The recent post I wrote about my thyroid issues, well that wasn’t the whole story. Of course it wasn’t. Is it ever really the full story?
My thyroid went out of whack — the levels plummeted — as some of you might recall and I was prescribed stronger pills. For a couple of months I was feeling horrible, but within a day of taking my higher dosage, I was already on the upswing.
But my thyroid was just part of the issue. Maybe I shouldn’t call it an issue. It is more of a body-health-life change. Yes, let's call it that.
Here's the rest of it — I am pregnant.
So while I’ve been sluggish and hormonal and not quite myself lately due to that finicky little gland in the throat called the thyroid, the bigger story is that it didn’t just randomly dip one day; it did so because my husband and I are expecting baby No. two and thyroid changes are extremely common in pregnancy.
While testing thyroid levels is not part a regular part of the pregnancy blood work women undergo, I believe it should be as two out of every 100 women develop thyroid disorders during this time.
My levels were impacted with our first baby so I can understand why you might be wondering why I didn't recognize the signs a little more quickly this time around. I am wondering, too. But in my defence, I mistakenly thought my fatigue was linked to typical first trimester woes.
As the safety gate of when a woman can reveal her pregnancy has lifted (I am now more than three months along), I am finally able to give you a more complete view of my recent health issues.
So I am here to stress the point that if you’re pregnant and something doesn’t feel right (yes, I know, very few things feel ‘right’ when you’re growing a small human inside your belly) get your thyroid checked. Better still, ask your doctor to check your levels even if you’re the poster girl for the perfect pregnancy. The test is quick and easy yet important and here’s why:
According to the What to Expect When You’re Expecting website, “Untreated or uncontrolled thyroid conditions have been linked to an increased risk of preeclampsia, placental abruption, premature labour and stillbirth."
"Because thyroid hormones are crucial to fetal brain and nervous system development, uncontrolled hypothyroidism — especially during the first trimester — can affect the baby’s growth and brain development," the site continues.
Well, there you have it folks — the bigger picture (or, as is this case here, the bigger belly) and a reminder from the frontlines about the importance of listening to your body, acting on what it's trying to tell you and booking those extra doctor's appointments even if it's the last thing you feel like doing.
Read more posts by Tanya Enberg: 10 Signs You Need to Get Your Thyroid Checked, Motherhood Changes the Core of Who You Are and Is It Ever OK To Discipline Somebody Else's Child?
Let’s just cut the crap right away, shall we?
For every doe-eyed mom claiming she feels absolutely terrific post-delivery as she lovingly caresses the pink, pudgy cheeks of her newborn baby, there are hundreds of others who, like me, were frazzled, ripping their hair out, and wearing heavy under-eye baggage for months.
We are the ones truly shell-shocked by the horrors of newborn reality—the crying and sleeplessness, the sudden snappiness between the very in-love partners who created this miracle creature, and the lack of time to do anything short of taking a pee.
Consider this a how-to guide for what not to do when visiting a zombie mom in this fragile state. I could’ve used this when our son was born. I would’ve sent it to every single person who wrote or called asking, "When can I come hold the baby?" Hold the baby? Really? That’s your best offer? Honey, honey, honey, you’re going to have to do better than that.
When I was first wrangling our wrinkly-skinned, eight-pounder, I was barely staying afloat in a treacherous sea of unknowns. For instance, my gut told me I didn’t want to see another human being unless they were visiting to a) feed me, b) not give me any shreds of advice, or c) send me away for a nap as they miraculously calmed our colicky child.
New moms don’t need someone to pop by and hold the baby. They need help. Blood, sweat, and tears kind of help.
How can you help, you ask? Good question. From the trenches to you, these are my top eight ways for making life easier for a new mama.
1) Give the poor woman a break! Make your friend a meal or, even better, stock her freezer up with pre-made eats. Do not, under any circumstance, arrive empty-handed and expect the woman who just pushed out a watermelon-sized human being to be your hostess. This happened to me. No joke. It sucked.
2) Bring your love, but for heaven’s sake, leave your ‘sage’ parenting advice at the door. From grandparents and friends with children to friends without kids and nosy strangers on the street, when a woman has a fresh baby in tow, suddenly everyone is an expert. Guess what? All that unsolicited advice is annoying and, in most cases, unwanted. Put a lid on it.
3) Bring a pampering treat. Instead of showing up with yet another onesie, consider arriving with a small present for the mama whose every source of pampering and leisure—including five-minute showers—has been abruptly flushed down the toilet amid a cross-fire of round-the-clock feedings. Some homemade muffins, store-bought cupcakes, or a bottle of (no, not booze) delicious smelling bath suds would be nice.
4) Don’t expect lively banter. If you can imagine a car being drained of all its gasoline and then being expected to undertake a cross-country road trip all uphill, that gives you an idea about the extreme exhaustion that comes with motherhood. When I became a mom, I didn’t have the guts to turn visitors away, yet I resented many of them crowding my space, overstaying their welcome, and expecting me to chat like old times, while offering them coffee and snacks. Keep visits short and sweet.
5) You want to see the post-baby glow, do you? Well go stare at shiny stock photos to get your fix of ideal motherhood bliss. The refreshed image of mom doting over her perfect little newcomer is about as mythical as the B.C. Sasquatch. Rare sightings of this large, hairy creature are reported, few people really believe them. In fact, I’d have an easier time believing in a Sasquatch than fresh-faced poster gals in new mom ads, which frankly irritate the hell out of me.
6) Allow mom to gripe. Yes, the recent arrival may look like the perfect TV-baby sleeping peacefully in her crib when you arrive, but when mom needs to vent about the marathon obstacle course she is currently on or her struggles with her fussy baby, by all means, let her vent and generously offer your sympathy. Never ever, under any circumstance, look down at the baby and say these words: "I don’t believe it—he/she is an angel. He/she would never do that!" In retrospect, I wish I'd kicked those people out of the house straight away.
7) While we’re on the topic of what not to say, ditch the whole, "Is he/she sleeping through the night?" question, will ya? No, he/she is not. Anyone who tells you their newborn is enjoying eight-hours of straight slumber is probably lying and most definitely not feeding their newborn enough. Trust me, nobody wants to hear about how your little Amber or Jake began sleeping through the night at three weeks of age. Stuff it.
8) I would’ve given my right foot to hear the magic words, "I’ve got this," in my darkest hours after trying every trick I’d read in every book to get our child to nap and/or stop crying. Imagine this—a trusted friend or relative coming over and putting no expectations on you. This person is only there to give you some "me time," during which you can do whatever the heck you want—nap, sleep, chow down like you’re at an all-you-can-eat buffet, or stare at the walls blankly—as they look after your beloved child for a precious hour or two. Next time someone you care about has a child, remember these words: "I’ve got this."
Baby + Toddler + Coffee: Is This What Your Life Looks Like?
From preconception to the teen years—a hysterical visual journey through motherhood.
During the past couple of months, I’ve been stuck in a frightening state of melancholy. It was as though the lightbulb of my brain had been dimmed and, sometimes, like it had been switched off completely.
All of my natural, joy-inducing remedies—endorphins from running and working out, smoothies packed with nutritious goodness, reading and relaxing, playing with my son, and walking the dog—did nothing to lift the grey, filmy layer that seemed to be covering the sunnier parts of my brain. I was in a deep fog and my inspiration was lost somewhere in the thick mess of it all.
I blamed the weather. The long, hard winter had taken its toll on my spirits, causing the onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder, I figured. Somewhere in my being, however, I knew that couldn’t be all of it, yet I couldn’t put my finger on the culprit.
One moment I was laughing big and spontaneously dancing around our kitchen with our toddler, and then I flatlined. A tidal wave of energy turned to a meek ripple.
There was the constant lethargy and inability to concentrate on any task for more than a few minutes at a time. I couldn’t write and was frequently getting sick with the flu, colds, and killer throat ailments that made it hurt to swallow. People noticed. Or at least I think they did. I wasn’t trying to hide my state of mind; I didn’t even have the strength to.
While I am not sure why it took me so long to connect the dots, I can only say that my thoughts were sluggishly moving along until one day the most obvious reason for my decline came to me—my thyroid.
I’d been there before.
When I was 22, I was diagnosed with thyroid disease after I’d slept for a 24-hour period, waking only to use the washroom.
To give you an idea of the importance of this smallish, butterfly-shaped gland residing in the front of the neck, when it is not functioning properly it can cause feelings of chronic fatigue, excessive sleeping, muscle weakness, slowed heart rate, depression, mental lethargy, impaired memory, weakened immune system, fertility problems, change in appetite, dry skin, and an intolerance to cold, among other issues.
According to the American Thyroid Association, the thyroid "regulates the body's metabolism—the rate at which the body produces energy from nutrients and oxygen—and affects critical body functions, such as energy level and heart rate. Although relatively small, it produces a hormone that influences every cell, tissue and organ in the body."
So, as you can see, it's a powerful little thing, this thyroid gland.
After years of successfully managing my thyroid, I give it little thought—that is until I couldn’t manage to shake the exhaustion and blues that had taken hold of me. I finally went to see my doctor to get blood work done.
A few days ago, her office called to say my levels had dropped and that I needed a higher dose of medication. I felt instantly relieved knowing the root cause of the severe doldrums that had left me listlessly struggling through the days.
Immediately, I started taking the new meds. It will take six weeks for them to level off in my system; however, I am already starting to recognize my old, cheery self again. My focus has improved, my smiles have returned, and here I am click-clacking away at the keyboard again.
June is Thyroid Month in Canada and a good time to take note of any of the symptoms I mentioned above and get your thyroid checked.
According to the Thyroid Foundation of Canada, an estimated 200 million people in the world have some form of thyroid disease. Recent studies have found that one in 10 Canadians may suffer from a thyroid condition and as many as 50 per cent are undiagnosed.
Though I feel foolish for not visiting my doctor sooner, I am thrilled to say that the lightbulb is back on and my brain is starting to shine again.
This morning my son and I danced in the kitchen for the first time in ages. We giggled and I felt alive. I can't tell you how much I've missed that person during these past months, or how happy I am to see her stepping back into the light.
Read more posts by Tanya Enberg, such as How We Can Learn Happiness from our Children and Daily Exercise is Essential for Health and Balance.