Trying his best to stay on my lap despite the large baby bump pushing him out of the way
PART 2: How fibromyalgia prepared me for pregnancy
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my concerns regarding how my body would react if I became pregnant. Unfortunately, it seemed the medical profession was once again lost at sea when it came to giving advice on this subject. And, as I stated in Part 1, my fiance and I wanted a baby. So armed with the knowledge that my fibro could stay the same, or get worse, or potentially *fingers crossed* go into remission while pregnant, we realised the only thing we could do was move forward and deal with whatever my body was going to throw at us.
Sitting here now at 35 weeks pregnant, I can gladly report that two things have become abundantly clear over the last 8 months. The first is that my body has in fact played relatively nicely thus far. The second is that having fibromyalgia actually prepared me quite well for many of the changes that pregnancy brings.
1. Fibro playing nice?
Yes, it’s true. Despite my earlier beliefs on the subject, it turns out that my body and my fibromyalgia can actually play nice sometimes. While I certainty haven’t gone into remission, being pregnant has helped maintain my pain at a more consistent, stable level.
Take for example my legs. Or more precisely my knees, the bane of my existence since one fateful day (10 January 1997 to be exact) when they decided that 14 years of service was enough. More doctor, physio, podiatrist and specialist visits than I could ever recall as well as more surgeries than I care to recall and they still refuse to play nice. One thing they do appreciate is a daily walk. Given a thirty minute walk every morning (okay, okay, 5 mornings a week) they generally agree to behave themselves – aka maintain a consistent pain level and only rise if I overwork them in other areas such as standing, stairs, exposing them to cold temps etc etc.
Anyway, despite still sounding like temperamental toddlers, while I maintained this schedule my knees continued to hold up their side of the bargain. Give the walking away for 3 or more days and my knees would remind me of the strength of their wrath in no uncertain terms. I must say this arrangement worked well for all concerned until the dreaded morning sickness kicked in. Small aside – I don’t know who came up with the term “morning sickness” but it was clearly not someone who has ever been afflicted by it. Something along the lines of The 24 Hour a Day, 7 Day a Week Never Ending Worst Hangover Not Even Your Scariest Nightmare Could Imagine seems much more appropriate. And so, somewhere amongst the nausea and the dizziness and the vomiting and the vomiting and the vomiting, my walking routine was flushed down the toilet along with the dry crackers, the apple cider vinegar and every other home remedy my fiance desperately thrust upon me in the hope of curing my “morning sickness”.
Somewhere around 3 to 4 weeks after the onset of the aforementioned vomiting, my knees realised they had not been taken out for their usual morning strolls. Usually this kind of neglect would call for a full blown mutiny on the part of said knees. The union would have been notified and a stop work action instituted before the end of week 1. This time around however, no such measures were taken. The only consequence for my failure to uphold my end of the bargain was a slight increase in pain, 3 weeks after the fact. Huzzah!
2. I’ve already got this
The second thing that soon became clear is that having fibromyalgia prepared me for pregnancy in ways those without chronic pain could not understand. Because of this I have been better able to manage the side effects that come along with pregnancy much easier than other expectant mothers I have spoken to.
Just a few of the fun extras that generally come hand in hand with pregnancy are a changing body, pain, fatigue and insomnia. Really pregnancy, is that all you’ve got? Let’s break these down.
- Changing body: When you gain 12 kg (26 lbs) within a few months of being diagnosed with fibro, you quickly learn to deal with your body issues. As someone who had never really struggled to loose weight, this new body and its limitations took some getting used to. As did my changed feelings towards my body and its effect on my self esteem. I eventually lost the extra weight but not before realising (being expressly told by my pain specialist) that (1) the extra weight did not really matter and (2) loosing the extra weight should not be my immediate priority.
- Pain: Well, come on now, this has to be the easiest side effect of pregnancy for someone with chronic pain to manage. In my case, I’d been dealing with chronic pain for 23 years before I became pregnant. Yes, some of the pain caused by pregnancy is different to what I am used to (e.g. piriformis syndrome) but the tools needed to manage that pain are the same. Those tools are something most expectant mothers have to learn as they progress through their pregnancy and 9 months is such a short amount of time in which to do this. Me on the other hand, I came to this pregnancy with the necessary pain management tools already in use.
- Fatigue: “You don’t know what the word tired means until you’ve been pregnant.” “Tired doesn’t even begin to describe it.” At first I was surprised to hear phrases like this from women who know I have fibromyalgia but I guess it just shows how little they know about the condition. Yes, pregnancy does bring with it fatigue, not simple tiredness but the I’m sitting on the toilet at work, my eyes are closed, I can’t open them, I can’t get up, I know there’s only 1 hour to go but can’t make it through kind of fatigue. But this kind of fatigue is nothing knew to a person with chronic pain. It’s something we deal with on a daily basis. In fact, at its worst, this kind of fatigue can render a person with chronic pain bed bound for weeks, months, even years at a time.
- Insomnia: Pregnant women call it insomnia because they are unable to sleep. Those with chronic pain call it painsomnia because we are unable to sleep due to the level of pain we are experiencing at the time. I have gone months on end of waking at 2am courtesy of the pain in my legs, back, neck, jaw (take your pick!) and being unable to get back to sleep despite trying every trick in the medical books.
So there you have it, the fibromyalgia girls guide to pregnancy (hey, that sounds like the title to my first best selling book!). If you have fibromyalgia or another form of chronic pain and are thinking about pregnancy I can’t tell you how your body will react. What I can tell you however is that I was already prepared for so many of the symptoms/side effects that pregnancy brings as I have been managing them for years.
Oh and who could forget baby brain? Only someone who already has fibro fog I guess!