Monday, June 11, 2012

The price I paid

Last night, II was asking why I insist upon walking with an injured foot. He would prefer I rest and let it heal. I explained to him yet again that it's not so much I want to walk, but I MUST walk. Walking is the only thing I can do to help my asthma beyond following the doctor's orders and taking lots of asthma meds. Not only can I walk to help, but it's working. Since I started walking, I have been breathing better than I have in years. I am simply not willing to lose the progress on my breathing, not even for an injured foot. So, I must walk to continue to rehabilitate my lungs and allow me to function in the hope that someday it will assist me in reclaiming what I lost of my health in this journey.

In the midst of this discussion, I mentioned to II that a long-time friend announced last week she is pregnant with number 9. She is one of the few quiverful friends who didn't completely disown me when I left, but she has distanced herself dramatically from me in the years since I walked another path. She wants people to be happy for baby 9. She worries that people will be cruel. Granted, no baby deserves to be met with hatred, but I cannot bring myself to say something positive and uplifting to her.

This same friend has spent the last two pregnancies being followed by a Cardiologist. She's done at least three stints in ICUs in the last three years because she has developed significant heart complications. The doctors have flat-out told her that the stress of these preganncies is destroying her heart. If she does not stop having babies, she will kill herself. She knows this. She's processed this information with me repeatedly. Yet, she's embarking on her third high risk pregnancy whereby she will be required to be followed by a cardiologist and will likely end up in the ICU at some point.

Not only that, but she has decided she doesn't like giving birth the hospital, which if you are in quiverful long enough, you recgnize that is a massive trend in QF circles. Truly faithful women give birth at home and don't go to the hospital. However, my friend cannot afford a midwife. Her last baby was an unassisted homebirth. I have no doubt in my mind that she intends the same this time as well. That means, when she goes into cardiac arrest while giving birth, there will be no one there trained to even recgonize what is happening, much less perform CPR and call 911.

They have unrealible phone service, when her husband is even working and they can afford phone service in the first place. Their closest neighbors are far too far off to have a rapid rseponse to emergency personnel. Her husband has had unreliable employment for years now. They only have a house because his family purchased it for them, so the children would be in a better situation. I suspect her homeschooling amounts to not school at this point. I can't prove it, but I strongly suspect it and have for years.

I cannot say positive things to my friend. So, I have said nothing. I cannot stop the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that makes me feel this time might be her last time. This time might truly end in death. As I was examining qf and trying to decide if I truly wanted to continue in the paradigm, there was an increasing trend. QF mothers in their 30s tend to die in the circles that practice qf. They don't often die in childbirth, as that is the one time they are actually generally being followed by caregivers, even if they are unlicensed midwives. However, there is a growing trend in the qf circles of apparently healthy mothers in their 30s to die within 6-12 months of a grand-multi para birth (greater than five births by one woman). The reasons for their deaths are always varied and quickly suppressed. However, I personally knew dozens of women in the movement who died. Cancers, stroke and heart conditions were the three most common reasons they would stop thriving. The story was almost always the same. I fear my friend is close to joining those ranks. She's only 29-30 now. She started having babies in her late teens and I truly think by her mid-30s she will be another one lost to prove their faith in the Lord. I will not celebrate that.

It was the price I was paying that finally caused us to leave quiverful, before we abandoned the paradigm entirely. Last night, I actually tallied up that price.

After my third live birth (plus two miscarriages), my thyroid started to become unstable. It was then that my weight began to escalate at a frightening pace. I began to keep a food journal. I continued to do kickboxing and walked daily yet my weight only continued to rise and never fall. After my fourth live birth (still at two miscarriages) my thyroid went kaput. Even while tracking milk production for tandem nursing, my weight went up even faster. I thoought it was because I had stopped exercising, simply too exhausted to continue anymore. I still wasn't eating, but I wasn't moving anymore either. By the time they diagnosed my thyroid condition, I had gained 100 pounds, the same pounds I continue to fight to this day (it's easy to put on pounds when you are hypothyriod but the only "easy" way to get them off is to go hyperthyroid and I won't do that because of the risk to my heart in doing so).

After baby number five (and now up to three miscarriages), I was diagnosed with a clotting disorder. It was always there, but it also impacts my health significantly, since the hormones of pregnancy increase my clotting factors and increase all kinds of health risks. We tried to avoid baby number five because of the health risks, but we were still far enough into that world that the only "acceptable" birth control was Natural Family Planning, which failed miserably. After her, I showed signs of adrenal fatigue. My blood pressure was rising. I could not breathe properly anymore. I started taking vitamin D for very low levels, and high dose folic acid for my clotting disorder. I continued to battle problems with my thyroid that were not resolving well. I started treating my ADHD, as having that many children meant that a lifetime of coping skills would no longer work for me, no matter how hard I tried.

After that baby, we knew and fully understood that the price of continued births would be my health and possibly my death. We went through serious efforts to prevent pregnancy. I had not one, but three IUDs placed over the course of a year. The first was progesterone and dried up my milk. The second was expelled with an ovarian cyst. The third just failed miserably. I suffered a massive ovarian cyst. It was described as the size of a medium eggplant when it was finally removed. Until they went in, the doctor thought it was two cysts. It turned out it was one massive one, twisted to look like two on the ultrasounds. They had to filet me from hipbone to hipbone to remove the thing. It had already begun to rupture, which would explain the pain so severe that I was puking and screaming in the ER despite being on dilaudid every 45-50 minutes. That cyst began as the corpus callosum from L's pregnancy. When a pregnancy occurs after ovulation, the spot on the ovary where the egg was released stays in a small cyst until the placenta forms and takes over the hormones to maintain the pregnancy. It's supposed to resolve during the pregnancy. Mine just kept growing until it landed me in a medical crisis. I lost my right ovary and fallopian tube from that one, yet another sacrifice to the concept of quiverful.

In J's pregnancy, my blood pressure bit the dust finally. I was forced to go on blood pressure medications by the end of the pregnancy. So, to the thyroid meds, the ADHD meds, the folic acid, and the vitamin D, I added a blood pressure med. It wasn't the end of the price I paid, sadly.

It took nearly two years after J was born to restabilize my thyroid. It was never as functional as it had been before him though. Nothing brought back my ability to breathe though. When he was just over a year, I was formally diagnosed with asthma. I probably had it my entire life, but it reached a level that had to be formally diagnosed at that point. I added a rescue inhaler to my medications. In my last two pregnancies, I developed bizarre new allergies. It's not that surprising. It's indicative of an out of whack immune system. They strongly believe my thyroid issues began as Hashimoto's Disease in the first place, so allergies are consistent with the same processes in my body. I now have life threatening allergies to tree nuts and bananas (also latex since latex protiens are identical to banana protiens). I now carry an epi-pen and benadryl in a medical bag in my purse, along with my rescue inhaler.

In the last year, my asthma has reached a point where it was impossible to breath anymore, not merely just a struggle but life threatening. I am now on long-acting inhaled steriods for my asthma. I also display significant environmental allergies that trigger my asthma. I'm on an anti-histamine daily so I can breath well. When I made the decision to switch thyroid meds, I wanted to optimize helping support my thyroid health. Selenium can be vital for the body to absorb thyroid hormones, especially when you take biological hormones and not synthetics, as I have choosen this spring to do. So, I have added selenium to my medication regiment.

At 22, when we embarked upon this journey, I was in excellent health. I took antihistamines occasionally for environmental allergies and occasionally if I had not been exercising faithfully I would have to start slow and rebuild my tolerance to be able to breath sufficiently. That was it. Everything that has come has been a direct result of 13.5 years of continous pregnancy and breastfeeding, often at the same time, often tandem nursing. The price I have paid for that lifestyle is staggering. I'm lucky. I held onto my life, my sanity, my marriage, and I've reclaimed my self worth. Those in the lifestyle are fully aware of the price every woman in that world pays. To quiverful, a woman's only worth is her uterus. Paying the price she pays in every other way to worship her reproductive abilities merely proves her worth as a woman. If she dies, then she has proven herself the MOST worthy of the mothers. Plus, there are others willing to step into her shoes, to mother her orphaned children, and to carry on the mission of glorifying God and Husband by paying the price of worshipping the uterus.

I walked today, despite how hard it was, how long it took, and the fact that I need a walking stick to help me. I walked because I want to breathe, and just as importantly I want to reclaim as much of the sacrifice I made for that ill-concieved theology as I possibly can now that I see how insane it truly was. Walking is a slow step of fighting to give back to ME what shouldn't have been lost the way it was.

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