Don’t Squish the Butterfly

By

36 Week Bump

“I know that when a woman births on her own power, and finds her rhythm, and her postures, and her sounds, and her moment of ecstasy with birth, that she is a changed woman, and she is a fierce mother.” ~Ina May Gaskin

I’m 36 weeks + 4 days pregnant, which means baby is just days away from being full-term. After this Wednesday, I will exhale a massive sigh of relief because Little Nixon can come any time. And he’ll be welcome sooner rather than later! Because all those women who said the last month is the worst were absolutely correct. Most of the time I feel pretty awful and enormously uncomfortable. I am awkward and restless. Everything is difficult to do. Finding a relaxed position to sleep in can take hours not only because of my belly, but also my hands and arms become numb. The swelling in my hands and feet is painful. And I’ve been having quite a bit of fibromyalgia pain in my arms and legs this past week.

Omg I am SO done with being pregnant. It was actually kind of fun up until a couple of weeks ago!

But I do hope Little Nixon stays in for a few more weeks. I still have some mind training to do. One of the primary pain relief methods I am working on is hypnosis, through the program called Hypnobabies. Hypnobabies retrains your brain to think of childbirth as easy and comfortable, and uses hypnosis and deep relaxation to reduce or eliminate labour pain (create a natural anaesthesia). One aspect of the program is the replacement of certain words and phrases with ones that are positive in order to reframe the experience. For example, contractions are “pressure waves” (this falls in line with Ina May Gaskin’s substitute—“rushes”), labour is “birthing time”, transition is “transformation”, and pain is “intensity” or simply “pressure”. But it goes farther than just changing the language used—the program attempts to replace the fear and expectation of pain with confidence in the body’s ability to birth comfortably, safely,  gently and—of course—painlessly.

“Hypnosis advocates give several explanations of how the process works. One theory holds that when a woman feels fear during childbirth, her body releases stress hormones that trigger the body’s “fight or flight” response. This causes muscles to tighten and interferes with the birthing process. By training the subconscious mind to expect a safe, gentle birth, they say, women can avoid going into the fight-or-flight state, allowing for a smoother birth.” ~BabyCenter

There are 12 half-hour hypnosis sessions to listen to over the course of six weeks or longer. Each has its own intention and instruction, such as breaking down old beliefs, relaxing in your own sacred place, releasing fear, learning how to put yourself into a state of hypnosis, creating anaesthesia, and pushing the baby out. I could be a tad behind if Little Nixon arrives early—I’m in week three—but it’s actually working. I’ve been using the finger drop technique to put myself into a deep relaxation when I’m feeling pain or am very uncomfortable in bed at night, and the pain honestly decreases. I do have trouble, however, maintaining the reduced pain for very long, as I tend to lose focus.

(During the past year, I’ve noticed that when I’m in a lot of pain but my body is in a state of tension and my mind is upset, the pain intensifies. If I go for a walk or meditate, the pain is reduced. I just haven’t been disciplined enough to keep the pain away completely or regularly through entirely natural means. That would require a lot of work that I haven’t had the time for. I don’t even know if I could—chronic pain is a devil beast to tame. It’s easier to take medication to dull the pain. Although I am sure there would be great benefit to using hypnosis during especially nasty flares.)

Other relaxation methods during my birth time might include breathing (4 count in through the nose, 8 count out through the mouth is working well for me), visualizations, affirmations, keeping my mouth relaxed by making noise (groaning, mooing like a cow, or blowing “raspberries”), trusting that my body knows what to do, walking, resting, using my personal mantra, releasing endorphins, and humour (apparently a good belly laugh is an effective form of anaesthesia). I’m open and willing to do whatever helps create a “pain-less” birth.

I really think I can do this. My mind is very powerful, and with the right tools, it can accomplish great tasks—mentally, physically and spiritually. I am a strong and fearless woman about to become a mother. I am going to BREATHE this baby out and it will be the most empowering experience of my life.

And then there’s the “but”. That part of me that questions. The part who has suffered through considerable physical pain since January of 2013 and who is terribly scared of not only being in pain I can’t handle, but of feeling like I FAILED at the challenge I have given myself if indeed it does become too much for me. I’m scared that it will hurt MORE for me because I have fibromyalgia. I’m afraid of having complications and being transferred to the hospital. What if I just totally fall apart?

One of my midwives said something a few weeks ago that resonated with me. “Hold your intention here,” she said, her hand outstretched, palm up. “But don’t squish the butterfly.”

Que sera sera.

March 30, 2014 Pregnancy No Comments

A Hooked Fish

By

I’ll begin first by apologizing for what may be a rather boring update for some. My intention with these weekly updates is to keep my family and friends apprised of events related to my pregnancy, to share my own personal story with other pregnant women, and to journal the last few months of this incredible journey I am on.

It’s now been 25 weeks and it seems like a lot has changed since last week. I’m feeling really pregnant. I’ve had an increasingly difficult time getting in and out of the car, moving myself in bed, getting OUT of bed, putting my socks and shoes on…you get the idea. And all this is only going to get worse as my belly grows bigger and bigger. Honestly, I am a bit worried. I had such an easy six months; I wonder if the last three a half will be tough.

I’m measuring totally normal for 25 weeks, but look at that bump! I’m in awe of it. It’s so lovely.

25 Week Bump

I had an appointment with one of my midwives today and she confirmed that the pain in my hips, pelvis, and thighs is pelvic girdle pain. The pain is usually non-existent in the morning but by the afternoon it hurts quite a lot to walk (er…I mean waddle—yep I’m sportin’ a foxy new mini-waddle) and it’s very uncomfortable to sit for more than an hour or so. Pelvic floor exercises and sitting on an exercise ball seems to help. And oh lordy I went and bought myself a maternity belt. Seems a tad uncomfortable, and it certainly doesn’t lend itself well to tight-fitting tops, which I prefer to wear. But if it relieves some pain, then so be it. Wincing and waddling around the grocery store is garnering some double-takes and slightly concerned faces.

A few weeks ago I noticed a desensitized area to the left of my belly button. It’s a very odd sensation and I don’t like it. But the spot is causing some intense pain. I can’t even explain the feeling it’s so peculiar, but I can tell you that it sucks super bad. The only relief is to lie down on my back and squish the skin together. My midwife said it’s the abdominal muscles stretching and the nerves are being pulled, and possibly there is some scar tissue there that is causing this terrible pain. It progressively gets worse throughout the day and by the time I’m incapacitated (and crying), I feel much like there’s a hook in my belly and I’m a flailing fish. It’s awful. A few hours in bed, and it’s gone. Clean the bathroom and do some dishes, it’s back.

It’s not surprising there is a lot of pain when growing a human being in your belly. Check out this animated gif that shows the organs shifting inside a woman’s body during pregnancy. Insane what our bodies can do and how they can adapt.

Pregnancy Changes

This Flash interactive from the Museum of Science and Industry is also worth visiting.

My FMS pain has been ever present. I’m feeling it mostly in my arms. They ache and sting and burn. Saturday I spent the day in bed. On Sunday Tyler took me to see his acupuncturist in Nanaimo, and I felt pretty good afterwards. Hardly any pain on Monday. But, it was back again last night and today. I’ve been in bed since 5 o’clock.

I had an ultrasound back at 19 weeks and I just got the results today from my midwife. Everything is totally normal. Except that I have a very “long cervix” (5.8 cm?), which really means nothing right now.

I didn’t realize how bad the flu has been the past month in BC. I’ve never had a flu shot and I don’t want to start, but of course I’m certainly concerned for myself and baby if I were to get sick. I’ve been struggling with it the past couple of days, but I can’t argue that it’s best for both of us. However, there aren’t any vaccines available in Duncan at the moment. Have to wait until Tuesday at least. I’ve been extremely careful about washing my hands and kissing strangers…

More next week!

January 8, 2014 Fibromyalgia 1

I Hurt

By

On October 15, 2013, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS).

I am writing this as part of my healing process. I have not talked much about the pain or my diagnosis to my family and friends; and most people I know are not aware of what my body and mind has been through in the past 12 months. I became withdrawn. I put on a mask to disguise what was happening to me. I had to; otherwise I would have fallen apart. But hiding is not who I am. The essence of me is emotional, engaging, honest, unveiled. I want to be vulnerable again. I *need* to be. It has taken me nearly a year to realize this.

I think people are afraid to ask me what it’s like to have chronic pain. Or maybe they just don’t want to know. People don’t know what to say, or how to offer support. So they often don’t say anything at all. Like many diseases, fibromyalgia is a vast and endless sea of loneliness for the sufferer.

My hope and intention is that by writing and sharing about my life and FMS, I will repair the emotional damage. I think that I know why I have FMS, and I will explore these reasons in future posts. First I have to tell some the story of the past year.

The pain started in early December of 2012 with a stinging sensation in my left ankle that radiated up the side of my leg. I didn’t think much of it of course, and in a few weeks it dissipated. On Christmas Eve my right arm was sore and heavy for no apparent reason. Little things like that started happening. By mid-January, I was having electrical shocks in my arms, hands and legs, muscle twitching and an overall feeling of malaise. My GP ordered blood tests and everything was normal. No signs of an autoimmune disease, arthritis, inflammation, vitamin deficiency. Nothing.

The sequence of events in late winter and in early spring and summer are hazy. The short version is that my body was in agonizing pain, work was busy and stressful, I didn’t know what was wrong with me, and something happened that was emotionally traumatic. Looking back, I just want to cry. It was a really difficult time. All of *my self* was in distress and I felt quite alone in my pain and despair. I have no idea how I endured.

The pain is cyclical. By late spring I had noted a pattern of three to four weeks of pain, which started mildly and grew in intensity, then would taper off and then I would feel okay for a few weeks. Every time the pain disappeared, I would think, hey maybe this is just stress and it’s in my head. But it kept coming back, and every time there would be different and new symptoms.

In the beginning my hands and arms swelled a lot and would tingle with numbness. I would wake up in the middle of the night with pins and needles in my arms and legs. My legs would ache and throb and spasm. Pin pricks, razor blades, bee stings, knife stabs. I felt really, really sore all the time. My arms were pinched and tight. Quality sleep became non-existent. I would awake all throughout the night and in the morning it felt as though I had slept on rocks. For a few weeks I had excruciating nerve pain in my lower back that radiated to the front of my thigh. I thought something must be wrong in my spine. Pinched nerve? Bone spurs? Spondylosis? Spine cancer?

In late spring my neck and upper back began to feel tight and sore. After my third chiropractic appointment, the pain was devastating me — it was the worst pain I have ever experienced. That neck pain has been persistent for months on end. It’s agonizing. I can’t even describe it.

Then there is the “voodoo pain”, which feels like sharp metal objects being stabbed into various spots all over my body. I have the sensation of my skin being burnt. Many days it feels like I’m coming down with the flu and every muscle is sore. It hurts to stretch. It hurts to do yoga. It hurts to sit. It hurts to hold my arms up. It hurts to sleep. I’m often fatigued and my sleep is not refreshing. Pain, noise…everything is amplified and irritating. I cry a lot because my body hurts so much. Simple tasks are sometimes impossible.

Fatigue is prevalent. I tire easily when walking up stairs, and when the fibro-flare is peaking, I can barely get out of bed. Showering, dressing, and drying my hair can be a monumental undertaking that is more like a medieval crusade and less like the everyday routine it is.

I have tried acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage therapy, physio, a multitude of meds and vitamins, epsom salt baths. Nothing ever helps for more than 24 hours at the most.

I had an MRI scan of my brain and cat scan of my lumbar. Both came back normal. I saw a neurologist, who said my symptoms were not related to any kind of nerve disease or disorder. I had more blood tests. All normal. A physiatrist found nothing immediately wrong with my neck and back and said that even though she did not deal with musculoskeletal conditions, she seemed certain that I had FMS. It was only at that point that I began to consider this as a real possibility. I had sort of ruled it after all of my research.

I don’t have many of the common symptoms of FMS. I don’t suffer from digestive disturbances or TMJ or “fibro fog”. I’m not depressed. I’ve been able to soldier through it and continue working full-time. And nothing unordinary triggered the onset of the condition, which is often the case.

My GP had referred me to a rheumatologist. I waited five months for an appointment that lasted 20 minutes. By the time of my appointment, I was certain what he would say. FMS was making more and more sense. He confirmed what my GP had suspected all along.

Having someone tell you that your pain is real and it has a name is the weirdest feeling. It’s devastating…and it’s relieving at the same time. The part that is hard to come to terms with is that FMS is diagnosed by the elimination of any other diseases and by having pain in 11 of the 18 “tender points”. So the natural response is, could this really be what is wrong with me? But, I will take it because it really doesn’t seem like it could be anything else. And with a diagnosis comes the ability to manage it and maybe the chance to cure it.

From all that I have read online, it seems that the most common symptom for sufferers of fibromyalgia syndrome is basically widespread body pain — and each person describes it a little differently. I think this is because the pain doesn’t always feel exactly like something else others can relate to. It’s not always “sore” or “stabbing” or “burning”. It moves around the body and it changes in intensity from day to day. The pain mutates, travels and shifts with no apparent schedule. You can’t know where it will go next, or when it will recede. There are patterns, but they are learned with time; I am only beginning to understand my own.

This pain sucks away my motivation and it paralyzes my intentions and it is rapidly transforming my life.

And now it’s up to me — because I am the only one who can determine HOW this pain will change my life. I can take but one road.

If you would like to read more about FMS, this article on the University of Maryland Medical Centre is quite thorough but succinct.

December 12, 2013 Fibromyalgia No Comments