Saturday, 11 May 2013

11 May 1996 (or why I only had one child)

For many, many years I never wanted children.  I didn't play mummies and babies as a child and it was never my ambition to 'get married and have babies'.  I didn't hate kids, I simply wasn't interested.

As it turned out, I did get married.  My husband already had an 11-year-old son from his first marriage and didn't want any more. Fine by me.   For four or so years this state of affairs was acceptable and to be honest, I didn't actually give it much thought.

Then, one morning when I was 31, I woke up quite literally on biological fire.  I can't explain it any better than that.  It was as if every cell in my body was on fire and screaming "GIVE ME A BABY. NOWWWWWWW".  I was shocked.  And I tried to ignore it. But I learned that these things will not be ignored. I nervously told my husband. If he said no way, then there'd be no baby. I am not the type of person who would deliberately fall pregnant and I vowed I would stay on the Pill if he said no. But to my surprise he said "oh alright then".  This was so significant that I actually remember the date I went off the Pill (I had been on it for 16 years).  8 December 1994.

And I promptly forgot all about it.  Until August 1995.  I was doing a play and had been feeling terribly tired and a little bit weird.  I thought I was just over-tired, working full-time and doing a long production.  The last thing I thought of was pregnant.  But I was.  What a surprise! And I had to remind myself of my past biologal urge which had actually subsided.  But I did want this baby so I decided to proceed with the pregnancy.

Being pregnant sucked harder than a Dyson for me.  There was only a brief window of time when I felt good.  And lots of things went wrong.  My waters broke at 15 weeks. I was rushed to hospital, expecting to lose my baby.  Amazingly a strong heartbeat was found, despite my losing so much amniotic fluid.  I remained in hospital for two weeks.  I had to have an anti-D injection because I have O Rh negative blood and that's when I learned all about Rh disease. Terrific.

When they sent me home I was told to stay in bed, with my feet up, for four weeks and to attend hospital once a week for a foetal heart check.  I was desperate to get back to work.  The day I was due to start back, I started to bleed.  Off to hospital again.  Placenta praevia! Yay. More time in bed, off work.  I was also diagnosed with borderline pre-eclampsia.  I constantly had some but not all of the symptoms so I had to have weekly blood tests.  My husband was starting to get cranky.  I didn't blame him.  This pregnancy caper was a joke!

I crept around for weeks, convinced I'd never complete this pregnancy and vowing never to try again.  I have always been prone to fluid retention so I didn't think too much about my increasingly swollen ankles and hands. But the swelling continued.  I had very serious oedema.  And I got bigger and bigger until eventually I couldn't walk. I was wheelchair bound or hobbled with a stick.  I had to have a heparin (an anticoagulant) injection once a week to prevent deep vein thrombosis. The baby couldn't be palpated as the oedema had crept up over my belly and almost to my armpits.  And I still had five weeks to go! It was an agonising and miserable time. Eventually, with three-and-a-half weeks left, my ob/gyn took pity on me and said he'd induce me on the Friday. I felt like I had won Tattslotto.

I was induced at 6 am on 10 May 1996.  I lay like a beached whale on the bed waiting for something to happen but nothing did.  They sent me back to the ward to wait.  Almost as soon as they left me alone I heard/felt a "pop" as my waters broke.  And off we went back to the delivery suite.

I won't bore you with the details of the next 19 hours but suffice it to say that the phrase "failure to progress" still rankles.  I went straight into Stage 2 labour but I never dilated beyond 6 cm.  My epidural failed and I had the intereresting (and by interesting I mean vile) experience of feeling labour on my right side but not on my left.  I begged for a Caesarean section but they wanted me "to keep trying".  At 22 hours the midwives were arguing with the obstetrician to take me to theatre.  All I wanted to do was die.  Eventually, at 23 hours the obstetrician relented and off to theatre we went.

Finally, at 5.45 am on Saturday, 11 May 1996, my son was born.  Tipping the scales at 8 lb 8½ oz (and three weeks early!), with all the right bits and pieces.  Absolutely perfect.  I passed out shortly afterwards and came round on 12 May, Mother's Day.  That was a nice day to meet my baby.

My son was an awesome baby.  Placid and happy from the start.  Very relaxed.  And breastfeeding was a breeze! Something I hadn't expected or even given much thought to (I still don't give a crap about the breast vs. bottle debate - a baby needs to eat. Feed it. I don't care how you do it and neither should anyone else).
3 months old.
He had such sticky-up hair!

And despite my mum's and my nanna's misgivings (which they cheerfully confided to me), and probably my own if I'm honest, I actually proved to be quite a capable mum.  And I never again experienced that overwhelming biological urge.  Odd, that.

And today he turns 17.  Tall, handsome, funny as hell, quirky and with a strong sense of social justice, I couldn't be prouder of him.

Beautiful young man
He was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome when he was 9 and he's grown into his individuality and has a healthy self-esteem and doesn't suffer fools gladly.  He's got some very good mates, which is so good as for a long time he didn't have any and it broke my heart.

He makes me laugh.  And oh, how he's made me cry over the years.  But not too much really. Not in comparison to what some people go through.

The teenage years have had their moments for sure, but when I look objectively at his continuum I know we have all escaped fairly easily.

Happy birthday my darling boy.  The time has flown by.  You're growing up so beautifully and I can't wait to see the good man you are well on your way to becoming.  I love you more than you'll ever know and I'll keep telling you forever.

With all my love,

Saturday, 4 May 2013

And to think I thought it was Tony Abbott & Andrew Bolt!

I thought I was just getting madder than usual at the state of politics and media in Australia. The unchallenged lies, no policies, and running away from interviews of that great buffoon, Tony Abbott, enabled and encouraged by our media, with the strings of The Puppet Master, Rupert Murdoch jerking more enthusasiastically than a 16-year-old boy.  Thought my heart was racing due to outrage that Andrew Bolt, Ray Hadley and Alan Jones even are.  Thought my vision was getting a bit blurry at the mere thought of Christopher Pyne ever becoming our Education Minister and Joe "Eleventy" Hockey becoming Treasurer.  Thought my slight dizziness and overwhelming fatigue was brought on by trying to explain to my mum for the umpteenth time that her assertions about asylum seekers are just plain wrong and that just because she heard it on 3AW doesn't make it true.  And I thought that the fluid pooling around my ankles was just another thing of menopause.  So I decided a few weeks ago that it was time to go and see an expert in wimminz thingz because I had to deal with this stuff directly.

And boy, was I wrong. These things were not the reason for my symptoms at all.  Well, not most of them anyway.

It was a natural and logical choice to choose the Jean Hailes Foundation for Women.  Wimminz Stuff.  It's what they do. And they do it well. I was lucky enough to get an appointment the week after I rang. And doubly lucky to be introduced to a most excellent doctor, Dr Geraldine Edgely.  Geraldine was thorough, going over my family history, my symptoms, etc. and eventually pronounced me a walking cliche of menopause. Nothing like feeling individual!

A thorough physical examination, breast examination and Pap smear were done.

Then she took my blood pressure.  The reading was 170/100 mmHg.  She took it again at the end of the consult just in case I was suffering a bit of white coat anxiety but it was still way up there.  In case 170/100 mmHg means nothing to you, take a look at this:

Yep. Hypertension. Quite bad hypertension. Could-stroke-out-at-any-time bad hypertension.  WTF? I've always had quite low blood pressure.  In fact in my early 20s I was treated for hypotension (low BP) and my readings were always in the low-normal range.  So why do I suddenly have Stage 2 hypertension? I have no idea. Well yeah, bit fat, but not massive. Jeez.

Yep. This is pretty much how it is.
Geraldine said we'd put the menopause stuff to one side because I needed to deal with the BP issue urgently and for that I needed to go see my GP stat.  In the meantime, she gave me a script for Coversyl and told me that I needed to lose weight urgently and start exercising.  Exercising! I'm too busy to exercise. And besides, exercise!

But I filled the script, went home and immediately stopped eating all the things I love so dearly - no biscuits, lollies, chocolates, cakes - you get the idea.  And I dusted off the treadmill. Literally. It was covered in cobwebs!

After four days on the Coversyl I was feeling a bit weird.  I had a buzzing feeling all over my body (this is known as paraesthesia).  Not unpleasant, a bit like having 3 glasses of wine before you tip over into officially drunk. But I was pretty sure this wasn't how I was meant to be feeling. So I went to see my GP who decided I needed to do home BP monitoring for a week to see if my BP really was that bad.  He sent me home with one of these:
See that reading? In my dreams!
Readings six times a day (3 x am 3 x pm) for a week.  I did it for five days. My lowest reading for the time was 130/99 mmHg and my highest 165/115 mmHg. Bad.  So I rang Dr Steve again and told him. He said "hmmm". He says that a lot. Then he said "now I'm inclined to believe you. Come on in".  He put me on Micardis and repeated the lose weight and exercise mantra.  Yeah, yeah, I get it, alright? Sheesh.

So here we are.  Horribly hypertensive.  I've had a raft of blood tests, which have all returned normal, my vitamin D is horribly low at 24 and I'm taking a liquid supplement (liquid vitamin D! Tastes like sunshine!), and a women's multivitamin (Dr Steve recommended Swisse Women's Ultivite).  I got very excited in Chemist Warehouse at all the things!

I've also had a thyroid ultrasound, a PV ultrasound, and a MSU (mid-stream urine) - all totally normal. Cholesterol a little up but not alarmingly, and I'm not pre-diabetic.

Hypertension is generally a symptom rather than a condition of itself.

But it appears I have idiopathic or essential hypertension.  My blood is struggling to push through severely narrowed arteries.  It's not good.

So here we are. I'm getting on the treadmill for 30 minutes each day (it probably should be more but it's just really hard to find that time! I'm self-employed, remember? No work - no $$), I'm eating much better and, importantly, much less.  No snacks.  I had my first glass of wine last night - having gone three weeks without any alcohol.  And I probably should stop watching Q&A!

It seems that I've walked right up to the line. And I don't want to cross it.

Menopause stuff can wait. I'm too busy trying to avoid a total eclipse of the heart!