The pain of miscarriage and infertility

I know this doesn’t exactly fall under my bipolar theme, but it does fit a bit. I did end up hospitalized for depression partially due to the loss of my baby and the thought that I would never have a child after 4 years of failed attempts.I found out Alex no longer had a heartbeat 6 years ago today. This was supposed to be our miracle after an earlier pregnancy loss and unexplained infertility. I was alone and I still remember the ultrasound and the nurses. The nurse using the doppler told me not to worry, that it was hard to pick up heartbeats at 12 weeks. The nurse got me into an ultrasound room pretty quickly and I could see that the baby wasn’t moving. The ultrasound tech didn’t say anything, at all. I said I know something is wrong and the ultrasound tech told me she was having trouble finding a heartbeat, but would get the doctor. The doctor confirmed that the baby had no heartbeat and I just cried and cried and cried. I remember the hugs from the doctors and nurses and the way they tried to reassure me by saying it was really common. For me, it didn’t help since it was my second miscarriage AND we had been going through infertility. It just felt like a what did I do wrong to make this happen, again.

 

I was alone for the appointment which means that I drove myself to said appointment. I was a wreck and, unfortunately, I had no means home other than to drive my car. The doctor and nurse were kind enough to allow me to remain in an exam room while I calmed myself. The doctor also gathered paperwork and discussed options for me to pass the baby since my body hadn’t realized that the baby had died. I was carrying around a dead baby. There is medication to move things along, but I was afraid of it happening while I was alone. Another option was to wait it out and let my body do it naturally and the final option was a D&C. I chose the D&C which was scheduled for nearly a week out from my last appointment. At that point, the baby hadn’t been alive in likely 2+ weeks. The doctor thought there was a good possibility that the baby would be passed naturally because of the time frame. It didn’t go down like that.

 
On the 17th, I arrived at the hospital for my D&C. The resident anesthesiologist was rough with me and hurt me trying to put the IV in. The attending was kind and asked me the typical questions that you would ask someone having an abortion, which I wasn’t. His first was how far along are you and when I responded I don’t know he told me to be as close as possible. I explained that I was supposed to be 13 weeks, but the baby stopped growing around 11. He took the stuff away from the resident and finished putting the IV in and explaining what would happen in terms of anesthesia.

I remember waking up after the D&C surrounded by doctors and nurses. There had been hemorrhaging. The doctors had difficulty stopping the bleeding during the procedure. I felt like I couldn’t even miscarry properly and I felt as though I had to explain to everyone why I had the procedure done. I ended up in the hospital overnight and out of work for 3 weeks due to the blood loss. They actually asked my husband if he wanted to speak to a social worker. These complications were not what I had in mind. It made me feel as though my body couldn’t care for a baby properly and that there was something wrong with me. I felt like I failed my husband and that I was a defective woman because I couldn’t have children. I felt like my husband deserved so much better and I didn’t understand why the two of us were being punished so harshly. I could not comprehend this loss and I definitely didn’t understand why it was so difficult both physically and emotionally. It just kept dragging on. It wasn’t just over.

 

I became so depressed that eventually I ended up in the hospital for suicidal ideation. It was a turning point for me. I learned the best way for me to handle it. I had caring providers. There was always a tool or someone to help when it got bad and my medication was adjusted. These all resulted in rapid results where I went from not being able to get off the couch suicidal to a semi-normal level of functioning.

 

Then, my miracle really happened. We conceived my son J and he was born almost a year to the day after my due date with Alex. I never forget the babies I lost. I never forget the struggle to have the ones that I have and I am forever grateful that my two boys are in my life.

Anxiety and the Sandman

It’s been awhile since I have written as life events and lack of time have made it very difficult. My latest struggles have been with sleep and, as many of you are aware, sleep impacts many aspects of life, including motivation, focus, and mood in general.

I am getting little sleep through no fault of my own. I fall asleep fine, but I wake up from sleep in panic mode. I am nauseous, dizzy, and have diarrhea often at night when I wake. I am worried about any number of things. Fear won’t leave and the Sandman won’t come. I am not having nightmares, that I can remember. I am just waking up in this hyper aware anxious state. It takes me ages to fall back asleep and then I just wake up again. It’s a cycle.

As you can imagine, the lack of sleep, the stress of the physical symptoms on my body, and the general demands of motherhood have been at odds. We are incredibly busy with all the stuff for the boys on top of my therapy. I need a break. Fortunately, my sister has agreed to take the boys one day next week and has even offered to take them overnight. My husband told me to get a massage and that we’ll go out to dinner that night. I have several gift certificates for massages so I will only have to pay for tip. As soon as she confirms when she’s going to do it, I’m going to schedule one.

Lack of sleep + Anxiety = Episode Fears

Well, this lack of sleep is a problem for me with my bipolar disorder as sleep is usually an indicator of an oncoming episode. The fact that it’s mid night waking makes it more frustrating. I am now on high alert for a potential oncoming episode, analyzing every behavior and every feeling as though it was to signal the end of stability. So far, it hasn’t.

I saw my psychiatrist yesterday and we came up with a plan. My therapist is on vacation or I would have worked with her on this extensively the other night. The plan is to do some mindfulness/meditation exercises before bed. I’m also to take my anti-anxiety medication for 2 weeks or so before bed every night. I slept last night with this formula so I’m hoping that this is an indication that this combination will work until the whole thing gets straightened out for the long term.

Therapy Success – Checking the Facts

Well, I brought a written copy of an emotion regulation skill that I had used in a situation to therapy. My therapist was very impressed and we ended up teasing through the issues that were outlined including talking about things that perhaps weren’t issues, but more worded awkwardly.

This was the check the facts skill to see if the emotions that I was feeling matched the prompting event. First, I described the emotions as feeling alone and insecure. Then, I went through the event that happened when these feelings came up without emotion or judgment. I went through just the facts stating where I was at the time and the fact that I was speaking to my husband about something and his responses. This wasn’t an argument, but he had simply said that he didn’t know what to say.

Then, I went through my interpretations, thoughts and assumptions while giving other scenarios. I gave my point of view which was that I felt disconnected from my husband because he didn’t say the words that I was hoping to hear. I felt alone and like I wasn’t able to communicate what I needed to him or like we were on different pages. He doesn’t understand how that feels. I know that he doesn’t understand the disconnected feeling that I get when certain topics come up. He says he never feels that way so he just doesn’t understand. Based on this, he wouldn’t necessarily know what to say when I’m feeling that way. He’s also just plain not good about talking about subjects having to do with physical attraction. This went on a little bit going back and forth.

Next, I labeled whatever threats I felt would result from this particular situation if it just hung around. I felt like I could feel rejected and resentful. This is a real threat. It could happen; however, the likelihood is slim as this will be dropped. If it is something that is worth bringing up further, it is something that could be discussed in marriage counseling again preventing or reducing feelings of rejection and resentment.

It goes on to catastrophe and I really had trouble coming up with one. I think that’s a good thing. I suppose the worst possible thing would be ending up alone. There would be nothing worse than losing my family.

The last asks if the emotion and the intensity are warranted and gives examples of when emotions are warranted. Well, for me, this was warranted, but the intensity didn’t match the event. In the end though, the intensity of the emotion was significantly reduced just by writing this stuff out.

This morning, I was ruminating over something that happened in the past while I was in bed. I couldn’t go to sleep so I got up. The change of scenery helped. Then, I did the same exercise. Somehow, I went from bad morning to great day. My therapist wants me to do this all the time and I’m excited because it has been successful for me so far.

***The Check the Facts is a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) skill which was developed by Marsha Linehan.

 

Ponderings expressed in song lyrics

I went to see Barenaked Ladies recently. It was my 9th show and I always have a blast. It isn’t the same since Steven Page left especially since they could never perform my favorite song, Break Your Heart, without him. None of them has the voice for it. In fact, the Barenaked Ladies and Persuasions album had a better version of Old Apartment than the one Ed sings because of the voice the man in the Persuasions has. It has a richer more soulful sound and I think he did a better job hitting the high notes.

Pinch Me

Anyway, I was thinking about the following lyrics from Pinch Me which was written by Steven Page and Ed Robertson. Sadly, there have been periods that I could relate to this, especially during periods of deep depression:

“On an evening such as this
It’s hard to tell if I exist
If I packed a car and leave this town
Who’ll notice that I’m not around?”

I have seriously contemplated who would miss me if I wasn’t around or if I would be less of a burden if I just left. This was a serious symptom of my postpartum mood disorder. I regularly wanted to leave. I wonder if there will always be periods, always be episodes, where I will wonder if I exist, where I will wonder if people just won’t notice that I am gone.

I know this is a pretty depressing and introspective post, but I honestly have had these thoughts and feelings. It’s as though someone was able to delve into the depths of my brain and say what I have thought and felt and been too afraid to say.

Perhaps, it’s just me, but I’ve always found music therapeutic and this is just one example of this. It really made me think about these periods as I was sitting there having an amazing time at this concert. So, for today, I will continue to keep these lyrics in mind knowing there’s a time where they will help me through.

Thoughts on work and the future

I have not worked full-time in several years. In fact, I believe it has been 8 years since my last full-time position. I considered a career change during that period and I took the first class I need to in order to make that change. That was before I got pregnant with my oldest son and after he was born I worked part-time in a related position and I loved it. I couldn’t go back to it after the birth of my second son though as I had to quit when my FMLA time ran out while I was pregnant with him. I actually didn’t even qualify, but they were nice enough to help me out with a leave of absence.

I was fainting while pregnant. It wasn’t just happening when I was standing up or sitting down. I would even faint while laying down. I had a history of fainting, but I hadn’t fainted since I was in my mid-20s. I had to give up driving during this time for obvious reasons. I ended up seeing a cardiologist who had an answer that wasn’t discovered as a child despite visits to cardiologists and neurologists as having several different tests. I was diagnosed with vasovagal syncope and told that it would probably improve again after the pregnancy, but it gets worse with age and I will probably have a problem as a senior. Then, it will likely be treated with medication though some doctors go with a pacemaker which she thinks is far too aggressive.

The backstory during the period before kids

I didn’t work full-time back in those years before my first born due to my illness. I couldn’t get the treatment I needed due to insurance for some time and then I was in and out of partial hospital programs and I was in therapy three times a week. I was also hospitalized once during that time due to suicidal ideation. I wasn’t safe outside the hospital and home alone at the time.

There were some difficult things happening which contributed to the severity of my illness. My husband and I so wanted children, and it just wasn’t happening for us. I had an ectopic pregnancy and a missed miscarriage. I had lost a lot of blood during the D&C that removed the remains of the second baby. We had a diagnosis of unexplained infertility and our reproductive endocrinologist kept telling us we would have a child some day. I had trouble with the hormones during our 2 failed IUI attempts. I was afraid to leave my house so we took a break and never came back.

Around the due date of the second loss, around 4 years after we started trying to have a baby, I gave up. That is when I was so depressed that I couldn’t get off the couch. I couldn’t shower and I wouldn’t eat. Nothing was entertaining and showering was a struggle. That is when I became so suicidal that I had to get more intensive treatment than even the partial hospital program could provide and I went inpatient for 8 days while my medications were adjusted and I got extensive therapy. I got to talk about the trauma of my past and my struggles of the present. I got to utilize a weighted blanket when I became so anxious that I had trouble with my stomach and I couldn’t eat anything at all. It was at those times when I just couldn’t stop crying and calm down that I had this tool along with some anti-anxiety medications.

That hospitalization changed everything. I came out feeling better and the medication adjustment, which needed further adjustment outside of the hospital, was truly my lifesaver. I went back to therapy three times a week and within a month or so, my mood was stable.

Then, my husband and I got the shock of our lifetime. We were pregnant again and so was my sister-in-law. They had problems getting pregnant also, but they started trying after us and I found out she was pregnant before me. For us, this was a very tense time. I had this feeling that this baby was going to be born healthy and I, with the exception of having low blood sugar because he was a big baby and jaundice, he was.

As you can see, there were many stressors that impacted my life at the time which significantly impacted the course of my illness. Hormones, losses, and just this constant feeling that your body cannot do what comes most naturally to others.

Future Career Aspirations

The funny thing is that I don’t have future career aspirations. I have future career anxiety, but I know that I will be expected to work when my kids enter school full-time. I used to work in technology. My last two full-time jobs were working for software companies: one as a software support engineer for a shipping software company and the second as a technical trainer for a healthcare software company. Unfortunately, the tech industry moves at a fast pace and my existing skills are somewhat obsolete. I did take some programming classes last summer to try to bone up on those skills, but I feel like I don’t do these things day in and day out so my skills are not fresh.

That means that the thing that I know is not really something I can do. Plus, the career rehab organization for the state has it listed that I cannot work in this career anymore as it has lead to multiple episodes of my illness that have required intensive therapy. Now, I miss the problem solving that was involved in my day to day activities and both my husband and I aren’t sure if I could balance both the stress in my personal life and a professional life now.

I fear that if I continue to be a “stay at home mom” when my kids are in school people will begin to question why I stay home and that may lead to rumors. I would try to nip the rumors in the bud though my son may do that for me. He’s four and brutally honest. He knows I have something wrong with my brain chemicals and I take medicine to stay healthy and he may tell someone which is OK. I just don’t want to become the brunt of the mom jokes if I don’t go back to work.

How will I know if I can go back to work and when the time is right?

Father’s Day is Here

Father’s Day is a trigger for me due to the history I have with my father. I got through today by honoring the fathers that serve as examples to others.

Last night my husband and I got a date night and saw the Barenaked Ladies. We almost missed it because we had some serious issues with a sitter. I accidentally asked our sitter for Friday night instead of Saturday. It worked out in the end though. I had a blast and it was my 9th show and my husband’s 4th. I don’t know why I have so much fun, but I do. It’s not the same since Steven Page is gone because the other guys singing his parts doesn’t sound as good. I just found out Steven released a new album though and I have heard little blips and I love the content. It’s dark and it’s about recovery.

Father’s Day and my father

I don’t have any contact with my father so for me Father’s Day is a trigger to all of the verbal and emotional abuse that I experienced at his hands as a child. This year, I have used mindfulness and maybe a bit of the wise mind ACCEPTS skills today. I’m focusing on what is going on today, at this very moment, and today I see how loving my husband is towards our children. I see how happy they make him and how good of a father he is to the boys, both setting boundaries and comforting them.

I’m also making a special dinner to honor him tonight. I’m making baked ziti with salad. I also bought bread and ice cream cake for dessert. My 2 year old egg allergic son can eat it which was one of the reasons I bought it instead of a different cake. The sauce for dinner has been on the stove since about noon. I simmer it low and slow for hours. My oldest even helped me make it and he’s so proud of himself.

We have to call my father-in-law to wish him a happy Father’s Day and sitting here thinking about it is making me sad. It’s not the same wishing him a happy Father’s Day as it would be to my biological father as there should be two people that I’m wishing this to.

My four year old didn’t know I had a father for a while. He just assumed that I’d been born without one. I was doing our family tree and I had to explain that I had a dad, but he was mean and he hurt grandma. I told him that he’d never have to meet him. He has seen him thought at a family event. My father has never seen my youngest child, at least not in person.

This day makes me wonder whether or not I will regret not seeing him before he dies. Hubby says that I will never know how I will feel at his death, but he knows that nothing good will come of his re-entry into my life. My siblings have also cutoff contact with him and my husband rightfully feels that there’s a reason for that.

He gave me by bipolar diagnosis. I can trace it back at least 3 generations on his side of the family. One of my relatives was diagnosed as insane and wasn’t allowed to enter the US. My father is still in denial that he has bipolar disorder though which is one of the reasons that his children avoid him. Untreated, he is abusive and cruel.

I have two blessings to honor today though. My husband is the best father that I have ever known. He is loving, fun, kind but sets boundaries, and he makes time for them, even when work and other things get in the way. We also honor my father-in-law who raised my husband.

Mood Update

I got a big chunk of sleep though I still only got 6 hours which isn’t typically enough for me. I feel good today though. I’m neither up nor down. Right now, my anxiety is in check as well. Perhaps, last night’s fantastic date night is just what I needed to get back on track. I have also been consistently busy, but it was low stress. Structure has always been helpful. Hopefully, the pattern will continue. My husband and I agreed to a check-in tonight to determine if I need to call the psychiatrist to quickly nip any potential episode in the bud early. At this point, I think this weekend has warded the call and kept the demon in hibernation.

Am I in for an episode?

Sleep has been inconsistent and elusive and I worry that I may be in for an episode of depression or mania. There have been events around the end of the school year that have impacted my mental health as well.

I wonder if I am due for an episode. It’s been a week without a night of solid sleep. I’m still tired so that’s a very good sign for me. I need to get sleep though or I am going to swing one way or another and parenting while depressed or manic is very difficult. I can barely take care of myself and sometimes I cannot even do that. Thus, I’m trying to ward off the demon lurking in the shadows.

It started with missing my morning medications twice this week. My routine was thrown off and I just forgot. It wasn’t anything intentional and I would never intentionally skip any medication without speaking to a physician first. I know my illness cannot go treated without a medication in my case. I have tried and then I ended up fighting for stability for years. I’m not going to fall into that trap again where I think I can do without the medications or that I am better off without them for whatever reason.

For me, at the time, it was the desire to have children. I felt, based on some opinions off ill-informed medical professionals, that being on medication would result in children who had horrible birth defects. Later, talking to people who actually understood the research and work with people with mood disorders, I learned that no two medications are equal and neither are any two patients. There is solid data around the effects of medication in pregnancy and a patient can do research around these medications with their psychiatrist and, perhaps, more of an expert.

Lack of sleep is a trigger for depression, mania, and mixed episodes for me. I think that it might be time to take something to help me sleep. I need to do all I can to control an illness that is sometimes uncontrollable.

Speaking of the lurking demon

My son’s last day of school was Wednesday and there was a family day on Friday. My social anxiety was out in full force to the point where I had stomach problems all morning before the event. I couldn’t stay home because my son was looking forward to this for two weeks. He even knew the date on the calendar. I knew I didn’t have a physical ailment so that was out of the question as an excuse.

I didn’t let the demon win. I went to the event knowing my husband would be there for a time and I believed that would be helpful. In reality, his presence wasn’t helpful because we took a divide and conquer approach with the boys and we were separated most of the time. I avoided the other parents like the plague as I was petrified. I did say goodbye and thank you to his teacher who is not returning next year. I did it though. I went. I let my son play with his friends and do the various activities. My anxiety didn’t stop him from having a good time. The demon didn’t win.

I immediately felt better upon leaving. I was no longer shaking and my stomach had settled. I used this time as a learning experience for my son. He knows I have a mental illness and we’ve talked about it before. I explained that was really hard for mommy and that we should do those things that are hard for us. We should try to do those things that are not easy.

Final proud mama brag

My speech delayed vision impaired son had a perfect report card. I’m not sure how to refer to his vision problem so vision impaired might not be the correct terminology and if that’s the case, I’m sorry.

He had Ms for meets expectations for everything. The M means that the kids are kindergarten ready in those particular areas and the goal is to have all Ms in the June before Kindergarten. Well, my kiddo has another year before he enters kindergarten and I’m so proud!! I knew he was smart, but I’m so excited that his issues aren’t holding him back.