The birth of my first daughter heralded many changes in my life. All of a sudden, long, busy days out and late dinners were less attractive, if not downright horrible, with a tired, cranky baby to consider. Late nights, however, were unfortunately common as we struggled to manage a newborn with reflux.
Just as I thought I was getting a handle on motherhood, and could fit into my jeans again, things started to go wrong.
The first thing I noticed was the nightmares. I would wake in the night, terrified that our daughter was under the doona and suffocating. I would frantically pat the bed looking for her, and wake up poor hubby and bubby in the process. Bubby was invariably safely in her own cot, but night after night I would panic and search for her. I was getting nervous about leaving the house and would wait for hubby to come home rather than get the groceries without him.
I felt like I was losing my mind. I was so forgetful and I simply couldn’t think. Have you ever squinted and peered at some tiny writing and just not been able to read it? That’s what it was like trying to think. No matter how hard I tried, my brain would just not focus.
I started to have mood swings and cry a lot. I felt disconnected and depressed from the world. The daily grind of looking after a six month old baby was getting on my nerves and I felt like a failure. I was sure I was having trouble adjusting to being a stay at home mum instead of a career woman.
My heart was racing, and I was having palpitations. I got scared that my heart might not be able to cope. But on the upside, I was skinny. Any girl is happy as long as she’s skinny, right?!?
Having thoroughly freaked myself out and self diagnosed myself with postnatal depression (thankyou, Google) I went to the doctor, expecting a prescription for antidepressants.
Instead, after sitting limply in a chair and bawling my eyes out to a doctor I’d never met before, he asked me to go for blood tests. When he suggested I might have thyroiditis, I was confused. I didn’t understand at that point what the thyroid does, and how it could account for all that I was going through. I didn’t know what to think. Should I be glad I don’t have a mental illness or upset that I had a disease?? That word, disease, really freaked me out. It sounded like a death sentence. I mean, no one likes diseases. No one wants a disease. No one can live happily with a disease, can they?
You know that your test results are dodgy when the doctor calls you and asks you to come in. That sort of courtesy call is no courtesy at all. I cried so much that I could hardly hear the doctor as he explained the medication I had to take. I asked for a specialist referral and also for confirmation that the medication was safe for breastfeeding. I was so scared I would hurt bubby, and almost lost the plot at the thought of not being able to breastfeed.
I ended up getting a referral for a specialist and also the number of the head pharmacist of a major hospital. I am so grateful that I was relentless in my search for information, and that the pharmacist and specialist were happy to speak to a frantic woman on the phone for an hour at a time.
My endocrinologist explained that I have an autoimmune condition called Graves’ disease. During pregnancy, my immune system was less active to ensure my body didn’t attack the baby. After pregnancy, the immune system is meant to reboot, but in my case, the system crashed, so to speak. Given that the thyroid controls your metabolic rate, the weight loss, palpitations and anxiety started to make sense.
I was now producing antibodies that attack my thyroid. This meant the thyroid gland was producing too much thyroid hormone. My body had turned traitor. There were three options – take medication to kill off the extra hormones in my blood, and hope for remission, cut out the thyroid or take radioactive iodine to kill part or all of the thyroid. Doors two and three involved taking thyroid hormone for the rest of my life. I chose door number one.
Even if I cut out my thyroid, I’d still have Graves’ disease. As an added bonus, it can attack the eyes, making you look like on one of those boggle eyed goldfish. Don’t laugh. Ok, laugh a little, but I’m serious here. The very thought of needing surgery so I can close my eyelids is somewhat disturbing. I examine my eyes daily, wondering if they’re popping out or not. If a watched pot never boils……..
It took me a while to reconcile with this new me. Starting medication helped – I hadn’t realised how much my thought processes had changed until I started to feel normal again. I felt confident, happy, and I could think again. But the biggest change was how I felt about my daughter. I’d always loved her, and tended to her every need, but it was like my heart just got bigger every time I saw her. I couldn’t hug and kiss her enough. I was desperate to make up for those weeks that I had been stressed out and disconnected. My love for her was suddenly fierce and complete.
Fortunately, after nearly a year, my Graves’ went into remission. I’ll never be free of this disease. It’s a part of me just like my dislocatable joints or my different sized feet.
Posted by kyliebaby22, 20th February 2013