My Irritable Uterus

Whoa, whoa, whoa…I can hear the stampedes now!  A post about a finicky female organ?  OH MY GOSH…I CAN’T READ IT FAST ENOUGH!!  I mean, with all the demand for more reading material of women complaining about their lady woes, I am sure a book deal is inevitable.  How will I handle the fame? The money?

Why am I writing about my girl parts?  Well, for one, I’ve had several people ask why I am so lame at being knocked up.  For those martyrs who are interested in good ol’ pregnancy and delivery stories, then I hope to keep your attention.  Also, I know for a lot of women, myself included, it helps to read about other less-than-perfect pregnancies to know that I am not alone in this struggle, not a complete physical freak, and to share a kinship of preggo misery that makes the challenges perhaps a bit easier.   If, on the other hand, you’re wondering, ‘why the flip is this girl talking about her uterus?’ then get in line and stop reading right now.  If you’re not interested in my gestational challenges, I completely understand.  Go read about something more captivating…like…colonoscopies.

Because I should have earned an honorary spot in Whiners Anonymous by now, I would like to point out that my complaints are for therapeutic and entertaining value and not because I am a complete pessimist and Debbie downer.   As I have hopefully highlighted in other posts, I am well aware – every day – just how fortunate I am.  Despite the pregnancy woes of which I will write, I am more than grateful to be pregnant.  I am eternally grateful Nathan and I were able to conceive without difficulty or complication.  I am grateful I survived pregnancy #1, knowing how much more serious my conditions could have been.  I am grateful for a beautiful, healthy daughter and for the growing baby boy hanging out in my belly right now who, by all evidence up to this point, seems perfectly healthy.  I don’t like to think about such things, but before anyone gets offended, I know how blessed we are and I know I could have it much worse in the past, present and future.   So if I ever seem ungrateful or insensitive, please, please forgive me and know – despite whatever paltry words spill out on this blog or out of my mouth – I am not.

Now, where were we?

I’ll tell Hazel’s story since she was the first to wreak havoc on my body (but what baby doesn’t?).   As I have mentioned before, I am not a pretty pregnant woman.   I had morning sickness, fatigue and horrendous pregnancy acne with Hazel, but otherwise everything seemed to be going well.  I took my vitamins, I ate all the right foods and eliminated the bad ones, I rested when I could, I cut back on my running and did everything the lame-o pregnancy books told me to do.  I did feel quite “crampy” throughout the pregnancy, but as the doctor and my own medical knowledge reassured me, it was nothing to worry about if I wasn’t spotting or bleeding or if the cramps didn’t become extremely painful.  Everything was stretching, after all.  Ligaments stretch, organs move, and a human takes your innards hostage, so it’s not surprising that we get a pain or cramp from time to time, no?  I dealt with the “cramping” for weeks and didn’t think much of it.  I kept working, kept exercising and when things became difficult, didn’t push it and cut back as my body and schedule allowed.  I occasionally noticed the cramping would be worse than at other times – when taking the dogs for a walk, for example, sometimes the cramps were so strong I could hardly stand up straight by the time we were home.  But they were never painful, and I didn’t have any other warning signs, so I told myself to suck it up and reminded myself that pregnancy wasn’t meant to be comfortable and I should remember I’m creating a human life, not spending 40 weeks at the spa.

Things changed right around the 32 week mark.  Nathan was driving us to my favorite Mexican restaurant a half hour or so away – a weekly gathering for this happy preggo – and the drive was…uncomfortable. The “cramps” always seemed to get worse on car rides, but clearly this one was worse than other trips as Nathan kept glancing at me asking, “Are you okay?”  Without realizing it, I was shifting, fidgeting, unable to sit comfortably as the cramps were stronger than normal and I had pain across my lower back.  “Yeah, I think I just have to pee really bad or something.”  But by the time we arrived at the restaurant, I didn’t feel like myself.

“Maybe you should call someone.”

“No, I don’t want to seem like a whiner. Or an idiot.”

But I did feel something was awry.  After we sat in the parking lot, both staring longingly at the colorful banners and neon lights of our Mexican oasis, Nathan finally convinced me to at least talk to the doctor on call.  She asked me the routine questions, “Are you spotting? Are you bleeding?  Are you leaking fluid?”  Blah blah blah.  Already knowing what she was going to say, however, she recommended I come into the OB unit to get checked out, “just to be safe.”  I relayed the advice to Nathan and after a short discussion consisting of, ‘we should at least try enchiladas first…maybe it will help!,’ we decided it would be smart to forego our delicious meal and get checked out sooner than later.

Upon arriving in the OB unit I felt awkward and embarrassed.  The staff was ever friendly and professional as they got my information, checked my vitals and placed me in an observation room.   Yet I imagined them rolling their eyes and snickering outside the door, “This girl is complaining about “cramps”…what a sissy!  Doesn’t she know she’s pregnant?  I mean, just wait until she’s in labor…let’s grab straws so I don’t’ get stuck with this dummy! “  As soon as we arrived, I wanted to leave.

As the friendly nurse hooked my vast belly up to monitors, she smiled empathetically and said, “Let’s just see what’s going on before we worry too much, okay?”  Now, as part of my PA education, we are required to complete a 4 week OB/GYN rotation. I loved it, I learned a lot, and have many fond memories.  But it had been years since I had so much as set foot in an OB unit and would hardly consider myself the most knowledgeable of obstetrics.  When the nurse hooked me up to the tocometer (the belly belt that measures contractions), however, I immediately recognized the tall, regular spikes, turned to Nathan and said something along the lines of, “Oh shit.”

Not only were these “cramps” legitimate contractions, but they were occurring ever 1 ½ – 2 minutes.   Nurse friendly played it cool, smiled and said, “Let’s start an IV and I’m going to make a phone call.”  Here’s where the real poking and prodding commenced.  Labs, cervical checks (or as I like to call them, ‘really super fun invasion of nether region’), IV fluids, IV meds, position changes and a handful of pills later, the contractions were unchanged. No better, no worse, and still every 2-ish minutes.  Fortunately, as the doctor soon relayed to me, I wasn’t progressing.  In other words, my uterus was going bananas, but my cervix wasn’t thinning or dilating, so I wasn’t in true labor.  I was sent home on restrictions, medications and bequeathed the enviable diagnosis: “Irritable Uterus.”

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Don’t…make…me….angryyyy!!!

I couldn’t help but snicker at the name. I pictured an ill-tempered, smooth muscle organ with a frowny face and the demeanor of a grumpy old man.  “Arggh…I’m yer uterus.  This weather sucks. (contraction) What’s this country coming to? (contraction)  Can you believe the punk kids these days?” (contraction)

But alas, this was the title for my ongoing discomfort.  Somewhere between Braxton Hicks and full-blown ohmygoshhurryupandgettothehospital true labor, I continued to contract every two minutes for the remainder of my pregnancy.  No joke.  The irritable uterus title, as ridiculous as it sounded, was incredibly accurate.  Virtually everything caused my contractions to worsen.  Bumpy roads? Ouch.  Physically tired?  Contraction.  Emotionally exhausted? Stressed?  Scary movie?  Have to pee?  Ate too much?  Didn’t eat enough?  Contraction, contraction.

Fortunately, despite my cantankerous womb, I made it to 37 ½ weeks with our baby girl.  I then faced a slew of other challenges including pre-eclampsia, an urgent C-section (after 3 hours of pushing), and a rare and life-threatening complication of pre-eclampsia called HELLP syndrome which scared the bajeezus out of Nathan and nearly led to Hazel being an only child.  (Looking for happy stories? TMI? I’m your gal!) But, all complications aside, Hazel came out perfect and healthy and beautiful and has been a life-changing sleep deprivation machine blessing for which we are thankful every day.

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Worth every moment of prenatal misery. Right, Mom? Mom?

Because the telling of Hazel’s pregnancy saga has quickly turned into a marathon, I’ll cut to the chase and say my uterus has been just as irritable with baby #2.  After seeing 2 obstetricians and an additional high-risk specialist over an hour away, I was reassured that, although virtually impossible to prevent, I am low risk to develop HELLP again (fingers crossed!) and that IU (I’m using fancy acronyms now…check it out!) is a benign condition that you also can’t prevent and can’t do a whole lot for other than accept that it makes my pregnancy a little more difficult than the average mama bear.   With baby boy it started much earlier.  I remember the “cramps” starting in the middle of the second trimester.  I tried to avoid the things that made the contractions worse, but eventually it progressed to the point where breathing and blinking seemed to unsettle my uterus.  Like Hazel, I’ve done everything in my power to stay healthy and do as I’m told, but as is the case with parenthood and life and our general well-being, some things are just completely out of our control.

Unlike Hazel, however, my IU in this pregnancy has turned for the worse.  A few weeks ago at a routine OB check, I vented that my contractions seemed much stronger this time around.  As a precaution, the doc recommended an ultrasound to ensure the contractions weren’t causing any problems.  Turns out, these contractions are wreaking more havoc than the ones I had with Hazel and, unfortunately, my cervix was found to be significantly thinned.  In other words, the contractions aren’t as benign as they previously were and are advancing things along too fast and too early.  To (hopefully) prevent preterm labor and keep baby boy from falling out of me, it was recommended I take my meds routinely (I was only taking them on an “as needed” basis before) and go on full bed rest.  And here I lay, 2 weeks into bed rest with 3+ weeks to go until I can rejoin the world of the vertical.  I fear by the time I get the green light to return to mobility, I’ll have developed muscle atrophy, bed sores, lost my sanity and gained 50 pounds, but I remind myself how important it is to keep baby boy cooking and that before we know it he will be here and this will be a terrifying funny story to share with the kids.  Or guilt them into obedience.

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Before bed rest…

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…after bed rest.

I know, I know…the black dress in the first pic was a little overkill to go to Chick-Fil-A, but sometimes you just have to make yourself feel pretty, ya know?

So there you have it.  Apologies for the lengthy tale.  It seems I am incapable of keeping things short…with the exception of my memory.  I’ve spared some ugly details, and hopefully I won’t have any more ugly details to share for the remainder of this pregnancy.  Irritable uterus and complications aside, I have more blessings than I can count and than I deserve, and I’m going to try and maintain a Pollyanna attitude (or as close as I can get to it) until however many more weeks we have until baby boy makes his grand -but hopefully less dramatic- entrance.

In the meantime, I’ll be kickin’ it in bed.  Or on the couch.  Hide your jealousy!

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