Thank You…

me and baby

     The steroid therapy helped tremendously with the flare I was having. While I continue to battle the residual symptoms of this disease, I feel fairly human again and have had the energy to be Mommy and enjoy my sweet boy. My neuro team is helping me with the usual….daily headaches, fatigue, spasms…you know how it goes. I’m so grateful for incredible doctors.

Baby Jax is getting growing and just the sweetest. While he does continue to have some neuro-deficits, we feel confident he will outgrow them. Every time I bat an eye, he seems to get bigger. He might be my 5th but he may as well be my 1st. It’s amazing how God allows us the capacity in our hearts to make room to love every child just as fiercely.

I want to thank you all for joining me through my journey with pregnancy. My hope is that by sharing my experiences with pregnancy with an auto-immune/neurological disease will help other women to feel encouraged and armed with someone else’s trials to identify with. This was the most challenging pregnancy I’ve endured but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’ve learned so much about myself and the miracles of creating beautiful life from a broken body. I was so encouraged by your thoughts, comments, and prayers. I look forward to sharing our next chapter together.

 

Week 2…

baby jax 2 weeks

My body has gone totally off the wall. Every nerve ending in my body feels exposed, I’m running fevers, and I feel terrible. Thankfully I was able to get in to my neurologist quickly so she could try to get this wonky body straightened out. Since our bodies are neuro-protected when we are pregnant, it’s not uncommon for them to be totally out of whack after the baby comes but Good Lord, this has tested my limits physically and emotionally. I’ve started high dose steroids (ugh…I super hate taking steroids) but at this point my doctor could have told me I needed to roll around in pig crap for a week straight to feel better and I would have happily obliged. The headaches that I didn’t have for the last 9 months have come back to visit me daily. They are super unwelcomed but just like that relative that comes unannounced and overstays her welcome, my headaches have moved in, unpacked their bags, and brought their feral cat with them.

My ridiculous body aside, Baby Jax is doing well. He is still being monitored for his tremors with weekly doctors visits but he’s gaining weight, eating like a champ (I swear I breastfeed this kiddo 27 hours a day), and is otherwise very healthy. I worry, like every new mom, about every little thing. Is he pooping normal? Am I producing enough breastmilk? Is that sound he’s making OK? You would think he was my 1st and not my 5th, but with all of the medications I take, and the worry I have that they will affect him adversely, I’m a bit of a hot mess with him. His awesome pediatrician assures me that he is doing well, though, and that he is right on track. He is super strong and just the sweetest baby. Hopefully by next week, I’ll be feeling more human and his tremors will slow down a bit more.

One thing I know for sure is that we are so in love with this tiny human…and it has all been so worth it!

The first week…

jax

 

It was merely hours after Baby Jax was born that we started to notice he was having some pretty significant tremors. The doctors and I knew this could happen and I was afraid of it happening. Jax was going through withdrawls from the Ativan that I have to take to keep my own tremors under control. The decision was made that he needed to be in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for more careful observation. I was crushed as they wheeled my baby away from my room. The weight of the guilt I had for causing my son to have to go through this was completely overwhelming. My baby was suffering because of my chronic illness.

I had stopped taking as many of my medications as possible and I titrated down to the lowest dose of Ativan I was able to take without causing myself harm from violent spasms and tremors early on in my pregnancy. The OBGYN told me that Jax could be born with some withdrawl from the medication but it was too much of a risk to my own health for me to stop taking the medication all together. This did nothing to make me feel at all justified when I saw my son going through his own spasms and tremors all because I had to take medication to help stop mine.

Thankfully he only stayed in the NICU for 4 days. It felt like he was there forever. I went every two hours to nurse him and cried every time. I just wanted to take my baby home. I continued to stay admitted to the hospital because it took 3 days for my epidural to wear off. The anesthesiologist explained that because some of the nerves in my spine were not protected by the myelin sheath, they were thus exposed and it would take longer for the medication to fully wear out of my system. On day three, I was discharged from the hospital when my sweetie and I went to stay at the Ronald McDonald house.

The Ronald McDonald House was amazing. I will never ever again go to a McDonalds and not place my extra change in their charity bucket. They made our stay as comfortable as possible. I was an emotional mess and not having to think about where I was going to sleep or meals, and being within walking distance from the hospital made the situation more tolerable. I think if I’d had been discharged home, I would have ended up sleeping in waiting room just to stay close to him. I’m very, very grateful to the volunteers, staff, and to McDonalds for making it possible for families to be close to their children during hospitalizations.

Finally, on day 4, it was time to take Jax home! We were so very excited! He got a clean bill of health, his tremors had stopped, and we were all going to be in the comfort of our home as a family.

Now I just needed to get my body straightened back out…

Labor Day!!!!

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At 38 weeks and 3 days pregnant TODAY WAS THE DAY! We would get to meet our baby and we couldn’t be more excited! It’s 7am and you’d better believe I was going to stop for a Starbucks before heading to the hospital. I was excited and nervous and so ready. 8am was our check-in time. I was taken to Labor and Delivery and this time I wouldn’t be leaving without a sweet baby in my arms. I got into my labor dress and the nurses hooked me up to the monitors. After my IV was inserted, the nurses started the Pitocin drip to get my labor started…and then the waiting began.

labor

And waiting…and waiting..and waiting….. 16 hours of waiting to be exact. Really I’d though with it being baby #5, he’d just kind of come on out as soon as I was given Pitocin but, Nope! This lil guy got himself quite cozy. I finally started having some stronger and more consistent contractions but still waiting for my cervix to dilate. It was time for my epidural. I was a little nervous about the epidural since such a big deal has been made about me having one with Transverse Myelitis but I felt very confident in the capable hands of the anesthesiologist. We started with a “walking epidural”. This is an epidural where a narcotic is placed into the spine to take the edge off but I was still able to feel my legs and even walk around. It was really very helpful. I liked that I could still feel my legs and move around. Apparently “walking epidurals” aren’t terribly common anymore because the whole nursing staff was freaked out by the fact I could have an epidural and still be walking. They wouldn’t let me walk the halls so I paced in circles around the labor room.

After several hours with no dilation, I was finally dosed with the highest amount of Pitocin I could be given in hopes of getting things moving along. My contractions became stronger but I still wasn’t dilating. We did, however, go ahead and inject the numbing medication into the epidural. My legs became heavy, an all-too familiar feeling. This time I knew it was because they were suppose to be getting heavy and not because my body was going into relapse mode so I felt more comfortable about it than I thought I might.

Two hours later and half-past midnight, I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever have this baby. I even sent my best friend home because she was also pregnant and had been sitting with me for 16 very long and uneventful hours. Contractions were strong but I was still only about 3cm dilated when the nurse came in and decided that she would try moving my leg into a “firefighter position”, which was essentially turning me onto my side and hoisting my left leg into the right legged stirrup. Almost immediately after she did this I said, “I have to push!!! The baby is coming!”.

It all happened so fast. I went from 3cm dilated to 10cm dilated in about five minutes. The nurses and doctors rushed in the delivery cart and we had the green light to bring Baby Jax into this world.

labor5

Everything went beautifully. I pushed and breathed and pushed some more. I could feel the weight of him leaving my body and I was being lovingly encouraged from my wonderful sweetheart and all of the nursing staff and doctors. He was coming. My miracle baby was almost here.

labor2

With one final push, my sweet baby made his way into this world. The doctors took him immediately to the warming crib and helped get him stimulated and breathing well. Moments later, they placed him in my arms and I think the photo above speaks volumes to my emotions. I was happy, relieved, excited, overwhelmed, and so in love. I just wanted to hold on to him forever and never let him go. In the coming weeks we would both be met with some difficulties but for right now, in this very moment, we had all that we needed. We were tremendously Blessed to have made it so far in this journey.

Chronically Pregnant – Week 37

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I’m sitting in my car in heavy traffic 45 minutes away from my home, which is an additional 30 minutes away from where my honey is working when I start having contractions. I’m not talking Braxton Hicks, I’m talking “can’t talk through them, omg I’m going to birth my baby on the side of the highway” contractions. As I made my way through traffic while attempting to time them, I called my sweetie in a bit of a panic. (Ok totally panicked) I managed to make it home at about the same time he did and he quickly threw our hospital bags into the car. I was nervous, scared, and excited. This is it! The baby is coming and I am soooo over being pregnant!

We get to the OB ER in record time and I’m taken into labor and delivery, still contracting every 5 minutes. I thought, surely, I was at least 5cm dilated by now, but when the doctor did my cervical check , I was at a whopping 1cm. An hour later with consistent contractions it was time for a recheck. Still only 1cm… no progress. When the doctor came in and said, “You are having contractions but you are not in active labor,” I completely broke down crying. (Like nervous breakdown, nurses all probably thought I was crazy, bawling) “I just want the baby OUT!!!!”  I’d hit my breaking point. These last few weeks have been more challenging than I could have ever imagined and even the mere though of waiting 7 more days to birth this kiddo was just too much to bare at the moment.

Apparently, I had not been eating enough and drinking enough water, which was the culprit of the, once again, false labor. I did finally compose myself and leave the hospital without being committed to a psych ward. This was a good lesson for me though.

What Lisa learned about false labor (take 2):

  1. Hey! You’re pregnant!!! AND you have a chronic illness!!! EAT! I was in traffic and I was super hungry and didn’t pack snacks. (How many dang times have I preached about packing snacks throughout this pregnancy?!) NEVER leave home without them!
  2. Hey! You’re pregnant! AND you have a chronic illness!!! DRINK! …. And I digress. I think I’ve written about the importance of water in EVERY pregnancy post. I had run out of water and I should have had back up water bottles. Keep extra water bottles in your car at all times!
  3. We made it this far. That’s a Blessing. I wasn’t feeling it in the moment but, truly, as exhausted as I am at this point, what a miracle that we really have made it this far! We knew it wouldn’t be an easy journey, right?!

Chronically Pregnant – Week 36

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Ok, the belly has officially outgrown all of my maternity clothes. Mid drift shirts aren’t totally appropriate summer attire  when you’re pregnant right?! Two weeks until baby day and there is no way I’m buying more maternity clothes. I’m thinking maybe I could bring the toga back in style.

Big belly and pouty face aside, I’ve actually had quite a bit of energy this week. It’s been really refreshing to be able to just feel a bit more functional. The hardest part of having energy is definitely trying not to overdo it. When you’re chronically sick, the first thing you want to do when you’re feeling better is take over the world… or at least mop the floors and get through the mile high pile of laundry you haven’t been able to do. I’m having to remind myself to set a slower pace and reel it in a bit. All that overextending myself ever got me was more time served in the confines of my bed.

Our bodies can be so beyond frustrating. All we want to do is live a “normal” life and be active! When you have a chronic illness, that can be just too much to ask for. Being able to adapt is the only way to maintain our body, mind, and spirit.

A few things I do (or try to do) to keep myself in check when the energy is flowing:

1. I set a timer. I’ll allow myself 20 minutes to be active, getting that laundry done, cleaning around the pool, etc. Then it’s 30 minutes of rest. This little work mambo has been very beneficial.

2. My sweetie is my accountability partner. If he knows that I’m going to be running around with kids, staying busy with work, etc., he keeps me in check. He will call/text frequently to make sure I’m not wearing myself down and I’m very thankful for that! Sometimes time just slips by and I don’t even realize I’m way overextending myself.

 

 

Chronically Pregnant – Week 35

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Ah yes, nothing like a little preterm labor whilst trying to enjoy a family dinner! I’d been having steady contractions for 2 hours before this lovely photo was taken but I was certain that they were just Braxton Hicks. My honey and I went on to dinner with my two sisters and Mom only to have my contractions get much stronger throughout dinner. Leave it to me to somehow make myself the center of attention and my Mom’s Mothers Day dinner! Good Grief! We headed to the hospital shortly after paying the bill, but not before my two sisters had a little SnapChat fun. (These girls always keep me laughing!)

We were in another city when I when all of this happened so we went to the closest Emergency Room and I was taken right up to labor and delivery. While there, the doctors ran some tests and gave me meds to stop the contractions, and the meds worked. Something else happened while we were there too. You see, this was the hospital I originally wanted to deliver at but I wasn’t able to get a consult with the anesthesia team until right before my due date. Since we weren’t sure if I’d be delivering that night, guess who we got to meet with for a consult? Much to our surprise, the anesthesia team had a much more relaxed idea about my labor and delivery options. They are a level 3 NICU hospital and deal with high risk pregnancies on the regular so when I told them about having Transverse Myelitis, they barely batted an eye. After a short team meeting, the anesthetists told me that if I wanted to have an epidural, it was just fine with them. There are risks no matter what option I went with due to my medical condition, so they told me I should get to make the decision myself. Fast forward to the next day, I’m back home on bedrest and we have made an official venue change. There are no guarantees of course. I could labor too fast to get an epidural and have to go with nothing. I could still need a C-section, but I have what I’ve desired from the beginning, the power to choose.

We have decided to cancel the scheduled C-Section and let nature run it’s course. My hope is to have an epidural and a vaginal delivery of Baby Jax. Our little escapade that landed us at the hospital ended up being a Blessing in disguise and, in my heart, I knew that our decision to go this route was the best option for us.

Here are a few thoughts I have looking back at my labor and delivery options:

  1. Although getting a second opinion proved to be difficult for us, if you are unhappy or unsure about the options you’re being given about you labor and delivery, definitely seek out another opinion. I absolutely love my current OB, and even the anesthesia team he works with are really great, but the bottom line is that the hospital was not really equipped to handle such a high risk case as my own. My options had to be limited to the confines of what that particular hospital could handle, which was a controlled C-Section under general anesthesia. As much as I wish my current OB doctor could deliver our baby, I’m so thankful that I was able to consult with another hospital.
  2. Do your research and stick to your guns. There’s probably little doubt that any OB doctor has more knowledge of your super rare disease than you do. Even though the coalition for TM actually recommends an epidural for a number of reasons, I just couldn’t seem to get anyone to understand until I talked to the very flexible anesthesia team and the new hospital
  3. I’ve known in my heart from the get-go that having a C-section under general anesthesia was not the right option for me. That’s not to say it won’t end up happening anyways but my gut just told me this wasn’t the way to go for me. Trust your heart and your gut. We really do have way more control over our health and treatment options than we realize. Just because a doctor gives XYZ recommendation or prescribes XYZ medication, doesn’t mean it’s always the best option. There are medications and treatments I refuse to take or take part in and it’s 100% my rightful option to say “No” or “I think there’s a better way. I’m not comfortable with this.”  It’s yours too!