Being that I am pregnant, the future has naturally been on my mind a lot lately. I used to be worried that having a child was irresponsible because what if I ended up in a wheel chair someday, how am I going to take care of my kid? Play soccer with them? Go on a hike? What will their quality of life be like if I can’t give those experiences to them or end up being a burden? And as I sit here with a general tingle in my legs and realize that is a valid concern that I should probably be at least prepared for, it isn’t my only option. I recently watched My Octopus Teacher on Netflix, and man did it hit home about the sacrifices we make for our children. (Look at me, getting all wise about motherhood and I don’t even have a child out of the womb yet.) Well, if I thought I was motivated before to seek out the best lifestyle and medical choices to optimize my mobility and mental health, you had better believe I am committed to a healthy me now. Having my first baby due in just a few short months I have a renewed sense of urgency, of passion to pursue the right path to make sure I can provide for and share life with my little one.
I have heard many times that MS symptoms often get better or go into remission when women are pregnant. This is because of those magical things called hormones, and also a naturally suppressed immune system. A pregnant body doesn’t want to attack the fetus, so sends some signals to tell the immune system to chill out for a while. I have found thus far that my symptoms are not completely gone and I’m left to decipher, as usual, what is an old lesion? What could be a new one? Symptoms seem to be occurring a little more, but not really increasing in intensity or persistence. Except, are they? Certainly no where near as bad as flare ups in the past (when my body was creating new scarring and actively munching away at myelin sheath around my nerves in my brain and spinal cord), when intensity went from a 4 to an 11 and became painful, and didn’t go away after a few hours but remained. Am I just exacerbating myself by simply being pregnant and tired? Stressing about getting ready for baby and what to do about work and oh yeah, the virus that is surging across the community I live in, and the world at large.
On a positive note, I am also told that MS symptoms tend to get better in the third trimester. Oh, good. I’m coming into the home stretch now, so maybe have a little more to look forward to besides that screaming, pooping bundle of absolute joy arrives. As a defense mechanism, I think I have been sort of mentally preparing myself for the worst – what if my kid is a serial killer? What if they just aren’t a good person? The age old, ‘what if I mess them up’ fear? And God forbid, what if something goes wrong and we don’t end up with a baby in our arms in February? Miscarriage or still birth are never off the table. While my husband was immediately kissing my belly and talking to the cluster of cells the day we found out we were pregnant, I was initially thrilled and then immediately a bit guarded. Best to not get too attached, right? Nah. I’m done with that. Nice try, brain. I took AP Psychology in high school and I know what you are trying to do. I’ve come to fully embrace what is about to happen. The idea of it anyway, because who the heck knows how it will actually all turn out. It would be earth shattering and heart breaking regardless if anything terrible were to happen, and as we get closer to the end of this pregnancy journey, I am finding myself more and more excited to get snuggles, share giggles, clean those dirty diapers and wipe boogers. Like, genuinely excited about donig more laundry with all those wittle pjs, tiny socks and puke soaked burp rags. I think my heart might just explode thinking about it. I want to be a caregiver, and give it my all. I want to be a momma. Then again, ask me later this Spring when I am sleep deprived and haven’t showered or had any adult contact besides my husband for an extended period of time 😉 Can’t wait!
Do I know exactly what will happen in the future? No. But the only way to guarantee it won’t be great, is to not even try. While uncertainty will always exist, I’ve come to realize a framework for life will at least keep you sane. With MS, it’s all about the roadmap. It’s why when I get tired or stressed, my symptoms get worse. It’s why I also try to avoid getting sick, because tired, stressed and or sick bodies fighting off infections can’t reroute to another nerve pathway around the scarred areas in my brain or on my spinal cord. The roadmap visual gives me something tangible to reach for when I have to make sometimes hard decisions that are what are best for me and my body at the time.
Not only is it unpleasant to feel numbness and tingling, each time I have to go through the guessing game I often speak of – is this an old lesion I can no longer work around? Or is it a sensation that is intensifying? Do I need to call my doctor and have more MRIs, more steroids? What if the steroids don’t fix it this time and this is permanent? The costs and side effects associated with such testing and medications are usually enough to persuade me to ride it out unless it is without a doubt painful and unbearable. Sometimes the emotional piece is the hardest. Sure my legs are tingling, that would be one thing to be able to comprehend and accept. What is scary is knowing that despite all my best efforts on every level, that I might have a form of MS that doesn’t respond to treatment, preventative or otherwise. That this will get worse. I just don’t know.
But the roadmap gives me hope. As doctors and the best minds out there continue to learn more about MS and how it functions, I am encouraged by this visual. This image gives me something to work on – if I know the incredible human body can compensate and make up for its roadblocks (the scars), I have a goal. Get around those damn road blocks. I don’t have control over everything. But there are some things within my scope of power. I can learn a new language to help create more neuro pathways, eat foods that don’t inflame, but nourish my body – especially things that build up and can help repair myelin and my nervous system. I have to at least try! If not for myself than for the life inside me right now. I’m no surprise quite focused on growing this little alien right now, but realized today with a sense of urgency that it is not selfish to continue to take time and resources to work on healing me. Because how can I be the best mamma I can be, without first taking care of myself?
Wish me luck.