Monday, December 30, 2013

Pregnancy and Narcolepsy: A Tough Combination

I've been pregnant for almost 36 weeks. I'm not sure how to describe my experience with it. For the most part, it hasn't been too physically taxing.

In the first trimester I had an underlying nausea that made it tough for me to eat much. If I did want to eat anything, it was greek salad and cheese. I'd have some days where I was so exhausted I couldn't get out of bed. The second trimester was a little easier. The nausea (mostly) went away, but I still had occasional days where I was so dreadfully tired I couldn't move. One of those days was Wednesday, August 7, 2013 -- the last day where I could have had a chance to spend time with my mom before she suddenly passed away.

Yes, I wish I could have had that time with her, especially because I was told she was quite funny and energetic that day, but I remember very clearly how I felt. There was no way I could have managed it.

The third trimester started off with acid reflux and heartburn, two symptoms I have never before felt in my life. Now I live off of Pepcid Complete. My appetite has been non-existent for eight months, but in the last 3-4 days, I have finally been hungry!

Since I was 7 weeks pregnant, I've had to inject myself nightly with Lovanox, an injectible blood thinner. This is because, five years ago, I had numerous blood clots in my legs and all five lobes of my lungs. I was in the cardiac unit of the hospital for 5+ days before they finally released me. For me, this is one of the most difficult parts of my pregnancy.

Then, a few weeks ago, I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. This shocked me and quite a few other people since I am extremely active, thin, fit, and have only gained about 10-11 pounds my entire pregnancy. I was told that stress could trigger it (nah, I don't have any of that... I'm only dealing with the loss of my mother, moving in with my dad, unpacking, organizing his house, and preparing for baby). Regardless, as a result, I have to test my blood sugars four times a day by pricking my finger. So far, I am able to control my sugars with diet and exercise.

The stress I am controlling with prenatal yoga and gym-time.

At 36 weeks I will have to switch over to Heparin, another blood thinner that has a shorter half-life (they need to induce me at 39 weeks). Good news since it means I'm in the home stretch. Bad news because that means I have to now inject myself twice a day.... I am so entirely over this needle thing. I hated them to begin with, but having to stick myself, in my stomach, with a needle every day really wears on you.

I keep telling myself what my mother told me (she was diabetic): At least you get a souvenir at the end of this.

As bad as the needles are, the lack of sleep trumps.

See, I have mild narcolepsy that was triggered by stress in my last semester of law school. I don't fall asleep during the day; rather, my brain waves don't quite go in the right order when I'm sleeping at night and I suffer from EDS (Excessive Daytime Sleepiness). Laugh all you want at this, but my sleep is only 25% effective. My last good night's sleep was in October 2006.

It's a mostly controllable problem (usually with an extremely expensive orphan medication called Xyrem). I say mostly controllable because, best case scenario, I wake up 2-4 times a night instead of 6-8 times nightly. Ambien is a second choice drug. I can't take either one while pregnant.

As a result, I have slept horribly the entire pregnancy. I am constantly either tired or exhausted. People blame it on the pregnancy, the growing uterus applying pressure on my bladder, the growing of a human being, etc. All of that is true. But my fatigue is multiplied and people just don't get it.

Last night I woke up at 3am, 4:30am, 5:45am, and 6:30am. I woke up for one of my twice-weekly doctor appointment and cried from exhaustion. I lost control and cried again at the doctor's appointment, and that's when my midwife took pity on me. Even though it is a Schedule C drug, they seem to be concerned with the possibility of addiction more than a harmful effect on baby.

And I need sleep. If I go into labor being this tired, I'm not going to be able to have a natural childbirth, or much energy to do any pushing whatsoever. This level of tired isn't supposed to come about before the baby, only after.

People don't understand. They even joke around that baby is training me for when it'll be around, begging me for milk every 90-120 minutes around the clock. I don't find this to be funny, but maybe that's because I'm sleep deprived.

One thing I'd like people to know: THIS IS NOT PRACTICE. This is Narcolepsy.

The average American sleeps less than 7 hours a night. For me, assuming I sleep through the night (I don't), that means it feels like less than two hours of sleep. Each night.

Nothing in life is normal when you're overtired. You can't think, can't remember things, can't handle simple tasks as well, and you aren't any fun to be around. For the most part, I've gotten used to the lack of sleep, but I reached my limit. I'm not going to take it every night, but I'm sure hoping the Ambien will help - even a little. If not for my sake, then for my husband's and my baby's.

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