[This is part two in a three part series where I talk about living with a chronic illness. Please click here to read part 1 to get caught up!]
Bringing Ember home was not a joy filled experience like you may see in the movies when a family comes home from the hospital with a new baby. Her first few months were filled with pain, suffering, and fear. I was in pain from the delivery and the surgery. I was afraid to take care of her even though she was my third child. My pain was keeping me from doing everyday things like walking and lying down and now I had a little human who was relying on me all hours of the day.
My postpartum journey with Ember was one of the most painful and fearful times of my life. Not only was I suffering from back pain that was keeping me from walking, but I was experiencing a slew of other agonizing aches. I had debilitating headaches that would make me pass out from pain. There were times I remember being in so much pain trying to wait a few more hours before I could take any medication and the next thing I knew I was waking up without the memory of ever falling asleep. This is where the fear set in. I needed to care for this little baby, but I was passing out from pain. I made the couch my home and had her bassinet close, but sadly there weren't many cuddles in order to ensure she was always safe.
Then there were the muscle spasms; oh boy were these fun! The muscle spasms were in my head, neck and shoulders. They were so strong that my head and neck would actually move in a jerking motion as the muscles would tighten. I had no control over the jerking movement. I was so embarrassed about my lack of control over my muscles and hated being around other people when this was happening.
I didn't let people into our home or our life during that time. Those months felt long and lonely. I didn't leave the house and we didn't invite people over. The grocery delivery man became my only contact with the outside world besides social media. I caught up on some pretty useless and mind-numbing Netflix shows. My house was constantly messy because I physically couldn't care for it, nor did I have the motivation. Each day was a struggle to simply make it to bedtime. On top of everything I was going through, Ember was born in May which meant school was no longer in session and I was going through all of this pain with three kids in the house, one of them a newborn. My husband, Ryan, worked from home at the time, but he was starting a new business and gave as much support as he could while also juggling his own business.
I had many doctors appointments in the months after Ember was born and none of them seemed concerned about my pain long term. When I would talk with my doctors about my pain, I was told I needed to stay on a pain management plan, I needed to get some more rest, and I needed to hope that things would get better. I had been doing all of those things and I felt worse and worse with each passing day. Nothing was getting better from resting and medicating. I believe in God and the power of prayer and I believe that we have the power to make our lives fulfilling or choose to just get by. I wasn't going to just keep medicating and praying for healing while sitting on the couch doing nothing proactive. I needed to also take action.
I knew something needed to change, but I didn't know what. I knew I needed to be healthier, but I didn't know how. I knew I didn't want to live my life this way, but I didn't know in which direction I needed to go. I was so lost and most days felt like my sole purpose was to feed, clean, and clothe children all while suffering through unimaginable pain. Nothing more.
One thing I did know, thanks to the book of Jeremiah and more specifically the verse 29:11, was that God has plans to give me a hope and a future. I clung to the hope of a pain free future, even though it wasn't promised to me, and I started taking back control of my health. Instead of solely relying on what my doctors said, I started researching what I had gone through. I found out that I had experienced a postpartum hemorrhage, something that had never actually been shared with me. I had been told that I experienced "some bleeding" and that was it normal. Nothing about losing more than half of your blood supply and getting numerous blood transfusions is normal! I can't tell you how freeing it was to finally have a name for what I had been through. It provided clarity to some of the pains I was experiencing, but not all. It also gave me the knowledge to start asking the doctors the hard questions about my health and my recovery. Gaining knowledge about my condition was empowering, but the most impactful thing I did to take back control of my health was to start moving.
Everyday I made myself move just a bit even though it was physically and mentally draining. I started to feel a little better on the days I would move. Even if my extra movement for the day meant folding laundry for ten minutes and then passing out from a headache. Can you imagine a life where folding laundry is so exasperating that you pass out afterward? That was my life during those painful months and it was pure torture. Slowly I started to feel a little better, but there were major hurdles I needed to overcome before I could consider myself "healthy" again.
As I was starting to feel a little bit better, Ryan, my wonderful husband, decided it was time for me to step it up a notch. He had been working out at a local gym throughout our marriage and recently decided to try out a new one, with which he quickly fell in love. He came home one day convinced that I needed to start going as well. He tried so hard to convince me, here's how one of our conversations went...
Ryan: "You should come with me to the new gym, we do pull-ups, deadlifts, and heavy squats. It would be good for you."
Claras: "Good for me? I can't dress myself without pain right now, It would be good for you to keep your mouth shut."
Okay, so maybe that's not how the conversation went, but that's how I remember it. Was he insane?!? I couldn't even imagine setting foot in a gym when I couldn't control my head movements from all the pain I was experiencing. I had just started to feel a little better, I didn't want to push myself too far and end up hurting again. I was intimidated thinking about everything I would have to go through to get to the gym, but Ryan and something else kept pushing me towards it.
To be continued...
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