Last Thursday evening as we were getting ready for bed, I felt sick. My lower back ached, on the right side just around my hip, and I felt shaky and strange. We got into bed and I tried to ignore it and go to sleep. The pain doubled, then it tripled, then it quadrupled, and very soon I felt so much pain that waves of nausea washed over me. I got up and went into the bathroom, thinking that if I just threw up once or twice, the pain might subside and I could go to sleep. Something similar has happened the last two months, where I get abdominal pain that is so bad it makes me throw up, so I assumed it was a variation of that. But this pain grew much worse very quickly, and after trying to throw up a few times, I realized this was something else. I ran back into the bedroom and woke up my husband. It certainly isn’t the first time I’ve woken him in the middle of the night lately, but this time, he could tell it was worse than the usual pain.
Within a few minutes, I was close to fainting. We got the things we needed – shoes, keys, wallets – and I stood shaking by the door, afraid I was going to lose consciousness. I don’t remember much about the next hour – just pain and fear – but I know that I threw up violently in the car, all over myself, and I threw up again while the nurse was scrambling to get an IV in my arm in the ER. The nurse seemed pretty confident about what was wrong – my shaking, my inability to sit still and my throwing up were clear signs that I had kidney stones. I’ve never in my life experienced pain like that – pain that causes you to lose all control of yourself, pain that makes you wonder if you are actually dying. The CT scan confirmed that I had two kidney stones, one in each kidney, and they gave me shots for the pain as well as prescriptions and a referral to a urologist. Very routine for them – just a little bit devastating to me.
Since last week, I’ve spent a lot of time on a narcotic painkiller, waiting for the stones to pass. Today I confirmed with the urologist that they haven’t passed, and if they don’t pass in another week, I have to have my fourth surgery of the year. This surgery is a fairly simple outpatient procedure, but it does involve having a stent in my urinary tract for about 10 days, and the doctor told me “50% of people who have this say it drives them crazy.” After the luck I’ve had this year, I just have to assume I’m part of that 50%. So at the moment, I’m trying to pass the stones on my own, and in a week or when the pain becomes unbearable (whichever comes first), I will give up and schedule the surgery.
Another little kink in this whole situation is that I really do think this is related to my miscarriage – I’ve had IBS symptoms (which I’ve never had before) and IBS can lead to kidney stones. My theory is that my body reacted very badly to pregnancy hormones, creating a situation where I developed IBS, which then lead to a backup in my kidneys. I can’t really get a doctor to confirm this theory, but I think that’s largely because they don’t want to venture beyond their individual specialties and consider the bigger picture. The urologist did tell me that I am now at higher risk for kidney stones during pregnancy, and they can’t do a lot for me at that point, since pain meds are bad for the baby and surgery is out of the question.
So this makes me wonder a few things, like: is pregnancy just too hard for my body to cope with? If I do get pregnant, am I just going to spend 9 months in a special kind of misery? Would it be better to accept this now, cope with it and move on to adoption, or should I try to fight harder, go on a restricted diet, be very careful, and try against all hope to get pregnant and carry the baby to term? These are the kinds of questions I face – and what’s not captured in my very matter-of-fact description of this is just how agonizing and heartbreaking this feels for me. It is yet another moment when something that most of the population seems to be able to do easily – conceive, carry and give birth to a child – seems hopelessly beyond my reach, for reasons that no doctor has been able to fully explain to me. I do what they tell me I’m supposed to do, I get the surgeries they recommend, I follow their recommendations, and WHAM! Another unforeseen obstacle crops up to make things so much more complicated. What’s hard is that there is no over-arching medical condition that explains why I can’t do this – I’ve had a few doctors tell me “there’s no obvious reason that you can’t get pregnant and carry a child” and yet…it seems impossible right now. The pain, the deprivation, the sacrifice, the financial resources, the daily torture of testing myself, trying to stay calm, eating right, exercising and trying to be positive are just all combining in such a way that every day feels like a never-ending uphill battle. But I wonder if I just keep going, will it be worth it? How much longer should I fight? No one knows, and no one can tell me, so the question is more about “how much can I take?” I put a lot of pressure on myself to just keep on taking it, because I feel like I haven’t quite reached my limit yet….but sometimes I wonder if I am being too hard on myself and I need to recognize when the moment has come to throw in the towel and walk away.
I know better than to try and make decisions tonight. I know I need to just focus on getting better, and when the air clears and I can see the world around me a bit better, then I can think about what to do next. And I am desperately trying to be positive, which is not in my nature to do, but this situation has pushed me well beyond my own nature. Here’s what I think right now: maybe this is a blessing in disguise. Maybe by learning all these physical issues I have with pregnancy I can prepare my body better and therefore get through it with more resources at hand, or at least prepared with the knowledge of what I might suffer (which can be everything sometimes). Maybe dealing with these things now will save my life. I have to cling to those thoughts, because they keep me from drowning. And I find lately that I’m not comparing myself to others as much – I’m not bitterly noting how many people get pregnant without trying, how little they appreciate it and how easy it all seems for them. Doing that has been torture and it isn’t helping me – and I’m in so much pain tonight I just need to make it easier on myself. This is my story, this is the way it is going, and what happens to other people is not part of that.
Someday, I hope to be able to use what I’ve learned to help my own child with difficult things that might happen to her. I hope I’ve learned compassion from this experience, and I’ve learned how to survive both physical and emotional anguish and keep going. I think that might be the greatest gift I can give my child – it is what I wish I could get from members of my own family and what I lack the most in my life right now, so perhaps giving it to my child someday will finally heal me from the damage this experience is doing to me. That’s what I want, that’s what I hope for most. Let it be for something, you know? Let it give a child a greater chance in the world and a sense that her mother really, desperately loved her many months or years before she was even born.