off, so we’re scrambling to get one or both of us employed, and my son has some medical conditions that fortunately aren’t horrific but will require a long road of daily management. So, worry and relief in various measures vie for position on the scales of my frontal cortex, keeping me awake nights and running the daytime gauntlet in efficiency mode. That is to say, no room for psychological processing, rich as the factory floor could be with all the fatty trimmings. Though I suppose this is where I come to examine my emotional offal, and now that I’m here I may as well see what the last few weeks have netted:

When I’m not worrying that the sky is falling, I’m neurotically ping-ponging back and forth between the idea that human consciousness is nothing more than a weird, electro-chemical blip in an otherwise meaningless universe, and the idea that I personally was put here to learn or accomplish something specific, under the guidance of a deity or omnipotent whatsit. The two ideas could not be more oppositional than the Senate floor, yet they both occupy legitimate space in my inner narrative, taking turns fillibustering me into philosophical paralysis and putting tacks on my seat.

Because the idea of being a mere fluke in meaningless cosmic chaos is too dismal to contemplate right now, I’m currently more inclined to believe that I have a purpose. And given how many challenges, losses and disappointments I’ve experienced in recent months, I’m beginning to wonder if that purpose is to learn… something embarrassingly simple, actually. That life is hard, and so what? It doesn’t entitle one to mope or pout or be crabby at one’s family, or to navel-gaze excessively, or cease functioning in general.

It may strike you as a somewhat sad bafflement that a person is having this epiphany in her late 30’s. But then, I think I’m always having this epiphany, just in different shades of cluefulness and about various facets of my life. Right now, it’s mostly about letting go of self-indulgence and the idea that my suffering is noble or even interesting. I have a life I’ve chosen and that I want to love. I have children who need me to model strength and perseverance and compassion and optimism and joy, rather than the glum face of just getting by. I have a husband who deserves my partnership in every aspect of our marriage. I have parents who have given me boundless love and support my whole life, and their faith in me should count for something.

But somewhere in the worry and obsession over my son’s medical issues, I let go of my lifeline to life itself, surrendering to fear. Fear of what was wrong with him. Fear of losing him. Fear of losing other people I love. Fear of what took the people I did lose, what they lost of themselves, what we all eventually will lose. I know I need to re-engage with the world and with my life. I can see where I need to be, and it seems just a simple matter, getting there, yet feels more like swimming against a strong current, the shore receding with every stroke.

But the piece of it is, as my old therapist used to say, that every stroke has its value, measurable or not, and the point is to keep swimming. While the known shore may be lost to me now, a new one awaits. And frankly, the old one sucked anyway.

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the dark and unknown sea

I hardly know how to write this, or even if to write it at all. Some of my reluctance stems from very basic privacy issues, because even though this blog is anonymous, there’s no guarantee it won’t be somehow dooced. There’s also a certain sort of person who goes on and on about their Personal Health issues and I am extremely leery about becoming That Person. But probably most of it has to do with my irrational fear that writing or speaking words aloud will tempt fate and perhaps even become prophetic. However, Angelynn in her great wisdom, pointed out that if I post about what is going on, maybe someone who reads it will have had a similar experience and can share their insight. So — gulp — here goes.

In a nutshell, over the last year my son (recently turned four) has had various gastric issues. Several months ago we realized they were following a bit of a pattern, and googling netted me something that sounded exactly like his symptoms: cyclic vomiting syndrome. We started paying closer attention, to see if the pattern really fit. Then more recently, we started noticing additional symptoms. Frequent nausea (characterized in him by asking for a bowl to throw up in, but not actually vomiting), belly pain, head pain, the sense of needing to toilet, frequent and exaggerating swallowing, etc. Then he started bobbing his head, not like a tic or a spasm, but a deliberate movement to one side and the other that looked like he was trying to dispel a pain or discomfort. Fatigue came in waves. He would want a nap an hour after waking up in the morning, or need to stop an activity he was enjoying in order to lie down for a bit. He became irritable, prone to hitting, tantrums and pronounced bouts of overreactive anger (though, in all fairness, it’s hard to say what of this is actually outside the provenance of a typical four-year-old). The head movements became more and more frequent, occurring several times a day. At one point when I asked him about it, he said, matter-of-factly, “It’s to stop that thing in my head.”

These symptoms got to the point of being disruptive to his daily life, I could hardly wait for his annual check-up to ask about it all. The pediatrician had lots of questions, did a more involved exam that usual, and concluded we should see a neurologist. He got us an appointment for two weeks later, which seems like an eon to me, but as I found out was actually pretty quick in Neuro Time.

His first appointment with the neurologist overwhelmed us both. Him, because we had to go into a big city hospital and everything and everyone was new and different. Me, because I had done more googling and was in absolute fear of the worst case scenario. We had a long intake with the very kind and knowledgeable nurse practitioner, and then met with the neurologist. He asked a lot of questions, then examined my son, then told me what he was thinking.

It is probably some kind of migraine disorder, possibly abdominal migraine. However, some of his symptoms are atypical, so he’s been scheduled for a few more tests to rule out more insidious causes. The tests won’t be pleasant or easy for any of us, least of all him. In the meantime, he’s started taking amitriptyline (which is actually an antidepressant but is used off-label to treat migraine) but, like most antidepressants, doesn’t usually show results for a few weeks.

So I’m still pretty much in flat-out freakout mode, despite Megan‘s kind and experience-driven suggestion to wait for test results before freaking out. Because even in the last week things have gotten worse, he is having difficulty swallowing and it is affecting his appetite. His preschool teacher noted this morning that it looks like he has lost weight. He has been extremely moody and had more frequent fits of rage, but I don’t know if that is a reaction to the appointment (which he behaved so nicely through, but was clearly outside his comfort zone) or a by-product of how crappy he feels or what.

I grind up his little pill at bedtime, and hide it in applesauce, but he can still tastes it and gags on how awful it is. I tell him it will help him feel better, and have to hold back tears as I explain “but not right away, it will take lots of days before it starts working” and as he winces and gags it down, then asks for more, because his tummy still hurts.

My heart is quivering on the brink… too afraid to hope, not sure what even to hope for, just trying to get through each day and know that the answers will come in time. It is hard to watch such a small person suffer, especially when he doesn’t understand why we can’t make it better, at least not yet.

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lightnesses and contradictions

It’s all Samantha’s fault — she convinced me to try C25K (Couch to 5K) and I did and I liked it. In a sort of S&M way. (The idea behind C25K, if you don’t know already, is that you download this little app on your iPhone and then it guides you through progressively more difficult workouts, alternating walking with running in a growing ratio so that after several weeks you could, theoretically, run 5K no probs.)

I’ve never been a runner. I always get a stitch in my side, the same place, every time. Various people at various times have attempted to convince me it’s just a question of mind over matter, that everyone gets a stitch, “just run through it” which I have given an honest go at yet never actually succeeded. More like it runs through me.

But the regular intervals of walking in this C25K business intrigued me. And warmer weather doth approacheth, and I would like to wear all those summer capris and tank tops stowed away in the attic without my flesh squeezing out the tops and bottoms of every fabric opening. Ok, I’d like to just be able to put them on.

Anyway, I thought to myself, it’s just a couple of bucks for the app, it’s not a monthly gym membership plus cancellation fees if/when I bail, so even if I don’t like it, no harm no foul. And so this morning I got the app, loaded it up with what seemed like a suitably energetic playlist, and, swallowing my pride, set off through the neighborhood.

First impressions:

  • I need running shoes. These things look vaguely sporty, but there is no cushion and with every jarring step I either crack my foot bones or the pavement. Or both.
  • I got a pace car! It was a bumble bee. Seriously, for like a whole block.
  • Every time the little chime sounded, I expected someone to hand me a glass of champagne and make a toast. The command RUN was a bit of a disappointment in this context.
  • I thought I Know What I Know from Graceland would be a great bouncy running song, but my reaction was more like UP YOURS PAUL SIMON, YOU SMUG SELF-SATISFIED PRICK. What? Gasping and jiggling my fats in front of my neighbors makes me a little defensive, ok?
  • For the first half, the thing seemed totally doable. But then the stitch appeared, and it didn’t go away even during the walking part, and so the running parts became sheer agony. I made myself do it, but my jog was so slow and my feet were dragging like I was trying to slough my soles off on the sidewalk, and I was breathing in through my nose and out through pursed lips like you’re supposed to (because it makes you sound like a teapot? why?) and I was clutching my side because it seemed just a little better if I pressed it in so my spleen didn’t bounce around so much.
  • All the dragging and pressing and whistling and lurching garnered me some concerned glances. I wondered if people thought I’d been stabbed, the way I was clutching my side. If I’d had any breath to spare I would have gasped “Out, out, brief candle” just for laffs.
  • I need some kind of high-tech shirt that can hold my housekey and iPhone, and that will be warm enough when I start out but that I won’t overheat in when I’ve worked up a sweat.
  • I need music suggestions. Please! Here’s my playlist so far :

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