Monday, January 31, 2011
Lyme Pregnancy: A Dad's Perspective
*(Above) This is my husband, Mike, with his baby boy.
It’s an early fall evening, 2008. Sara is staggering into the kitchen of our apartment, weaving, washed out with fatigue, and collapses into my arms. We sink to the floor. I hold her, unable to fix whatever has happened, has been happening.
What is wrong with me, she sobs.
The next years will be brutal, but she guts it out, and we learn to survive, even thrive, albeit with changed and changing definitions.
Fast forward to 2010. It is about 9am on a chilly December morning. I am playing with our 4 month old son, Wyatt. He’s a beautiful boy. He’s beating all of his milestones by weeks and in some cases months. He’s gaining weight. He’s growing. He’s Lyme free.
This little boy is not the offspring of a woman still battling the vicious aftermath wrought by a decade of untreated Lyme Disease. How could he be? He’s too strong, too happy, and too much a part of his world.
We’d been pregnant before. There was a short lived pregnancy immediately before the worst of the lyme symptoms. Before wheelchairs and months long stints laid out on the couch, sinking under waves of panic and neurological chaos.
Eighteen months or so down the road, miles of IV tubes and thousands of pills later, there was also a set of twins who either didn’t want to come to the party or couldn’t find the house.
Wyatt was the one that stuck around. Sara knew he would. Barely a day after we’d had the sex that started Wyatt, she called me at work.
This woman, I’ve learned, is connected in ways that I can’t fully explain.
I’m pregnant!, she said. Great!, I said.
It wasn’t an easy pregnancy, but it wasn’t the tumultuous rollercoaster to doom that I had, in my darker moments, envisioned. And there were darker moments, I assure you. But they gave way to lighter moments, which mean that much more for trouble endured.
There were concerns throughout the pregnancy. Antibiotics. Would our baby come out deaf or blind or worse due to the continuous stream of toxins? If Sara relented on the medicine, would our baby then come out with a nervous system compromised? We found ourselves questioning symptoms. Baby or spirochete? Spirochete or baby? We’d talk at length. We’d add it up, chop it up, and distribute accordingly. We were keeping a close watch on the home front.
Who had answers? It took 10 years and luck to diagnose Lyme in Sara. As for Lyme’s impact on pregnancy? Good luck, sweetie. The primary Lyme Literate doctor who’d been overseeing treatment had effectively washed his hands of Sara until such time as she was without child.
So there were trips to more specialists. Lyme could be transmitted across the placental barrier, they said. Then again, Lyme could not, they said. What of breast feeding, doc? You shouldn’t. Spirochetes can travel that way, they said. Then again, no they can’t, they said.
Such is lyme disease in the days of cover your ass medicine.
There were brief scares. Unexpected cramps here. Spotting there. A night or two in the hospital for observation, for nothing other than piece of mind. Lyme had made the pregnancy high risk, but we’ll never know to what degree, if any, that Lyme played a role in the pregnancy.
Wyatt, however, was sticking around. No matter the cramping or bleeding that occurred, or days of numb arms and legs, or twitching and body-wide electricity, or forgetfulness, or any of the usual symptoms that ebbed and flowed, Wyatt remained the serene little center of our universe, dividing cells and becoming more discernibly perfect with each ultrasound.
Sara has poured herself, sum and detail, into this blog, and I know it has been of some assistance and hopefully some comfort to the many women out there that find themselves at the beginning of all this craziness. As for the partners of those women, and the fathers of those children soon to be, I can pass along some advice:
Everything will work out. The odds are solidly stacked in your favor. There is every reason the pregnancy and new life will be just fine. Stay positive and treat yourself and your partner well.
Whatever trouble you are having with your partner’s Lyme Disease and pregnancy, it’s harder for her. A whole hell of a lot harder. Be gentle. Be easy. Be calm. Listen always. Guide when you can. Above all, be the voice of hope and strength when she is spinning out and falling apart.
Be cognizant of her physical and mental shape, and check in with her from time to time, but don’t make the disease the focus of the relationship. She is sick enough, and pregnant enough without the continuous reminders. Distraction and healthy denial is sometimes as good as medicine.
The Lyme and the pregnancy are hard on her body. Do as much as you can to help her with the things she has a hard time getting to. Walk the dog. Clean the house. Make dinner. Do what you can to make sure she has some down time that is all hers.
Our experience appears to have a happy ending. Wyatt is a tough little dude. Neither of us can believe we made this amazing child. Amazing and healthy child.
Mom is hanging in there. The worst of the Lyme is behind us, and we know better how to deal with flare ups. We take it day by day, hour by hour. We steal the best moments, as you sometimes have to in life.
Roll it back to July 22, 2010. It’s a warm Summer evening. I am outside the swinging doors of the operating room where doctors are separating Baby from Mom.
Mom is silent, fully anaesthetized.
Baby comes out screaming.
A nurse brings out our wet, unhappy but completely healthy son.
Sara, there is nothing wrong, everything worked out fine!
And it is me who is sobbing this time.