Fibro Mama Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 15-17

weeks 15-17Unfortunately side sleeping had become a necessity (thanks back) and my neck was not very happy with me. Despite multiple pillow changes, tossing and turning all night and medicine at bedtime, I was waking with a rather stiff and sore neck.

The first moderate neck headache occurred late in week 14 and was managed with repeated heat pack, Panadol soluble and a relatively quiet day (I had a two-year-old boy, quiet was not a word to be applied to our days!).

The physiotherapist, who does neck traction and places acupuncture needles in tight neck and upper back muscles, really helped me. Unfortunately this is not covered at all and private fees are not cheap, so I had to survive on one visit per fortnight. I highly recommend trying this for Fibromyalgia or pregnancy (just ensure they are trained in treating pregnant women as there are points to avoid and there is a slight risk, but they have to disclose this before they treat you).

I had some spotting as we headed into week 15 which gave me a little fright. It’s quite normal in the second and third trimester and is generally alright if it’s light, brown and not accompanied by pain. It would have been so great if I could feel baby move so I could double check!

Nu remained excited about baby, and often told me that he saw the baby on the TV and it was dancing (baby was busy in the scan and it took a while to get the measurements) – confirming it is a direct relation to Nu! He liked to say hi to baby -pat, kiss and do the sign of the cross (a Catholic blessing).

Somehow, while still in bed and having only been awake for a few minutes, I managed to pull a muscle in my neck while stretching out he stiffness from sleeping on my side. OUCH! I was in such agony. On the first morning I couldn’t move without severe spasms radiating down to the shoulder. Luckily, injuries heal, and by day three I could move a little better and had less pain. It took a week to get full movement back and I was rather nervous of moving from side to side in bed after that!

Despite the neck issues, I fully enjoyed the benefits of the second trimester. I relished food and our walks, I enjoyed all my projects and I managed to make a small dent in the tick list of items baby needs. I am determined to organise baby’s room and belongings before the third trimester hits so that I can focus on resting, exercising and generally trying to be well.

I was heartened to find a few blog posts by other expecting fibro/CFS mamas (or mamas when they were expecting) that showed the 20-25 week area to be relatively cope-able too.

The absence of stress and too many work hours really helped me to cope physically. Although the burden on my husband was not light. I was hoping that by not getting so run down in pregnancy and having my husband home for six weeks after, that I’d be able to pick up some work at early as five months after baby.

For the time being I enjoyed my bump and feeling my baby move.

Fibro Mama Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 11-14

weeks 11.14In week 11 I went away for my sister’s graduation, that meant planes (always mess me up), long days and a different bed.

Surprisingly, my morning sickness flared up the day before 11 weeks and stayed up while I was away (I slept poorly and was quite sore). I was also hungry every two hours, I really got tired of figuring out what to eat.

My back was not a happy camper. The entire spine seemed mad at me! My neck was it’s normal, stiff and sore self and my low back was intense. I experienced a burning sensation along the lower back most of the day and night and needed to lie on a double folded winter duvet to be comfortable. My upper back went into spasm semi-regularly. My usual physiotherapist suggested I see a physio who specialised in women’s health.

Our nuchal scan (assessing the risk for some genetic diseases) was scheduled for week 13, as this week enabled my husband to make it. He got to see the baby for the first time.

I met the second of the team of two midwives who looked after me, filled in many forms and heard my precious baby’s heartbeat.

My energy levels did get a little better as week 12 progressed toward week 13, but I was still super tired and struggling with sleep. The nausea receded and the hunger became less of an issue, which was a big relief!

As my pregnancy would span winter and spring, and the baby would arrive in summer, I had quite a few seasons to address for my maternity wardrobe. I purchased three maternity/nursing bras, two pairs of maternity jeans, two tops with long sleeves and a coat. I intended to buy a few nursing tops in summer.

It had gotten more exciting and more calm once we made it to the second trimester.


I wrote these posts during my pregnancy so that I could share what it was like to do pregnancy with Fibromyalgia, you might also like these:

Second Trimester, The Second Time

Fibro Mama Pregnancy Diaries 4-6 Weeks

Fibro Mama Pregnancy Diaries 7-10 Weeks

Fibro Mama Tools for Managing Early Pregnancy Symptoms

fibro-mama-tools-for-early-pregnancy-1Motherhood for a person with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is not a short sprint, it’s an epic marathon spanning pregnancy, labour and baby’s first year. So it’s really important to get your pregnancy wellness plan underway fast.

Here are some things I have learnt for tackling the early pregnancy symptoms:

Sleep – I tried as best I could, but I had a lot back pains which made lying down difficult. I needed pain relief to get to sleep and woke often either in pain or to go to the bathroom. I had pillows to alternate and utilised brief body scans to encourage certain parts of my body to relax. I found that the Chronic Fatigue was greatly flared up and the amount of sleep I got was almost directly related to my nausea levels.

Pacing – The second time around, I was super lucky that a work contract ended at week four so I had week five off to get into a routine of rest/errand. The first time around, I had little choice and needed to work the entire time, however I worked from home and was able to schedule lie down breaks regularly – for a while there I napped at 10am and 3pm (and my body’s a rigid non napper usually!) The work/rest cycle is really best for managing pain, fatigue and pregnancy. Sometimes it may feel as if the rest needs to be longer than the work portion, but try to allow that as best you can. Some days I was so (miserably) tired but couldn’t nap and  resting was the difference between coping and not. I actually lay down with my eyes closed and listened to Pride and Prejudice audio book which was a lovely treat.

Meditation – as a stubborn (my body, not me!) non napper and a troubled sleeper meditation was a lifesaver. It is useful first thing if you wake too early and cannot get back to sleep. It can be used midday, or whenever you need a lie down. Or it can be used right before bed. You can choose simple breath focused meditation, you can listen to guided meditation or do body scans. You can choose meditations specifically for pain or pregnancy. There’s a heap available on YouTube to try.

Exercise – walking is a big part of my usual pain management plan and this is no different in pregnancy. I had to pause my experiment to see if I could increase the amount I could comfortably walk without increasing the pain or fatigue. But I was able to continue gentle 20-30 minute walks all around our neighbourhood after the hardest weeks were over. During the worst weeks I managed about 10 minutes a day. Yoga was off the menu for me due to post exertion malaise, but this could return in the second trimester for me and may be useful for others in trimester one. Your body will tell you. Anything you did before is usually okay during pregnancy.

Here are three cool yoga poses for your entire pregnancy that I found https://m.youtube.com/watch?list=PLoLbQHZNNqOrHOyfkvlDDvKMi1Clz309c&v=5XKaDOYUpiw

Fuel – I needed smaller amounts of food more often, so I adjusted my meals to suit this and this helped stabilise my energy levels and avoid the more severe nausea. When I was the most sick and unable to eat I found that gently coaxing my tummy back to food with diluted orange juice, small amounts of milk, toast and then whatever I fancied worked. Crackers by the bed for midnight or 3am snacks was a handy hack!

Pain management plan – my doctor helped me to put together a system for dealing with the pain using as minimal medicinal input as possible. My big struggle has always been my neck, so I needed a dose of pregnancy suitable pain killers before bed. I took a combination paracetamol and low dose codiene mixture. I allowed myself one dose per day unless my back pain was severely breaking through the more natural methods of management. You may like to look into homeopathic remedies, using an experienced practitioner’s advice – my doctor is a big fan and I used Crampmed by Naturo Pharm.

There are a ton of natural pain control mechanisms that I have written about before (links) but a snapshot: heatpack, warm bath or shower, meditation, self massage or partner massage or paid massage, herbal topical relief cream (like arnica), gentle walk (seems counterproductive but often helps my neck and back the key word is gentle), a swim, distraction (funny videos, phone a pick me up friend), self trigger point, foam rolling, yoga poses (restorative poses for pregnancy), stretch (seriously, do this several times a day!).

Nausea – this is pretty much unavoidable but I have a few tricks for reducing it: 1. Keep your tummy from getting empty, 2. Don’t get too fatigued (using tools above), 3. Ginger lozenges or mints, 4. Acupuncture for nausea in the wrist point or the seasickness bands that hold pressure in the same point.

Going to the bathroom ALL the time – I can’t really help with this, but I do avoid anything other than water after 3pm and, otherwise, just go with the flow!

Plan – if you’re at all like me, you will find comfort in planning ahead. And write everything down because it may fall out of your head. Figure out potential parental leave options.

Enjoy – you’re growing a tiny human! Revel in that a little. Also enjoy the things you can do now and will have to give up later (weird fact, I do certain stretches and legs on a chair pose like crazy because I know I’ll have to give them up from week 16 or so!)

Do you have any tips for getting through the first trimester?

Considering a Second, Guidelines to Myself for Pregnancy Planning

Having a baby is a tremendous (and rewarding) undertaking, particularly when you have chronic pain wordleand fatigue. There are plenty of things I want to do before I consider trying again.
  • I want to conduct some research and find some professionals who know about both pregnancy and fibromyalgia.
  • I want to go to a new doctor and ask for a proper diagnosis process, just to be sure.
  • I’d like to write about all this here on the blog and potentially put it into an e book to get the information out there.
IF I decide to have another baby I will be making my physical decisions.

I need to be free to make the decision to have a second baby myself. Pregnancy, labour and sleepless nights are physically harder for someone with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. So I need to be trusted to make the decisions that will help me cope.

Why should I just cope with life? Can’t I enjoy my babies? I don’t understand the rationale of “getting it over and done with” and I don’t hold with it for my situation. Two (plus) super hard years are still super hard years, whether I give myself enough time to recover or not!

There are a few guidelines (pre research) I will follow if I go ahead with it:
Pregnancy:
  • My boy will be at an age where he is more self-sufficient, preferably in preschool (at least three years old) so that he will get enough attention and stimulation and I would get time alone with the baby. I can’t imagine anything worse than trying to deal with another baby while my boy is still a baby himself. He has been a pretty challenging baby!
  • I want to feel somewhat physically prepared, I would have the ability to plan and get my body into a place where I am more prepared than last time. For example, I would build my iron levels and keep an eye on them so that I don’t run out of stores at week 28.
  • I would try to keep up a core few resistance based exercises throughout the pregnancy to keep my strength up.
  • I need to be able to stop working in the third trimester, if I am struggling like I was last time, and I would need at least six months off afterwards.
  • I would like to attempt to find a team, or at least a few health professionals who understand both fibromyalgia and pregnancy. After a pregnancy with only a physio (who was pregnant herself and unable to treat me in the last trimester) who understood, I need people to support me.
  • I would utilise acupuncture for morning sickness in the first trimester and general wellness during pregnancy.
  • I would get more done in the second trimester, so that the third trimester could be more restful and I could rest in the fact that we are prepared.
  • I would do my absolute best to avoid stress throughout the pregnancy.
  • I would use a belly support belt if I needed it, I avoided it last time at the advice of my physio, but I think it would have helped more than it would have hindered. The pain was too bad to endure again.
  • I would use an obstetrician, barring complications, my husband would be my key coach. My husband would know and (better) advocate for me. I would try to avoid an epidural.

After:

  • I would plan a babymoon, I would try to make the first month after labour a time for me and baby to just be, together.
  • This follows from the above guide, but I would treat the first three months like the “fourth trimester” as I have seen written about. I’d want the baby to be close to me, I’d utilise a sling and, especially in the first days, have baby mainly held by my husband and myself.
  • I would plan and enforce the visitor rules and how to schedule family support. For example, I would have the immediate family there for only short times in the first few weeks. I wouldn’t invite other visitors for a few weeks.
  • I would definitely make use of the organic cotton swaddle blankets again (our favourite brand was Aden and Anais).
  • I would purchase a portacot with the built in bassinet– we made do with a carry cot last time, but I have often wished we had invested in the portacot.
  • I would purchase a proper pushchair, I would invest in this key piece of baby ware, a swanky, comfortable, convertible infant seat, carry cot, baby seat combo.
  • My husband would be just as involved as the first time. He would stay with us from the beginning (unlike the first time, when I was abandoned from 9pm – 9am) due to the rules of the birthing centre. He would take turns with me, he would feed baby (hence the bottle use) and he would bond with baby, as he did with our boy. Their relationship is beautiful and it creates a sense of space for me. It’s parenthood, it takes two, especially when one has chronic pain and fatigue.
  • I would be more gentle with myself and advocate more strongly for myself, particularly in the babymoon phase.
  • I would try to document and enjoy it as much as the first. I don’t want a marked decrease in pictures and scrapbooks because I have double the children taking up my time.
This list is long but not exhaustive, I just thought that I could share it, in case my hard gained knowledge helped another in their pregnancy and/or planning. Also, because this has become a place in which to express my views and not deal with people, who don’t understand the fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue element at all, commenting.

Tips to Cope in the Third Trimester

It’s no secret, the third trimester of pregnancy is a trying time. Especially if you have fibromyalgia and any of the comorbid disorders that can go hand in hand with it.

I struggled so much that I’m very scared of the prospect of a second pregnancy.

But there were a few things I managed that helped greatly and that I have seen mentioned in my reading travels:

Acupuncture – this helped with nausea in the first trimester and then with the pain as the pregnancy progressed. In the third trimester I visited my physiotherapist (who performs acupuncture) weekly.

Keep moving – I walked until the last day of my pregnancy. It was slow going in the last few weeks, but it was for the good of my mind and body that I went.

Sleep – find what will help. I had a great full body pillow that I curled around. Sleep was still difficult, but it helped!

Rest – don’t stand when you can sit or sit when you can lie down! Don’t become a couch blob, but take it easy!

Eat healthily – I fell in love with semolina porridge (or sooji as my Indian family-in-law knows it), it became my power dish. Try to really think of food as fuel. Fruit, vegetables, whole grains, protein. This may be a good area to get some advice in as I have certainly found that nutrition has a big impact on health.

Write a journal – try to focus on the beautiful baby you will be given and that will help you to remember that this time will pass!

Stop work as soon as you can – if it becomes a real struggle and you are so sore that you can’t sit down, like I was, then try to give it up as soon as possible.

One thing you definitely need to do is check your iron levels. Ask the doctor, when your results come in, what the range is (it’s a large range), and if it’s low already ask for an easily digestible supplement. It’s standard here to wait until week 28 before testing and by then I had become so low that my stores were wiped, making life much harder than it needed to be. I was beside myself exhausted! And for good reason!

Finally, know that there is a finite time that you are pregnant for. Try to enjoy it! Stockpile the rest!

Good luck x

Dear Future Daddies

Dear Future Daddies

Congratulations! This is going to be such a soul-stretching, exciting time in your life. Your relationship will be tested and strengthened. You’ll learn more about yourself in these months than your whole life combined.

I have a request for you. Please, please, please be your partner’s champion.

Support her in her pregnancy. You’ll never know the pain and energy drain that pregnancy is. But try to be compassionate. 

Be her rock in the delivery. She will be in the worst pain imaginable. You need to be the safety in her storm. There will be decisions to make and there may be people you need to remove from the room. Do your homework, solidify your partner’s wishes beforehand and try to help her stick to them (unless it’s her who wants to change!).

In the first few weeks at home with your precious, potentially persistently crying bundle, be your wife’s superhero. She is recovering from delivery, she is learning to feed, she is beyond exhausted and there will be a deluge of well-meaning advice.

Be the guard dog. Limit visitors. Avoid them in the first two weeks if you can. And limit their time while they’re there. Watch your partner. If she seems tired or like she just wants to deal with the baby without prying eyes, send them off.

Be her advocate. No matter how you choose to feed your baby, advocate for her. Support this. Yes, breast milk is best. But there are many options and it is a two person relationship – mama and baby are equally important here.

If breast feeding doesn’t work or your wife hates it or your baby doesn’t take to it – whatever reason, then you support the formula route too.

It is your job to protect her from the people that would give their two cents worth. Choose your people to listen to and help your wife say, “we’re following the advice of…(gp, midwife, plunket nurse, mother etc)”

Your attitude and your support will be vital for your new mama. If she must fight you too, it will be the hardest time in the world for her. She won’t enjoy it. She won’t feel loved. She’ll feel alone. There will be some fluctuating hormones, this is the time to support her and honour her feelings. If she cries, hold her. If she feels bombarded, fix it. If she feels happy, celebrate with her.

Of course, you’re important too. I’m just offering the perspective of a new mama with fibromyalgia. What I wished for myself and didn’t always get. 

Good luck!

The Woman’s Fibromyalgia Toolkit

I have finally found a book that addresses (in a relatively small way) woman's fibromyalgia toolkitpregnancy with fibromyalgia. The Woman’s Fibromyalgia Toolkit: manage your symptoms and take control of your life by Dawn Marcus and Atul Deodhar (2012).

I found nothing during my pregnancy. But I can say that the information in this book stands true for me.

As pregnancy progressed pain increased and sleep decreased, culminating in the third trimester of all pain and no sleep. If only I’d known I ought to have rested more and fought for more rest! It was vindicating to see the graphs of the increasing pain and decreasing sleep for a pregnant woman with fibromyalgia. I wasn’t just a wuss!

Now you know. Please read this book! Don’t use it as an excuse to become a recluse on the couch, but use it to arm yourself and know when you need to give yourself some super care.

There is also information on sleep, exercise, alternative therapies and general education in what fibromyalgia is. Plenty of checklists to arm you with information about your situation. Because there is a huge spectrum in fibromyalgia and related disorders. As usual, be wary, as this book suggests (from the research available) that acupuncture doesn’t help fibromyalgia, and it is my lifeline!

The information isn’t radically different from what you’re told about pregnancy in general, but finding alternate solutions to the drugs you may take is a great one. I take a medicine to help me get to sleep, stay asleep and help with serotonin, and we checked that with a specialist as I couldn’t give it up. We found the benefits of this medicine outweighed any potential risks. The painkiller issue was a struggle for me and I don’t tend to take too many, so that may require some work.

One gripe…when people without fibromyalgia try to tell you that breastfeeding doesn’t affect pain and fatigue levels to a high degree. In my experience, it was the tip of a long iceberg of pain and fatigue. I managed for eight weeks, and when I stopped I felt so much better. I could almost feel my energy draining out. But I had a pretty stressful pregnancy and then my baby went into hospital at week three for an operation.

Aside from this, I was so relieved to find some information about pregnancy and fibromyalgia. I will be taking notes for if/when I choose to try again.

Ways to Cope in the First Trimester

The first trimester can be hard for anyone, let alone a woman with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. I was so wrong when I thought that several years of fatigue and a decade of chronic pain could prepare me for this whole new level of fatigue, nausea – and by extension, pain.

Here’s my tips for coping with the first trimester:

Acupuncture for nausea – this was a lifesaver, my physio knew the right spots for hitting that nausea caused by the whirling hormones in my body. She also have me a pressure point stimulator on my wrist that I could press when I needed. Unfortunately, my existing conditions mixed with the pregnancy problems and I couldn’t separate them, I had no idea how much was “reasonable” or “normal” for pregnancy.

Rest when you can – this is something I couldn’t ignore. There were days when I got up at 7 and needed a nap at 10. I was so lucky to work from home! Rest, rest, rest. You won’t get much when the baby comes. I wasn’t able to, but make a rule of not going out after 7 too often, that would have been so awesome. (I haven’t yet learnt to properly stand up for myself, maybe one day I’ll master this).

Keep walking – I did my absolute best to keep exercising. Sometimes I couldn’t, other times I managed 20 minutes (something I continued until my last day of pregnancy, and for which I’m thankful for).

Eat little and often – this is something that’s natural to my metabolism, but I found that eating less amounts, more often helped. If I had food in my tummy, but not too much, I was less prone to nausea and I had more energy.

Find your Shapes – find that food that helps your tummy when you’re nauseous. At first, what helped changed weekly. But after a while Shapes (small, flavoured crackers) became my go-to. I must have gone through a dozen boxes in my first trimester!

I’m sure there’s many more things that help, have you any suggestions?

Things They Didn’t Tell Me

Having a baby is a constant barrage of new experiences. From learning you’re pregnant to the first almost full night’s sleep in months there are millions of things to learn. If I choose to do it again, there’s a lot I’ll change with the power of knowledge.
Here’s a few things I’ve learnt that they didn’t tell me:
  • The beginning of your pregnancy can feel like the beginning stages of your period (therefore you keep thinking it’s coming, when it’s not).
  • Nothing can prepare you for the fatigue you suffer in the first trimester (not even having chronic fatigue for years).
  • They say the second trimester is the “golden” trimester – they lied. (The fatigue didn’t recede and the pain increased with my size from week 24.)
  • It’s not discomfort, it’s pain.
  • Labour is not always made up of contained plots of pain that slowly increases in intensity. You can have severe, unrelenting backache the entire labour, in addition to the contractions (which can start with a bang at 5 minutes apart).
  • Labour is not necessarily the worst part. After 24 hours the baby begins to scream. And doesn’t stop. You need to produce milk for this tiny dictator.
  • You need to care for the baby in between running to the bathroom in order to deal with the profuse bleeding (they didn’t exaggerate about that) and hope the alkalising stuff worked so that your poor stitches don’t burn – on almost no sleep.
  • Breastfeeding DOES hurt. (And. although you will be judged, choose what works for you and your baby, we have choices now, so use them – a fantastic piece of advice from my midwife)
  • It’s so so so hard to smile and nod at unwanted advice, particularly when it’s to feed your baby -who is actually desperately windy.
  • Your stitches, while healed after several weeks, will still ache when you’re tired. Which is almost all of the time.
  • How gobsmacked you will be when your small tyrant, who kept you up most of the night, smiles properly for the first time.
  • There are no words that can describe how you feel when your baby begins watching you for sustained periods and responds to your smiles, words and touch.

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I am so in love with my boy. I can’t believe he is mine! But I am in no rush to replicate the process!

Week 37

One of the struggles of Fibromyalgia that tends to stick with me, are the times when my brain is willing but my body is not. Patience is not easy to cultivate. Especially when you know that the fog caused by the pain and fatigue can be waiting to take you out next. 

I have so much I want to achieve and so little means!

As I near the end of my pregnancy, I have had to reduce my activities and increase my resting. Not so much by choice, my back has made it near impossible to keep going. 

For now we are in a waiting game. I have been plagued by period-like pains in my lower back and have had some spotting in the past couple of days. I don’t feel like doing anything, but resting is frustrating. 

I have finished washing the tiny baby clothes for him to wear immediately, made his bed and bought the last of the essential items.

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Now baby is welcome any time!