We all have that place in our head — it’s dark, scary and typically void of all rational thought. And no matter how hard we try, we are sucked into that spot every once in a while.
I’m learning, through experience and advice from family and friends, to not beat myself up for the trips to those places but instead to make each of these “adventures” a time to learn and become a little better, a little less likely to venture back to that place.
I made one of these trips Thursday.
Since last Saturday night I’ve been one giant, itchy, swollen poison ivy blister. That morning my son and I were outside in our backyard. While he played on the swing set I decided to tackle a patch of poke weed that was staring me down. I made sure not to touch anything that looked suspicious and immediately came in and washed all exposed skin well. It did no good.
By Sunday my face was swollen with the rash threatening my eyes and I was itching like crazy everywhere. Since I’m about two-thirds of the way through my pregnancy I checked with my OB about what to do. She sent me into the OB emergency department Sunday where they prescribed me a steroid. In the coming days it just got worse and more intense. Wednesday, during a regularly scheduled appointment with my OB she sent me to a dermatologist that afternoon. He prescribed a high dose steroid shot. I got the shot in his office with the assurance that in a few days I should be feeling better.
I left the office feeling itchy but fine. I was walking to my car thinking about what I had ahead of me for the rest of the day at work.
Then I woke up, sun beating down on my face blinding my eyes from what felt like about 20 people (but probably closer to eight) leaning over me as I laid on the hot asphalt of the dermatologist’s parking lot.
I’d passed out and was unconscious. A man thankfully noticed me in the spot he’d started to pull into and didn’t run over me with his truck.
All I could say was, “I’m pregnant with a pacemaker. The baby!”
The rest went fast — stretcher, ambulance, needles, EKGs, tears.
I’m not really your standard pregnant woman considering I’ve got a pacemaker. And on top of that, I was covered in this monster-like rash. I went to the same OB emergency department I went to on Sunday, only this time it really was an emergency. Their concern was to determine why I passed out. My concern was for my unborn son. Had he been hurt when I fell to the ground? I had a huge knot on the back of my head so there was an obvious impact. Was he OK? What did this mean for him?
Tests, monitors, ultrasounds — they all assured the doctors and me that my little guy was OK. Around 10 p.m. that night they transferred me to another part of the hospital where doctors could better monitor me and my heart and would send people over to monitor the baby every few hours.
I didn’t sleep, at all. Part of it was the misery of the itching and the pain from hitting my head and back so much. But mostly it was the guilt and anxiety.
Passing out is something that happens with this lovely heart condition I get to call my own; but it hasn’t happened in more than a year and never happened during my last pregnancy. And while it is never fun and always scary, the intensity of my fear, anxiety and guilt of what happened that day and what might happen again felt incapacitating, like I almost couldn’t breathe.
All I could think was, “Thankfully my little guy looks great. But what if it happens again? What if the outcome isn’t the same?”
I couldn’t live with myself. What would my husband think or do? Friends, family, strangers? It would be my fault.
All day Thursday people were coming and going telling me I was doing fine, the baby was doing fine. I didn’t want to be at the hospital; I wanted to be home with my son who didn’t understand where his mommy was. But I was terrified to leave. “My baby was safe there,” I thought. “He might not be safe with me.”
Rationally, I understood that “I” was not hurting him; it wasn’t my fault that I lived in Bangladesh 10 years ago trying to help people as a Peace Corps volunteer, and I seemed to have caught some virus that damaged my heart and forever changed my life and is now impacting his life.
But when I was sitting in my hospital room feeling his tiny, helpless body rolling around inside ME, and I know I am the one responsible for keeping him alive and healthy, rational thoughts aren’t really the first ones to rise to the top.
No shiny bow. I’m still scared out of my mind. And I know that I’m not the only one; others are going through much more terrifying things. That thought only makes me grieve for them, not take comfort.
But, with my promise to myself to make these trips to irrational, scary land more productive, I left the hospital late Friday night in a much better place. I had a plan; the doctors had a plan. I can take good care of myself and this baby but I can’t change the fact that I have a heart condition that might impact my pregnancy again. I can’t loathe myself for that fact. I have to accept that and accept the limitations that come with it.
One of those is living the next week from my couch, overstuffed chair or bed and allowing those around me to help during this (hopefully just) week of doctor mandated bed rest.
I’m blessed with amazing family and friends who have made this experience manageable. My husband didn’t skip a beat, taking over full responsibility for Miles while I was in the hospital and doing his best to help me maintain my sanity. My mom swooped in, providing a birthday party for my son this past weekend and is keeping him for the week so I am truly allowed to rest. My sister provided clothes, S’mores pizza, company and support. And friends kept me sane with phone calls, visits, baby snuggles, a fridge full of food, perspective and milkshakes.
So, writing this from my eerily quiet house while my husband slaves away in the yard, I am reminded — even in the midst of some scary and uncertain times — just how lucky I am. And this little guy that is thankfully happy and healthy dancing around in my belly will be equally blessed when he gets to join the rest of us in about 10 weeks.
I’m going to start out by saying, “Yes, I know, it could be much worse.”
Now that we have that reality check out of the way, I’m going to be the whiny, moody pregnant woman I want to be.
I’m kind of miserable. It isn’t the typical pregnancy woes that I’m complaining about (although don’t hold your breath, they are surely to come in the next month or so). Instead I’ve got your not run of the mill complaints to wallow on.
I am covered, seriously covered, in poison ivy (sumac, oak, whatever). It looks as if I said, “Ooh, look at that big ol’ patch of itchy, nasty weed over there. I should totally get naked and roll around in it!” Instead what I did was weed. Yep, that’s it. Saturday morning my son and I were outside playing when my eye kept wandering to this problem-area of our yard.
I couldn’t stop looking at it and decided, “oh, I’ll just go pull a few weeds …” Well several giant piles later I felt pretty satisfied (and sweaty.) I was super-duper extra careful not to get anywhere near anything that looks suspicious. And as soon as I was done I went inside and washed all exposed areas well with hot, soapy water. I was good to go, right?
WRONG! Oh so very, very wrong.
Later that afternoon the family and I went to my sister’s house for my brother-in-law’s not so surprise birthday and graduation party. It was outside, there were flies, and I was sweaty. So I wasn’t too surprised when I felt a little itchy. Later that night a spot of what looked like it might be poison ivy popped up on my arm. But that was it … one limited spot. I didn’t think too much of it.
I woke up the next morning to a red, blotchy, swollen face; arms covered in the rash; fingers burning and itchy with tiny bumps between them and itchy ankles. And as the day went on the rash continued to swell, spread and intensify nearing my eyes and lips. I called my insurance’s nurse’s line to see what relief I could get as I’ve never dealt with this severe of a reaction while pregnant. She told me they couldn’t tell me anything because of the pregnancy but strongly urged me to call my OB’s office. I did and my OB (whom I love) was on call and called me back.
I described the symptoms, she worried it was “systemic” and said I needed to go into the OB emergency room. I said, “Really? You really think I should?” She urged me saying it would only get worse, and I should catch it before it got to that point.
Unfortunately, she was right. And even with going to the ER it has gotten worse! They gave me a dose of steroids there (and checked to be sure that baby boy is handling the stress of this histamine storm is going on in my body — he thankfully is) and a script for the next week. The nastiness somehow got into my blood stream and is coursing through my body popping up wherever and whenever it feels like, they said (not in those exact terms mind you, but in medical mumbo jumbo.) The nurse assured me that I should start to feel immediate relief, or at least in the next couple hours.
Unfortunately, she was wrong! As the night went out on the itching worsened and the rash spread. I woke up this morning with my eyes swollen shut, poison ivy on my lips and inside my mouth and a rash that had just spread even more. The steroids has helped the redness and swelling go down but not done much for the itchiness.
So yeah, that’s all bad enough. I promise you it is! But wait, wait, it gets worse. I walk into the office. It’s nice and cool downstairs but I open the stairwell to go up to the newsroom. Sweltering. I tell myself, “Don’t panic, that happens sometimes. When you trudge up there and open the door into the newsroom you’ll be blasted with appropriately cooled air and all will be fine.
I’m already sweating before I reach the top step, say a little prayer and lug the door open. I’m greeted with, you guessed it, more sweltering air. I have to stop myself from bursting out into tears. Granted, it may be the fact that I’m a hormone factory or it could also be that I’m freaking miserable!
I instantly commander the super fan from my co-worker’s desk and put it directly on my face. (And thankfully when he came in later this morning he graciously didn’t snatch it back and is suffering in silence.) I can’t communicate with anyone or make or receive phone calls. But I almost don’t feel like my face is simultaneously burning and crawling with the super itchies.
OK, OK. I think I’ve got it all out of my system. It sucks. I hate it. I look like a freak. Tomorrow will be better, right? Promise me it will!
Describe your definition of misery, pregnant or not.
By Abbey Doyle
As parents I think we question every move.
Well, at least I do; and I don’t think I’m the only one who does it.
In the last couple weeks we’ve made some pretty big parenting decisions in the life our little guy. The first involved food. Not to get into icky details, but my son has had some issues with pooping. I know, I know, everybody poops. Well he wasn’t, at least he wasn’t for several days in a row way too regularly.
Part of the problem was that this kid boycotts eating on a regular basis. He won’t eat the super nutritious four course meals I prepare or the crap-laden kid’s meal from a fast food joint. Miles eats a bite or two a meal (if we are lucky) for a few days and then, all of a sudden and with no explanation, will eat every thing on his plate. Then we go back to the no food thing for days. It’s a cycle. And I can’t force feed him.
So after much fretting, research and medical consultation we decided to cut all dairy products, a big move when that was one of the food groups he pretty regularly consumed (even if only on a small scale.) Cottage cheese, cheese and yogurt were among his favorites. We switched to almond milk and stopped the others cold turkey. We also consistently started him on a probiotic daily and have noticed a world of difference.
He still won’t eat. He still occasionally will get constipated, but it is far less than before.
But that felt like a huge decision. Am I depriving him something important? Is he getting enough fat and calories, calcium and vitamin D? He loves those foods, is he going to hate me?
The second big parenting decision in some ways has been easier and others tougher — school. Miles turns three on July 20. He’s been a stay-at-home-kid for most of his life so I felt like he needed some organized, outside of the home, structure and socialization. Preschool seemed like a great option.
My husband and I both seemed to be on board with the idea but got some pushback from some extended family members. Isn’t he too young for school? He has 18-plus years to be in school, let him have fun while he’s still a baby!
My response has been, “It’s preschool people! It will be fun!” They color and sing about animals. They read books and have circle time. They talk about shapes and dinosaurs and monkeys and eat cookies. He will have a blast. And you know what, if he doesn’t, if we discover that maybe he isn’t ready, he won’t go to school! But I think he’s ready.
Let me tell you though, the “standard parent doubt” coupled with doubt from family and friends made the decision a little harder. Is he ready? Will he feel like we are abandoning him, especially with the new baby around the corner? Will he like it; make friends? Is it the right fit for him?
Tell me this agonizing and doubt goes away? It does, right? Soon?
I did get a little reprieve. Miles went to his 3 year old check up today and the doctor said he was perfect. Yes, he’s under the 15th percentile for weight (what do you expect from a kid who doesn’t eat much) and has only gained three pounds in a year but he’s healthy, is passing milestones on schedule or ahead and has tons of energy. Our decision to cut dairy, it was right on, she said, encouraging us to “keep up what we are doing.”
What have been some of your bigger parenting doubts? How did you deal with them?
From a weekend vacation with my toddler to a weekend vacation from my toddler — I really don’t know what to do with myself!
We moved into our home in April. We got all the important stuff unpacked and in it’s “right” place — the kitchen, Miles’ room, the bathroom, our living room, Michael’s office… you know, the important stuff.
But then there’s all that other stuff. Granted our ratio of “other” stuff to every day/critical use stuff is way down after the fire, we still have some of it hanging around, much of it stuff for baby to be that we’d handed off to my sister for her son and that she is handing back to us. So the basement and the nursery to be have kind of become these gray, dark, bottomless pits.
And these pits, well they’ve been mostly unattended to other than when I’m frantically looking for a particular pair of shoes or a bag for vacation last weekend. We had a huge unpacking and organizing push early on. My mom and sister helped with entertaining Miles as we got the bulk of it done. But since then, we’ve kind of gone back to life as normal with busy weekends that lead the exhausted evenings and no further unpacking/organizing of the pits.
The time has come though for the pits to go away, hopefully forever. My mom, who is also quite the social butterfly with a busy calendar, has carved away a weekend for her and Miles so Michael and I can really get to work.
I know, I know — a kid-free weekend, and we’re going to clean, organize and unpack? We aren’t going to sleep in, escape somewhere with sunny beaches, bon-bons and golf or go have a nice dinner? We may do one of those things (a kid-free dinner out sounds AMAZING) but what we both really want done is a house that really feels settled and a lack of PITS!
The end of September (when Baby Doyle is expected to make his appearance) is creeping up on us very quickly. And I want his nursery to feel as special and welcoming as Miles’ did.
So here’s to our kid-free weekend filled with cleaning, unpacking and organizing (and hopefully at least one morning of rising after the sun and a quiet dinner).
What do you do if you get a quick reprieve from your kiddos?
My husband and I are pretty experienced travelers as our entire relationship we’ve lived several states away from either my parents (in Indiana) or his parents (in Louisiana). And growing up driving six to eight hours away for a long holiday weekend was the norm as our extended family is that far away.
But travelling with a toddler is a whole other ballgame.
The stuff, the chaos, the challenges!
Because our priority when we’ve had time off has always been to see family, Michael and I have never had a real vacation together besides our honeymoon a few months after we married. We’ve always just traveled to see family. So when there was talk about planning a vacation among the members of my extended family I was pretty stoked. We are a pretty tight-knit group but only get to see each other a handful of times a year because we are all spread out and have busy lives of our own.
And even though it is “my” family, Michael has said he feels as if he’s been accepted as a McLaughlin and is a part of the family too. And my cousins’ have little ones that Miles LOVES to play with.
So the idea of a vacation was very exciting… until it got to the getting ready part.
We were to spend a long weekend (we left Thursday late morning for our destination and returned home around 6 p.m. Sunday) at a lake house. My cousin Annie did an amazing job picking a location with lots to do and that was as centrally located as is possible with as many of us as there are. The spot was Innsbrook, Mo., a resort-town built around dozens of lakes. We rented three large lake houses among the nearly 30 of us (with six, seven and under) but all gathered together at least once a day during the trip.
As happy as we were about the idea of getting away, the sheer notion of getting all the needed items together, packing them and fitting them in the car was pretty exhausting. So actually doing all that was even more exhausting. We had a box and cooler of food, an array of swim items, a handful of toys, a cot and sleeping bag for Miles, camp chairs, our bikes, Miles’ seat for our bike, clothes, beach towels… You get the picture.
But once we got there it was an amazing time. We went to the beach, boated, biked, walked, explored, gabbed, played games, laughed, ate too much, napped and every once in a blue moon even relaxed.
I’m ready to do it again, just give me a year or two to recover from this one!
What’s been your best vacation survival strategy? Best vacation with a toddler? Share your ideas!