My posting has been a bit sparse of late, and this is best explained by Gilda Radner’s wise saying “There’s Always Something.”
Up until recently I have always expected that “something” – illness, death, general chaos and disaster – to come crashing down on my head at any moment.
It is my nature to go through life (especially big life events like pregnancy) in the same way I live through an airplane flight; white-knuckled and compelled to exercise constant vigilance, because I am convinced that if I let it lapse for a second the airplane’s wings will fall off. Because we all know the truth of it really is that I control everything, right…?
But over the last few years I have been working hard to change this side of myself that I frankly detest. It was going well, I was making progress, and this pregnancy just reinforced that my new mindset was working.
Up until I hit the six month mark everything was going incredibly well – uncannily so. I got pregnant almost before I made the decision to start trying, I was nauseous for the first two months but this was only concrete proof that the pregnancy was establishing itself as it should. I wasn’t gaining too much weight, I didn’t have high blood pressure or gestational diabetes, and the glow-worm obliged me with several kicks every time I started to freak out I hadn’t felt him / her moving for a while.
See? I told myself. Having faith that everything is going to be okay is the key. If I think things will go well, they will! My triumph was akin to discovering the Rosetta Stone.
Then around the six and a half month mark I began to experience what I first thought was a tenacious stomach flu. The weeks ticked by however, and I kept getting worse instead of better. Then all of a sudden things started to go downhill really fast, and although I won’t go into the gory details I experienced symptoms that made me realize something was really wrong
At my next obstetrical appointment I broke down and wailed to my OB how exhausted and ill and scared I was. I was losing weight rapidly and was almost back to my pre-pregnancy weight – something virtually unheard of for me and which freaked me out almost more than anything. However, my OB at least reassured me that although I may be very ill, the glow-worm was just fine. Thank god they are such resilient little creatures.
Cancer is the number one scary illness in my head – everyone has their favorite – so I spent many nights laying awake in the wee hours of the morning after being sick almost every hour, convinced that I was dying. I would slink into the girl’s bedroom and caress their soft cheeks, tears running down my face that I was going to leave them motherless at such a young age.
Finally I got myself into a local gastroenterologist who assured me that though he didn’t know exactly what I had, he was pretty sure it wasn’t the big “C”. Then, however, he proceeded in subjecting me to a series of exams that were uncomfortable, humiliating, and which all involved a disturbing amount of rubber. However, they were necessary. He quickly found that things were not as they should be, although he hastily assured me once again, “it’s not cancer.”
After several angst-filled days waiting for the biopsy results it finally came back that what I have likely developed is a chronic auto-immune disease that causes severe inflammation and bleeding of the intestines. It’s like a switch was turned on in my body for my immune system to attack my innards (and, frustratingly, the medical community still doesn’t know what turns on this switch), and now that it’s on my body doesn’t know how to turn it off. This will most likely be something I will have to deal with on and off (more off than on I hope) for the rest of my life.
But for right now being pregnant throws an additional spanner in the works; the medication I can take while pregnant is very limited, and until the glow-worm is born they can’t do the more extensive exams they need to do in order to find out the extent of it. This means that shortly after my C-section I have a full colonoscopy to look forward to. Oh joy. The gastroenterologist’s goal at this point is just getting me to the delivery date as best we can, and the rest we’ll figure out after the glow-worm is born and hence removed from the equation.
I’m now on medication that seems to be helping a bit and I’m trying to get back to a somewhat normal routine. I’m sleeping better at night, and no longer think I am going to imminently leave my girls motherless.
This experience has also forced me to come face to face with a few erroneous preconceptions I had about illness. For one thing, I realize there’s no blame or control involved – this disease isn’t my fault or anybody else’s. The fact of the matter is that these things can and do happen when you are housed inside a human body, and your mindset about life has nothing to do with it. My body just has a glitch in it and there’s nothing I can do about that. Just like any illness it completely sucks, and it’s not in any way fair, but ultimately after the whinging and wailing is done what choice do you have besides dealing with it as best you can?
One thing is for sure, the truth that there really is no point about worrying about specific things, as life is pretty much guaranteed to throw something completely different and unexpected at you has hit me like a sledgehammer. That, and the fact that life has a merciful way of marching on despite the various crises that come hand in hand with being alive.