Saturday, September 6, 2008

Coming Home

This will likely be a long first post, but once I cover the background behind this blog I won't be this long winded. Let me tell you a little about myself and my family. I have the most amazing, sacrificing husband and no one can tell me different. His name is Greg and we've been married for 5 years. We were married in May of 2003. We moved to be near my family and away from the severe allergies I had in South Carolina and are now living an hour north of St. Louis. I was excited to move and be near my family. I knew that it would mean building a closer relationship with my sister who is my best friend. I knew it meant trying to strengthen my relationship with my mom and have a grown up relationship with her and not just the mom/little girl kind. I knew it would put me back where I could see my Daddy smile and I could feel his giant squashing hug. I knew all these things, but I never could have known that it was not just a blessing to be near them, but that God lead me here....home to save my life. To save my family that wasn't even fully here yet.

In September of 2004, at my niece's birthday party I can remember sitting there watching people eat cake. I tasted my cake, from a bakery my sister commonly uses that I generally love, and it made me want to puke. I can remember vividly sitting there with this cake on a paper plate in my hand just looking around the room and seeing people eating their cake and it was so nauseating to me. I could actually feel that very wet mouth you get before you throw up and although I knew it wasn't rationale, I couldn't help but think that those family members, friends, and children were disgusting. How on earth could they be eating this cake? I truly was sickened by the idea that people could consume such a thing. On our drive home I told my husband to stop and get a pregnancy test because although I didn't think I could possibly have gotten pregnant so quickly (we only started trying the end of July), I knew the feelings I'd had about the cake were not 'normal'. We picked one up late that night. While Greg was in the kitchen, I went upstairs and took the test (the one I said I wouldn't take until the morning when you're supposed to take them) and instantly, I do mean instantly, that test turned positive. There was no doubt. I came running down the stairs screaming, "Greg, Greg!" and crying. He was in the kitchen and a terrified look was on his face. "What's wrong?" he yelled. I showed him the test and we both hugged and I'm pretty sure he teared up some too.

I thought being pregnant was going to be the most fantastic time. I loved the idea of the cute pregnant belly. Unlike most women I’ve talked to (including my sister), the idea of a stranger unexpectedly rubbing my belly while in line at the Walmart brought huge smiles to my face. I wondered since I am such a picky eater if I would crave things I wouldn’t have eaten before: pickles, ranch dressing, salmon, grapefruit... I suppose that, in my mind, I really glamorized the whole idea of pregnancy. Well, so much for the glamour… What a waste all those dreams and wishes were to me.

Within only a few days of that cake filled birthday party I began getting sick. We aren’t talking about morning sickness. We aren’t talking about ‘eat some crackers’ sickness. I was vomiting at least 10 times a day. The look of food made me vomit, the smell of food made me vomit, the talk of food made me vomit. I heard it all: eat crackers, eat small meals, drink ginger ale, smell peppermint oil, eat peppermints, eat ginger cookies, take ginger capsules, get preggo pops, the list could go on even longer than this post. I thought that surely the ‘morning sickness’ would go away by 12 weeks, just a few more weeks and I’d be craving the pickles and ice cream. No, that didn’t happen. My weight was dropping and I could not eat, did not want to eat even though all I wanted to do was eat. It’s a feeling that cannot be described to someone who has not experienced it, but I will make a sad attempt to give you some understanding. Imagine wanting, so badly to eat that piece of cake, knowing that the cake was magical with no calories, that it was your favorite kind of cake ever, and that if you ate it all your wishes and hopes would suddenly come true, but regardless of all of that your brain would not move your hand. Okay, there was someone there to put that cake right on the fork and hand it to you, but still it would not move to your mouth. Okay, they’d feed it to you, but your tongue would not swallow it and worse it brought up all the burning acid in your stomach as you ran for the bathroom. Horrible thought, but that’s the reality of it. My OB told me it was hyperemesis gravidarum and prescribed Zofran which is commonly given to patients undergoing chemo. It supposedly blocks the messages to the brain that tell your stomach to retch and thus you do not vomit and it also should make you less nauseaous. Well, it was a waste of our money and the insurance company's as well (not that I ever feel sorry for those people). With all that I was still losing weight.

For Christmas my parents got me a ton of maternity clothes. They didn’t get them for me because I was outgrowing my clothes, but because my clothes had outgrown me. If I stood up and pulled down on my jeans or pants without unbuttoning or unzipping them, they would slip right off. I was excited to have the maternity clothes, even though I felt like crap, I figured I could look better. I was 5 months pregnant. Well, I tried them on and they were all too big. Motherhood was wonderful at letting me exchange them. I remember being in the fitting room and trying on a pair of stretch khaki pants in a medium (I weighed 172 pounds when I got pregnant) and they fit wonderfully. I even had the room needed in the waste for my belly to grow out. After I got them on, I stepped out of the fitting room to show my husband and remarked at how skinny I was. The other pregnant women looked at me like I was insane.

I was teaching that year in Berkeley, MO., avery low income school, in a self-contained class for students (all boys) with behavioral and emotional disabilities. When they found out I was pregnant they became wonderful care givers. The school was amazing at accommodating me and I spent a lot of time in the bathroom, but we got through it. Largely because of my students who would make me eat Popsicles and candy which were my OB’s instructions. My husband and I were living with my parents and building a house and I was so glad to have them there to help take care of me. (Could have lived without my dad frying onions one night, but I’m sure I’d have thrown up anyway.) My parents cared for me the best they could, but mostly served to just comfort me after long periods on the bathroom floor. Despite all sickness and lack of nutrition or vitamins (my OB told me not to try to take them), Carson was born at exactly 37 weeks, healthy, and strong. He was 6 pounds and 1 little ounce. I was down 38 pounds. He was my blessing and totally worth all I’d been through.

If you are still reading this then, wow, I’m impressed with your commitment. Thank you.

Well fast forward to summer of 2006. We decided to try for baby number 2. I expected to be sick, as I was with Carson, but my OB I had with Carson's pregnancy had told me that it was very severe and led me to believe that it was as bad as it could ever be. I knew what I was in for and I was ready if the hyperemesis struck again. I’d handled it before as a working woman and I was planning to stay home with Carson that year so I assumed it would all be fine. Well, you know what people say about assuming.

We started trying to get pregnant in late July. We just did the every other day thing, we didn’t do anything special to try and time things right. I got pregnant right away, to my surprise. Just a couple weeks later I had a positive pregnancy test. I was so excited and slipped a surprise note into my husband’s lunch for the next day. He called at lunch very thrilled. Then just about a week later the bleeding started, got heavier, and stopped just a few days before my first appointment to see my new OB. I knew what it was. I was devastated. I hate people who think that an early miscarriage is not painful or that if you have a successful pregnancy later that it’s forgotten. That child is not forgotten to me and won’t ever be. Yes, I know the whole, “almost every woman has early miscarriages that they don’t even know about.” But that doesn’t change the fact that I knew about a baby inside of me and that the blood I saw was the loss of that baby. Gross to you, but it’s the reality.

Luckily, I did get pregnant again right away, in fact, the next month without ever having a period in between. I had an appointment at that new OB for a pap the week that I got that new positive test. I was in the office and told the nurse that I was there for a pap, but I actually think I’m pregnant. She explained that the test could have been wrong due hormones left in my body from the baby I had just lost and had me take a test. She came back quickly and said, “yes you are pregnant!” My new OB, Dr. Chen, came in and talked to me and did an u/s that day. I told him that we’d only had sex a couple times in between the m/c and the new positive and he asked me why I had tested if we weren’t trying. I told him because I was feeling sick, very sick. I gave him my history with Carson’s pregnancy. He monitored me very closely and I came in weekly for the first few months and every other week after that. By 6 weeks (only 2-3 weeks into knowing about my pregnancy) he started me on home health nursing because the vomiting had gotten so bad. I had a wonderful nurse through Matria, named Julie. She was wonderful as was the entire staff there. The real blessing however was being near my family. My care required 24/7 IV therapy and a pump inserted in my belly. Not a moment off it unless it infiltrated and I had to wait for Julie to come stick me again. I stayed with my parents on all their days off. My mom got little done with having to work, then care for Carson and I on her only time off. In just a couple weeks the doctor and home nurse knew this wasn’t going to get better with meds or IV’s and I’d run out of veins that hadn’t been bruised or blown so they sent me for a PICC line to be inserted. I was so terrified of it because foolish me read all about PICC lines and complications on the internet before my appointment. My dad drove me to the appointment and waited with me until my sister arrived. My father is awful at the sight of blood. I can remember having a mole removed as a child and he passed out while at my side. Despite his fear of blood, my sister was running late and he wasn't backing down, wasn't cutting out, even when they called me back to the area. He was in this for me and ready to go the distance. Lucky for him my sister arrived in time. She held my hand and stood next to me for the actually very quick and painless procedure. I know that I'd have been a crying ball of nerves aggravating the doctor if she hadn't been there with me. Being cooped up for a couple months in a house hooked to tubes and meds was making me crazy. I was so happy the day that my mom looked at me and knew I needed out of the house. I was weak and tired and needed to preserve the few calories I took in through the PICC so I never went anywhere besides the doctor, home, and my parents. One day, my mom put Carson and I in her van and took us to the mall. She got me a wheelchair from the mall. I’m not a huge shopper, but being there and buying baby clothes was what I needed. She new that. We had the occasional trip to Target and here and there. She made sure I was sitting, rolling, and resting. She watched my face and coloring and was quick to make me rest when I needed too. She even caught me when I thought I was holding my screaming, thrashing 2 year old through a haircut and passed out. She asked me several times if I was okay and despite my telling her yes, she was mindful that I thought I was tougher than I was and was there to catch me and lean me into a chair.

My sister and my mom were there for the birth of both of my boys. My mom was there to calm me and support both Greg and I. My sister was very calming to me and she made me feel cared for because she’s outspoken and made sure that I got what I needed. It meant Greg never had to leave my side and that’s what I needed. I always thought I’d want to be with only Greg in the delivery room. Even up until the moment I went into labor with Carson. My mom and sister knew that I wanted them and whomever else at the hospital, but not in the room and they didn’t expect to be in the room, pressure me to be there, or even ask. I made them stay, and told them not to leave me during Carson's labor and I’m glad I did. They weren’t really involved and stood far back taking pictures, but the idea that they were there was important to me. I planned for them to be there with Nathan’s birth. My again, very wonderful husband, did not care. He wanted me to have what would make me feel best and that’s all that mattered to him.

There's some background on my family and in the next couple days, I'll post again and let you (as if anyone is reading this) know why I speak of forgetting and the pain that comes from the forgotten.


Jessica said...

Heather, what a wonderful post. I think you are a brave and amazing mommy to have survived all that you did and I am so thankful that you could help me through my (much less horrific) experience with hyperemeis.

Monkey's Momma said...

Beautiful story. My step-son's wife had Hyperemesis throughout all three of her pregnancies and she was absolutely miserable. There were lots of trips to the ER for IV hydration, and all three boys were born early, the oldest being very preemie. Thank God all of them are fine today, but now that my step-son is "snipped", they do not plan on having any more.

As a nurse, I know that hyperemesis is nothing to sneeze at. It can be very dangerous. Luckily, you were monitered closely.

The Stein Family said...

Wow -- thanks for sharing -- suddenly I feel like a baby, you'd probably think my morning sickness is a breeze compare to what you've been through. It is amazing what we put ourselves through for the love of a child!