Friday, May 17, 2013

I Changed Five Years Ago. . .

I was heavily pregnant five years ago.  My son had inexplicably turned breech right at the very end of that text-book easy pregnancy.  My dream of natural, drug-free vaginal birth was in jeopardy and I was suddenly facing the possibility of a c-section.  Sure, plenty of women have had breech vaginal deliveries. . .but that wasn't what ended up happening with my delivery.

I can still remember the day that I was lying on the couch in the living room and my abdomen began to resemble that famously gross scene from the movie Alien.  I could not believe the movement that was going on inside my body.  It was creepy to watch, somewhat painful to feel, and I ended up feeling beat up on the inside.  At my next appointment, my doctor was startled to discover that my baby had found a way to turn breech.  His expression was one of pure shock and he spat out, "Is that your baby's head?!"  Why, yes, yes it was his head. . .suddenly lodged up near my breastbone.

My doctor attempted to turn the baby in his office.  I believe he truly tried to flip that baby and can say that it was very uncomfortable from a physical standpoint.  Being so very near the end of pregnancy and so full of baby in my belly. . .ugh, it really kinda sucked and I was so upset that the baby was not turning even with a grown man pushing full force on my abdomen.  I'd be 39-weeks on the weekend and he was scheduled at the hospital that Saturday so he told me to come to L & D so he could try to turn baby there.  The reasoning was that we could head directly to the OR for a c-section if anything truly distressing happened to the baby while he was attempting to flip the baby. 

On this night five years ago, I prayed fervent prayers.  I prayed for my baby to turn, for me to avoid a surgery, for all to work out according to my wishes.  Well. . .my baby did not turn, I did not avoid a surgery, but it ultimately did work out. 

My amniotic fluid was low enough at that point that attempting the version was not on the table.  My doctor said that he was there, I was there, I was at term, and the baby was breech.  He offered the c-section right then if I wanted it.  I burst out that I thought he'd flip my baby back down and I'd have a vaginal birth and that I thought my delivery would be what I wanted.  I realize now that he & my husband exchanged a look (confirmed by speaking with my husband) and I think both of them thought I knew I was walking into that hospital for a c-section that day. 

I did not know. 

I was so thrown for a loop that I actually left my shoes in that L & D room and walked off without ever finding them again.  It was many many hours before my surgery was actually performed.  Hours that I spent feeling uncomfortably hungry and thirsty.  Oh, man, I have NEVER felt so thirsty.  Starting the IV helped a little, but my mouth positively ached for liquid refreshment.

I was there for over eight hours. . .waiting for the surgery that I did not want. . .hoping that I could somehow avoid this (in my view) unnecessary surgery. . .praying that I could keep the baby in for one more week so that my mother could be near me. 

My in-laws were there nearly the entire time. . .I remember my mother-in-law sitting in that room with me, trying to keep my mind off my anxiety and fears, being a solid rock of support for me.  It's a kindness that I can never repay.

At some point I inquired if it wasn't time for my doctor to go home and if that meant I'd get to go on home too.  The L & D nurse was a treat, so very well suited to the job, and she let me know that if my doctor said he'd be there for my surgery that he absolutely would not be leaving until I was stable in recovery no matter how many more "emergency" c-sections showed up.  I still remember that nurse by name and she is one who I made sure to give a special gift to weeks later when I was up for returning to the hospital with my new babe.

I had never been admitted into a hospital prior to this birth.  I'd never had a major surgery.  I'd never delivered a baby.  To say I was anxious would be an understatement.  I was scared to death. 

It was a day of firsts.  It was a day that I held my heart - outside of my own body.  The first time that I was able to hold a child of mine.

The surgery was perfect and looking back it was as good as could be hoped for in a surgical delivery.  The recovery sucked and I didn't see my new baby for two hours as I desperately tried to move my legs enough while in recovery to be sent up to my room to be reunited with my baby.  There are only three or four post-op photos of me holding my first son while we were in the hospital.  One that painfully tugs at my heart is one where I was on the phone with my mother who was 3,000 miles away and I was crying while holding the phone and cradling my new baby for the first time.

So much has changed in these five years and I can say that it has flown by in the blink of an eye.  I can't believe that the baby who nuzzled at my awkward breast is now a five-year old who is on the cusp of Kindergarten.  I should have cherished those fleeting early baby days. . .those impossibly exhausting early baby days.  They will never return that that boy will only continue to grow and mature. 

What do I hope for my dear first son?  I hope that he keeps his kind and loving heart.  He is so sweet and empathetic.  I hope that his spirit is free when it can be, but that he learns when it's advisable to reign in his head-strong nature.  I hope that he remains a fundamentally good human being.  I hope that he finds a special someone who appreciates and admires him for who he is and that his spouse is a generously loving helper who isn't emotionally wounded.  I hope for the best for my dear boy. . .he's smart and can be so charming.  My darling son. . .I love that boy so much that words fail.

So much has changed in the last five years.  I earned a new title:  Mother.  I know there are times that I miserably fail, but I do aim to bring honor and respect to that title.  I became responsible for a human being who needs me to grow and thrive. . .who needs my guidance to learn how to thrive and succeed in society.  I really can not believe my son is now five years old.  It honestly does feel like it was only yesterday that I first held that beautiful baby with the dimpled chin.  Only yesterday that I put my nose in his hair and nearly wept over the joy of his smell.  Only yesterday that this newest chapter of my life began.  I was living before. . .but I was finally alive.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Burning Pipe and a Ring of Fire

This is one of those posts that isn't for the fairest and most delicate readers.  Oh, what's that?  I don't have any of those types in my readership?  Well, then, let's talk about my vulva and vagina!

* * *

I had a yeast infection once before and I wrote about it here.  Though I usually sport a remarkably low-maintenance vagina, guess who's doing battle with the yeasty beasties once again?  That's right. . .and, just in case you think I only write about my vagina or my boobs, I'm also going to include a warning and some advice that might be helpful if you ever have a yeast infection.

In the silent war being waged in my vagina, fungus is beating the heck of of bacteria.  Lest any of you high & mighty broads try to act like you'd never have such a horribly disgusting thing happen - think again.  Yeast is naturally present in the vagina in small amounts and that fungus is usually kept in check by the bacteria that is also naturally present.  Sounds like a real freaking picnic in your panties, right?  Apparently anything from hormone fluctuations, dietary changes, taking antibiotics, and small aircraft flying overhead could tilt the vaginal balance of power from bacteria to yeast.  When that happens, you get the joys of a yeast infection.

I woke a few mornings ago and was distressed to find that my vulva was sore.  I initially dismissed it, but it still hurt two days later and it started feeling really swollen and tender.  I asked my husband if he'd tell me how it looked.  I apologized for tasking him with something so gross and he indicated it all looked pretty normal so no apology was necessary.  The next day it started to itch and burn then it stung when I peed.  I recognized the symptoms from that one yeast infection I had a couple of years ago so decided a little OTC help would be necessary. 

Monistat 1 is what was procured to beat down the yeast.  It is a one-time treatment; a suppository.  Or, as I prefer to call it, an egg-shaped ball of pain.

For twelve-hours after inserting the Monistat 1, my vagina burned and THROBBED with pain.  I couldn't sleep.  I couldn't comfortably sit.  I was close to stuffing a bag of ice in my britches to cool down the fun zone because it felt like a fire might break out at any moment.  It's not an exaggeration to say that I briefly considered ramming a bottle brush up in my bits to scrub that miserable ball of horror right out.  My vagina felt assaulted.  It easily hurt ten times worse than the infection it was supposed to clear up!

After around twelve-hours of burning and throbbing pain, my vagina felt better.  Not totally normal, but not leaving me weeping and wishing for death.  I figured the mega-dose of anti-fungal medicine had done it's job and I was on the mend.

Until 1:30 this morning. . .

I was awakened out of a sound sleep by, you guessed it, burning and throbbing.  Only now I had the added benefit of itching.  My vulva felt like it was about to explode and my vagina was no barrel of fun either.  WTF, Monistat 1, WTF?! 

I somehow was able to doze off and dashed off a message to my doctor at a normal hour.  As a friend says, I should have included a box of cigars with my message because the man is a saint for putting up with my crazy shenanigans.  He responded promptly by indicating that he doesn't really recommend the one-day suppositories because they don't work that great and they do nothing for yeast infecting the exterior skin.  He prefers the 5- or 7-day treatments and a cream for the vulva.  Too bad I didn't contact him in the first place.

I was pondering why I suddenly had this yeast infection anyway.  Remember that hormone fluctuations can cause yeast infections.  I do have a hormone-infused IUD up in my uterus at this moment so perhaps that's the culprit.  I'm tending to say it is not the reason though as I've had it for months now and haven't had any problems like this before. 

One thing that I realized is that I've been eating a lot of starchy carbs lately and I usually do not.  Those sugary starches help feed the yeast which encourages growth.  Another thing is that I had stopped eating plain yogurt.  I ate plain yogurt nearly every single day last year because I was spending so much time in a damp bathing suit.  I got a little itchy every once in a while, but never developed a yeast overgrowth.  The live & active cultures in plain yogurt help populate the good bacteria that keep the yeast down to acceptable levels.  I also haven't been eating nearly the same amount of garlic that I normally do (I actually had a head go bad and that never happens) and garlic has anti-fungal properties so one would think it would help keep the yeast at bay too. 

In a nutshell (or would that be clamshell?!), I think my diet can be blamed for this recent yeast infection.  That's great that I might have identified why I have this going on, but I need some relief.  I'm going to take my doctor's advice because he's never steered me wrong before and see if it doesn't restore my ladyparts to their former glory.

Now, you all know I'm a bit of a hippie, but I draw the line with seeking a "natural" remedy for this stuff.  I think it's odd that I'm okay with squirting an anti-fungal up in my vagina, but I won't consider a natural remedy first.  I'll put all manner of weird or gross stuff in my mouth, but I guess I'm pretty particular about what I allow in my vadge.  For those of you who might be interested, I understand that raw peeled garlic cloves and plain yogurt douches will help restore the balance of bacteria and yeast.  Note that it is PLAIN yogurt.  You don't want to feed your yeasty beasties a sugary vanilla yogurt snack.  I also have heard that probiotics (consumed orally or inserted vaginally) can help as well.  I'm not a doctor and I'm not giving medical advice here so try it at your own risk, but do chime in if you've tried any of these remedies.

Back to the Monistat 1 for a moment. . .I wouldn't buy it for my worst enemy if she were suffering from a yeast infection.  I looked up my reaction and it's apparently not uncommon as the internet has hundreds of stories from women who had the same horrible burning and throbbing pain from using this product.  Again - WTF, Monistat?!  I can officially declare that Monistat 1 is the absolute worst thing I've ever had in my vagina.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Healthy Babies ARE NOT All That Matters!

Most people who read this blog know that I developed Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (ICP or sometimes just called CP) near the end of my last pregnancy.  That diagnosis, along with the bleeding I experienced throughout each trimester, effectively made it my last pregnancy as my husband & I are not willing to experience another roller coaster ride of a pregnancy.  Besides, we're old and it was time to stop cheering for Team Babyworks.

I mention ICP because early delivery is the standard practice with those pregnancies.  That is, delivery no later than 38-weeks.  The reason is that fetal outcomes are not as favorable with longer gestation.  That's a very delicate way of saying the one thing that strikes fear in the heart of every single pregnant mother:  longer gestation in an ICP pregnancy is linked to increased chance of stillbirth.

There is a broad swing in what is considered a full-term pregnancy - anything between 38- and 42-weeks.  Generally speaking, baby is better off baking in your uterine oven as long as possible.  That means that delivery (via induction or, as is a fairly common outcome for induction, a c-section) that is scheduled just for the sake of not being pregnant anymore, to choose your baby's birthday, or because your OB is going on vacation near your actual estimated due date are generally agreed upon to not be good reasons to evict your fetal stowaway.

Regardless of the reasons why your baby is born early, you might second guess your decision to deliver so soon.  You may well do this if your baby is perfectly healthy and it's nearly guaranteed that you will if your baby does not fit your mental picture of healthy perfection.  Mother's Guilt is strong, whether it's warranted or not.  Frankly, it seems to me that the ones who have the least to feel guilty about are the ones who agonize the worst.

Witnessing a loved one or a fellow mother beat herself up emotionally over decisions that can't be undone is hard.  Well-meaning people may say things like, "Well, your baby is healthy and that's all that matters."  Or, "Baby was born and his here now and that's all that matters." 

These lines, and those like them, have always bothered me.  I don't think most people are trying to be hurtful when they say things like this, but it is hurtful.  These statements are dismissive and demeaning.  These statements completely invalidate the mother's feelings.  It's like saying that not only is she wrong for feeling uneasy about her decisions, but it's also saying she's wrong for having the feelings in the first place because having the baby here now is all that matters. 

I struggled with years to make peace with my first son's c-section.  My feelings of inadequacy and outright maternal fraud were surprising to me, but they were very real and very painful.  My baby was healthy and I still ached over making the wrong choice.  Was it the wrong choice?  I don't know, but it's the one I made.  I can't undo it.  It took years, but I no longer feel an intense longing when I think of his birth.  I made the best decision I could with the information I had.  Would I make the same choice today?  It doesn't matter, but I would.

Hearing nearly everyone I know and love tell me that, "You're okay and he's okay so it all worked out and that's all that matters," did not help me.  Being told that I'm just as much a mother as any other mother didn't help.  Listening to one c-section story after another didn't make mine feel any more "normal."  Time was probably the greatest source of healing.  Well, that's not entirely true.  It was time and having an experience that made my body feel even more broken.  Having my last baby (high-risk pregnancy, advanced maternal age, early delivery and all), restored me in more ways than I could have possibly imagined.

Healthy babies are the ultimate goal, but they are not all that matters.  Healthy mother matters too. . .physically, emotionally, and mentally.  If she's wounded in any of those areas, it matters - and don't try to tell her otherwise.

Have you struggled to make peace with your birthing experience?  What helped?  What didn't?  Please share in the comments if you'd like and accept a big ol' virtual hug from me.  I know it's hard and I'm sorry that you're struggling.  {{{hug}}}