The Night My Pregnancy Symptoms Hit Rock Bottom
PROM, not prom.
High-risk and complicated pregnancies overshadow "nuisance" pregnancy symptoms.
I will admit it: an awareness of, and the subsequent screening for problems like pre-eclampsia, placental abruption, cervical insufficiency, intrauterine growth restriction, Premature Rupture of the Membranes (PROM), RH incompatibilities ...
save lives, both maternal and fetal.
And then there is the stock advice that comes about, such as how to avoid listeria and toxoplasmosis, and what fish to avoid to protect your unborn child from ingesting more mercury than necessary. Health officials have also done an excellent job of raising awareness of the effects of conditions like rubella and cytomegalovirus.
Let's not forget about the general panic about genetic issues, even ones that are 1 in 100,000. People act like if you are a women over the age of 35, you can go ahead and plan on conceiving a child with Down syndrome. Miscarriage comes with this general packet of concerns.
And finally there are discussions of how to juggle pregnancy various lifestyle questions, such as career, marriage, medications taken for pre-existing medical conditions, partying (don't drink or do drugs!) uncertain paternity, certain but unwilling paternity, the option of abortion, etc.
Then there are odd distractions, such as the politics of pregnancy and pregnancy loss, such as in the state of Georgia ...
So as I planned a pregnancy, I read about it and I discussed it with friends, family and health practitioners. Basically from everything I gleaned from books, the internet and conversations, was that a person in my age bracket might carry a higher than desirable risk for infertility, genetic defects, miscarriage, and that I need to be mindful of how expensive the entire world is, especially if you have a baby.
The general advice was that first trimester fatigue is murderous (indeed I think I have blocked it out of my memory at this point), morning sickness can be a pain in the neck (I actually only had a couple of hard days with it), lower back pain is an inconvenience (damn right it is, I have had it since week 3) and childbirth kinda sux but you get a cute baby out of it.
I haven't experienced "the childbirth thing" yet but yeah, I understand that it "kinda sux" and having learned a hard lesson about being so ill-prepared for the third trimester of pregnancy, I am "kinda reading about it" right now, to be informed about the good, the bad and the ugly.
Every pregnancy is different and the effects are unpredictable.
I have also heard the second trimester referred to as the "glory days" because the symptoms abate a bit before you hit the third. But for me, the second trimester was also no walk in the park. In fact I was quite tired for most of it, literally making it, sadly "no walk in the park" in the literal sense of the word. In fact, the unfortunate symptoms of the first trimester lingered into the second, for me. And the nuisance symptoms that I am about to describe, began to come on toward the end of the second trimester. Their intensity though, has come into full-force in the third.
They ... (with a capital "T") also say that every pregnancy is different. So I understand why discussions about these various symptoms are not belabored ... it is probably because most of them are not necessarily experienced in the majority of pregnancies, and the ones that are, are probably not as intense as mine are and continue to be. Finally, in the end, a beautiful baby emerges, who will undoubtedly be the source of many lifestyle adjustments. So the people who write about this stuff, including health practitioners, probably forget a lot of it soon after the baby is born.
My desire to be the type of resource that I wish were available to me, underlies my motivation for writing this hub. In three months time, I will probably have forgotten a lot of it, because when the pregnancy is over, most of this stuff goes away and ceases to be relevant. Our minds are like cabinets in a way ... the most important stuff is pushed to the front and things that we don't need to retrieve immediately get pushed to the back and are generally forgotten.
These symptoms took me by surprise.
A literal "pain in the ass" from sitting on the toilet, waiting to pee.
"That night" was terrible for many reasons. In retrospect, the intensity of the symptoms scared me. The symptoms themselves made that night terrible. But as I write about it three weeks later, I notice that I am managing them better. Either that, or they are less intense, or they are more predictable.
I hope to not have more "evenings" like this but you never know. When you are in the thick of this type of drama, however, thinking thoughts like "well ... at least i am not faced with nausea in addition to these problems" is generally not helpful, at least to me. I say this, because what I am not facing (high blood pressure, kidney failure, etc.) is not what is making me sick! So if you do go though this kind of thing, don't feel guilty for not being "grateful" for your lack of stage 4 breast cancer, or whatnot because if you are anything like me, thoughts like those serve to trivialize your own pain, and add a layer of guilt and anxiety, layering on additional unnecessary emotional pain.
Back pain is common in pregnancy.
In my case, I suspect that it has to do with the hormone relaxin.
But there are many other sources of back pain.
11 pm.: Settle down for bed. Lower back pain.
Trying to find something comfortable to wear.
Back out of alignment. Use of heat pad heats me up, generally.
Did you get through pregnancy without pee-pee problems?
Or do you know of anybody who did not constantly have to "go?"
11:15 pm. Have to pee.
11:17 pm. Have to pee, again.
11:20 pm. Have to pee, again.
11:23 pm. Have to pee, again.
It's ok. I have come to enjoy the process of peeing.
It is like, it takes a good solid pee, plus two or three "mini-pees" to fully drain your bladder. You go pee, then you put on your clothes, wash your hands, and get back to bed, and as you approach your bed, the reservoir is not fully drained.
It is a fantastic feeling.
So at this point, I have given up returning to bed or to whatever I was doing, for at least 10 minutes once nature calls because peeing is this process now.
But that evening, the peeing ritual was uncovered and I was ill-equipped to cope with it.
Heed this advice: DON'T SIT ON THE TOILET waiting for more pee. The pressure of your big fat belly, coupled with your skin being more elastic than usual (or some sort of change), can cause a hemorrhoid. Get up, stand and pee, if you have to. I know it is gross, but DO NOT SIT ON THE TOILET any more time then absolutely necessary. Trust me on this.
12:00 am. Lights out. Watermelon bloat. Can't get comfortable.
Yeah, this goes on for like the next three hours. The awkward belly that I wasn't used to at the time, coupled with the peeing, drinking and attempted pooping, kept me tossing and turning.
When I can't sleep I often turn on the computer and read. But the catch is ... being on your back can get uncomfortable so I moved to my side with my laptop and then that gets old too, and it is back to the back.
AND, to add insult to injury, when you have this baby balled up in front of you, he can bang on your bladder when you are shifting positions, thus starting the "pee cycle" anew.
Not to mention that shifting positions is painful if you have the lower back issue.
The effect that constant thirst has on the bladder
Well ... I wasn't THIS thirsty.
12:30 am. Thirst.
It isn't the type of dry mouth that you might get when you take a lot of sudafed or are nervous, or have had a workout that is a bit above your threshold.
It also isn't that type of pushy thirst you might feel after eating half a bag of Doritos without anything to wash it down.
Neither is it this type of "intellectual" thirst, of being aware of the symptoms of dehydration, and noticing that your urine is a bit dark and therefore you should drink some water.
In my experience it is more like this abstract urge to drink. I can't quite explain it any other way. It is like "wow, a fruit juice would taste really good right now." Not "I have to get to a Coke machine now, or I will pass out."
In the first trimester, I felt this urge to drink but I wasn't like "wow, a grape juice would be phenomenal" ... it was more like anything liquid was better than nothing. Second trimester I was drinking a bit more than usual but I don't remember intense thirst, but third ... wow. And the urge to drink seems to come around when I have to go to bed, or go somewhere . . . ie. when I have just (sort of) drained my bladder.
You might say "Anne don't be dumb ... don't drink before you go to bed" but it isn't so simple. It is that simple, but then again, it isn't.
1 am. Itchies and burnies
I am getting an itch in some of the strangest places on my body, such as the bottom of my feet.
My belly starts to burn, where the skin is beginning to stretch.
I get up to look in the mirror and it is a pinkish color.
I rub 1% hydro-cortisone
Please ... can't it wait for another 17 years?
1:15 am. Disco!
Yeah, baby Oscar is just gettin' revved up. Hot damn! he is sayin' "thanks mom for that chocolate milk and the toast. I am gonna show you how to party."
While it is absolutely wonderful to know that your baby is safe and sound, well-fed, active and growing on schedule, the jabs, kicks and stretches he opts into, in the middle of the night, leave a lot to be desired at the heat of the moment.
At this juncture I had often wondered if I was going to give birth to a superfreak. Like the world needs more of those, especially in Los Angeles. But apparently other women have the same issue.
He basically continues like this, off and on ... all night.
His favorite dance: disco.
His favorite game: bladder football.
1:30 am. Congestion comes on
Seriously. This is unbelievable, but my nose and throat plug up and it is like I have a plug in my nose.
Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night or the early morning with this type of syrupy saliva, almost "gravy" that chokes me. I chalk that up to some kind of hormone thing.
2 am: have to poop
False alarm ... unless three raisins and a lot of air count as a "poop."
While I am up, I pee again, and again, and again, and again.
Then I take half a 400 mg. guaifenesin, because I can hardly breathe. That, of course, has to be taken with a glass of water.
Solutions for some of these pregnancy complaints
Try sipping rather than gulping.
Drinking more during the day doesn't seem to combat this problem for me.
Most of the suggestions "out there" are either obvious or useless.
Warm milk, chamomile tea, take a bath, have a bedtime routine .... lol problem solved!
Try to get to sleep and the urge will abate.
This one is almost impossible to solve. Just plan for it and try to keep your sense of humor.
Tagamet or Tums or Gaviscon
Try not to shift around too much. That opens up the sphincter and some acid can leak out.
Eat two bananas a day, plus a magnesium supplement, and don't skimp on the whole milk. Try using a heat pad.
At best, those solutions reduce the symptom, in my case.
2:30 am. Acid reflux
I am not talking about a little bit of upset stomach.
I had never experienced this before: it was like a line of electric burn from below my solar plexus, to my throat. And it was like I was burping up burn.
I had experienced acid reflux before, but never quite like this. Before, I had more of a localized acid farther below, near my stomach.
The burping up of acid was like "wow" ...
I did not have anything particularly effective on hand for it except for some expired rantidine. I looked up "home remedies" for it, and they suggested drinking apple cider vinegar. Well I was so desperate that I went to the cleaning cabinet and got out some ACV and then I went to the china cabinet and got me a shot-glass and I started pounding it.
Catch is, you need to chase your shots with a cup of water.
With this I got temporary relief but it came back. Then I tried Gaviscon and Tums and it abated but I continued to revisit the ACV for the rest of the evening.
Burn baby burn!
3 am. Restless leg.
Suddenly it feels like some demon has jerked my knees into my chest!
If I were out dancing at those hours, I might not notice restless leg, but when you are trying to sleep, coupled with burning esophagus ... winner!
I had trouble with restless leg about 10 years ago now, and I took a medication for it and the entire thing went into remission. I stopped taking those meds about 5 years ago, and this annoying and sleep-stealing condition has not reared its ugly and unwelcome head ....
except for now.
This is just about the last thing I was prepared for, at this juncture of my life.
How do I cope when rock bottom hits?
1. I have taken such hard knocks as a soldier takes "boot camp." None of this is killing me. It is hopefully making me stronger and more resistant. If faced with a tough pregnancy, my advice is to take advantage of the circumstances to reflect on how you have become better able to function under duress. it also has been a good exercise in compassion. If somebody seems slow or dopey to you, or in a piss-ass mood, there may be a medical explanation for it, and I suggest withholding judgment.
2. I remind myself that any day that Little Grey Kitty is in my life is a good day. Even more than before, I have learned to not take even a nanosecond of love or kindness for granted.
3. Neighbors see that I am stressed and uncomfortable. They try to cheer me up. This is a fringe benefit that I never even considered.
4. I think about my baby.
5. I remind myself that there are many, many, many women out there who would take 9 months of nights like these just to be able to bring life into the world. I was not one of them. I could have gone either way on the kid thing. But for people with fertility problems, every family event is like a funeral. Moving on is something that is a constant struggle. I thank God for loaning me this baby.
Good Morning, Los Angeles!
And the night wears on . . .
At this point, I am having a panorama of aggravation: the baby is kicking me like crazy, my esophagus feels like it is supercharged with acid, my nose is plugged up, my back is hurting, I am coughing, sweating, the itchies are attacking me violently, and I have to pee.
The night consists of desperately reading articles on the internet about these problems, attempting in vain to get comfortable, running convoy between the bathroom (to you know ...) and the kitchen (to eat something to settle my stomach).
I drift off to sleep numerous times, only to be jerked awake by a tug in my legs, a burn in my chest, a jab from what seems like a healthy baby, or a bark or a meow from one of our animals, sounding off in the middle of the night, kept vigilant by the odd amount of activity going on at these hours.
My thoughts are beginning to scream silently as I start thinking about how I am letting my husband down by not being able to work, and not being able to do more around the house, about how awful it is that he has to take up so much slack lately because I feel sick and tired all the time, about how I am failing my baby, having to take medication to make life bearable for me.
The sun begins to crack through our dark curtains and I begin to think that it is all over. When you don't want to see the sun, this suggests that you don't want the sun to be there. Indeed, I often wish that I could have a perpetual night, in which I could sleep through the struggle, drama and obligations of the day. I continue to toss and turn, groaning, moaning and grunting in discomfort.
I look at my Little Gray Kitty who sleeps on the large body-sized pillow that we use as a type of headboard. He is curled up in a ball sleeping, but facing me, slightly concerned. My husband is sleeping peacefully, except for a couple of leg twitches in solidarity.
It took me weeks to tell my husband that he is slightly twitchy too.
At six his alarm goes off and he hears me crying and groaning. Half-dazed he goes back to sleep and then he wakes up very concerned.
This is something that only I can go through. I would tell more people about it but I have the unfortunate circumstances of having immediate family who simply see not being able to overcome such symptoms, as symptomatic of weakness on my part. So not only do I have to deal with these types of discomforts, I have the great fortune to have "family" who cares enough about me to spend about 30 seconds hearing about an "update" on my life, and 30 hours using this type of data to feel better about themselves.
That is why I have never felt so alone in my life.
Except for my husband.
I know that I have him. But I hope that I don't wear him down eventually.
But this is my advice through all of this: if you are experiencing a tough pregnancy, you do not suffer alone. If you are not blessed with understanding, empathetic and genuinely caring people in your life, do yourself a favor and don't share this crap with anybody. It might feel good to temporarily get it off of your chest but in the long run, unless they can actually help, you are just making your own life more complicated. After all, if you are experiencing pain and fatigue that no medication can solve, it must be because you are self-absorbed, right?
Yeah .... the night wears on .... painfully.