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Posts Tagged ‘preeclampsia’

As a young girl, my mother always, and I mean always, insisted on using the air conditioning.  I suspect it is due to her being born and raised in the New Orleans, southern Mississippi area (yes, I did just sing M-I-S-S, I-S-S, I-P-P-I to get it right).

Moving to Germany required adjustments to many things.  For one, the weather here in NRW is far milder year-round than the weather in NE Ohio.  Every summer, it hits about 90 degrees for all of 3 days.  By the end of the third day, I am researching the costs of a room air conditioner, only to have the temperature drop back down to a lovely low- to mid-70s.

Normally, June is a month (as I remember) for the moderate weather. 

But this week, we jumped from a nice cool 68 degrees to over 90. 

It was miserable.

Hot.

(Not humid though – that was nice.)

But ridiculously hot. 

And not that kind of hot where instead of cooking at home you could grab a bite in a nice air conditioned restaurants. Nope.  Most restaurants do NOT have AC. 

There is no escaping integrating oneself into life with German weather.

And then, today, the rains came.  And they came hard and fast.  Soaked Bubba Joe and I through and through even with our umbrellas – which are a standard German attire – within a few seconds.

But the temperature is back down to what I call a June normal.

And that makes me feel human again.

But today marks a special occasion for me – it was my last therapy appointment.  I have been seeing a therapist for two years now.  We discuss mostly what is going on in life at the moment, but have addressed the issues in my past, including postpartum depression, preeclampsia, prematurity, feelings of guilt and the desire to fix the world.

I really liked my therapist.  She was open and honest and approachable (not what I had typically pictured as your stereotypical German therapist) and has helped me to become well, me again.

Turns out that I like me and that while I cannot change the world (why oh why don’t they do what I want them to do when I want them to do it) but I am making a change for the better in what I do and with whom I have contact with.

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As I reflect upon my journey through motherhood, I realiize that many of the issues I have had to deal with are the same issues I had problems with prior to becoming a mom – expectations.

I have often been told My mom has often  told me that my expectations of others is too high.  My boss has said the same.  It is a constant throughout my life – this notion of my expectations being too high.

When I first became pregnant with Henry, it felt wrong.  Alex and I had been trying (or rather, not preventing) for over a year and nothing had happened.  Then my dad died.  The same week he was buried, I conceived.  It just felt, well, as I said before, wrong.

I find myself often disappointed in others – family, friends, co-workers.

I am very hard on myself.  Having PPD just made it worse.

No one could do anything to help me.  There was no fix for my constant feeling of being let down.  My dad was gone.  Each member of my family was grieving in their own way – and none was even remotely similar to another.

Not only was I alone but I was alone and resentful.

I expected that my pregnancy would be normal.  It wasn’t.

I expected that I would return to work before the 12-week postpartum I was allowed.  I didn’t.

I expected that I would easily find balance between working in the office, losing myself in my work (as I had done before) and the obligation I felt as a mom (pumping for Henry while at work).

I expected that since my sister had gone through preeclampsia and a preemie, she would be more understanding/hold my hand/carry me through it all.

Every one of my expectations was unrealistic and unmet.

And I was so angry for so long because of that.

And an angry Alice, much less one dealing with all I was dealing with – well, let’s just say that it wasn’t pretty.

I distinctly remember at one point after Henry’s birth taking a bath.  I started sobbing because I was just so angry at everything.  I raised my fist to God and blamed Him for everything.

I was done.

Soon after, I took a leave of absence from work.

I stopped functioning.

The weight of the world, no, the weight of a day, was so heavy.  The thought of it was unbearable.

I began seeing a therapist three times a week.

I was too tired to take Henry to daycare, so he stayed with me.

I felt guilty about everything.

And, somehow, I expected my life to be different.  I expected that even though my pregnancy, delivery and baby were not what I considered “normal”, that I could just deal with it.  That I would just suck it up, get on with my life and live.

At the age of 3, I started taking piano lessons.  I continued them throughout college, majoring in music.  But Henry hated me playing – it was too much stimulation.

I am learning to try to set realistic expectations.  I expect my husband to be honest and fair and gently and kind.  I expect the same of myself in return to him.

I expect that one day, I will figure out this hausfrau business – until then, I expect to get up daily, get dressed in non-stretchy pants (unless of course, I am giving myself a lazy day), brush my teeth, keep laundry going, take care of the dogs and the kiddoes and remember to feed us all as healthily as I can.

I expect that my faith, while being tested, will continue to remain and will, in fact, grow stronger.

I expect that I will continue to set unrealistic expectations but will learn to deal with them better than I have in the past.

Sofia’s up!  Got to go … I expect we’ll be going for a bike ride soon.

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Since my last post, I find myself in a weird emotional state.  In general, I feel more me than I have in a long time.

So good, in fact, that I am considering attempting another mutter-kind-kur (mother-child cure – a 3-week long intense therapy/health retreat).

But of course, in looking at this, it brings back the memories of the last time I attempted a mutter-kind-kur.  Sofia was 7 months old, Henry only 3.  It was horrible.  I just couldn’t deal with being a mom all.the.time with no break whatsoever.

Which, of course, only accentuated my feeling of failure.

I had already failed in providing both of my children a safe haven in my womb (thank you preeclampsia).  Wasn’t taking care of them 24/7 supposed to be just, easy?  I mean, I had children to hold and love on every day.  There are many women who don’t.  Couldn’t I just be grateful for what I had?  and what is it, anyway, that I want as a mother?

See.

These are the feelings that are now going through my mind.  The memories of how bad it was and when I realized that I was going through it a second time.

With Henry, I tried so hard to be the career woman I had been.   I mean, come on,  I had worked full-time (plus some) AND gone to grad school.

A long standing conversation between Alex and I was that I thoroughly believed that you could in fact, have it all.  It was merely up to you to decide what that meant.  Then go for it.

Well, that is all the past now.

I couldn’t have it all.  I could not work, be a wife, and a mom, and find peace and harmony and flowers and songs and sunshine in it all.

Nope.

Instead, I felt this increasing pressure in my core being.  A suffocation of everything that I am, everything I once believed in was in question and doubt.

The only connection I felt to Henry was that of guilt.  Guilt because I didn’t feel any connection.  Sure, I breastfed him.  But he was a sick baby.  And he had a milk-protein allergy on top of reflux and colic.  Breastfeeding was the only thing I figured that he needed me for – everything else he could get from somewhere else.

And THAT made me feel worse!

One day, I picked Henry up in his hoity-toity daycare (specialized in babies and only took children up to the age of 18 months), came home and sat.

I don’t remember if he was asleep  in the carseat or not.

I don’t remember much of anything from that moment on.

I simply remember sitting.

and stopping.

Alex came home to find me unable to function.

I completely shut down.

And short of breastfeeding, I had no connection to Henry.

OTHER – than when he was sick.  There was this strange connection I have had with my son since he was born.  I know instinctively when something is wrong, when medical intervention is necessary.  I have heard about a mother’s instincts.  They are very real.

And now, as I try to decide whether to really do a 3-week kur, I am just not sure how ready I am for intense therapy and really looking at what I continue to avoid.

 

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As most of us know, doing the right thing does not always make us feel good.

Nor does it make us popular, nor pretty, nor rich … not in the material way at least.

But once again, Mrs. Spit has come up with an amazing post that addresses many issues – including one near and dear to my heart – preeclampsia.

Me, I am one of the lucky ones.  I have 2 living children who I can hug and cuddle and yell at and parent every day.  It was not my faith in God or a belief in Christ that allowed my body to tolerate preeclampsia – to prevent my kidneys from failing more than they already were, for my heart to function within a tolerable range (albeit my BPs ranged from lows in the 140/90s to highs well above 180/110).

No dear friends, it had nothing to do with God’s kindness or my being a good person.

Because trust me, while my faith is solid right now, it hasn’t always been.  And while I am a Christian, I do not believe there is but one way to God.

So there.  I am putting it out there, for all the world to read (cause, you know, there are oh so few blogs out there to go through to get to mine) that I 100% support a woman’s right to choose – even though sometimes it really is NOT a choice.

I, thankfully, did NOT have to choose between my life or my child’s.

But don’t think for a second that it was not a conversation that BJD and I didn’t have.  Because we did.  Twice.  Once during each pregnancy.

And while, in theory it may seem noble to say that I would die for my child to live, risking having a child so early that life is not without many many many complications, with many of them leading to death, no my friends, I choose life.

And maybe it is because I had witnessed my father’s last breath – I watched him suffer and die the same week Bubba Joe was conceived.

Either way, faith did not save me.

I was lucky.

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My sis arrives Saturday morning.  Me being sick last week really put the pressure on to get our house organized, cleaned and ready for our guests.   Thankfully, all is done.

BJD and I are getting ready to head out and go grocery shopping.

I cleaned, I mean I seriously cleaned our 2nd floor.  Our bedroom was gross!  It had been 3 weeks since it had seen the swiffer and it thanked me afterwards.

I saw our homeopath last week, before I got sick regarding my PPD.  He gave me these small kügelchien (tiny balls) to take but I didn’t take them until I really felt better was human again.

I don’t know if it’s the homeopathic crap or if it’s because my doc halved my BP meds (I requested a switch because 1) they’re not working, my numbers are still high, and 2) a side effect is depression.  Now before you go thinking my doctor is stupid, this is the medicine I was put on during my first pregnancy that my body responded well to (I hung in for 6 weeks).  And I was only on it a very short time this last time with Little Girl.  Being me (i.e. still of the mindset that meds are $$$) I requested that we try what I already had – I mean I had a box full of these.  But at 5€ for new meds, I don’t think that was smart …)

So I halved my BP meds last week, took the balls this week and wouldn’t you know it?  This old gal is starting to feel more like myself than I have in a long time.  I have energy.  I have drive.  I am still short-tempered, but that really is just me.  It’s the temper that I know – the temper that after nearly 35 years, I have some real ideas of when it’s coming and how to control it.  (Now whether or not I choose to is another story!)

I’m very excited to see my sis.  And my nieces.  And my nephew.  It will be a nice 4 weeks with them.  We have the space.  Our DHH (half of a house) has 3 bedrooms, 1 office (that is basically a big room  with a futon and lots of stuff piled up in the corner), and 2 full baths.  A nice sized, fully fenced in back yard with a train that runs behind that finishes it off.  And of course, we are tucked very nicely away from the street.

Speaking of which, a story … the other day my inlaws came by to visit.  Normally we lock the door to keep Bubba Joe in (our door closes but you have to lock it with a key to lock it).  I forgot.  At some point, the doorbell rang.  My FIL went to answer the door, I went to put the dogs in the crate (they bark and tend to get obnoxious – small dogs …).  FIL opens the door and there stands Bubba Joe.  T-shirt, boxers, rainboots.  Outside.

Lesson learned.  Always lock the door.

(I am so thankful beyond belief that he tends to be on the cautious side.  And he rang the bell.  Dude.  Seriously.)

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After admitting to myself, BJD and I talked.  And we both agree that it is time to get some help.  One of the nice things about being here in Germany is their social system.  Yes, everyone has insurance, no it is not free (we pay 15% of BJD’s salary to have coverage).

In order to get true help (i.e. to get insurance to provide household assistance as they did when I was on bedrest), I needed a diagnosis.  My regular hausartzt was not enough.  I had to see a neurologist/psychiatrist.  Yup, they’re one in the same here.

My appointment was today.   5pm.

We go in, having left the kids with oma and opa and are told there is approximately a 30 minute wait.  (I truly love when they know they are running late and give us the option to go run errands/grab a bit to eat/whatever.)  We decided to just stay and wait.

And as we’re sitting there, I feel myself surrounded by  crazies.

I know, I know.  It’s awfully judgemental of me, a woman with postpartum depression, stating that I’m in a room full of crazies, but seriously, I was in a shrink’s waiting room.  And more than that, in a waiting room preparing to speak with a medical professional who may or may not be nice, helpful, sympathetic or worse yet, have such a strong dialect that I can’t communicate.

Needless to say, I had myself pretty worked up and at one point asked BJD what we were doing there.  He reminded me that in order for him to return back to the office (and no longer work from home), I needed help.  To get help required a diagnosis.  To get a diagnosis meant waiting.

Now I’m not normally a patient person in the best of situations.  But admitting to myself that I needed help was destroying pieces of me more and more and the longer I sat there, I started wondering if *I* too, were in fact crazy.  I mean, what on earth were these people doing here, if they weren’t somehow “messed up in head”.  See.  There I am, being judgemental again.

They call me in.  Approximately 1/2 hour after my appointment (love it even more when their predictions are correct). And they tell me to wait in the hallway.  Ahh, the joys of thinking you’re going in to only go to yet another room to wait.

But it wasn’t long.

Then the doc called me in.

I was surprised.

He was great.

He took his time listening.  And asked questions to make sure he understood what I was saying.  (BTW – no dialect.  He spoke high german which was great!) He even knew what preeclampsia was and was surprised that I had it twice.  Surprised simply because it’s not common to have it the first time and well, twice is truly something.

When I told him that most of my problems center around my feelings of guilt and my inability to find my footing, he immediately explained that the guilt is depression.

Dude.  He got me.

We talked more.

He was incredibly empathetic.  And moreso when I explained about my dad dieing just before Bubba Joe was conceived – the dichotomy of life and death.

So I’m getting help.

And I’m not being judged.

I will continue on my low-dose zo lo f t.

BJD will contact our insurance tomorrow to find out about household help.  It has some other name for now, but it’s basically the same thing.

He will also contact Caritas again – they are a religious non-profit who does these kinds of things … helping those who need help.

And the last option of course is to go away on a mother-child cure – a few weeks away, just me and the kids, to heal and find my footing.  I tried this when we first moved but insurance denied it.  (I was still fighting PPD when we moved.)  Since that time, the german government has said that insurance is not allowed to deny the mother-child cure when prescribed by a doctor, as mine originally was.

So now there is a plan.

I liked the doctor.

I still feel odd  writing about it.  But I guess to be an advocate for postpartum depression I need to come to terms with it – and part of coming to terms is discussing it.

I wish I didn’t feel so well, crazy, as though I am being judged.  But I think this is all part of the hormonal imbalance.

I’ll do my best to keep ya’ll updated.  But don’t be surprised if it takes me a while to come back and update.  It’s a hard process for me.  Hard to come to terms with my own failures and weaknesses.  But to move forward, to become stronger, I must.

So here goes …

one foot …

then the other.

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I’ve been comparing things lots lately. 

I’ve compared my pregnancies, medical systems between 2 countries, languages and how different Little Girl is from Bubba Joe.

And for the most part, I don’t mind when friends compare their high-risk pregnancies with mine.

But comparing breastfeeding to formula feeding and the  merits of one over another?  Nope.  I don’t do that.  Honest.  I don’t. 

Let me back up a bit.

I have successfully breastfed Bubba Joe until well, until his sister was born.  I had intended on continuing our journey but he was sick  when Little Girl came home and he was old enough so that was that.

Little Girl has been a champ at nursing. 

But both children have received bottled formula – Bubba Joe both in the hospital (in the NICU) and for at least the first 4-6 weeks home (high-calorie preemie formula as he came home at 4 pounds 2 ounces).  Little Girl received formula in the hospital because it took 5 days for my milk to come in.

With Bubba Joe, I did not have the luxury of taking time to figure things out.  I did not have anyone tell me to continue letting him nurse to build my supply up.   Nor did anyone tell me to give up the bottle because my body would make enough.

Nope.

Like any of you preemie/NICU mamas, I was told that it was imperative that he not burn his calories by nursing.  I was given a timer.  10 minutes.  That was all he was allowed to nurse.  I learned to nurse him with lots of people in a room.  No ”real” privacy.  Just a movable curtain. 

In fact, I wasn’t allowed to nurse him for the first 3 days. 

After my c-section, I immediately requested a pump to begin pumping.  I had no idea what I was doing and remember being frustrated with the amount that came out.

I think I even dumped some of that precious gold (as the NICU nurses called it) – colostrum, down the drain because it was so little.

They mixed up whatever I produced with formula and fed it to him.  Initially it was through his NG tube (through his nose to his tummy).  When he was strong enough, they gave him bottles. 

I bottle fed him before I breastfed him.

And once I was released from the hospital, I had to continue pumping, carefully storing the milk to take in to the hospital.

The staff placed such an importance on breastfeeding, there really seemed to be no choice.  It was the only thing I could do for my little one to give him the chance to thrive that my body had otherwise failed to do.  Breastfeeding helped me overcome some of the guilt I felt with having preeclampsia and meeting Bubba Joe 6 weeks early. 

But like most things me, I became obsessed with it.  Once I returned to work, we discovered he had a dairy allergy.  I had to cut dairy out of my diet.  Or stop nursing and try formula and hope it would work.  It was easier (and I really am a control freak in so many regards) to stop consuming dairy products.

But since dairy was now an issue, I had to dispose of ALL the milk I had stored up in our freezer.  I had so much milk – if I remember correctly it was well over 1 gallon.  I ended up donating it to the Mothers Milk Bank of Ohio

On top of the dairy, I had an oversupply issue. 

All the pumping, either alone or before or after feedings, destroyed the concept of supply and demand with my body.  I was a milk queen.  A cow of magnanimous proportions.  I made milk.  And I was damned good at it.  Too good in fact.

Because in spite of what one might think, having an oversupply sucks.  Especially when nursing  a baby with reflux, much less a preemie. 

It was horrible. 

But it was the only thing I felt I could control. 

So I continued … I persevered, eating carefully (and no, I did not lose weight as I had hoped.  There are LOTS of goodies out there that I usually didn’t buy much less eat that were dairy free.  One of them is my fave still today (and I miss it oh so much as it can only be imported here and that is quite expensive.)  I love me some brown sugar cinnamon Pop-Tarts

Jumping ahead, Little Girl is surprisingly similar to her big brother in many ways. 

She also has reflux, albeit far more manageable (and treated by homeopathic medicine whereas Bubba Joe took prescription meds until 12 months of age). 

And turns out that she also has a dairy sensitivity.

And lastly, turns out that once again, I have had supply issues, beginning initially with not enough milk in the hospital (which I do credit with the hospital allowing her to sleep between 4-6 hours as a newborn.  That means they did not wake her nor push for her to be on the breast more often.  Breastfeeding really is about supply and demand.  The more oft you put baby to breast, the more my body should respond appropriately.) to coming home and ending up with an oversupply issue. 

It makes me wonder if I simply am a woman whose body will never tolerate being pregnant (being preeclamptic with 2/2 pregnancies) but who makes it up by producing more than my child’s demands for milk … who knows. 

By and large though, comparisons are made.  I’m in constant awe at the differences between my two children.  One preemie the other full-term.  How quickly Little Girl goes through clothing sizes in comparison to her brother.  How Bubba Joe screamed far more.  How medical systems differ in treating reflux (and thus providing relief for parents).  How Little Girl’s sleep habits seem to be healthier and more in line with what I’ve read in books (Bubba Joe did not sleep through the night until well after the age of 2 and even still he wakes up sometimes once or twice).

You get the picture.

One last comparison … pics of Bubba Joe when he was born (wires and tubes and all) and one of him this week.  My little man just turned 3.

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