Saturday, December 27, 2014

1st Trimester Report: FOG

Boy, this 1st trimester is bad.
It's so bad that I can't recommend anyone TRY MESSIN' with it.

But, seriously, folks: this pregnancy has not been romantic. I can write pretty stories about it all, true stories, even, but it has not been pretty. By now, you've read of my nausea in other posts. I've never experienced anything like it. Still, everyone has had stomach virus, and many have had much worse. I could never be glad that Brendan suffered from CVS during highschool and college, but it definitely has made him empathetic. Actually, knowing that my episodes were causing him flashbacks helped me to be a little braver about the whole thing! He's full of helpful, normalizing information like: "Oh, yeah, coughing up a little blood for a while after is the worst." And, "Believe me: throwing up something is better than throwing up nothing." My poor baby. I wish he didn't know these things. (I say that, but I have had to repent of all the times that I wish he DID know how POTS feels.)

I'm not glad that I finally got a rough 1st trimester on what will likely be my last pregnancy, but I am glad to know a bit more fully why so many women hate pregnancy. I have to admit: I realize now that I felt pretty judgy in the past about women who would complain about pregnancy. I think beginning my child-bearing career with a miscarriage set me on a path of never wanting to utter a negative word about pregnancy because "at least my baby is alive." That's a tough standard. I was truly thankful and willing to put up with a lot, but I see now that it's not a very generous position to take. Of course, with each subsequent pregnancy and the increasing discomforts that accompanied them, I became a little more empathetic. I suppose the trend continues.

Because I believe so strongly that children are blessings worth bending over backwards for, it's difficult to admit that I have frequently asked myself over the last weeks "What is wrong with me???? Why did I just have to have another one of these people?! Where do I get these ideas!?" It's a good thing I wrote down my pretty story about wanting this baby because I definitely have had to go back and read it a few times. I've not wished the pregnancy away; I've just needed a lot of reminders of the Why. This rough trimester reminds me of being in Seattle summer morning fog. You go to bed with all these hopes for the predicted sunny day. Then, when the day actually begins, you look out and WAH-wah: gray clouds. You can't see from your place down in the city that it IS a beautiful day; there's just a marine layer. It's easy to get discouraged and wonder why you ever were dumb enough to make sunbathing plans when you KNOW you live in SEATTLE! You have to keep hope and remember that, as any seasoned Seattleite will undoubtedly say, "this will burn off." So, yes, I decided to take the risk of getting pregnant with POTS and the OB's words that the first trimester would be bad. We decided to try to do it anyway because with a long-term perspective it's easy to sign-up for 3 (or even 9, or even 30) rough months because ANOTHER PERSON!! A wonderful blessing! The three we have are incredible, so why not do it again? But then... you wake up on that cloudy morning, and it's inevitable to wonder for at least a moment, "What were we thinking exactly?"

After the fog does indeed burn off, the summer days in Seattle are incredible. There's nothing like a perfect Seattle day, and I think they are a little bit better because of all the suspense of that dang morning fog. Am I trying to pump myself up? You betcha. I need all the encouragement I can get- even if I do just write it myself. Being a pregnant POTSie is really hard so far. My blood pressure has been very uncomfortably low and has seriously exacerbated my POTS symptoms- particularly the racing heart and dizziness in upright positions, digestive troubles, fatigue, and weakness. BUT, I do take some solace from the fact that I was told this would happen. I'm hoping and praying that this fog will burn off as I get into my second trimester in a couple of weeks. The increased blood volume of the latter stages of pregnancy has, for some, even given the feeling of curing their POTS for a few months. I look forward to reporting on the subject.

There is one thing of which I'm sure: God will love me whether I feel better or not, and I will be looking for that love to shine through no matter how long the fog lasts. I'm so grateful to my family for being the number-one source of God's love to me. My children have empathetic abilities beyond their years, and it's no wonder to me that my husband bears the name of a saint. I don't know how this story will end. It could go badly; and though I do not dwell on that, I know enough to prepare myself to accept it as a possibility. I can only survive this if I keep my eyes fixed on things above because down here I feel like I'm gonna barf or maybe pass out.

But it is fun to think of baby names.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What It's Like Today

In the interest of being more honest about what chronic illness is like for me, here's a confession: I'm really sad today that I'm sick. 

By God's grace, I'm a fairly positive, hopeful person that looks for the beauty in my life more than the dark, but every now and then I get emotionally exhausted. Every moment of every day some part of my heart and my mind is distracted, plagued by thinking about how my body feels. Sometimes, my pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, or pounding, arrhythmic heart is ALL I can think about. Other times, I'm just so tired that I can't get through a full idea or sentence without stopping. I can't remember the last time that there wasn't some little part of me being forced to direct attention to self-preservation. You know the feeling: you're sick with a cold, and there's just this little bit of you that has a running script of, "dang, my head hurts. Uggh, this congestion. When should I take another Tylenol? I hope this person isnt grossed out by me. I wonder if they can tell how sick I am." Or, when you have something really awful like strep-throat or stomach flu, and it just hurts so badly that it is ALL you can think about. Well, that's how it is for me ALL the time, and it's been this way for 2 years now. 

Maybe it's the "2 years" part that has me newly depressed and discouraged. My bizzare symptoms began 2 years ago, the week of Hazel Belle's first birthday. Anniversaries do things to me, and my little, emotional self seems to begin groaning before my mind realizes that there is a seasonal reason for my funk. 

I can't have a conversation, or rest in my bed, or do an errand without constantly having to evaluate how much more I can take. I HATE IT. I'm sick of being sick! It is so, so draining. I feel like I have adjusted somewhat to the constant physical drain. I just know now what I can and can't do. I usually know the point at which I am officially spending too much energy and WILL be forced to pay the price later. I have to decide all the time what activities are worth X amount of cost. Mostly, I choose to spend what I have on people- mostly my family and making memories with them. I could spend more time resting, but for what? A lifetime (doctor's predict) of memories of missing out? No thanks. I'd rather flash and fizzle over and over than just be a tiny little flame in pajamas that's not really shining for anyone. All that to say, I'm adjusting to the physical limitations. The emotional drain? Not so much. 

I miss using my full heart and full mind to focus on what's in front of me, and this week I'm just so, so sad about it. I want to use my energy for more than just being able to pick up kids from school and maybe take a shower. I'm glad that I've been able to make it out for a few holiday events- office parties, etc., and I have enjoyed them. I'm glad that my family understands that being together at church for a few hours or picking out a Christmas tree means that I'll need to spend the rest of the day in my bed. I'm also hopeful that once this baby is born (about a billion years from now...) I can get back on all my medications and feel a little bit more energetic- even if it is a strange, manufactured feeling. I know that I won't feel this sad every day, but I do want to share more often when it feels this bad.

I'm feeling pretty angry today too. I'm pissed at POTS. I'm frustrated that the medical community does not understand why this happens to people- young, strong people in the prime of life. I feel like I have to stay at least a little bit mad about it, or I will lose my willingness to fight back. I don't want my children to get this crap. I don't want this to swoop down and do to my daughter what it has done to me right when she most wishes she could be healthy and strong for her family. I don't want my grandchildren to have to worry about their mom fainting. So, I have to stay a little bit mad. I need to be a squeaky wheel... if only I could figure out who it is I should squeak to! If you're a passionate, medical researcher looking for a cause, you give me a call! 

Advent is a good time for groaning with dissatisfaction, I think. "Long lay the world in sin and error pining." "O, come, O, come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear!" I feel the pining! I feel the captivity! To modernize a bit: "My body is a cage that keeps me from dancing with the one I love." I don't want things to stay this way, and I'm SO glad that things will be new someday. I need the Incarnation to be the truest of true. For today, I'm crying.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Nutcracker- Part III

We did it. We went to Nutcracker thanks to my amazing church family. We sat in what I felt were the best seats in the house, and I cried once.

Getting out the door to drive down to the opera house, park, and make sure everyone had eaten something before the 5:30 show was definitely a challenge. That week was probably the low point of my POTSy, nauseated pregnancy so far. I was genuinely concerned that I might need to vomit during the performance. Thankfully, I have years of training under my belt in the "show must go on" category, so I sucked it up and faked wellness. In a way, it was a good distraction- not too much attention left for getting myself in an emotional tizzy over what we were headed to do.

The kids were really pretty golden. They were appreciative and in their own, age-appropriate ways understood the emotional gravity of the experience for me. They had been given the carrots of choosing 2014 ornaments from the gift shop and eating overpriced cookies ($30 for 3 cookies, an 8oz cold egg nog, and a small bottle of San Pellegrino!!!) at intermission if they behaved. They achieved both! They were very interested in understanding the story fully and asked lots of intelligent questions beforehand. Hazel asked insightful little questions that felt like those from a future dancer's mind (if I do say so...) like, "Why her shoes so noisy?" and "How does he do that spin?" The boys wanted mostly to know, "Is that a real sword!?!" every time a sword appeared on stage. By the middle of Act II, Hazel, almost 3 years old, was just trying to survive sitting still for another minute. My favorite thing Ezra, 6.5, did was hum along to all the songs... that he didn't really know. I kept telling him to cut it out, and he finally asked, "Why won't you let me sing?" "Because everyone here paid a lot of money to hear that orchestra... not you." He understood; Ez definitely can appreciate wanting to get one's money's worth. Ivo, 4.5, was considerably more emotional about the whole thing than the other two. He wanted to be close to me, and I think he was feeling sad for me. He kept asking me if I knew the different parts he was seeing and was adamant that I point out the exact moment in the show that I had been injured. I think Tchaikovsky's very emotional score got to him too as he is easily affected by melody and timber. He wasn't alone.

The overture had me holding my breath and my heart beating fast just like it did when I was 7 years old and waiting to be the first little girl on the stage and when I was 19 and a bit panic stricken that I would fall (and then did.) I think, though, that I successfully held both those emotional extremes in  my heart and tried to let them have their effect. I was really sad and really wistfully happy at the same time.

My overwhelming feeling in the party scene was that it was about as boring to watch as it was to do. It felt like it took forever, just like it always did on the other side of the orchestra pit. Too, it made me proud of the work we did at Lone Star Ballet. Our small city show was every bit as engaging; and, honestly, I think the Amarillo kids gave much better face and were more together... at least back in my day. These Seattle children don't get enough sunshine. I enjoyed watching the fight scene, though, and thought that all the little soldiers were adorable. I was never a soldier, nor did I ever want to be one. But, they sure added a lot to the scene.

The crying came during the first pas de deux. Different productions use the music for different things, but usually it's some kind of pas for Clara or a Snow Queen. I cried because I had danced to it and because the memory of dancing to it was so, so sweet. What a blessing all those years at Lone Star Ballet dancing lead roles were! I would not have nearly the body of work in my memory had I not been given those opportunities. The dancers were beautiful too, and I appreciated seeing such talent. The dancer who performed as the Nutcracker Prince that night was a friend of mine (acquaintance?), and many nice stories of fun times with him and my other friends came to mind too. He danced with such cheery, generosity- just like he is in real life. I had fun later relating to the kids my story about him teaching me about arnica gel and giving me the last of his tube of it for a stress fracture in my metatarsal.

During the snow scene, my favorite to watch and to dance, I was so pleasantly surprised to see how very visible my spot felt. I realized that people really had seen me dance. TONS of people saw me dance. When you are dancing in the corps, it can feel like you are a bit hidden, and like your job is very secondary to the the principal and solo roles. But, I loved watching the corps dance, and no one was hidden. Almost certainly, people watched and appreciated the work I did, and that felt so nice to realize.

At intermission, I was SHOCKED by how insane the house was. SO MANY people go to this show! As a dancer, I don't think I ever realized just how willing people are to inconvenience themselves for this production. Nothing about it was convenient or cheap. I wish I had appreciated a bit more back then what a privilege it was to have that many people make that great an effort to watch us dance. What a pleasure to know that I added to so many people's holiday joy.

Second act went by quickly, for me not the kids, and I loved watching Flowers. I was happy again to see that it did matter that the girl dancing my old spot was there. I clapped long and hard at the end after mentally dancing every step of the finale- classic Stowell Nutcracker hip-wiggle and all. I had a teeny bit of sadness that the hip wiggle is going away, but I also felt really glad that PNB is doing a new production next year. It's time.

In the harried departure from the theater and then 40 minute wait to get out of the garage, my ability to fake wellness seriously flagged. I felt like crap the whole way home and was pretty miserable from overdoing it for a few days afterward. But, I felt so glad that we had made the effort and had been given such a special opportunity. I felt like a grown-up. I felt like I had done some maturing, and I'm thankful that bitterness had lifted. Am I eager to start a new Nutcracker watching tradition? Not at all. But, I'm glad I said hello to it as an audience member for the first time, and I'm glad my children got to see it too.