Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Blog Review: "Bring the Rain"

This is so fascinating....

I just this morning commented in my book review (last post) that C.S. Lewis's book "The Problem of Pain" was a great book but that it simply couldn't touch my heart in terms of understanding human suffering. A couple of hours later, while checking a friend's blog, I clicked on her link to another blog, "Bring the Rain."


I spent the next hour completely neglecting my poor toddler (thankfully he has a new CD player with which he is entranced) while I read this blog and cried my eyes out over it (which, if you know me, is completely uncharacteristic).

"Bring the Rain" is a blog written by a mother who learned, when she was partway through her fifth pregnancy, that her baby had too many health problems to live, and would die at birth. She completed the pregnancy with this knowledge, having to select her daughter's coffin and grave marker before she was even born. Seeing the tiny pictures of her after birth, and her sweet little wooden coffin, was just overwhelming.

I had actually heard a very similar story before, in a testimony by a woman at a local church. She and her husband lost their first child shortly after birth due to health problems. They then had three healthy children, but when pregnant with their fifth found out that the child would not live past birth. They, too, had to deal with grieving for a child who was still living and not even yet born.

This blog spoke more to me about the depth of human suffering, from a Christian perspective, than all of Lewis's book could do. That's not Lewis's fault - he is a spectacular author and did a great job with the book. But when speaking of suffering, academic treatises just won't do. One word from someone who has "been there, done that" is worth volumes of academic work on the meaning of human pain.

In some ways, that very fact is an answer to my "why?" - suffering occurs, in part, so that we will have the ability to comfort others. We can all sympathize, but one cannot truly comfort someone who is hurting until one has been through it oneself.

I was floored by this young mother's Christian maturity. I'm not saying stoicism, resignation, or anything like that - I'm saying the ability to trust God, to keep coming back to him even in the midst of hurt - something I haven't quite learned.

Here's something the mother, Angie, says regarding an earlier pregnancy with twins, in which she very nearly lost both babies:

"I was on magnesium sulfate for three and a half weeks (the stuff is nasty...I hallucinated that my IV pole was a robot and told Audra to let the trick-or-treaters in one night...she told me she loved me, put on a Jim Brickman CD, and turned off the lights). I was on a lot of medication to keep me out of labor, including a pump thing that I had to inject myself with. Time passed slowly, slowly. I was really scared and depressed, and I want to tell you something else, because we are all friends here, and I think you should know.

"I hardly ever opened my Bible.

"I believed in Him. The whole story. I loved Him fully, but I learned to keep Him at arm's length in the event that He let me down. I hate that part of the story, and if I could do it over...well, I can't. I just have to know that He pursued me even when I acted like a jilted bride. He wanted me when I didn't want Him. He taught me about Himself, even as I resisted loving Him back. I am forever grateful for the tenderness He showed me during that time, and the grace He showed me when I came running back with remorse in my heart."

How she felt then is how I have felt over the past couple of years. Yes, I love God, but I want to keep him at arm's length. Having seen how deeply he hurt me in the past, I feel like I can't trust him now. I'm still working on this. But I didn't open my Bible for almost the entirety of my pregnancy, and have had a hard time since.

I have spent a lot of time unconsciously debating between physical and emotional pain. Which is worse? How to compare the two? etc. etc. Although it's an interesting question (which is worse? unbearable physical agony, or unbearable mental torment?), it really doesn't have any purpose. Suffice it to say that pain is pain, torment is torment, and the resulting spiritual downward spiral can be the same.

This woman is an example to me, and I hope to follow her lead in terms of trusting God, studying the Bible, and preparing myself spiritually.

Life has rather frightened me ever since hyperemesis. That disease gave me a brief glimpse into the unplumbed depths of human suffering that lay open to each of us, and it is impossible to know which types of suffering we will each encounter in this life. Right now I am unprepared, spiritually speaking, and I know it - for physical or emotional pain. I'm trying to work through things from my time with HG, but I know that I need to quit wasting time and jump back on the bandwagon. Even if I never get pregnant again, suffering will intrude into my life in some form or another, and I need to be spiritually ready.

I really recommend this blog!


Book Review: "The Problem of Pain" by C.S. Lewis

What a busy week! I've had a lot of fun setting up my other blog. I feel like it really uncluttered this blog, at least mentally - I had so much stuff running through my mind about both hyperemesis and homebirth midwifery that I just didn't know how to sort them out in one blog. I think that two blogs will work much better - as long as I don't double the amount of time I spend blogging!! I mean to keep a strict eye on that.

I've decided that I'll probably keep most of my "personal," i.e. day-to-day blogs on this blog, simply because my other blog is more of an interest-blog, while this blog is more wrapped up in my personal/spiritual/emotional life. I'll probably post occasional personal blogs on the other account, but I'll save most of it for here.

Well, I have three book reviews to do this week so that I can get these books back to the library, so here goes number two!!

The Problem of Pain
C.S. Lewis
Touchstone, 1962, 141 pages

"I can stand anything but pain!"
- Oscar Levant, in "The Bandwagon"

This is not an easy review to write. For me, trying to critique C.S. Lewis is something along the lines of like trying to critique God. It's not that C.S. Lewis is on the same level as God, of course, but simply that they both are so far beyond me that trying to critique either of them is something of an presumptuous absurdity! So rest assured that I am aware of that fact as I write this.

Whenever I read C.S. Lewis my mind and my soul mature by at least 50 years. In case you can't tell, I am a major, major fan of this man and his writings. I started out at a young age with the Narnian series and have been in love ever since. Oddly enough, though, I have not read all of his books - or even most of them. I was, therefore, pleased to have the job of reading this book just to catch up on more of his writings!

First of all, I will mention the one thing that I didn't like, and that is his chapter on animal pain. I had read a quote by Madeline L'Engle a long time ago, in which she said that she gave up on Lewis's writings for a long while after reading his dismissive treatment of animal pain in "The Problem of Pain." For the most part, I agree with her, and I do not particularly agree with Lewis's treatment of the subject of animal pain. I find it rather cold, callous, anthropocentric, uncompassionate, and others. However, I am not saying that he is wrong, simply because I do not have the mental resources to refute him! And for all I know, he may be right (though I doubt it).

Enough of that. Moving on....

I am a little confused as to how to proceed with this review, because if I wrote all that I had to say, I would be here for weeks - literally. There are so many good quotes here! Let me just pull out a few:

First of all, on the difference between the lovingkindness of God and the "kindness" which we all wish was an attribute of God:

"By the goodness of God we mean nowadays almost exclusively His lovingness, and by this we may be right. And by Love, in this context, most of us mean kindness - the desire to see others than the self happy; not happy in this way or in that, but just happy. What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, 'What does it matter so long as they are contented?'..... But since it is abundantly clear.... that God is Love, I conclude that my conception of love needs correction..... There is kindness in Love; but Love and kindness are not coterminous, and when kindness.... is separated from the other elements of Love, it involves a certain fundamental indifference to its object, and even something like contempt of it.... Kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering. As Scripture points out, it is bastards who are spoiled; the legitimate sons... are punished. It is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms; with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging modes. If God is Love, He is, by definition, something more than mere kindness. And it appears, from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense." (p. 35-37)

It's so true! I do wish for a "kind" rather than a truly "loving" God - one who looks after my comfort rather than my ultimate good or holiness. Sometimes, I think, we do confuse kindness with love, and vice versa.

"The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as all seems to be well with it."(p. 82)

So true!!! The times of my greatest spiritual apathy are often when all is well and tranquil. When I am self-satisfied and complacent are probably my times of greatest self-wilfulness and pride. It is when my true nature and state are revealed to me that I truly turn to God.

"If the first and lowest operation of pain shatters the illusion that all is well, the second shatters the illusion that what we have, whether good or bad in itself, is our own and enough for us." (p. 85)

What more can I say than "Amen!" He hits it right on the nail.

Thus, the purposes and/or reasons of/for pain, according to Lewis, are:

(1) The consequence of combining fallen nature and free will
(2) For the purpose of sanctification and/or leading us to redemption and faith

I concur completely with Lewis's assessment.

Lewis gives thorough treatment to the following aspects of human pain: man's Fall and wickedness, divine goodness, Hell, Heaven, and human suffering. It's very clear and easy-to-follow, and the treatment is excellent.

The one complaint I have (and it's not even really a complaint) was that this book seemed to touch me on only a mental rather than an emotional or "soul" level. I came away full of knowledge, but not satisfied. I think that that is the inevitable end of a work which treats such a deeply soul-wrenching subject on a theological or logical level. It's rather like going through a deeply hurtful time in one's life - a hug can do more than all the detailed explanations of why one is hurting. Thus, while I felt like this book was valuable and a "must read," I did not come away with all of my questions answered on a deep enough level for real satisfaction.

A friend mentioned that I should read "A Grief Observed" (also by Lewis) after this book, as it treats the subject on a more emotional level, and I plan to do so.

Unfortunately, as this was a library book, I was not able to underline and make margin notes, so many of the quotes that I had planned to bring into this review have quietly faded into oblivion. Well, it'll have to wait! Rest assured that this is an excellent book, well worth the read and the purchase, and one that I will definitely be adding to my collection.

Rating: The best!!

I'll be posting a review of Jenna Schmidt's "Body Mutiny" hopefully very soon, and after that I'll get onto "A Grief Observed" and the Book of Job.

Friday, July 25, 2008

New Blog

Hello, everyone!

I have decided, after some thought, that I am going to try starting a new blog (while continuing this one). The problem is that my interest in childbirth and homebirth midwifery keeps leaking out into this blog - which is not a bad thing, but I did want this blog to focus on hyperemesis. Thus, I have decided to start a new blog focusing on promoting homebirth midwifery and dealing with various childbirth issues. Here it is:


My goal is to give each blog half of the attention that I have been giving this one - in other words, I don't have any extra time to spare! So after a few days of flurry setting up my new blog, I am hoping to calm down into "the occasional blogger." I have noticed that I really have to watch my internet time or it can turn into abuse. The purpose of splitting my blog is not to create more work for myself, but rather, less work, as I can stop worrying about how to blend two totally separate subjects (hyperemesis and childbirth) into one blog. I think that it will actually be easier with two blogs, so that I can just write for each subject without having to justify myself or try to blend the subjects coherently. At least, that's the goal!

And now, after spending waaaayyyy too much time blogging today, I am off to do dishes!!

Love to all,

P.S. Within the next few days I hope to publish my book review on "The Problem of Pain." Coming soon!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Personal Notes & A Waterbirth Video!

Thought I'd post this sweet waterbirth video that I loved!! As I think I've mentioned before, if we are blessed with another baby we are hoping to have a waterbirth. Our midwife is very experienced with waterbirth and does a ton of them, so unless there are complications, we've got a really good chance. Our friend's sister just had a waterbirth yesterday with one of our midwives - very exciting! Congratulations J.!

This has been a crazy week. A baby shower, baking cookies for said shower, playing at church, music rehearsal, church's semi-annual meeting, potluck, dinner guests, going-away party for some friends (we miss you guys already!), babysitting for said friends while they packed, volunteering, playgroup, errands - you name it, we've done it! I'm finally done with the busiest part and am looking forward to some down time!

I am once again not pregnant, and am sincerely thankful for that fact. Whenever I find out that I am not pregnant, I feel a twinge of disappointment followed by overwhelming waves of relief and gratitude. Apparently I am not ready for this experience yet! When I was pregnant and telling people that I was NEVER going to do this again, I always got variations of the same response - "Oh, wait till after you've had the baby. You won't be able to wait to do it again!" Well, I am somewhat gratified to note that I was right - I am NOT eager to do it again - although they were partially right, as I am kinda-sorta-maybe willing to at least try again. Well, we've got at least another month! I seem to be working my way up to a nice little luteal phase defect, so my fertility issues may be out of my control for now anyway!

It's probably also good that I am not pregnant because..... we may have a house!!! Yes, we have something like a provisional acceptance on a short sale - we won't have the definite paperwork for a couple of weeks, but it's at least tentative. Hurray!!

Well, I've let the Bug take advantage of my being distracted for long enough! Back to actual parenting!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Another Great Hyperemesis Story

I got a great hyperemesis story from Jen, who has posted her story on her blog. Check it out!! She does a great job:


(If you read this at any point in the future, it is the July 15th 2008 entry.)

Cheers, all!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Conversations with Sarah - Part III

My friend Sarah has been busy working on her hyperemesis story, and it is here at last! I am going to post it below.

As I've mentioned before, Sarah is a local mum with three kiddos. Her first pregnancy came with normal morning sickness, her second came with moderate hyperemesis, and her third came with severe, life-threatening hyperemesis. This in itself is extremely unusual, as most HG mums have HG with their first and all subsequent pregnancies (*sigh*).

Without more ado, let's hear from Sarah!!

"After a mild/moderate case of HG in my second pregnancy, I vowed that I didn't want to get pregnant again. Then I changed my mind, saying I'd reconsider it when Katrina was 3. Her third birthday came and went in early 2007 and I began to want another baby, just without a pregnancy. I figured we'd adopt. I got a flyer from a Christian social service agency that does adoption and even mentioned my idea to a few friends.

"In May of 2007 my period was late. Then it was really late, so in early June of '07 Vong and I got a pregnancy test from Target and, lo and behold, it was positive! Vong was happy, I was a mixture of joy and dread, hoping that I would not have another HG pregnancy. I was only 4 weeks pregnant and I was feeling great. Week 5 was good, but in week 6 I got food poisoning (I think). Maybe the HG really did begin that quickly--I don't know. I just know that I was very sick, very fast. I knew the HG was back. I began to have horrible anxiety that robbed me of sleep. I had intrusive thoughts of suicide. My nausea was becoming debilitating. I could hardly eat, but was hopeful that I wasn't vomiting yet.

"I made my first trip to the ER for fluids at that time. I don't think I was really dehydrated but I went to the ED anyway in a search for help. They gave me 3L of fluid, Phenergan, and Zofran. They sent me home with a script for Zofran since that is what worked for me during my last HG pregnancy. This time around the Zofran did nothing. I was very nauseated and my anxiety was through the roof. I couldn't sit still, I felt like throwing open the front door and running away, I couldn't sleep, and I was still contemplating suicide. I called my counselor and she told me to go to the ER. I called my OB and the nurse practitioner told me to eat something and be glad that I was pregnant. I called a crisis hotline and the counselor told me to do some prenatal yoga and informed me that the fetus was a natural yogi who assumed yoga positions in the womb. No joke. The counselor was such a joke herself that I hung up on her and her stupid yoga facts.

"It came to a head in mid-June of 2007 when, one afternoon, I knew that if I did not get help immediately that I would kill myself that night. I had a plan in mind and I could visualize myself doing it. I had never had to bear that much anxiety and that much dread at one time, and I could not handle it anymore. I told Vong and my dad how I was feeling, called the OB and told them, and they all urged me to get help. A friend came to get the girls and my husband and dad drove me to Good Sam's ER.

"The ER took me seriously. They gave me a private room with glass walls, moved everything out but the bed and a table, and opened the blinds. A social worker came in, assessed the situation, and told me that she thought I needed to be an inpatient until I could get more stable. A doctor came in and asked me if I was sure I was pregnant. I said yes, I was sure. Then he asked me how I knew for sure that I was pregnant. Odd. I explained that my period was late and that I had a positive pregnancy test at home. They ordered an ultrasound anyway. That was my first glimpse of Natalie, looking like an elongated space alien with a teeny tiny beating heart. I was 7 weeks pregnant at the time.

"Good Sam didn't have any room in their psych unit so I was transferred my ambulance to a county-run hospital in the East Valley. It was not very nice but not terrible, either. It seemed run-down but at least it was clean and safe. I was admitted to a locked unit where I had to strip down in front of a female staff member and don a pair of blue surgical scrubs. I could only wear panties under the scrubs since bras posed a hanging risk. They took away my belongings and showed me to my room. It was 5 AM and I was exhausted but had way too much anxiety to sleep.

"Life on the psych unit is very routine. In the morning you get weighed and they take your vital signs. Then you wait around for breakfast. After breakfast are dr. visits, counseling sessions, and groups. After lunch are more groups and a few lame recreation options, followed by visiting hours. Then comes dinner, yet another group, some free time, then bed. The food was really bad, especially for someone who doesn't feel well to begin with. It was during my week there that I began vomiting.

"I guess going to that hospital was a good idea. I hated being there but the staff was fantastic, and there were two ladies on the unit that I felt made it worthwhile. One had just given birth to triplets and had severe ppd/psychosis in which she became homicidal. Yet she was the nicest gal--just goes to show what depression and hormones can do. Another lady was pregnant and was very anxious about it since she nearly died in the delivery of her prior child. Her doc told her not to get pregnant again, but she did and was terrified. Meeting those women helped me realize that pregnancy is not the dream that most people think it should be and that I was ok for seeking help.

"Incidently, while I was admitted there I ran into someone I had known as a teenager. There he was, on the same unit as me with some big, nasty problems. It was weird and sad that he had ended up so ill.

"The psychiatrist started me on Zoloft and continuted the useless Zofran. Once I was deemed safe to go home, I was released. I had missed my kids like crazy; they were the reason that I wanted to keep living. So my husband came and got me and drove me to my dad's house. Apparently we had moved in with him so I could get better and so that we could have help with the kids.

"My poor dad. I can't imagine what he experienced watching his daughter flip out like I did. I would have killed myself in his home, too, which horrifies me in retrospect, but at the time it seemed like such a viable option. My dad has experienced some pretty rough things in his lifetime, too, but I think this shook him up.

"Anyway, I was about 8 or 9 weeks along and beginning to puke in earnest, so Vong and I got aggressive with the OB in seeking help. They decided to order a Zofran pump and, in the meantime, had me come in for fluids. I got a couple of liters in the office and got antibiotics for a UTI that I had told the OB that I had had a week earlier, but he didn't believe me. Anyway, it showed up the day I went for fluids and I got treated for it.

"I was already mad at this particular doc because he told me that HG was 90% in my head. Then he didn't believe me about the UTI and gave me advice about eating frequent, small meals of crackers. Idiot.

"Matria soon came to my dad's house and started the Zofran pump. I puked while the nurse was teaching me how to use it, then I couldn't stop throwing up. Everything I ate or drank came up again. My pee was dark and full of ketones and I lost 15 pounds in a little over a week. I couldn't sleep, got horribly constipated, and knew I needed more help than Zofran could offer.

"We fired the ignorant, cocky OB.

"Vong interviewed a new OB who said he was familiar with HG and had treated lots of women with it. He was literally a Godsend. Literally. When the Zofran pump wasn't working well, he admitted me to St. Joe's practically sight-unseen for a weekend of IV fluids. He thought the dehydration was inhibiting my body's ability to utilize the Zofran. When we told him who my first OB had been, he just smiled. We later found out that OB #1 had his teaching privleges revoked at St. Joe's because he was such a flake.

"I vomited all weekend at St.Joe's, went back to my dad's. The pump still wasn't working although we had titrated the dose to nearly the maximum. I was dizzy, I was anxious and fighting suicidal thoughts, I was dehydrated, and was horribly gaunt. I felt like a terrible mother because I couldn't take care of my kids. I wanted to miscarry, yet I wanted the baby. I pondered an abortion. Anything to end the misery.

"Around week 10 or 11 I developed terrible abdominal pain and began vomiting blood. I took myself off all meds, including the Zofran pump. Vong took me to see the OB and I began sobbing, begging the doctor to help me and to tell me I was going to be OK. I told him that I had tried to be brave and strong but that I just couldn't fight anymore. He took one look at me, assured me that he would take care of me, and admitted me to St. Joe's for a PICC.

"I was so happy to be getting a PICC. I was so stressed all the time about not being able to eat or drink enough to keep myself alive, and I had a constant and intense thirst that haunted me. I could have chugged down a 32 oz Gatorade in one breath, I am sure. Of course I would have puked it back up 45 seconds later, but I was so tempted to drink and drink. I needed fluids horribly.

"The day I was admitted for my PICC was a busy one at the hospital and the nurse in OB triage, where I lay waiting for a bed to open up on the floor, said that they would put in a peripheral IV to get me through the next 24 hours and start a PICC the next day. I told her that my last IV took 13 pokes and that I doubted anyone could get an IV going on me. She called my doc and apparently he made a few calls of his own because the next thing I knew I had a bed on the antepartum unit and a nurse came to insert the PICC.

"The nurse who did the procedure was fabulous. He was very flamboyant and self-assured, and he got the line in with no problem. I didn't even care that he stuck a huge needle in my upper arm to thred the line in my vein, up and around to my heart. I was that thrilled to get the PICC. That same evening I had a GI consult, my OB came by to check on me, the perinatologist stopped in, and I was scheduled for a nutrition consult the next day. I started getting Nexium to heal my bleeding gut, they started TPN and lipids, and I had Reglan added to my regular IV fluids. I was getting about 2000 calories a day in the TPN so I stopped worrying about eating. At that point I weighed 110, which I hadn't weighed since I was about 13 years old, except during my other HG pregnancy.

"What followed were probably the hardest 8 or 9 days of my life. The reglan made me anxious and did little to get rid of the nausea. I had dry heaves multiple times a day, even from simply rolling over in bed or getting up to go to the bathroom. I couldn't watch TV or listen to music because it made me feel worse. I could still smell the lotion that the nurses wore and it made me sick. The cleaning lady used chemicals in my room that made me sick. Even people talking to me was sickening. The food service people kept bringing meal trays to me until my nurse put a sign on the door that said "NO FOOD TRAYS".

"Nights were the worst. I had nightmares that involved crippling nausea. I would wake up to heave. The staff kept coming in my room for vital signs, blood sugar checks, labs, and to weigh me. I felt like they wouldn't leave me alone. I would ask for my prn nausea meds just to be drowsy for a short time, even though the medication made me jittery after a while. I was anxious all the time and the night seemed to intensify my suffering.

"I truly believed I was going to die. I had never been so ill in my life. I feared leaving my girls without a mother but I figured that they would be OK in the end. Then one night I had a dream that I believe God sent me to assure me that I would live. In my dream I was in a hospital ER. A man came in with these clear ropes that he started hanging all around my bed, up by the ceiling. I looked up at those clear ropes and realized that they were the cords of death, waiting to entangle me (King David refers to this in the Psalms). Suddenly in my mind I knew those ropes were not mine but belonged to someone else. In my dream I told the man to take them down and carry them to someone down the hall, for whom they were intended at that time.

"When I awoke I knew that I would live.

"The one relief I got in the hospital was when my OB ordered ativan for me, should I become very anxious. I didn't know he had ordered it until my nurse casually mentioned that I could have ativan at bedtime. I jumped at the chance and took it at about 6 PM. I was out cold until the next morning. It was wonderful and it was the last full night of sleep I got for the whole pregnancy. I mentioned my pleasure to the nurse the next day and she proceeded to tell me how addictive ativan could be, just from her own experience with it. I didn't ask for it again because I was afraid of becoming addicted. So the sleepless nights continued.

"During that hospitalization I asked not to have any visitors. The only people who came were my husband, my dad, my friend Louise, and a friend from church. I remember Louise crying the first time she saw me. I guess I looked pretty bad. I have to say that all of these people are troupers who deserve accolades for the many backrubs, cleaning out my puke bucket, reading Psalms to me, and helping me to the bathroom. It could not have been a pleasant task.

"Eventually my OB thought I was stable enough to go back to my dad's house. Home health came that night to teach us how to hook up my IVs and to mix the vitamins and insulin into the bag of TPN. Since my husband is a nurse, he was comfortable doing all of the medical type tasks. He changed the bags and tubing every night, and the home health nurses came every few days to change the dressing on the PICC. I began to eat a little bit and started to gain weight. The pharmacist with the home health company was fabulous and he tweaked my TPN and Reglan so I was getting the optimum amount of both.

"The next few weeks were actually ok because I was getting nutrients in my PICC, I started eating again, and I only threw up a few times a day. I still had unrelenting nausea and the dreadful ptyalism, though, so I was pretty miserable. I tried to get up and get dressed every day and I made an attempt to play with my girls when I felt up to it. They learned to leave me alone unless I managed to stumble out of my room and offer to play. Then they would get all happy and we would play a game or something until I'd throw up and go back to bed. The sad part is that they got used to me being like that.

"As the pregnancy progressed to around 14 weeks I was eating regular food for the most part. I still had lots of food aversions and fluids were a problem because I was guaranteed to throw up nearly any liquid. But I thought I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. We were talking to the pharmacist and the OB about weaning me off the Reglan and TPN to see if I could eat and drink on my own. I still had no energy and got dizzy a lot, and I felt anxious and jittery all the time. Now I know it was the Reglan causing those feelings. In hindsight I think I would have done better with no anti-emetics, just the fluids and TPN.

"One crappy note--I was too weak to take my daughter shopping for new school clothes. I had really looked forward to that. But my best friend Jenn and her husband, Tom, took Anna out and bought her a school wardrobe. I am still grateful to them for doing it, but my heart aches that I missed it.

"The next part of my saga starts when my oldest daughter had a "Meet the Teacher" day at school. I really wanted to attend because she was about to begin kindergarten and I wanted to be a part of this exciting time in her life. We borrowed a wheelchair and went up to the school. My husband pushed me and my IV pumps around the school campus so my daughter could see her classroom. I remember feeling really bad that day. I had a slight fever off and on for a couple of days prior and had been taking antibiotics because my OB thought it was related to some dental work I'd had done. But during "Meet the Teacher" day I started having chills. My heart was pounding and my anxiety was growing. When we got home to my dad's house I went to bed and assured myself, my dad, and my husband that I would be ok. But by late afternoon I knew something was very wrong.

"I was admitted to St. Joe's once again for tests. It turned out that my PICC was infected and, not only that, but I had septicemia, or a blood infection. I have a mitral valve prolapse and my first fear was my heart. I wondered if the infection had fed up the line to my mitral valve that was why my heart was pounding so fast. It turns out that I had early signs of shock from the infection. It scares me so badly to write this, to think about what would have happened if I had waited even 12 hours to get help. One of my nurses told me I was lucky; it was not uncommon for their HG moms to end up in ICU with septic shock.

"The PICC was pulled and I was given massive doses of antibiotics to counter the infection. The nurses got an IV in my hand so I could still get fluids. By that point I could kind of eat so I did get trays of vile hospital food. Sometimes my husband would bring me food. I had such an advisarial relationship with food. I wanted to eat but couldn't, and on the other hand I longed to have my PICC back so I could not eat. The nausea was still so crippling and I drooled constantly. You just can't understand how bad it unless you have lived it. It is mind-altering, to say the least.

"Being septic had wreaked havoc on my blood count. My red blood cells and platelets were very low so I got 2 units of blood and hefty doses of steroids to get my blood counts up. The steroids were also supposed to help me have an appetite, which they did not. I stayed in the hospital until I could tolerate my meds by mouth and could drink enough fluids to satisfy everyone, then I got to go back to my dad's. I think I was there for about a week and a half. Sadly, I missed Anna's first day of school because I was in the hospital, but I did get to have Katrina come visit a few times. I remember that she seemed so full of life and health and I wanted to get better for her.

"From week 16 to around week 19 we kept living at my dad's house. I was still vomiting every day but I managed to put on a few pounds. By week 21 we moved back to our house. The ladies at church got together and provided us with 4 weeks of meals. I was very, very weak and so anxious all the time until I quit taking the Reglan. Lo and behold, the anxiety was better! My energy level got better all throughout the pregnancy as I took Floradix for the iron and B vitamins. I found Jenna online and she offered me the emotional support that I desperately needed. The turnaround for me was when she told me that I was a survivor. I realized at that point that I had endured things that would have killed other women and that yes, I was strong. Thank you, Jenna! You gave me hope and strength when I was crushed and hurting.

"My nausea lasted until my 30th week of pregnancy. Weeks 30-36 were the best of my pregnancy, and then the nausea came back until Natalie was born at 41 weeks and 3 days. She was born at home in a pool of warm water, surrounded my my amazing husband and my 3 healing midwives. My family and friends were in the next room and it was all I wanted in a birth. My babymoon was complete with help from family, friends, and my post partum doula. My husband made me special smoothies and treated me like a queen. I had a happy ending to a nightmare of a pregnancy.

"I am in no way done with my HG. The physical symptoms are gone but I suffer from flashbacks that bring waves of nausea over my body. I still have strong food aversions to a few particular items and I cannot go anywhere near St. Joe's hospital. Through my sickness I have had the blessing of receiving help from some amazing people. I have the joy of having two fellow HG survivors in my life, Jenna and Diana. They are my sounding board when I need to talk about my experience. And I can't say enough about my husband, Vong, who truly lived out our wedding vows to love me "in sickness and in health." He was my caregiver, mom and dad combined to the girls, and our breadwinner. I never heard him complain through the months of my sickness, even when it must have been heartbreaking for him. He was Christ to me when I was too angry to accept God's love directly. I am so proud to be married to such a man of character.

"I am thankful to my father who let us move in with him and who made me meals, changed my sheets, emptied my puke bucket, screened calls, and prayed for me, even when God was silent in that department. I am thankful to my daughters who were my inspiration for living, literally, and to my midwives who helped me reclaim joy. I am thankful to Blair and Louise and to Tom and Jenn for being surrogate parents to my girls for the many days that I could not care for them. And thank you to Natalie Praney, my Valentine baby, for the unrivaled joy you give me every day!"

What can I say? Wow!!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Side Note

Oddly enough, after my last blog entry (faith & hyperemesis part II), I feel an unusual sort of relief - like I have done what I set out to do! I think that so far, that was the culminating effort of my blog. Now that I have written out completely my spiritual questions and struggles, it's like my mind is much clearer, and I can move ahead with trying to deal with them cleanly rather than mucking about in confusion.

When I started this blog, I had only one objective - to gather and publish my research into hyperemesis to make it available to other HG mums. However, I realize that this blog has also initiated a much-needed spiritual journey as well, and I am profoundly grateful for that. I simply could not have faced another pregnancy without asking these questions and (hopefully) coming to terms with them.

I wanted to also broadcast a note to April, who left a blog comment on this blog several weeks ago. April, I responded to your comment, but I don't think that it went anywhere, so I am going to republish my response here just in case you're still checking this blog.

Also, I'm going to post April's comment here, as it may be helpful for some HG mums out there:

From April:

"Hiya. I'm an HG sufferer on her second HG pregnancy. This one has been more intense than the first. I'm 9 weeks and have already lost 13 pounds. But, my doc prescribed Zofran early enough that I haven't had any rehydration trips to the ER. The only problem is, the Zofran only quells the vomiting, not the nausea for me. So, while I haven't lost any more weight in the past week, the nausea is still relentless. And, I've found, nausea *without* vomitting presents its own horrors.

"Let me share what I've tried.

"Vitamin B-6 50mg plus 25mg unisom three times a day - did it for two weeks - those were the two weeks I lost 13 pounds. Not saying it caused it, but definitely didn't help.

"Acupuncture. I've gone once a week for two weeks, and I can honestly say I feel significant improvement in the severity (NOT the duration - it's still constant) of the nausea. Going back for another round on Monday. I'll keep you posted.

"Read your blog about vitamin K a week ago. I'm lucky enough to work for a major university and was able to get the original article. The study dose was vitamin K (5mg) and vitamin C (25mg) once a day. The problem is, they used vitamin K-3, which can be toxic at this dose. Also, I have read that high doses of vitamin K (any form) in the last trimester of pregnancy has been linked to increased incidence of jaundice in the newborn. All that said, I found only one place online that sold vitamin K-1 in 10 mg capsules. I have been taking 10 mg vitamin K and 100 mg vitamin C for the last two days. I'll let you know if it touches the nausea in the next few days."

My response:

Hi, April!

I’m so sorry to hear you’re going through HG a second time!! That really stinks. You have more courage than I currently have, as you probably saw from my blog – I haven’t managed to get up courage to try again. I hope that one of the HG remedies can end up working for you. It really seems that different things work for different people. One HG friend of mine told me that acupuncture made her HG worse, while that seems to be working well for you. I’m sorry to hear that the B-6 combo didn’t work for you. It didn’t work for me either, but by the time I tried it I was too sick to keep it down, so I hadn’t counted it out yet.

I will be interested to hear what comes of the vitamin K experiment – let me know! I am surprised to hear that the original study used K-3, as I had read (I think???) that it was K-1 – but that was only a reference to the study, not the original study. I hope that it will have good effects for you.

I will be thinking of you!! Good luck!!!

And now, off to get my toddler, who has taken a waaaayyyy-too-short nap!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Faith and Hyperemesis - Part II

Well, I thought that I may as well get started on this subject! I have procrastinated long enough. Really, I have just wanted to get enough thinking and reading on the subject done to write coherently, but I think that that would take years - possibly a lifetime - or longer! So I may as well get my preliminary thoughts on paper and go from there.

The problem of Christian faith and hyperemesis is not unique. In fact, it's really not "faith and hyperemesis" at all - it is "faith and human suffering." I can imagine going through the same spiritual angst following the death of a child or any other anguish, physical or mental/spiritual/emotional.

Is there a true difference between physical and mental suffering? I really don't know. Both can cause one to question one's faith profoundly, and both can cause true anguish.

The only difference that I can see right now is that physical suffering is generally more "here and now" than mental suffering, at least in the case of hyperemesis. Mental suffering (grief, etc.) generally knows times of relief (during sleep, social gatherings, moments of humor, etc., although there are exceptions), while physical suffering is generally non-stop - especially with hyperemesis, where the nausea just rolls on and on and on without mercy and without relief.

However, I don't want to make exhorbitant claims for HG. I think I've gone off on an irrelevant tangent, anyhow. My main point was that intense suffering, in any form, can cause one to question God and one's faith. Even if it doesn't cause one to lose faith, it can cause anger, rebellion, depression, defiance, etc. against God.

The problem with human suffering is simply that it is so easy to justify on paper in a universal and theological sense. The whys and wherefores of suffering are childishly easy to understand when written down and observed from a distance. No problems there! The problem comes when one is in the suffering - when one is praying and begging for relief that does not come - when instead the torture continues and even increases as one prays. This is when God seems far away, cold, distant, uncaring, or even nonexistent. When one is in the midst of unbearable suffering, one cannot work systematically through the academic reasons behind suffering and be comforted.

Here are my main questions regarding the Christian faith and hyperemesis (or any form of suffering, although this may be more applicable to physical suffering):

(1) How can I know that God is truly loving?
(2) How can I know that my suffering has eternal value?
(3) How can I make peace with past suffering?
(4) How can I make peace with possible future suffering?

Now that I've written them out, let's take them one at a time:

(1) How can I know that God is truly loving?

Okay, let's start by stating the obvious. I know that God is loving. Academically and biblically, I know it. It's a matter of being able to feel and trust that God is loving to the core of one's being. After undergoing immense suffering, it is hard to feel and truly believe in one's heart that God is loving.

The typical response (that I usually think of, that is) is to compare God's relationship with us to the relationship that we have with animals. In other words, we sometimes have to do things to our much-loved pets (grooming, medical procedures, discipline, etc.) that they do not understand (and never will) and which they think of as cruel and unkind. It's hard to make this relate with HG, simply because we do not torture our animals - and HG (and other diseases) are a type of torture. The answer to that, of course, is that the mental/spiritual difference between us and God is infinitely greater than that between us and the animals, and we are thus much less able to understand God's care for us than even our animals understand our care for them. As always, it's easy to know and hard to know.

(2) How can I know that my suffering has eternal value?

Or, stated differently, How can I know that God is truly sovereign?

Having only recently been exposed to the doctrines of Calvinism, divine sovereignty is a relatively new concept to me - and a very comforting one, on the whole. I cannot confess to being a 5-point Calvinist, in that I am not yet willing to accept the doctrine of election as taught by Calvinism, and have problems with many of the other 5-points (happily finding myself in company with C.S. Lewis, among others). Therefore God's sovereignty as taught by hyper-Calvinist churches (as being heavily involved with the doctrine of election) is not quite my thing, but I believe in God's sovereignty very strongly - that God is 100% in control and that all things are being worked out by God for eternal good. (How's that for bad grammar and hard reading?)

It's harder to see human suffering as having value when it is not directly linked to the Christian faith. Human suffering due to one's faith is easy to perceive as having eternal value - such as the sufferings of the suffering church or the Christian martyrs. But suffering from physical problems is harder to see clearly as having eternal value.

My friend J. writes:

"Something that really helped me come to terms with the depths of my grief was just to acknowledge that there was purpose in it. Even when I didn't know what it was, I had to cling to what my head knew outside of my broken heart, which was that God is good, and that for the believer, there is no suffering that is apart from His goodness or that is beyond His divine plan. Clinging to that got me through more days than one."

Here is one thing that I wrote to J. on the subject, with her response:

"In a darker way it can reach to a doubt of God's existence. What if evolution is really all there is? What if life is a meaningless struggle to pass on one's genes out of blind obedience to natural selection and suffering is just a meaningless, pointless exercise in futility which matters for nothing?"

"I would answer that getting to the end of life and finding that this is all there is really does nothing to change the notion of suffering with forbearance. In most cases of great suffering, there is little we can do to change the situation and avoid the suffering. I think to some degree, appreciating the pain as purposeful is for OUR benefit. I imagine I would find myself even more bereft if I believed the pain was pointless.

"As I think I've shared before, CS Lewis wrote about suffering that the danger is not in denying God's existence, but in realizing "a ha, so this is who you really are." That is such a tempting thought to indulge. And I did, for a while.

"As I explored the thoughts though, and explored the flipside-a life with no trials, no refining, and no enlargement of heart, I came to the conclusion that God must be good and He must allow suffering. A God who left me at the mercy of my sinful heart to indulge myself to the fullest and pursue whatever makes me "happy" would not be good at all for I would quickly be given over to sin entirely.

"A God who thwarted the "free" will of man, and the natural order of things would not be acting in love at all but would be a dictator or machinist. It is out of His great love for us that He permits us to act in our "free" will which unfortunately means that He must also restrain Himself when we abuse it. What that amounts to is a world full of mire and pain. Bodies don't work as they should, people don't behave as they ought... While we made not have done things to result in the specific consequences of broken bodies, we are in and contributors to this fallen planet.

"It is the MOST merciful and good thing He can do to take the inevitable suffering that comes part and parcel to a fallen world and redeem it to make it purposeful. The pain is His chisel and fire as he chips and burns away our rough edges. So while this kind of suffering may not spread the gospel, it does aid in our own sanctification, which in turn fits us better for Heaven and for His work here on earth. That is the only possible conclusion I can arrive at that. Any other conclusion left me in utter despair. "

As I shared in a previous blog entry, I have definitely seen some spiritual fruit in my life as a result of HG - things like humility (much more needed, however!), compassion, spiritual exploration of my faith and vastly depleted reservoirs of personal pride. But I would never choose to go through it again to have yet more spiritual fruit borne into my life!! I guess that's why we're never given the choice.

(3) How can I make peace with past suffering?

If the above two questions can be answered to the satisfaction of my heart, then this question is automatically answered. If God is truly Good and God is truly Sovereign, then I can trust that my suffering was at the hand of a loving Father who did all things for my good and for eternal glory.

(4) How can I make peace with possible future suffering?

HOWEVER, even making peace with the past does not make peace with the future. Let's visualize this conversation:

Interviewer, to a mother: "So, I hear that you lost your child in a horrible accident a few years back. How are you feeling about that?
Mother: "Well, after much prayer and suffering I have come to terms with it and trust God that it was all for the best" (etc. etc. etc.)
Interviewer: "Oh, then I guess you won't mind at all then if another couple of your kids are killed the same way?"

Of course not!! Past suffering does not make one willing to go through the same thing, and if one does have to repeat suffering, does not keep the same questions from being asked.

A humorous example: After going through childbirth, I thought that I would never mind any pain ever again!! But I still whine just as much over a splinter or a stubbed toe - past pain has not inured me to present/future pain.

Thinking about the future makes the first two questions (Is God loving/sovereign) rear their ugly heads again, just when I think that I have beaten them into submission. It is much harder to come to terms with the past when one knows that the same suffering (or more) is present yet in the future. That is the eternal problem.

(Hyperemesis is most likely in my future, being that we would like another child (although I have a slight chance of avoiding HG). Even if it isn't, however, there are infinite sources of suffering, and I know that I am destined for at least some of them! So these questions are always applicable.)

In a lot of ways, this question (how to deal with the thought of future suffering) is what keeps the first three questions alive for me. I have often felt the lazy impulse to just "let it slide" and move on - kind of like when two friends or spouses have a fight and can't come to an agreement, so they eventually just agree to "forget it and move on" - no resolution, just an agreement to let bygones be bygones. I have wanted to do the same thing, rather than deal head-on with spiritual questions raised by HG - however, the threat of HG in the future as well as the past makes this pretty much impossible.

I am going to print another passage from J., answering the above question:

"Dear one, this is so hard to answer! I wish I knew what to say. I think this is where our faith must override our hearts and we must will ourselves in spite of our fears. No logic or feeling will compel you to take such a risk. As the Old Testament so frequently says "Remember the Lord God..." Remember His gifts of grace, mercy, kindness and generosity that He has given you so freely on other occasions. Remember those ways in which He has demonstrated and left you with no question that He is good. Remember the suffering of our Lord Christ and His pleas for the cup to pass. God has redeemed even that darkness with His goodness.

"Remembering the Lord's goodness at a time you knew it MUST be true, attempt to trust again, believing that God will be faithful again. He is a loving surgeon. Any pain is for your benefit. If He left the illness of sin in our souls and did not work to carve it out because the carving was too painful, He would not at all be loving for we would soon perish from our terminal disease. HG may not be the direct result of any sin you have committed, and IF (infertility) is not the direct result of any sin I have committed. But both, for whatever reason, have been deemed by God to be necessary for His greater purpose of glorifying Himself through us. It's hard and it's painful but believing HE is Good, I must therefore also then believe that His work in me must be good, too, even when I can't see it. If I believe Him to be good, there can be no fear of trusting Him. There may be fear of the process, but I am comforted by the knowledge of His goodness and the safety of His hand. But there were times I really had to will myself to believe all of that.

"My friend shares a story she learned from her dorm father at a missionary kid's school in Guinea. He lost his son in a tragic auto accident. Later down the road, having seen how God had further sanctified his life and the life of his family as a result, he said "If given the choice, I still might choose mediocrity if it meant that I could have my son back." In such cases as those, how merciful is God to NOT give us a choice for I fear I would make the same choice for mediocrity. He sees the big picture. He sees our "final product" and knows better than we what the steps are to get us there. His actions toward us are for our good out of His great love for us (for His glory is always good for us--we were created for its purpose).

"I don't know if any of this helps or not. I can say now, being a little farther along in my journey than you are that it HAS been good. It hasn't been easy, but I can appreciate its purpose, even if I still might choose a different road if offered the choice. When you cannot believe in the future, trust what you have already seen to be true and believe in the goodness and mercy that Has already been shown to you so generously. He WILL provide it again."

As a side note, I should say that I would always, always, ALWAYS choose mediocrity over spiritual growth due to suffering. Always. Thus, I guess it's good that God doesn't ask my opinion!

Anyhow, all the blogging and thinking and reading in the world won't make me come to terms with these questions. I can't force myself to feel truths that I just don't feel. Thus, I have simply been praying for peace, praying for understanding, and praying to truly feel and know the love and sovereignty of God in a new and real way.

I am going to end this entry with a passage from Jenna Schmitt's book on HG, "Body Mutiny":

"Last year, my own "inner monsoon" unfurled: I was pregnant and very sick. But before that event took place, I spent many years prior stuck miserably in a "perfectly sunny day." Mired in the numerous disappointments of life, I surrendered to despair and selt-loathing. Then the pregnancy blew in and swept away all damaging preconceptions. In retrospect, one year later, I understand exactly why I needed the arrival of such a momentous storm.

"I lost control last year. Control is something I will never truly have over the most profound circumstances. Whether you want to call it a cosmic "master plan," or the Divine, the greatest eruptions in life force us to live outside of selfish desire. After the pregnancy, I learned that I can never take the risk of having any more children.... There is sadness in this fact, but I am just starting to uncover many marvelous gifts i have since gained.

"Today, I am free from old insecurities and live a new life. Now, amazing blessings take place. There are so many unparalleled joys! I delight at my son, a miracle of science and religion, as my husband says. I revel in our steadfast marriage, made radiant by adversity. I marvel at the new and precious friendships we enjoy. I wonder at the advances my case still brings to the medical community...

.... In the end, it is truly the girt of 'delayed joy' that brings the sweetest reward."

(Jenna Schmidt, "Body Mutiny," pgs. 149-150)

And that's about it for now! More later, I'm sure.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Intertwining Themes

I have come to realize lately that I really ought to have two blogs - one for hyperemesis and one for homebirth midwifery and birth issues. It would be okay to mix themes if this were a personal blog, i.e. a record of my life and daily doings, but since it is definitely a themed-blog, all of the midwifery material is a little bit out of place. However, the fact remains that I simply do not have time for two blogs!! And they're both pregnancy related, so perhaps I can use that excuse to mix the themes.

This past period of time (since Caleb's birth) has been an important time in my life because it has revealed what is I believe my life passion - homebirth midwifery and other birth issues (promoting natural childbirth, women's rights in childbirth, childbirth education, etc.). It's odd that I had to wait until I was 25 or so to find that out - it could have saved me a lot of time and money pursuing a Bachelor's in biology and a certification in patisserie, both of which turned out to be more along the lines of hobbies rather than life-callings. But I really didn't figure it out until my baby was born. And frankly, I know it's true love because I had a miserable pregnancy, and childbirth wasn't a ton of fun either - but I'm now fascinated with them! I have been on a continual reading spree ever since Caleb turned about six months old, and my fascination just continues to grow.

Side note: I've learned how one can tell a true life passion from a hobby (at least for me) - it's when one can read a magazine devoted solely to the subject and be fascinated by it. I had always wondered why I could have hobbies (organ music, environmentalism, birds, outdoors, cooking, etc.) but be bored silly by publications relating to them. But I can read "Midwifery Today" until I'm blue in the face and be utterly enthralled!

The main problem I am facing right now is simply not knowing what to do with my fascination. I simply don't have any real sense of a direction in which I want to move. The main options open are midwife, doula, and childbirth educator. For the moment I have decided that I am not going to pursue being a midwife, much as I really regret it. I just don't think that I was cut out to be a midwife. Here are the reasons:

(1) I am extraordinarily squeamish around needles and scalpels
(2) I am an uptight super-scheduler type of person (I plan my weeks down to the hour)
(3) I have very weak people skills, and I am especially uncomfortable in any type of counseling situation
(4) I absolutely hate being in charge. I love being a helper, but not the person in charge
(5) I can obsess morbidly for months about receiving disapproval of any kind - and midwives have to be inured against disapproval, since they get it constantly
(6) I have had life-long issues with constant fatigue - not something that is compatible with an on-the-go 24/7 type of career which is one of the most demanding professions in the world.
(7) There's a certain lack of time mixed into all this! As a very happy SAHM I am not looking for a career - just a side-line or a hobby. Midwifery is a career - one of the most demanding careers there is! That's why it has traditionally been reserved for older women.

To me, that's a pretty water-tight case!

So that leaves doula work and childbirth education, both of which I think are possibilities. There are also side-callings, such as lactation consultation, selling birth & baby supplies (slings, etc.), but I don't want to get too peripheral - I really am interested in birth, not just being on the sidelines.

So right now I am really praying for wisdom on this issue. For the moment I am content to just attend birth circle meetings, read voraciously, and back my poor midwife into a corner with continual questions whenever I see her (sorry, Wendi!), but I do want eventually to have a goal and a purpose, and not just be a groupie. There are doula and CBE certification classes probably coming up this fall, so I may try one of those.

What I really need, I guess, is for someone to come up to me and say, "Gosh, I think you'd be a great [fill in the blank]," at which point I would say, "Gee, I never thought of that! I would like to be a [fill in the blank]." Well, I can only dream!

Well, enough wasted time for now! Love to all!!