Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bed Rest, Boundaries, and Balancing Chronic Illness

I am all over the place these days. I’d like to say some of it can be chalked up to pregnancy hormones, but even my husband has concurred I have not been too hormonal this pregnancy (at least not since the first trimester!). That, and, well, things have been a little chaotic and the usual push and pull between life and chronic illness is more pronounced than ever. I am a conflicted jumble of emotions.

In the aftermath of the major health crisis I wrote about, I want to thank everyone for your kind thoughts and good wishes.

Out of respect for privacy I don’t want to divulge the specific details of my mother’s brain injury here. However, since it greatly affects me, I do feel is appropriate to share just that part of things.

She is making progress each day. For that, we are all incredibly grateful. But it is a long road ahead of us, one with many physical and emotional challenges. Having been an ICU patient more than once myself, I can say without hesitation it is much harder to watch someone you love struggle and suffer than it is to be the one in the bed. That’s my experience, anyway.

Each milestone is reason to feel good, but some days are really difficult for each of us, as they certainly are for her, and each setback is jarring.

I want to be the daughter I normally am in health crises, the one who visits the hospital and is there when she wakes up and can sometimes, just sometimes, make things a little better.

But right now, what I need to do to be a good mother to the little girl growing inside precludes being that daughter. Remember how I mentioned third trimester risks and worries when I covered a high risk pregnancy by trimester?

Well, two days into my third trimester the blood pressure issues I’ve had for a little while got worse and I was admitted into the hospital (yes, the same hospital we’ve frequented a lot this month because that’s how we roll), diagnosed with PIH (pregnancy-induced hypertension), and released on restrictive bed rest (bathroom/shower only).

So, seeing my mother is out, and I miss her. This has the potential to be a very long seven weeks or so—even before this pregnancy complication, the high-risk nature of our pregnancy and my existing health issues are such that 36 weeks is our gold standard, the benchmark we’re fighting hard to reach, and the benchmark we obviously hope and want to surpass.

Things could be a lot worse for my mother and for me, I know. And most importantly, the baby is doing fantastic; she’s ahead of the curve for growth and was called feisty during her biophysical profile. Thankfully, the problems in my body have not affected her, and my diligent, proactive medical team plays a large hand in that.

But, it is an emotional time of highs and lows, of joy and grief, of gratitude and frustration. It is such a simple word, but I am sad a lot right now, even in the midst of being so incredibly happy and excited. In the very same moment I have tears in my eyes about my family’s situation, I will feel my baby girl and automatically smile, the tears parting around my mouth.

What’s better, to have terrible things happen at the same time as wonderful things so the good buoys you up from the bad, or to have them happen in isolation so the former does not mar the latter? Since we rarely get a choice, I suppose it is not a productive question to ask.

I love feeling the baby and try to appreciate every single moment I am pregnant. But we’re also anxious about keeping her safe and while I don’t want to rush through this time, especially since it might never happen again, I think both of us also want to fast-forward several weeks just to make sure she reaches the end goal soundly and without further complications.

In another type of push and pull, the bed rest that is so good for the baby and the blood pressure is decidedly not good for my lungs, which need to be stirred up and moved around to prevent infection. It’s a negotiation I need to work out as the pregnancy progresses, since problems in my lungs most definitely mean problems for the baby.

In another amusing twist of timing and irony, my research-intensive book is due one day before the baby’s due date. On the bright side, I do not need to worry about getting bored while on bed rest.


Anyway, I am worried I am not expressing myself clearly, worried that reality of being grateful and positive while also feeling frustrated muddles the feelings. But it is possible to experience both at once, as confusing as it feels.

In the end, focusing on the good is the most important thing I can do, so perhaps I answered my own question. There is so much to feel hopeful about, in spite of sadness. I am so proud of our baby, proud that she is thriving and growing so well, proud that she is feisty because she will need to be.

I can’t wait to introduce her to my mother. (But I am willing to be patient so baby, stay put for a good long while, okay?)


Lisa C said...

Oh my goodness, Laurie! My prayers are SO with you all. I am so sorry to hear about it being your mom who has had such a health crisis and I know she must be feeling the same way about wanting to be there for you as you want to be there for her.

I have discovered that during my own health setbacks I am most worried about MY son and my mom is most worried about me... because we all worry about how everything in life will affect our children. That creates some stress, but also the need for communication and grace, because mamas always do put kiddos first and sometimes if grandmas are there everything gets thrown a bit off kilter.

I don't know exactly how you have the ability to write so clearly during all this, but I admire your sense of humor and that you are still writing and working on your book.

Incidentally, we adopted our son at birth and the night we brought him home, my mom was in the hospital having surgery (very unusual; I was a bit bummed too, we'd waited 2 years!) and my first book arrived on our doorstep the next day.

I'd been working on it for months and they happened to be printed and shipped out right about then. After the baby shower, all the friends and grandmas set up an assembly line; one held josh, I signed books, one bubble wrapped it, one stuffed envelopes etc, and then the dads all took a truckload of about 200 envelopes to the post office.

I will never forget the irony--but also the joy in it all. If you ever want to chat via phone just let me know!

Lene Andersen said...

it's never easy, is it?

I've been through a parent in the ICU with a long road ahead and know a little of what you're feeling, although at the time, I could be there. To be a good daughter, to be a good mom and to have those to be completely different things has got to be difficult (and that has to be the understatement of the year).

Sending you strength.

Never That Easy said...

I have had to put my own health needs above being there for other family members before, so I can (sort of) sympathize. I've definitely had times when I couldn't be there for others as I wanted to be, and wish you could do what you'd rather do. But I know you're doing the best you can for you, your baby, and your mom (even if sometimes it doesn't feel that way). It's just one of those times when balance seems impossible, so you just do the best you can. I'm thinking good thoughts for you, and am available by computer almost always, if you need to chat. Big hugs!

elizabeth said...

Wow, Laurie. Hang in there! I will be thinking of you and your family.

Leslie said...

Laurie, .you are as coherent as ever. Just wanted to let you know that I'm thinking of you. And I appreciate the encouraging posts you've left on my blog recently - sorry I haven't had a chance to respond. So sorry to hear about your mom. Glad you and the baby are doing well.

Andi said...

Lie in there! Keep that baby percolating as long as you can.

Bedrest can be extremely difficult, both for the person stuck on the couch, and for the spouse. After winding up on bedrest for two pregnancies, I can definitely say that no matter how much stuff you think you've got to do to keep you busy, there will be moments where you would give anything to be able to get up and run around like normal. Bedrest is exhaustingly difficult, even though it sounds at first like permission to go on vacation, and high risk pregnancies can be so stressful and you wind up with more time than you think just to think and worry and drive yourself nuts.

Make sure you take time to take care of yourself all the way - physically and emotionally. Surround yourself with supportive people, give yourself permission to feel a whole range of emotions without judgement.

And, on a more practical note, keep a cooler by the bed/couch with drinks, snacks, and treats, plus the phone and books and magazines and a computer, and if you are crafty, some crafty stuff you can do while lying down. Also, don't be afraid to use pillows to get comfy. Lots and lots of pillows. :) A pillow between your knees and one in the small of your back can boost your comfort level immensely.

Miss Waxie said...

My goodness! My heart goes out to you and I will be thinking all the best thoughts for your mother and to help those 7 weeks go by as fast as possible.

I'm sure your mother wants her granddaughter to be just as safe as her daughter so - as much as you feel like you may have to chose being a good mom over a good daughter, I am sure you're doing both.

- miss waxie

Young Wife said...

Thank you for writing this post. My husband has Psoriatic Arthritis, and he struggles with wanting to be there for his family and to help friends, but at the same time, take care of himself. Praying you, your mother and daughter are doing well.

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