Monday, July 28, 2014

Pregnant and Bedridden: When Baby Growth and Healthy Kicks Bring Pain and Panic

            As I rapidly lost bone and muscle mass and deteriorated physically, the baby grew and developed in size and activity level. Activity punctuated by round-the-clock fist and feet punches and somersaults. One thing was for certain: My baby was an acrobat. And a feisty one.  

            Without any specific clock time of motion or sleep triggered by my wake-sleep patterns, the baby mimicked my lack of exertion with its own haphazard sleep and exercise schedule. The familiar thrashing and wrestling humorously contorted my abdomen.
            What wasn’t so funny was the possibly damaging side effects. And that realization rattled me with fear.
            I cherished those movement moments: when the baby sprang to life after a period of suspended slumber, but the jarring movements brought pain and panic. In just the right position, the baby came dangerously close to that thin span of amniotic sac, that critical membrane now exposed to empty space behind a paper-thin cervix barely capable of supporting the increasing pressure. Little fists made direct, hard and fast contact with the protective casing and my surrounding internal anatomy, sending pain shockwaves through my pelvis and lightning-like pulses through my sensory nerves.
            During those boxing matches, I’d gently push on and massage the baby in a desperate attempt to encourage relocation to a safer area higher in the uterus. Usually, though, I was met with a firm retort, as if a game had been initiated. Simultaneously, I verbally tried to coax the baby to stop, while praying that all of this healthy movement didn’t lead to an amniotic sac rupturing—signaling an instantaneous end to the pregnancy. I think I was verbally coaxing myself as much as I was the baby.
            In a last ditch attempt at salvation, I’d allow gravity to work in our favor by elevating my pelvis even higher, thereby forcing the baby to slide toward my ribcage and alleviate pressure on the cervix. Please, God, may a strong, active baby in utero equate to a fighting survivor-type on the outside of my womb.
            It seemed that if the baby weren’t sleeping or testing spatial limits, it was hiccupping. Violently. I could simultaneously feel the hiccup reverberation and glimpse my belly jiggling from the aftershock. Sometimes the attack seemed to go on forever, with no relief gained from gentle pushing and rubbing. The only recourse was to roll to my opposite side to coerce the baby into settling into a new position, where hiccupping effects wouldn’t be so intense.  
            The baby’s position in my pelvis took its toll. Without cervical support, the baby remained engaged far down into my pelvis. That position translated to excruciating pain, causing me to now spend most of my day changing positions. I’d carefully roll from my right side to my left, or lie on my back with my hips elevated underneath puffy pillow mounds. The egg crate padding—which alleviated much of the pressure on my skeletal system—gradually developed a cavity where my hips rested. After several weeks, those raw, numb hips peeled through my pajama seams. But, gratefully, I suffered minimally from back pain so familiar to pregnant women. I had stiffness, but no dull ache or pain I’d expected to suffer from such prolonged bed rest.
            Then I acquired an upper respiratory tract infection Chris obligingly spewed into my room thru coughing and sneezing. So, along with being confined to bed and being generally uncomfortable, bored and frightened, I was now confined to bed, generally uncomfortable, bored, frightened, and unable to breathe. Nothing like having to lie tilted upside down with a sinus blockage!
            Chris oscillated back and forth in my new rocking chair—the chair everyone else besides me was enjoying immensely—complaining about his chronic nasal infection and inability to sleep. While he grumbled aloud in self-pity, I dreamed of languishing in a warm shower, with the spray hydro-massaging my broken body, the stream rotor-rootering out my plugged sinus cavities. Instead, the only relief I managed to secure came from minimal squirts of decongestants and pure saline spray.
            One less-than-optimal day, in utter frustration, I pounded my pillows into submission and stacked them behind me in order to prop up my head and chest for a brief indulgence, (who would ever know that being able to prop yourself up in bed would be so glorious). That splurge didn’t last long. Fear drove me to snatch the pillows away and return them to my critical lower extremities. Back to fanny-up, head down.  

           When I called Dr. Landry to tell him about my new "problem," he told me that I was not allowed to cough, and “I don’t want you sneezing, either,” he added. “Too much pressure on the cervix.” Was he nuts!? Just exactly how was I going to thwart those symptoms?
            Thankfully, the sneezing was infrequent, and I was able to arrest most episodes by pinching my nostrils shut—and praying. Sneezes refusing to be contained left me terrified, holding my breath in anticipation of feeling leaking amniotic fluid dribbling down my leg. But the leaking fluid never came, and—mercifully—the infection departed after only four days, without ever christening me with the chest-raking cough Chris endured.
            My speedy recovery was really a miracle. Poor Chris, though, continued to make frequent visits to the doctor for increasingly stronger, ineffective medication. His immune system was battered; it seemed impossible for him to continue his schedule. I added his health to my worry list, hoping all four of us survived this tribulation in one—solid—peace.  


NEXT WEEK: The good, the bad, and the ugly…

Until next week,

Thanks for joining me!