In the beginning… (Part 1)

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“…God created the heavens and the earth.  The first planets and stars, the first lakes and land masses, the first plants and animals, the first man and woman–all these things came into being.  And it was all good.  And nine months later, the world’s first woman became the world’s first mother.  And that was very good!”  No, that is not Biblically documented, but are you really going to argue that with me??  🙂  And God endowed that first mother, and all mothers since then, with special powers that allow them to nurture and care for their children when they were sick without becoming sick themselves.  God gifted that first mother, and all mothers since then, with special “Mommy immunity” that keeps all mommies protected from bugs while showering their sick children with caring kisses and healing hugs, that guards all mommies from germs while cleaning up assorted infectious bodily fluids, and that safe-guards every mother against sickness while giving up sleep in the middle of the night to give out medicine to a feverish child….  God knew that mothers would need to preserve their health to do their jobs well….

Everyone knows that moms don’t get sick!  I’m a mom–I don’t get sick!  I can’t get sick!  I won’t be able to be a good mom!  But wait–I did get sick.  And I’m still sick.  Or at least I’m not yet “back to normal.”  I’m not yet cured.  But I’m getting there.  I am on the path to healing.  And there are days when I am even reluctant to say that I am not well….  Undoubtedly, there are things in my former “Mom Job Description” that I am not currently able to do, but I have realized that there are other things that I am actually doing better, things that weren’t even necessarily on that former “job description” but that I am coming to understand as fundamentally important to my “success” as a mom….but more about that at a later point!….  In the meantime, I want to share that the 4+ months I’ve been struggling with this illness have been full of ups and downs, full of challenges, for sure, but also–yes, really–gifts.  It has been, and continues to be, not simply an illness to “get over” but, truly, a journey of discovery.  And it is one that I’d like to share with anyone who is interested.  If that is you, then read on!  🙂

In this first post, I will try to describe how this all started.  It certainly didn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary at first, and I think we all assumed it would be one of your common, everyday, 24-hour bugs.  Turns out we were all a little off on that one….!

It all started on Sunday, September 22, last Fall (2013).  I’d been feeling fine up until that morning, with the exception of some ongoing discomfort in my neck/left shoulder.  I’d seen several medical care providers in the 6-7 weeks prior to that, including a physical therapist and a chiropractor, and taken a variety of medications in an attempt to ease that pain.  Nobody seemed quite sure what was going on, though, and none of the treatments or medications really seemed to be doing much for it.  Initially there was some thought that some of the symptoms that I began to experience that September morning had been brought on by some of the medications I’d been taking for my neck, but it has since come to seem that that was NOT the case.  Rather, it seems more likely (although still so hard to believe!) that the timing of the two was a very freaky coincidence…. As a side note, the neck/shoulder pain has since resolved (with no further medical treatment), so I am going to leave those pieces out of the story from here forward!

So, on Sunday morning, Sept. 22, I got up, and before beginning to get ready to go to church, I took my morning pills with a big glass of water, as I do every morning.  Almost immediately, I felt a hint of queasiness.  A sudden feeling of something being not quite right in my stomach.  It wasn’t bad enough that I felt like I would need to stay home from church, but it was noticeable enough that I said to my husband as we drove over, “Just so you know, my stomach doesn’t feel quite right.”  A look of concern immediately crossed his face, and I knew what he was thinking: “You’re not going to throw up in the car, are you??”  He claims he really was concerned for my well-being….:)  Either way, I reassured him, “I don’t feel like I’m going to throw up, but it’s just not quite right.  Like I drank too much water too fast.”  “Okay…,” he said, trying to discreetly look around for some sort of plastic bag should it be needed….or maybe I imagined that….  I kind of assumed the feeling would eventually just go away.  Ever the optimist….

It didn’t.  😦  The “not quite right” feeling continued to get worse over the course of the day, and by 8:00 that evening I was on the couch (unheard of in its own rights!), feeling exhausted and pretty nauseous.  I fell asleep right where I laid, and around 11:00 that night Chris came over and gently woke me up, suggesting that maybe I wanted to get up and go to bed!  I stumbled in to our bedroom and into bed, not knowing at the time that that is where I would stay for most of the next three days!  The next morning (Monday) I got up, still feeling pretty queasy, but I knew I needed to help get my husband and kids out the door to work and school.  As a stay-at-home mom, that’s what I did!  Somehow, that morning, the kids missed the bus (that’s what can happen when Mom is not quite fully functional!), and as I was wandering around looking for my car keys (the brain fog had already set it…), I realized that I needed to quickly get myself to the bathroom, which I managed to do…just in time.  Ugh.  I then called Chris at work and said, “I can’t find my car keys….Do you have any idea where they are? [I didn’t really expect him to!]…and oh, by the way, I just threw up.”  Ugh again.  I never did find my keys that morning, nor would I have felt like getting in the car and driving the kids to school even if I had.  So I called a neighbor, who was (fortunately) able and (graciously) willing to take them.  I got them out the door, and then collapsed back into my bed….where I stayed for the rest of the day, except to get up to pee–which was kindly infrequent, since I was not eating or drinking anything!

Thankfully, I did not throw up again.  But man oh man, did I feel nauseous.  And exhausted.  And just plain awful!  More nauseous, more exhausted, more awful than I have ever felt in my life.  And no–lest you have begun to wonder, and you would not be the first–I was not pregnant!  The same thought occurred to my husband (although not to me!  Brain fog, again?  But also, this was somehow a very different, much more awful, kind of nausea and exhaustion than I remembered experiencing during any of my three pregnancies….).  Thankfully(!), both a home pregnancy test and later a blood test ruled that out.  🙂  (although as Chris said, “That would certainly have introduced a different kind of stress, but at least we would know what was causing all of this!”)  But getting back to what was going on:  I was not eating, I was not drinking, I was not doing anything but sleeping.  And feeling awful.  I had a headache, too.  A persistent headache.  Chris came home from work later that morning to check on me…and he didn’t go back to work until Thursday!  It was crazy.  As you may recall, I’m a mom!  I’ve got three kids (and a husband…) who need me!  I don’t get sick!  I don’t stay in bed!  I don’t sleep for days at a time!  What was going on?

Tuesday morning Chris took me to Urgent Care, and the doc there couldn’t really find anything specific that was wrong, nothing on which to pin the nausea, the headaches, the exhaustion.  I’d tried a pretty strong anti-nausea medication already, but it hadn’t really touched the nausea.  She gave me a prescription for something else, but upon reading that one of the possible side effects was hand tremors that could potentially be permanent, I decided not to try it.  !!  We went back home, and I went back to bed and back to sleep.

When the kids came home from school that day, they came in and sat on the bed and talked with me.  My daughter brought some homework in and worked on it on the other side of the bd; my son brought his cello in and practiced it; my other son brought me an orange popsicle.  Such sweet (and concerned?) kids!  🙂  And my husband became a wonderful nurse and caregiver, chipping ice for me to suck on, mixing up Gatorade and chicken broth, giving me jello and saltines as I felt ready…and worrying for both of us.  He’d never seen me like this in all of our 15+ years together, and it was kind of a scary thing.  I hardly had the energy to get out of bed.  For several days.  Finally on Thursday I told him he could go back to work.  I was just going to sleep all day anyway!  And I had good friends I could call on if necessary.  He did, reluctantly, but feeling like he needed to get caught up on a few things.  I suspect he also needed a break!  A distraction, if you will, from the uncertainty and chaos that had overtaken our lives.  Chris had not only been taking care of his uncharacteristically sick, exhausted wife, but he had also taken on full responsibility for taking care of our kids!  With no warning and no “instructions”!  Not that he had not been involved at all before, but being sort of involved and kind of aware is wayyyyyy different from being fully involved and completely responsible!  “I spent from 4:00 to 9:00 in the kitchen last night!!” he said to me one morning.  “Welcome to my life!” I thought…and smiled on the inside.  🙂  Yes, it was “good for him,” but it was still a very stressful time….

By the end of the week, the nausea and the headaches, thankfully, had gone away.  I had sent out an email that Thursday to my Bible study and some local friends (and far-off siblings!), to let them know what was going on and to make a desperate plea for some help with meals.  “Cereal for supper again??”  🙂  Not surprisingly, several of them had quickly replied, and I didn’t have to worry about my family not being well-fed in my “absence” (from the kitchen!).  And I wasn’t spending all of my time in bed any more, either.  I was actually able to get up…and move out to the couch!  It felt like tremendous progress to not be in bed all day every day, and to “advance” to splitting my time between the bed and the couch, but I still was not spending much time anywhere else.  Chris was still doing all of the work at home in addition to his day job at the Lab.  The kids were being picked up from school by friends, and generally hanging out at their houses until 5:00 or so each evening.  I  was not only not cooking–I was also not doing laundry, not sweeping the floor, not going to the grocery store, not helping with homework, not doing the dishes, not helping with bedtime, (not showering!)….NADA!  Not that those things were the only things I was doing before (not even close!).  Nor are they critical for anyone’s survival!  But certainly some of those things are helpful in the smooth running of a home.  But I just didn’t have the energy.  I just wanted to be lying down, whether in bed or out on the couch.  I just wanted to close my eyes.  I continued to be exhausted.  And no one knew why, or when I would get better.

So…on Friday morning of that first week (yep, this is still way back in September!), I called in the troops:  I called my mom, in upstate New York, whom I’d been keeping well-apprised of what was going on.  “Do you suppose…” I asked her, “there’s any way……you could maybe come out here to help us?……like maybe next week??……..Maybe I’ll be better by then [HA!] but if not, it would really be helpful to have you here….”  She had already been looking at her calendar, answering the question before I even asked it…and she arrived on Sunday for the week.  Thanks, Mom.  🙂  And thus it began…..

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