The Struggles of My Twin Pregnancy – Part 1

Twin Pregnancy

Get ready because if you read this, you’re getting TMI. I’m covering, in detail, my struggles with my twin pregnancy.

I’m not sure where to start. I had so many things going on that at some point I said to my specialist doctor that I should be a case study. Here’s what I was dealing with: hypothyroid (I already had it pre-pregnancy, but it caused so many problems that I’m including it), incompetent cervix, gestational diabetes, gallstones, cholestasis, postpartum preeclampsia, and separated pubic symphysis. The twins themselves were perfectly healthy the duration of my pregnancy, but my body was not.

In part, I blame myself, not for my body but for inadequate baby planning. After Jacob was born, I decided I would go back to work and figure out how I felt about being away from him – as I’m sure new mothers do. I made it about two weeks before I knew I wasn’t going to continue working. I made it to about five months before deciding that I was ready to have another kid. The idea was that I was already home with one kid and I wasn’t going back to work until he was in school. If we did this right, I would have a new baby and a newly potty trained two-year-old. I would miss about four years of work before the youngest would be in preschool and Jacob nearly in kindergarten. It wasn’t going to be easy, but I would have two children close in age. I could do it. No big deal.

How does that quote go? “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Yep. Exactly.

The most significant issue I blame myself for is not waiting longer. Jacob was less than a year old before I got pregnant again. I didn’t have any initial problems with my pregnancy with him, but I did have the usual things that happen after pregnancy: weight gain, emotional unbalance, healing. I did not give my body enough time to heal. Somewhere in some medical journal, while I was pregnant with the twins, I read that a woman should allow herself at least a year before CONTEMPLATING another pregnancy. The body goes through so much turmoil and change to make a little human it only makes sense. I cannot say that waiting would have made a difference in how things eventually turned out, but I can say that I had plenty of time to wait to make sure it turned out better.

Right now I’m sitting at my table in the kitchen, and Elliot (one of the twins) is sitting in his chair patiently waiting for me to stop typing and play with him. Every time I look at either of the twins, I’m reminded of the hard work that went into bringing them into this world, and not just work from me but my family, doctors, and nurses.

Alright, let’s get started. In the beginning, the only symptom I had to reckon with was shock. I was a smiling, giggling, panicking mess. The idea that there were going to be two little people coming soon was too grandiose a thought to accept. I don’t believe it sank in until they were born. My husband and I went through the motions of buying another crib, of buying another playpen and double our orders of subscription coffee to welcome them but it wasn’t until we both saw two tiny bodies inside the isolettes of the hospital operating room that we finally accepted being parents of twins.

Then trying to remember the first trimester of my twin pregnancy is like trying to remember what you did the night before going on that drinking binge (not that I’ve ever experienced one of those…). I recall snippets here and there but not much else. All I can say is it took a toll even from the beginning. If I think about it, it couldn’t have been that bad, because after all, I did manage to take care of Jacob all by myself during that time. I just happened to be sleeping on the floor next to a playful baby for most of it.

The real kicker came in a little later. I wrote a post a few weeks ago about dealing with cholestasis of pregnancy during my pregnancy with Jacob. It was a shitty condition on top of the cream pie that was the last few weeks of my pregnancy with Jacob. I got a face full, twice. The second time, you guessed it, during the second trimester of my twin pregnancy.

One thing I did not mention much in the post where I talked about cholestasis was that it is normally a late-term pregnancy condition. In addition, it is usually most common in women carrying multiple babies. Finally, it is highly likely to recur if it was present in a previous pregnancy. Suffice it to say I was fully expecting it to rear its ugly head, but what I was not expecting was it would be so soon. Even my maternal fetal medicine specialist didn’t believe me when I mentioned my cholestatic symptoms were back. He reiterated to me what you just read and said he would take a blood sample just to be cautious. I think were it not for my constant itching while we were talking he would have ignored me.

So, the first condition down is Cholestasis. This time around I was fully prepared, and the only recourse was to take medication and resume weekly non-stress testing (Just like with my pregnancy with Jacob. You should read that post if you want a good backstory: here). Shout out to my husband’s job for allowing him to take 2-4 hours off from work to take me to these sessions every time – at some point closer to their due date they turned into bi-weekly sessions!

Alright, who’s next? Oh! I know! So, following my appointment where I did my cholestasis blood drawing I had another check up to do: cervical. I love those! NOT! Right up there with getting a pap smear, necessary but awkward. I ended up getting pretty comfortable with those checkups though. Eventually, I had a schedule where I had the same nurse every visit so I would get undressed, (half undressed anyway) and lay down nice and pretty for her. It made things quick and easy. (LOL)

As you may have already figured out, I had a full-on incompetent cervix. It wasn’t urgent for the first checkup. My doctor made a note that it was shorter than he was comfortable with for a twin pregnancy and I was advised to start bed rest. All this occurred during the tail end of my first trimester and into the beginning of my second trimester.

You know those novellas (or even TV series) where you’re hooked, and then you get the “to be continued” bullshit? I was the living embodiment of that sentiment – within a few weeks the beginning of my second trimester brought on a slew of new tests, scary moments, anxious feelings, mental breakdowns, and unlimited loving support.

I wish I had started a twin pregnancy journal while I was pregnant. The twins are now 18 months old, and all the hubbub of dealing with them has caused me to forget the details like the timeline of diagnosis for some of my conditions. All I can say is that sometime early on in my second trimester I had a follow-up blood test (after starting the ursodiol medication for cholestasis) to review the status of my cholestasis problem. The expectation was that my bile levels would have begun decreasing because I had been on medication for a few days, but that was not the case. The following morning, after my blood draw, my results came in, and I received a call from my oby/gyn – I was to report myself to the hospital, my bile levels were too high, and I needed to be monitored.

PANIC! This didn’t happen the last time! WTF!

As it turned out, this was the shortest of my many hospital visits. I believe I was only there overnight. Magically my bile levels started decreasing, and I was feeling fine (I had been feeling fine the entire time, really). Personally, I think this was one of those situations where my doctor took the extra double precaution that wasn’t necessary. You never can tell though.

Ok, so that was just the runner-up hospital stay, guess what happened next? ANOTHER APPOINTMENT, YAY! ANOTHER HOSPITAL STAY, YAY!

Almost immediately afterward, I had another cervical check and NST (non-stress test). This one, if I recall, was to make sure the bed rest wasn’t making anything worse, but… you know already. Here comes IC making its second debut. After the cervical check, I got dressed, grabbed my bag and sat in the specialist’s office expectantly waiting to hear some good news. What I got instead rocked my world.

My doctor logged into his computer, pulled up my file and opened up the ultrasound pictures from just a few moments ago. He didn’t have to say anything. I had seen enough ultrasound images to know what was supposed to be where and there was obviously a cervix missing and a bulging sac dangerously protruding through a surface that wasn’t supposed to be made available for months, months! I heard from his mouth the words “hospital bed rest,” “possible infection,” “high probability babies won’t make it.” When I think about it now, I’m surprised I wasn’t a living waterfall. I do distinctly remember looking at my husband and looking at the saddest man I had ever seen.

One of my coping mechanisms for anything stressful is to imagine myself past the end of that tunnel, past the point where whatever is currently happening has just passed and to the extent where whatever is happening has been surpassed by months. Most of the time it’s a picture in my mind’s eye of myself doing mundane happy things like sitting on my couch reading a book or playing with my children after they have been born. Imagining those things tells me that there will come a time where I won’t feel what I am feeling now – that there will be a time of normal feelings and normal things. I couldn’t bring myself to see “normal” at that appointment. I wasn’t a ball of tears, but I was steeling myself with stoicism. Don’t feel, just do. Go through the motions, and we’ll try to picture the normal things coming tomorrow instead – if possible.

This is the part where I am obligated to say a massive thank you to my family. My pregnancy consisted of not doing much of anything at this point. I relied on family to cook our meals, to watch my baby Jacob, and to chauffeur my oldest after school and for play dates. Literally, I could not do a thing. I was allowed 30 min showers and 30 min of light activity. I lived on my couch. MASSIVE. THANK YOU.

Luma, I thought you said you were supposed to be on hospital bed rest? Well, yes. As I’m navigating myself through my story, I am smiling, and you’ll see why in a bit.

Hospital bed rest is a bitch. No one who is genuinely fully functional can accept having someone else who wipes their ass because they’re not allowed to get up and use a bathroom like a normal person. Yes, I was truly fully functional. I could move my legs, my arms, I could lift my tush off the hospital bed but being vertical was forbidden. If I had to pee it was in one of those bed bowl thingies you have to awkwardly put your butt over and then pray you’re aiming in the correct location. (I was so embarrassed that I think my brain made my body constipated because the entire duration of my stay I did not shit.) TOO EMBARRASSED. OMG, I don’t know what I would have done if I needed to go. Side note, if you are reading this and you are in this same situation, then I am so sorry.

Also, last bit about this… if you are here and your husband is doing the ass wiping, I think it goes without saying that you will die together of old age. No man who is willing to do that for you will ever leave your side! LMAO!

OK, back on track. Here I was I believe two days into my hospital stay and a new maternal-fetal medicine specialist was on-call. She was doing her rounds and came in my room to talk. At first, she came in surprised I was on such a strict bed rest. According to her, it didn’t seem necessary. She allowed me to walk to the bathroom when I wished (YES!) and to take a shower. I was ecstatic and oh so confused. I was in the middle of discussing the change with the nurses when the specialist came back to the room; she had a look of “OMG I was so wrong!”.

By that time my husband was out of work and in the room with me. She called him over and took a seat. She explained that she had thought something was off and had reviewed my file again. As it turned out, the level of bed rest I was on before she came in was exactly as it should be (boo) – I should not be allowed to get up. Then she said she had an option for us to contemplate: a cervical cerclage. She finished explaining what it was; we were allowed a few hours to discuss it. After all, having a cerclage done with a singleton pregnancy had its risks. Imagine now trying to do a cerclage with a bulging sac on a twin pregnancy. There was a high chance of rupture during the procedure, and it was not a guarantee it would prevent any miscarriage or early labor; however, it would allow me to continue bed rest at home. This was the day that I allowed myself to go into my coping space. There would indeed come a day where I would have “normal.” Here is where I smile.

To be continued…

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. The information contained in this blog post is not meant to assist in diagnosing any medical condition. Diagnosing medical conditions is the job of a medical professional; I am not a medical professional. The sole purpose of this blog post is to inform the reader of my personal experiences.

La Comida de Mamá – Tradiciones Mexicanas Para Mis Hijos

Comida, Tradicion, Tradiciones

Ahora que estamos en la temporada navideña empieza la preparación de comidas típicas mexicanas de este momento: tamales, buñuelos, champurrado y mucho más. La mayoría de nuestras tradiciones están envueltas en la cocina – haciendo y comiendo en familia. Con eso en mente quiero tomar el tiempo este año de hacer el esfuerzo y devolver estas tradiciones con las cuales yo crecí, a mis hijos.

Cuando yo era niña mis papás nos llevaban a fiestas en casas de familiares. Al parecer había fiesta sábado y domingo el mes entero de diciembre. No recuerdo mucho sobre lo que hacíamos ahí y menos con quien estábamos, pero si recuerdo que muchas veces llegábamos temprano para ayudar a hacer la comida. Me acuerdo de todas las mujeres sentadas en las mesas preparando tamales. Cada una con su hoja de elote. En la estufa otro grupo de mujeres friendo buñuelos y echando burla. Todas platicando y riendo y apresuradas para terminar antes de que llegara la gente.

Siempre esperaba con anticipó que las señoras terminaran también para poder comer. No bastaba con tan sólo oler la riqueza de la comida que hacían. Cuando podía me ponía a ayudar y entre escuchar a la plática me echaba un bocadito. Y si no me pedían ayuda buscaba los panes y el champurrado y me buscaba un lugar para sentarme.

Hace muchos años que he visto algo así. ¿Será que a estas mujeres se las llevó el tiempo? No lo sé, también puede ser que las necesidades de mis padres de trabajar horas extremas nos distanciaron de estas festividades. O, también que eso mismo las haya distanciado a ellas. Sea lo que sea, ahora tengo a mis hijos y les quiero dar la experiencia que tuve yo al crecer. La experiencia de pasar las festividades navideñas disfrutando de la misma comida tradicional mexicana que yo. Hay sólo un problema: no sé cocinarlas…

¡No me maten! (Todavía…) ¡Yo sé cocinar! El problema es que no se cómo hacer las más complicadas de nuestras comidas. Por ejemplo, los tamales. Ah, ese tamal… el mismo por el cual los güeros se someten a ser tus amores para comerlos. (Mi esposo, ji ji ji).

No es que no trate de aprender, pero cuando la ocasión se presenta hay que hacer un montón y se hacen rápidamente (y saben mejor) en grupo. Cuando hay que hacerlos en mi familia siempre son hechos por mi mamá. Ella prepara la masa y nosotros (mi hermana, mi papá) preparamos el relleno y las hojas. ¡Varias veces prepare la masa pero las mamás (y abuelas) mexicanas nunca miden los ingredientes! Se mide a sabor, dicen. 😉

La intención que me propuse es aprender.  Quiero tener la capacidad de proveer todas esas delicias navideñas para mi familia. En especial quiero que mis hijos tengan la oportunidad de pedirme a mí que les enseñe a cocinar esas comidas. Que ellos tengan por parte mía lo que yo tengo por mi mamá. Sobre todo en la familia mexicana es mamá la que con su manto (o su comida) provee el amor y la seguridad en abundancia. Es por el cual nosotras como mujeres y madres tenemos la capacidad de alegrar el corazón (y el estómago) a cualquiera.
Quiero en esta temporada que la comida de mamá siga trascendiendo el tiempo y los obstáculos culturales. Los mismos que yo me encuentro desintegrando por parte de mi matrimonio a un hombre americano. Que mi cultura mexicana siga viva en mí como mamá mexicana y que mis hijos, sean quien sea que ellos decidan sea su amor cuando grandes, puedan traer a la mesa (literalmente) su cultura mexicana.

A Bicultural Couple – Stories Of Our Life

bicultural couple

Most of the time we don’t even notice the fact that together we are a pair of different cultures in an interracial marriage. We deal with life as it comes. Our differences only made apparent when we are not together or when we are recounting stories of our younger lives. It’s possible that our almost ten years together has made us indifferent nowadays; however, I do remember that in the beginning, it was all we talked about.

Part of the problem, my mom, said at some point, was that white people were always on time. They didn’t like to be late. If you are Hispanic, however, it is inherent that you will rarely be on time for anything. After being together a few years, I would like to think I have improved my on-time skills, but I don’t think I’ve managed to be on time for anything other than job interviews, and medical appointments. Unfortunately, I’m positive lateness is in my genes. (Sorry, kids.) My husband has learned not to expect my family at the time they say, and together we’ve learned when it’s ok to be late or when it’s not.

On Saturday mornings my mom used to clue us in to start cleaning by playing her Mexican regional music on our stereo system as loudly as possible. We listened to people like Christian Castro, Joan Sebastian, Juan Gabriel, Los Tigres del Norte, or Banda el Recodo. As soon as the first song came on it was game time – start cleaning! Each of the kids had a task to do. At the time my brothers were too young, so it was mostly my sister and me. She would get to clean the living room, dining room, and hallway. I would need to clean the stairs, landing, the bathroom and sort the laundry. (Mind you, she is two years younger than me, and we were full on house cleaners!) We would switch chores every other Saturday. Now that I’m grown-up I still have that habit. The difference is when I decide it’s time to clean on the weekend, and I start blasting my Mexican music, my husband looks at me like I’m crazy (lol!). Had he been Hispanic he wouldn’t even bat a lash. Sometimes I listen to American classic rock, or Lana Del Rey, Muse, John Mayer, Emeli Sande, Young the giant, La Santa Cecilia, OG Shakira, reggaeton, etc.,  – yet he still looks at me, while I’m dancing and doing the dishes like I’m crazy. He’s learned just to let me be, but I think he has unconsciously clued into the cleaning routine. I’ve made my mark. (I did learn later that listening to music while cleaning isn’t only a Hispanic thing; however, blaring the music loudly enough for your neighbors to hear is.)

Comparatively, he’s done things that make no sense to me or that have bewildered me. Notably, my introduction to movies or film. He is a movie aficionado. He studied theater before he settled on being an IT professional. His family is just as invested. There was a time before we dated when we went on a lunch “date.” I made the mistake of asking him about his favorite movies. He started naming and quoting and mentioning, and I just couldn’t keep up. There was not a single thing he said that I recognized. I was aghast and stupefied. It would be a long time before I would ask him anything related to actors, or movies, directors or theater. (A long time! LOL)

Nowadays he makes it his mission to “educate” me. We’ve watched movies from directors like: The Wachowskis (Matrix, V for Vendetta), The Coen Brothers (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men), Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich, Ocean’s 11), Luc Besson (Leon: The Professional, The Fifth Element) John Woo, Peter Jackson, plus many others. He’s shown me movies like Boondock Saints, Chocolat, and so on. The list of films we’ve seen is endless; likewise, is the list he wants me to see. The time when I was hesitant to ask him about his movie preferences is long gone, nowadays I sit back, listen, and enjoy his movie ramblings.

Here’s a particularly sensitive difference between American culture and Hispanic culture: birthday cards, thank you cards, Christmas cards, birth announcements. Just, why? In my opinion, it’s overkill. If you are close to the person and the event being celebrated then why is it necessary to send a card? It’s a waste of money; it usually gets tossed in the garbage (after the obligatory few months on the fridge).

I feel it’s “sensitive” because all kinds of people have different opinions of them. My husband’s family adores them. My mother-in-law doesn’t expect them from us anymore, lol. However, if I didn’t send one in the past (I use the twins as an excuse now, sorry busy!), I could feel the oppression coming at me from a mile away with, “oh, we didn’t get your birth announcement – when was he born?” (You know damn well – you got the text) Then, recently we heard, “you guys didn’t do Christmas cards, but they are so fun!” (No, they’re not, they’re just a chore). This requests for mailed announcements wasn’t necessarily from my family anymore, but from friends or relatives, we didn’t see often. Maybe this makes me a grinch (or lazy) but I just can’t.

The ones that confuse me the most are thank you cards (writing them, not receiving them!). If I attended your birthday party or whatever celebration, and I gave you a gift, then chances are you already thanked me for it. Why would you need to thank me again? I applaud you for having the time management skills that I don’t have! However, if I didn’t attend the event and I sent a gift, it’s a gift. I don’t expect a thank you. I assume you will hopefully love and enjoy what I gifted – it’s so simple. I’m confident that the next time we meet you’ll probably thank me anyway (I have awesome friends like that). Or if YOU attended my celebration and gave ME a gift I will be thanking you for it right then and there. Nowadays, I can get away with not writing them because I have a legit excuse: twins and a toddler (my oldest is getting up there with the needing constant attention too.).

When you look at my side of the family, then you’ll notice our fridges aren’t covered in Christmas cards and birth announcements. It’s typical at Hispanic celebratory events to have a receiving line for gifts or to expect a verbal thank you from the hostess at an event. You CANNOT get away with not talking to Tio Carlos about his new venture or Tia Consuelo about how her family is doing while giving their gift – it’s rude. So, eventually, during the conversation rounds, you are bound by blood and law to say thank you for whatever gift they gave you and expect a thank you immediately when you provide a gift. And that is that. No written thank you cards in the mail to be sent later – more like backtalk and scolding if you don’t say it then.

Same goes for birth announcements – you are expected to know these events are happening and usually obligated to visit. You bring your welcoming gift (not the baby shower gift) and hang out with the family. Help them do the dishes or change diapers or hold the baby while they get to feel like an average human for a bit. You are expected to KNOW and beg for forgiveness if you didn’t. It would be a shame for you to be out of touch with your own family. It’s both a blessing and a curse – to know what is going on with everyone ALL the time.

So, what’s my husband’s view of this topic? Meh. He’s appreciative if you send anything (me too I promise) but doesn’t feel the need to address anything of our own. Please don’t get me wrong though! I love receiving them. I appreciate the time and effort it takes to book a photographer, get everyone all dolled up, and then miraculously get everyone to smile (simultaneously) for a family picture. It’s just not for us. Honestly, I’m not positive if it wasn’t a convenience for my husband – men tend to be more dismissive of this type of thing. He probably enjoyed the fact that I don’t think sending cards is necessary.

There’s a video I recorded somewhere of our oldest playing in the snow in the backyard. In it, you can hear clearly and consistently my oldest speaking Spanish – “Mami mira!”, “Mami, esta frio,” “Mami, ven juega conmigo.” Regrettably, her fluency is all but gone. Fortunately, she can still understand these words and if she wanted she could say them, she could. However, she is nowhere near the fluency she had when she was young. There is a multitude of things I could blame for her decline: myself, my job (too busy), etc. Ultimately, the excuse prevailing is the necessity to communicate with my husband – he only speaks and understands English. Now, there is a gawking obviousness to our cultural differences.

With the introduction of Jacob and the twins, it has been infinitely tricky to interchange languages at home. They are beginning to learn how to speak so, for now, it is best to stick to one language at home. That is not to say I don’t consider the possibility of my children’s future speaking Spanish, but I feel it might be much easier once they have established a language first. For my oldest, it’ll come when she takes elective Spanish courses in school. I hate to think my responsibility for introducing her to her culture via an essential tool must be taught instead by some institution that hardly holds her in any regard. My plan to make up for this is to one day send her to Mexico with my family for a crash course! In the meantime, she gets plenty of Mexican cultural learning from being with her grandparents and talking about my life growing up.

The sacrifice (as I feel it is one) of losing Spanish at home is not made with scorn for my husband because he can only speak one language. Instead, I decided because I am able. The actuality that in this lifetime I can love someone different from me is a cherished gift. Yes, it has had its consequences, but they are redeemable. We’ve made more significant strides towards a harmonious marriage despite all the outside noise by listening and believing in each other. I am a proud Mexican. My husband is a proud white American. Our two different cultures brought us together. In light of the increase in hate crimes and the boldness of previously “closeted” racists, here you have one example of how we can overcome this ugliness: love.

In conclusion, apparent differences from the beginning of our relationship are bygone. We live our daily lives as every other couple does. There is nothing “special” about us. The thing that would have a potential to divide us (hate) has only made us stronger.

I’d like to note; I do realize that other bicultural/interracial couples may not have as supportive an environment that I do. Potentially, they may not have the environment where the POC is BELIEVED to be oppressed. As a person of color, it’s hard just to live your life sometimes. At any rate, what I want to say is that there are interracial couples that are successful. There is the possibility of loving someone despite their skin color. Is it easy, no – but it is possible.

 

It is possible.

Cholestasis, Incompetent Cervix – How it Changed My World

Cholestasis, Incompetent Cervix

The Beginning Was So Easy

The beginning of my pregnancy with Jacob was easy – no, it was. I loved it. There wasn’t any morning sickness (thank goodness). Most days I woke up feeling pretty darn normal. I commuted to work from the ‘burbs to the city (about a 45-minute express commute in the morning). Then I had a 10-minute walk from the train to the office. My job was stressful, but I had managed it already for five years, no big deal. The fateful diagnosis of Cholestasis and Incompetent Cervix was yet to rear its head. Yep, there was nothing out of the ordinary.

At least, not in the beginning…

Incompetent Cervix

Did you ever wonder, before you got pregnant, what it was that kept the baby in place? You know, so your amniotic sac doesn’t just fall out? (LOL!) I’ll tell you. It’s your cervix – that muscle that separates the vagina from the uterus. This muscle is what keeps the amniotic sac and placenta from straight up falling out of your vagina. (Pretty graphic image there, thanks, Luma.) Clearly, it plays a HUGE role. During your pregnancy, your obstetrician will check your cervix at least twice. If this is your second pregnancy, but you didn’t have any complications during the first pregnancy, it may be fewer checks. Let me tell you something, my previous pregnancy was pretty damn near normal (except the killer morning sickness that didn’t seem normal, but I digress).

So, herein lies the problem: I have an incompetent cervix. My cervix is a bitch. I hate it. (Strong words, I know.)

First, let me explain what an incompetent cervix is. An incompetent cervix is a condition that occurs when weak cervical tissue causes or contributes to premature birth or the loss of an otherwise healthy pregnancy. Your cervix is supposed to be nice and tight and protective during pregnancy. It’s supposed to be like the sentinels that protect the tomb of the unknown soldier – unwavering, resilient, proud.  Mine was more like – I quit. After eight months of holding it down, it just quit. That would be like the sentinels holding their post until the last few hours before deciding they didn’t want to “walk” anymore. Um, they’re not supposed to do that, and neither is your cervix.

Cholestasis of Pregnancy

If you ever wanted to torture somebody, for whatever reason, I suggest making them somehow intensely itchy. Seriously, it will drive them INSANE! How do I know? Been there, done that (as in, I, personally, was itchy not that I tortured another person – because I didn’t).

So, WTF is “Cholestasis of Pregnancy”?  You already know one of the most critical parts – it makes you EXTREMELY itchy.

It started with itching on the bottoms of my feet. I thought at first it was an allergic reaction or that the faux fur lined snow boots I was wearing were the culprit. The problem with both those things was that the itching never stopped (this itching is evil). Imagine trying to figure out how you can walk but also scratch your feet simultaneously ALL DAY. Then imagine rubbing the palms of your hands together CONSTANTLY. So much so that you don’t get much work done because you can’t even type. You itch so much that you can’t eat properly either. Know what, you can’t think, because all you think about is how much you want the itching to stop.YOU KNOW WHAT? YOU CAN’T SLEEP EITHER! (Caps were necessary, very necessary.) So, yep, pretty bad. Also, you’re pregnant – already hard – but MOST importantly it’s bad for the baby.

The End

So at the recommendation of my husband after almost a week of itchiness, I made an appointment with my obstetrician. (I think the nurse thought I was crazy for making an appointment because my feet were itchy.) The day of the appointment, as soon as I mentioned the symptoms to my doctor, I was immediately sent to do blood work. Mind you my appointment was at 5:30 PM and the lab closed at 6 pm. Luckily, the lab was on the same floor; however, the nurse had to rush me out the door and call the receptionist at the lab so they wouldn’t lock the doors. The whole rushing scenario made me extremely nervous. The doctor wanted the results first thing in the morning, and she said she would call me immediately after she got them. I went home freaking out (internally anyway).

So, the next morning I got a phone call with the diagnosis. I had to book an appointment immediately with a maternal-fetal medicine specialist because I needed to be on special medication and I needed to start NSTs (nonstress tests) to monitor Jacob for distress (shit). This diagnosis was a big deal. My husband and I were worried. I started medication; I had to have bi-weekly NSTs (while somehow also working downtown – my doc is in the ‘burbs). Also, did I mention this was right before Christmas week? Crazy. Anyway, I went through almost three weeks of testing and regular appointments with the obstetrician and MFM. Three weeks of constant research trying to figure out what I could do to keep me, and my son, relatively healthy. So, here comes the other half of the shit show. My own body was betraying me even more!

At 4 am on January 8 at 35 weeks pregnant I was having contractions. Just boom! Out of nowhere. At first, I thought Braxton Hicks. Then they became pretty evenly timed. I emailed work that I wasn’t coming in. We called my mom immediately too she had to drive from the city to my house at 6 am, and had to hurry! Denise had to get to school, and I couldn’t leave her alone! By 7 am I was panicking, and my contractions were so intense! As soon as my mom was in the driveway we rushed out, bags packed and everything! Finally, 9:24 am January 8 Jacob was born at 5lbs 6oz, 19in long. My baby was here! Except for one giant problem: he was premature. (I’ll have a separate blog post where I talk about having preemie babies.)

So, why TF did, I just start having contractions out of nowhere and so strongly? It was IC – incompetent cervix. I did not have any issues with Denise, so it was never checked (other than what the routine checkups are for a healthy pregnancy). At the time it had been about eight years since I had been pregnant with her. The obstetrician never thought it was an issue, and neither did I, obviously.

To this day I constantly think this could have happened on the train to work – that I could have gotten ready and hopped on my train and been halfway there, and then BOOM contractions! Stop the train! Pregnant lady here trying to birth a child on the nasty, dirty, grimy, floor of the train. Then I would have been on the news! How embarrassing! Anyway… not important. It didn’t happen, and I am grateful.

The Beginning, Again…

So, why am I telling you this? Honestly? I want you to know I want to help. In my research, during the three weeks of constant testing, I learned a few things.

The first being that current research doesn’t understand why Cholestasis happens. The second being that the occurrence of it varies from country to country (weird). The third, and in my opinion most important, some doctors don’t even test for it when patients complain of having the same symptoms as Cholestasis.

I don’t even know how many forums, blogs, pregnancy sites, comments, and whatnot, I read through where women commented they had to switch doctors (because their current one didn’t believe there was anything wrong). Or even bring the door down on their current doctors (fucking take my blood, dammit!). Some resorted to going to the emergency room and lie to say their baby was in distress to get tested.

Why? I didn’t understand. All it took was a blood test (maybe two, I don’t remember). Especially when Cholestasis, if left untreated can be fatal to your baby. Especially, when it is treated doctors have to induce you at 37 weeks because waiting any longer can be fatal for your baby. Like, holy shit, why wouldn’t they test?

Then comes having an incompetent cervix. This one is a wholly different wormhole. I didn’t do much research into this one when I was pregnant with Jacob. I didn’t find out I had IC until I was pregnant with the twins, but once I knew, it clicked. I couldn’t understand how I could have gone through birthing Jacob so quickly (not that there aren’t women out there who are perfect birthers) when I had such a hard birth with Denise. It didn’t make sense. Regardless, this part didn’t affect me as much until I had to deal with my pregnancy with the twins. It was during that pregnancy that I started to hate my cervix so much. We’re still not on good terms, but it’s not like I can get rid of it.

Anyway…

If you are currently pregnant and feel like something isn’t right, then get checked. I don’t care if the nurses look at you funny – just do it. Also, I know a significant amount of people say “don’t google it!” or “if you google it you’ll feel worse!” But be a rebel and google away. Do your research. Be informed. BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE. LEARN. It’s crucial for you and for your baby. HOWEVER, try your best to look at it from a third party’s perspective. Don’t go on an emotional roller coaster (even though I know it’s hard).

Lastly, find a good doctor and work with him/her. Ask lots of questions. My last MFM (Maternal Fetal Medicine) loved to send us the medical journals that he based his decisions on so we could read them. It comforted us to know that he was on top of his medical research constantly. Also, we’re weird and love to read and research things. I think we were his favorite patients.

So there it is. I’m happy I’m able to share this here. I hope someone out there finds it useful. Jacob is now a happy, healthy, almost three-year-old. Time flies.

P.S., I know there is an issue around having cervical checkups for some women due to privacy, female body empowerment, and too much medical outreach among other things. Everyone’s opinion is different; you guide your daily life based on what you think is best for YOU. I’m not trying to say here that you should have more cervical checkups but only that there is a condition that is hard to diagnose until the perfect conditions are met. So, what I am saying is you should do your research, listen to your body, and TALK to your doctor – and even if the dude (or dudette) doesn’t want to hear your side of the story then find someone else. Period.

 

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. The information contained in this blog post is not meant to assist in diagnosing any medical condition. Diagnosing medical conditions is the job of a medical professional; I am not a medical professional. The sole purpose of this blog post is to inform the reader of my personal experiences.