Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sad News

It is with great sadness we announce the birth and death of our baby Declan around noon yesterday at 13 weeks gestation. There are no words to express what I'm feeling now. Mostly shock and disbelief. This has been such a hard pregnancy from the very beginning with the subchorionic hematoma, the restricted activity, and most recently the ovarian cysts. But as hard as it was for me, I took comfort knowing that at every ultrasound (5 or 6) and as recently as Tuesday, baby looked great. Perfect heartbeat, very active. No signs of trouble.

Having had two losses before, I knew I was high risk to lose this one, too. Every day when I woke up still pregnant, I thanked God I had This Day to be his mother. And when things were scary, I took extra care to cherish the moments I did have. But as things got further along and baby looked great throughout, I was starting to look forward to the future.

[Medical details warning for the squeamish]

I started feeling sick Friday. I thought I had a stomach bug. At no point did it cross my mind there was anything more serious going on. And then on Saturday my water suddenly broke and less than a minute later I was holding him in my hand thinking what just happened? It can't be what it looks like, because he was fine on Tuesday. Thankfully, Papa Runner hadn't left for his errands yet (and the kids were at my parents). He called 911, and we spent the afternoon in the ER waiting for the placenta to come.

I've heard horror stories about how some women are treated during a miscarriage, but I had wonderful care. From the ambulance crew to the hospital staff, everyone showed utmost concern and compassion. My nurse Courtney was particularly wonderful, making sure I had as much time as I needed to say goodbye. She even arranged towels around him so we could take a few pictures.

When it first happened, I was afraid I had mistaken labor for a stomach bug, as some of the same symptoms happen in labor. But I'm actually still sick. Now I wonder if I have an infection that triggered the miscarriage. Or if one or both cysts ruptured and released enough toxins to both make me sick and cause the miscarriage. Or it's possible they're completely unrelated and coincidental. The baby and placenta were sent to pathology to be examined, so we may get some answers, but I know in many cases they don't ever find a cause.

We chose the name Declan because it means "full of goodness". It was already on our short list because it fits well with our other kids' names.The kids didn't say much when we first told them, but they all had some questions last night. Grief for kids can be so different from adults, and I'm sure they will have many more questions in the days and weeks to come.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Promise Walk and Pain

It's a little late for my 12 week update considering I'm almost 13 weeks (yay, second trimester!). This weekend, my family did the Chicago Promise Walk for Preeclampsia. The kids were totally on board when we signed up, then lost enthusiasm when they had to actually train. However, they were super excited the day of the race. All four kids finished along with their three cousins, although two distracted boys turned around just a bit early.

It's been another rough week, though. Last Wednesday, I started having episodes of severe pain on my right side. I was afraid it might be my appendix, but it turns out I have two large cysts measuring a combined 7cm on my ovary. Baby is still looking great, but I've had a couple nights and days where I couldn't eat or sleep from the pain. I went back to the doctor yesterday for a prescription for stronger pain meds, and finally got some sleep. It's been such a rough pregnancy so far, and we haven't even gotten to the scary part yet!

Friday, May 8, 2015

11 Weeks, Migraines, and the Promise Walk

Help us fight Preeclampsia for our baby!
I'm 11 weeks along as of yesterday. Baby looked great on ultrasound, the hematoma is shrinking again, and I can slowly start increasing my activity again. I celebrated with a slooow stroll around the neighborhood.

This past week has been a really hard one physically. I had two migraines and a lot of morning sickness. In all five of my previous pregnancies, I've had exactly three migraines during weeks 6-8. Migraines have a vascular component to them. Preeclampsia also is primarily a problem with the vascular connections between the placenta and uterus. The bulk of the work of forming those connections takes place during weeks 6-8, exactly when I had migraines. I've always wondered if there was a connection, if there was something going wrong that would trigger migraines in the moment and preeclampsia down the road.

When I made it through week 8 without a migraine, I hoped I'd be in the clear. Nope, had two in week 10. I have no idea what, if anything, that means, but it's another reminder that this is a high risk pregnancy and I need to be vigilant about my symptoms.

In other news, our family is once again doing the Chicago Promise Walk for Preeclampsia. All four kids have been training to walk the 5k, and they'd love it if you would donate a few dollars for the cause. Here's our fundraising page.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

10 weeks down...

...30 to go. I'm 10 weeks pregnant today. I was diagnosed with a subchorionic hematoma a few weeks ago and told to rest. I was hoping to be cleared to resume activities at this week's appointment. Unfortunately, the hematoma has actually grown. Probably from spectating at Papa Runner's half marathon last weekend. I have to increase my rest. The good news is baby looks perfect, growing right on schedule.

I've already trained the kids to do most of the chores, so I don't have any cleaning or laundry to do. The real problem with regard to resting is cooking. I'm on a strict diet to keep my autoimmune condition under control, which is especially important now while my placenta is forming. We can't just order out all the time, nor can I ask people to bring over whatever casserole. That makes it hard. I do have a stool in the kitchen, so I can at least sit at the stove instead of stand.
kumquat

It's also been a rough week for morning sickness. I have always had an easier time than most people, for which I'm grateful, but this week it got worse. Still very tolerable, but never fun.

On a more fun note, I'm just getting to the point where I feel little flutters and wonder, was that the baby or just a muscle twitch? Still not sure it's really a kick, but lots of fun. The kids love to come talk to the baby. They all are convinced it's a boy, so we'll see. They're also fascinated with the baby-to-fruit comparison. They tell everyone they see our baby is the size of a kumquat. Pretty sure none of them have ever even heard of a kumquat before, but it's still awesome.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

BIG NEWS!

Papa Runner and I are thrilled to announce we are expecting a baby due Thanksgiving Day! This was not an easy decision after five complicated pregnancies, two losses, four preemies, two IUGR babies, and two brushes with death. My Grandma said what I'm sure everyone is thinking (including us), "With all the problems you've had? Hope it goes okay!" Yeah, me, too. Love you, Grandma!

But I always wanted a big family, and I hated that preeclampsia was, I felt, taking that decision away from me. It took a lot of thought and prayer to get to this point, but we're ready and excited. I'm doing everything in my power to have a healthy pregnancy. I'm currently in the best shape of my life, I eat very clean, my autoimmune disorder is in remission thanks to a low inflammation Paleo diet, and I take folate for my MTHFR mutation. I know I can do everything right and still get sick, but I've got a great team of doctors looking after me if that happens. Even so, the more people praying the better, so if you're someone who keeps a list of prayer requests, please add Mama Runner and Baby to that list. Thanks!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Not That Simple

I've been part of an online support group for preeclampsia survivors for a number of years. It's been rather quiet lately. I recently discovered a lot of people have moved to Facebook, so I joined that group, too. I've been a part of it for only a few weeks, but already this topic has come up a number of times. Some well-meaning but misinformed person upsets a survivor by asking why she didn't just control her blood pressure better. Sometimes they suggest lifestyle changes like diet and exercise, sometimes medication, herbal supplements, or even meditation. All of them show a misunderstanding of what this condition really is.

Here is a good comparison to explain why it isn't as simple as controlling your blood pressure. Influenza is a condition caused by a virus that has a number of symptoms including high fever. Imagine your child was very sick in the hospital and possibly dying of influenza, and someone wondered why you didn't "just" control his fever with Tylenol. You'd look at them like they were nuts. Fever is not the primary problem, it's just a symptom. Even if you control it with Tylenol (which you probably are already doing), that won't actually fight the virus. Your child would still be very ill.

The same thing is true of preeclampsia. It's a condition caused by a poorly functioning placenta that has a number of symptoms including high blood pressure. It's rather ridiculous to suggest that we should fix it by controlling our blood pressure. The high blood pressure isn't the primary problem, it's just a symptom. Even if we control it (which we attempt to do), that still wouldn't make the placenta work better. We'd still be very ill.

The reason this idea of "just" controlling our blood pressure is upsetting to survivors is because it suggests what we and our babies went through is our own fault for not taking better care of ourselves. It's not. We don't know why some women have faulty placentas, and we don't have the slightest idea how to fix it. It's not just a simple matter of better lifestyle choices or medication.

Friday, February 6, 2015

On the Vaccine Debate

Vaccination is the topic of the day. Whenever it comes up, I always really, really want to share my thoughts, but I also really, really don't want to get into an argument. I consider myself to be middle of the road. And you know what they say about people standing in the middle of the road: they get run over in both directions. That has been my experience in a nutshell.

When I had my first child, I felt it was my duty to make sure I was doing the absolute best I could for her. I couldn't just blindly make decisions. Her life and well being were too important. It was my responsibility to ask questions and get informed. And I had questions about vaccines. Questions like:

  • Because she was premature, should she be vaccinated according to her actual or adjusted age?
  • Would she be at greater risk for side effects due to her more fragile health?
  • Would it be better to delay the shots until she was a little older and stronger?
  • Should we spread them out a little more so she wasn't exposed to so many things at once?
  • What is actually in these things, anyway?
  • How serious are the diseases we're preventing? 
  • Does benefit outweigh risk?

When I asked these questions of the pro-vaccine camp, the response I got was this:

OH EM GEE! How dare you question the almighty vaccine! You're just a stupid, crazy hippie who's bought into a discredited study on autism! Your children will die a slow, painful death, and they'll infect half the world's population on the way out! Won't you feel terrible then, but you'll deserve it, you stupid, worthless piece of crap! Let's see what your magic herbs and oils do for you then! Your children should be taken away from such a terrible, neglectful parent!

I was very taken aback by this response. It was full of hate, fear-mongering, and bullying. But you know what wasn't there? Answers. Answers to my very legitimate questions. (And I hadn't even mentioned autism!) I started to wonder, if they couldn't offer facts to convince me, if they had to resort to these bullying tactics, could it be they were hiding something?

So I asked questions of the anti-vaccine camp. The response was this:

OH EM GEE! How can you even consider injecting that poison into your child? They'll totally get autism or ADD or a learning disability! And if they manage to avoid that, their digestive system will be destroyed! They'll have autoimmune diseases and hormone imbalances and everything you can imagine! Your child will suffer and it'll be all your fault! It's all a big conspiracy anyway, and I can't believe you're falling for it! It's government mandated child abuse!

Again, I was surprised at the bullying tactics and lack of actual answers. Now both sides looked insane. How was I supposed to know what was truly best for my child? Was I supposed to just blindly trust one side? Which one? It took a lot of wading through this garbage to find any kind of facts. I eventually came to a conclusion that seems right for my family. What is it? It's not really your business. It's right for us, and that's all that matters. 

I'm not going to tell you TO vaccinate. I'm not going to tell you NOT TO vaccinate. I WILL tell you to ignore emotional arguments. I WILL encourage you to get informed with real facts and not just blindly do what you're told, whether it's by your mainstream pediatrician or your alternative chiropractor. Beyond that I really don't care what you do. But we absolutely MUST get rid of the propaganda, fear mongering, emotional blackmail, and bullying tactics on both sides. If you can't offer facts, if you can only offer coercion, your position isn't actually very sound and you look like a fool. 

You know what bothers me most about this whole issue? The accusations of abuse and neglect for anyone who disagrees. Guess what? A parent who is trying to do the best for their child is not abusive or neglectful! At worst they're wrong, but they're lovingly wrong. So knock it off!