Let’s just chat about weight gain and self-doubt for a moment shall we? I’ve struggled with how much weight I’ve gained in the pregnancy pretty hard core. After losing 45 pounds just before getting pregnant, gaining over 50 pounds in this pregnancy has been tough. I know, I know, I’m pregnant and I shouldn’t stress or be all full of myself (rolls eyes). But the bottom line here is, I’ve gained more weight in this pregnancy than with any of my previous pregnancies… like WAY more.
This is the first pregnancy I’ve had since being diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis in 2014. With my other pregnancies, I was very active right up until delivery day. This pregnancy has been different. With my mobility very limited, it’s been difficult to get exercise of any kind into my routine, unless you count the number of time I waddle from my bed to the bathroom a day. Already dealing with insecurities and guilt over what I’m not able to do anymore, gaining a bunch of weight just plays into the ugly picture of self-doubt. I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit feeling sorry for myself and wishing I was healthier for my family. I’ve even had dips of depression all stemming from feeling like I’m not good enough and that I’m not pulling my weight (no pun intended) as a mom, caretaker of the home, and partner. I’ve been stuck in bed for the latter half of my pregnancy and rely heavily on my friends and family to help me with daily living.
See the man in that picture up there? He’s been my rock and has been so patient through my tears, frustrations, and depression. You’d think having a super strong net of support would be more than enough to keep me from the blues but our worst enemy lives within the confines of our minds. It’s my mind that’s breaking me, planting seeds of self disapproval. I write this for the women that have been there, or who are there now. You’re not alone. As positive as I try to be, sometimes I’m just not able to be Captain Sunshine (my whole family can attest to that). My eight year old refers to it as, “Mom’s having one of her pregnancy moments.” Well, that’s partially true I suppose, but we can’t blame the pregnancy on all of our emotions. The reality is that many of the insecurities I’ve tried to bury or overcome since the onset of this illness have just resurfaced.
Sing me those blues:
- Maybe you’ve gained a lot of weight during your pregnancy. Maybe your illness has flared up while pregnant. Maybe you’re wondering if you’re going to be an OK mom and worry that your chronic condition will get in the way of you properly taking care of your baby. Whatever it is that’s holding you down, don’t hold it in. Talk to your spouse, your mom, your best friend, or someone you’ve connected with that has your same illness. Often times just talking about it can relieve the burden of carrying such insecurities.
- It’s OK to seek help, like professional help. If your depression has left you feeling utterly hopeless, talk to your doctor. Heck, talk to your doctor anyways! Let her know that you’re struggling with your emotions right now. Allow her to help guide you to a plan, whether that means medication, counseling, or just more frequent visits. This doesn’t make you crazy! It makes you human.
- Something I’m really working on is positive self-talk. When I have a negative though about myself “I’m getting too fat.”, I make myself say 3 nice things about myself “I am loved, I am an overcomer, I can do this.” I really talk to myself a lot throughout the day. It’s not easy when you’re in that bitter place, but it’s so necessary! Try it!
Thank God for these sweet ultrasounds that serve as a reminder as to why I was crazy enough to be pregnant in my 30’s and with a ridiculous medical condition. Just look at those adorable lips and cheeks! I can’t wait until the day I get kiss that beautiful face. About this time I’m feeling like a kid in the backseat of a car on a long road trip. “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? How about now?” I’m really trying to embrace the journey but I’m getting homesick! I’m ready to fit into shoes again (My feet are so swollen and I think I don’t have ankles anymore!), ready to reclaim some mobility, ready for the heartburn to be gone, and ready to maybe not have to sleep with 50 pillows to attempt an hour of comfort before having to get up to pee. Oh and let’s not forget that I’m totally ready to trade my 40oz of Whine for a nice glass of Wine.
I just looooovvveee (sense the sarcasm here) when people say “Must be nice to be in bed all day.” or my favorite, “This is the easy part. Just wait until the baby get’s here!.” Deep breaths Lisa, deep breaths. They know not what they speak of. It’s not like this is my first rodeo, people. This is baby #5 for me and let me tell ya, this has been the most challenging pregnancy yet. I know it’s going to be so very worth all of it when Baby Jax gets here but until then, you’ll hear me whine a bit.
While my body continues to fight me, I do get to enjoy things like watching my belly move when the baby has hiccups and feeling his kicks (unless he’s kicking my ribs or bladder. I’m not required to enjoy that). His sonogram photos make me long for the day I get to hold him and I even have this little wooden toy car that just always seems to make me so happy to look at. I love thinking about him playing with it someday. It’s the little things that help me to stay optimistic throughout all of the big things that threaten to dismember my sanity.
Thought for the day:
What are the “little things” that help you keep your sanity through your pregnancy?
This is a photo of me at my baby shower! My beautiful friend Julie gave me the very sweetest baby shower I could have ever hoped for and it was a lovely time. (She also let me nap on her couch for an hour before the party so I could function through it. My friends know me so well!)
At this point I’m using my arm crutch full time and have resigned to using the super germy scooters at the grocery stores, if or when I even go. Mobility has become a HUGE problem and short distances leave me in severe pain and completely fatigued. Between this giant belly, my hips getting all loosey goosey in preparation for baby, and my spine and legs giving up hope on me, It’s just been an uphill battle. Let’s not leave out the fact that my nervous system is working overtime so the neuropathy and nerve pain is just ridiculous as all get out. “Oh Lisa, but what were you thinking getting pregnant when you already have a debilitating disease?!” (Anyone get asked that frequently?) I’ll take a pass on the judgment and I’ll tell you why!
Transverse Myelitis has stripped away so much from my life. It traps me at every corner and threatens to hold me under, but I’m not having it! I won’t allow TM to define me, to decide that I can’t do anything that is in my heart to do.
Despite all that my body is not able to do anymore, it still carried the ability to grow a miracle. As hard as this pregnancy has been, can you even begin to grasp what that feels like? My body has failed me on every level….but still….here we are. Baby Jaxson is growing and healthy. It’s beautiful beyond measure and I’m abuntantly Blessed. This blog doesn’t serve as a means for me to complain about my pregnancy, but I do think it’s important to impart the reality of what it may be like to go through pregnancy with a chronic illness. It’s a sacrifice. It’s going to hurt, it’s going to drain you, it’s going to require you to pull more strength from yourself than you ever thought possible and you know what? For me, it’s 100% worth it.
A few lessons I’ve taken from my journey so far:
- Beware of the Judgment Zone – It may come from your parents, your friends, your in-laws, or even your own doctors. You are allowed to take a pass on the judgment. Until anyone has walked, tripped, or stumbled in your shoes, they may absolutely NOT pour their opinions about you becoming pregnant with a chronic illness into your life.
- You can do this – I’m not some big bundle of strength. Many times throughout the week, I break down. I get tired of hurting, feeling helpless, and being overcome with guilt about this pregnancy and bringing a baby into this world when I already struggle as a parent. At the end of the day, I have to just remember that if my body wasn’t capable of handling this pregnancy, then it would have rejected it. I can do this. You can too.
- Be nice to yourself – This one is the hardest. We are our own worst critics. Be nice to yourself. Thank God every day that your baby is healthy and your body is carrying on. Breathe deeply – Inhale the positive and exhale the negative. Focus on sending positive thoughts to yourself and your baby. Let the judgement of others be washed away by the support of your friends and family. ❤
Who else here is driving their family crazy with nesting?! I know I am! I’ve become totally neurotic about my house being clean, everything being sanitized, and getting the nursery put together. I cried today because I didn’t have a diaper bag yet and, OMG! we MUST have a diaper bag! Lord, help my poor family right now. What makes it worse is I’m not mobile enough to do any of it on my own so now I’m like the evil queen who sits upon her throne of pillows and nags everyone to utter death about cleaning. “The house feels cluttered. The baby’s crib needs to be put together. What’s that on the floor?! Where’s the bleach!?!?!?” Ah yes, carefree Lisa has been taken over by Aliens… well, one tiny alien. I seriously don’t remember being this completely nuts with my other pregnancies, or maybe that’s something we are programmed to forget, like labor pain. Either way, the Roomba is on 24/7 and I’m panicking over dishes left in the sink.
I have not good advise for you Mammas this week. It is what it is. I think that my inability to take care of things on my own just makes me more crazy. Just be sure to say “sorry” and “thank you” and “I love you” A LOT to your poor, sweet family whom you are torturing right now. Maybe post the definition of “Nesting in Pregnancy” to your refrigerator as a reminder to your spouse and children that this really is temporary and that, soon enough, they’ll get their sweet wife/mom back so they don’t have you committed.
I just have to take some time out to recognize my amazing support system. This is a pic of me at a team work event. I was nervous to even go but when I showed up, husbands were there to park my car for me and help me up the steps. My amazing girlfriends cleared off a space on a comfy couch and fed me and made sure I was comfortable.
Since on bed rest, my friends have set up a meal train for me and have fed our family, which is like feeding a small army. A couple of my girlfriends pitched in to have a housekeeper come to my casa once a week and clean. My kids have picked up additional chores and my sweetheart has been running kids around, coaching basketball and soccer, and picking up extra slack (including me when I can’t get up on my own) all while working and going to school full time.
My heart has been overflowing with gratitude. All of this for me and I have nothing to give in return except a depth of thanks I could never begin to express in words. My friends and family have been a monumental Blessing and I’m overwhelmed by the selflessness and love that have been extended. This is the truest love, Agape love, at it’s very essence. These beautiful and amazing people have sacrificed their own time and resources to extend their goodwill at every moment in this pregnancy. You know who you are and know that I love you so much, that this time will never be forgotten, and that you have impacted my life in such a way that will always be imprinted in my heart. Thank you for loving me, inspiring me, and encouraging me. Thank you uplifting me, for being a shoulder to cry on, for being my family.
Pelvic, freaking, girdle pain – Are you kidding me right now?! Not only do I have to deal with the rest of my body being dysfunctional but now I get to feel intense pain and pressure in my nether region for the rest of my pregnancy?! What is this nonsense? I didn’t have this with any of my other pregnancies. At any given time you may see me just walking around holding myself like a little kid who needs to pee real bad just trying to hoist up some of the pressure off my lady parts or rocking back and forth on my hands and knees like a birthing cow but we do what we have to do right!?
So, what is Pelvic Girdle Pain? Well, I hope that none of you EVER have to experience but since it’s apparently not terribly uncommon in pregnancy, we’ll chat about it. It’s an umbrella term used to describe pain in the hips and pubis. (Well duh). PGP can be caused when your, already semi-dysfunctional pre-pregnancy hips, are not well supported in pregnancy due to the release of the hormone Relaxin. (They should call it the “Not relaxed at all Hormone” ) While almost anything you do can make the pain worse (going from sitting to standing, turning over in bed, freaking sneezing the wrong way), I have found that it’s been difficult to treat. I’ve been to Physical Therapy and have tried other various methods to relieve the pressure, such as soaking in the tub or pool, and sitting on a donut pillow (mmmmmm donuts) but, for me, it’s just not been much help. I attribute that mostly to the fact that my core and my legs are already compromised due to Transverse Myelitis, and pelvic floor exercises are not quite adequate because of the atrophy I have.
Oh how I hate to sound like such a Debbie Downer about this but I felt it only fair to forewarn you that this very well be, yet another, issue you face during pregnancy. IF you come across this ridiculous burden, I pray that the following advisable steps to help alleviate the pain will be of much more help to you than to me.
Pelvic Girdle Pain Relief Suggestions:
- Go to a Physical Therapist – Your PT specialist can show you exercises to help relieve the pain and also show you how to best protect your hips during your pregnancy.
- Get in the water – A pool is ideal but if you don’t have access to one, then take a bath every day. It really can help to relieve pressure, and also gives you an excuse to relax!
- Sit Wisely – Avoid hard surfaces (no shame in bringing a pillow to sit on!) and don’t sit for too long. I usually find that if I sit for longer than 20-30 minutes at a time, the pain gets worse. Even though the pain is really at it’s worst when I go from sitting to standing, I find that getting up and trying to walk around a bit helps.
(Photo Creds to my 8 year old who was playing with my iPhone and got this photo)
I’d had this vacation planned for months before we actually went. We were going to Tennessee and, at the time that we had planned the trip, I was feeling pretty well. I wanted to take my kids to Dollywood, maybe catch a walk on a nature trail, and do all sorts of fun things. My body had different plans for me. By the time our vacation day had arrived, I’d been restricted to bed rest and even the idea of a road trip scared me because my body has been so unpredictable. Determined to go, even if it just meant me sitting in the cabin for days, we left. I carried with me guilt because I didn’t want to drag down the rest of my family and our good family friends that were vacationing with us.
It was that all to familiar feeling of “Great, once again this chronic illness is holding everyone back.” I knew it was the Transverse Myelitis and not just the pregnancy itself because with my four other (pre-TM) pregnancies, I was fully active right up until labor day. It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut, to feel sorry for myself, and to feel like I’m such a heavy burden on others. As always, everyone had to work around “Lisa’s issues.” That was my own insecurity speaking, of course, but it didn’t negate the fact that I felt fed up with my body and bad for my family.
As it turns out, being a big inconvenience to myself was exactly what I needed for that weekend. We arrived at our cabin and I was forced to sit; just sit and do nothing. My amazing friend and wonderful honey took the kids on all of the adventures I wasn’t able to go on. They rode roller coasters and stayed out late and had the best time. I didn’t feel guilty for long because I knew that if I had tried to go along with them, they wouldn’t have had the freedom to just be carefree and go on their terms. I spent the weekend, reading, sitting in the hot tub (Don’t freak out! I turned the temps way down as not to boil the baby so it was more like the “Lukewarm Tub.”) I didn’t feel obligated to do anything but rest and IT WAS AMAZING! I learned so much from this family vacation.
A few lessons this week:
1. Now is a great time for a weekend getaway. You don’t even have to leave the state! Go stay at a hotel in another town, or get a cabin! Whether you go with your children or just go with your significant other, go. Allow yourself to just do absolutely nothing for a couple of days. Allow your spouse to adventure with your children without feeling guilty for not trucking along.
2. Stop beating yourself up. We are the WORST about this aren’t we?! I mean, seriously, how much time do you spend wishing you were a better (fill in the blank). Everyone on our trip had a wonderful time. I loved getting to hear all the stories from everyone’s day and see the excitement in my kids’ eyes. I didn’t have to be right by their side to experience the joy of their vacation.
3. I needed the break. I didn’t even realize how badly I needed the break until I was there taking it. Give yourself a break from your physical and emotional self. It was good for me and good for the baby. When Mamma is less stressed, so is our little womb-mate.