Today: Just when I feel like I’m doing better, it hits me like a ton of bricks. The emotions and feelings of loss overwhelm me at the most awkward times – at my desk at work, while watching a Disney movie with my daughter, or, most recently, in the middle of a party hosted by people I had never met.
Rewind to May 2016, when I had a laundry list of symptoms. Since having HELLP, I have become keenly aware of anything that is not functioning properly within my body, and I do not hesitate to tell my healthcare providers about it. My symptoms were totally weird and random and I had no idea which of my three doctors to call. My blood pressure had remained high since giving birth to my daughter in November of 2015, 160’s/90’s. My emotions were out of control – I was tail-spinning in to a pit of despair and self-loathing that I didn’t know if I would be able to climb out of. My hair was falling out in giant clumps, and I was unable to stay away for longer than a few hours at a time, despite the fact that my daughter is now on a pretty awesome sleep schedule for her age. I was exercising and following a plant-based diet but was unsuccessful in losing any weight. But the weirdest thing I was experiencing were these bizarre, red, hot-to-the-touch blotches on my neck and chest that appeared every day in the early afternoon and lasted until the evening. I was six months post-partum but my c-section incision still hurt most of the time. It was healed, was not infected, but felt sore to the touch.
I was waiting to see Dr. Neeley (my endocrinologist), list of symptoms in hand (one of the symptoms was ‘forgetfulness’, so I had to write everything down). When she walked in, the absolute worst thing I could have never imagined happened – Dr. Neeley was seven months pregnant. And I, of course, burst in to uncontrollable sobbing when I saw her. She was totally taken aback, and she put her hand on my shoulder to comfort me. I could tell she felt awful. The only way I can explain my reaction is that I was completely not expecting to see my doctor, who is older than me, with three children, come waddling in very pregnant, to listen to me gripe about my post-partum issues. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I was instantaneously jealous.
She examined me and looked over my list of symptoms. She told me she had to do a full blood workup, but that she could already tell my thyroid was very full and that I was going to need to be on some sort of dosage of thyroid meds. Five vials of blood and four hours later, I got a phone call from Dr. Neeley herself saying that my thyroid was no longer functioning and that I needed to start the meds immediately to avoid further damage to my body. She called me from her cell phone to make sure that I picked up my meds from the pharmacy on my way home from work.
So, now it’s July, and I’ve been on my thyroid medicine for almost three months. Most of my symptoms are resolved (my hair is growing back and looks terrible, but at least it’s not falling out by the handful anymore!).
I went to a party this past weekend, and I saw a friend who I hadn’t seen since I had Ruby. She is a speech therapist and specializes in little ones, and knowing that Ruby was two months premature, she asked me what all I knew about speech development for Ruby. It was an innocent question, and I realize now that she asked it in order to reassure me, but I began to feel myself sink when I started thinking about Ruby’s development. It is such a gigantic source of stress for me. I worry constantly that she is going to have challenges beyond what her other mom and I know how to handle. I worry that she will never walk, and I worry that she will never talk. I worry that I will not be able to provide her with whatever care she might need.
All of this flashed through my mind in one second, and I started to cry. My friends and my wife believe I might need some therapy . . . but I just can’t bring myself to make the call. I just want to be able to resolve this on my own. I thought if I got my body corrected physically that the emotional part would correct itself too. But now I’m starting to wonder if that’s true. I’ve definitely never been the type to burst in to tears at a party, but I’m so stressed all the time. Is this just a part of being a parent, or is there something deeper going on? Is the trauma of having HELLP and having to deliver my baby early taking some kind of long-term emotional toll on me? I’m still trying to decide.