Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Journey to 80: After Pregnancy

Read The Beginning of my chronic back pain story here.

Just one day shy of my original due date, I was being induced. The leg pain had gotten so bad that I couldn't take it any longer. There was no thought of going natural at this point. My leg would not let me stand at all, so an epidural was the only solution. I was in heaven! No more leg pain. In a few hours I was holding my precious baby girl. She weighed a mere 5 lbs. 14 oz. I would later realize that her petite size was all a part of God's plan for me.

This was my baby girl. Her tiny little self in her very large looking car seat!

If only that was the happy ending to my story.

The day I delivered, I remained in bed. The thought of walking was just too painful. The following day, I could only walk with help. My feet dragged against the floor. The task of a shower was frightening. My husband was my strength and my support.

On top of my own physical battle, my little girl spiked a fever and ended up in NICU for 48 hrs. The walk to the NICU was so difficult emotionally and physically...not to mention nursing was a nightmare. Looking back it seems impossible that I even made it through...or my husband for that matter. But God continued to be our stronghold.
This is my darling little girl. The thing on her head was her IV. Spinal tap came back clean and so did all of the blood work. We were so thankful it was only 48 hours and that we could take her home!
"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." John 14:27 (NASB)

The orthopedic doctor was called in while we were in the hospital. He gave us hope that I would heal and get back to myself after a few weeks. In a week I would go in for some physical therapy to help with the severe weakness in my legs and of course the leg pain.

Physical therapy would give me some hope. The first therapist went and got another one for a second opinion. Apparently I was out of her league. I started very slow. Nursing would not let me rest long enough to get well enough. Looking back I would have switched right to formula, but remember that strong will I mentioned?!?!?! I did stretches and made some progress.

Just after Leona turned 3 weeks, I quickly spiraled out of control. Monday I had an MRI which through my back into a fit. By that night I could only lay down on my stomach and was in a lot of pain. Tuesday I was calling for stronger narcotics. By Wednesday I was screaming every 4 hours as my pain meds wore off.

My best friend had arrived in town to celebrate my baby girl's arrival only to hold my hand as I cried out in pain. I recall calling out to God with her to give me the strength to endure one more minute. When that minute had come, we prayed for the next.

I was brought in early Thursday morning for a spinal injection after the Morphine and Percocet rounds were starting not to help.

The fear was fighting my faith. Every time the increase of pain began, I was overwhelmed with fear of the pain that would soon build. The spinal injection affects lasted about 20 min.  When I got to the car, I was popping more meds. So much for that helping.

I was definitely being humbled. An ER nurse friend of mine had to wash me from the bed. I couldn't get a shirt on, even with help. I couldn't get up to go to the bathroom. I couldn't feed my daughter. Nursing was impossible... when you can't even get off of your stomach...well you can imagine. All I could do was lay face down into my mattress... scream...cry...and pray.

By Sunday morning I had a UTI, stiff neck, throbbing knees and such unbearable pain in my leg that we called an ambulance. The turn in our hallway was so tight that they actually took me out the bedroom window on a stretcher. The men lowered me into the back of a pick-up truck to drive me around to the ambulance.

All I could do was trust that someone would help me and not just send me home with more pills. I needed an answer. I needed a fix.
 I needed to pray more than ever!

"Let us therefore come BOLDLY to the throne of grace, that we may find mercy and grace in time of need." Hebrews 4:16 (KJV)

My Journey to 80: The Beginning

So far on my blog I have been pretty closed lipped about my physical health. After sharing my journey with a fellow college friend, a godly woman and another chronic back pain sufferer, I decided that it was time to share my story.

"How are you feeling?"

"It's an 80 day!"

This is a common text that I share with two of my close friends on days when I feel like I am trapped in my 80 year old body. I skipped right past being in my late 20's to being 80! At my best, I probably feel like I am in my mid-40's; you know those years where everything begins to hurt and ache. Honestly those days I praise God that I can be up and about with my kids...enjoying sweet moments with them and not laying flat on my stomach writhing in pain.

Well I am skipping ahead of myself. Let's get back to the beginning of my story.

It was Monday, Oct. 13, 2008. Columbus Day. I was getting ready for school at the terrible hour of 5:30AM...I don't miss those early teacher mornings...when I couldn't get motivated. My stomach was so nauseous. Suddenly the suspense was killing me. It had been 2 1/2 years of waiting...could it really be happening? Yep! The two lines proved it! In June, we'd be expecting our first little one!

Nothing could have prepared me for what the next 10 months would hold. At the beginning of December, my back began to hurt... similar to what it felt like back in college after I had fallen on the gym floor on my tail bone and spent 2 weeks recouping.

I went to the chiropractor, the only thing that helped back then, and 2 weeks later I was back to feeling better.

At the end of January, we had an ultrasound. That evening suddenly there was a terrible pain down into my left leg. The chiro couldn't take any x-rays due to the pregnancy, so it was all guess work. I thought it would just go away, but several weeks later I was headed to the hospital to make sure there wasn't a clot in my leg. After I was cleared from that, I was given some Tylenol with codeine for the pain. Hating to take even an Advil for a headache on a normal day, I tried not to take any of the Tylenol because now that I was pregnant, I didn't want anything going in that had codeine in it!

The pain continued until I ended up visiting the chiro repeatedly. Most of those days I just ended up in the same pain and sometimes even worse. I had started walking so crooked. It was like my left leg grew over night and my hip was like 6-8" higher on one side. I ended up putting a lift in my right shoe to try to fix the problem.

When the chiro visits stopped helping, I resorted to acupuncture and massage therapy. Massage helped a little. Acupuncture reduced my pain. By now I was popping the Tylenol to try to endure the rest of the school year.

Many people ask how I did it. Honestly, it was many called off days. My teaching partner was amazing and helped when I needed to lay down multiple times in the nurse's office. My first grade class was amazing too. They often walked to specials classes with me watching from down the hallway. My computer was also propped up so I could stand to teach, type and check my email. When I wasn't teaching, I was resting at home.

But my full and complete answer to this question is...IT WAS ALL GOD!  God provided the people that helped me. He also has built in me such a strong will that I stubbornly pushed on. Who wants to hear the woes of a first time pregnant lady, anyways? Above all He gave me the strength to face one day at a time.

"God is our refuge and strength, 
A very present help in trouble." Psalm 46:1 (NASB)

The nights were the worst. About 1AM, I'd wake up and lay there until I couldn't refrain from using the bathroom anymore. I'd slowly get up to only get unbearable pain in my leg, hobble to the bathroom, try to bend down as far as I could and then scream in pain for the next hour until the pain made me pass out.

Towards the end of the school year, a sub was in my class more than I was. In the mornings I could barely walk and the pain was excruciating for about 30-60 min. Then it would taper off. I still walked slowly, but it was at least bearable.

This is 37 weeks. The last week of school. You can see how crooked I was standing.

I couldn't wait until my little one came out and got off of my sciatic nerve, or so several OBGYNs in my practice thought. The last three weeks I was finally out of school. I rested a lot, but my pain in the mornings was getting worse. By the last week, the pain would last about 3 hours and then it wasn't stopping.

I ended up at the orthopedic doctor by wheelchair and was miserable. Finally he talked some sense into my OBGYN to induce me. I was finally going to have some relief and my pretty baby girl in my arms. It felt so freeing. Unfortunately nothing could have prepared me for the next 4 weeks.