Listening to your body and seeking medical advice is an important part of self-care as a mother.
I recently spent five days in the hospital for something I had just been chalking up to being a tired, working mom. I’m generally a very healthy person, and as a first-time mom, I thought I was dealing with normal mom exhaustion. This was not the case in the end, and was an important lesson in learning the parameters of mom life.
I figured that I was just struggling with managing work and the fact that Payton, my daughter, was still waking me up in the night for a feed. I thought perhaps I wasn’t eating healthy enough, or that my infrequent walks weren’t cutting it and I needed more exercise. Not that I could drag myself onto my yoga mat.
I had even started looking into a new naturopath, homeopath, and some of the doctors in Yorkville who administer IV vitamins, thinking one of them might be an efficient means of boosting my energy.
I knew that I was unreasonably tired, and I was having a hard time seeing how it was going to get any better as I got further into my 40s and my daughter grew. Yet, I never considered that there was actually something medically wrong with me.
I was falling asleep on the sofa at 9 pm, but I had done that while I was pregnant, and I thought perhaps this was just the new normal for the working mother of a toddler in non-stop motion. I felt this crazy bone weariness that just dragged me down. I couldn’t run upstairs to get something if I forgot it. Sometimes I didn’t even bother to share an opinion or respond to something that was said because the effort was just too much.
Then, one Thursday, I saw big purple bruises on my thigh, and I was sure I had not walked into anything. The next day, I saw bruises on my front, back and elbows. On Saturday, there were these little blood droplets (called petechiae) all across my chest and the lower half of my face, and a blood-like blister in my mouth. Finally on Sunday night when, after my usual dental floss, it was like a blood bath in my mouth, I knew it was time to visit the doctor.
Monday morning, I called in sick to work and headed to my Family Health Team. I expected a call a day or two later, letting me know if they’d discovered anything from my blood tests to explain the odd symptoms. Less than two hours later, however, the nurse from my Family Health Team was on the phone with me saying, “Your platelet levels are critical, go directly to the nearest ER!”
That’s how I found myself being admitted to the hospital on Monday afternoon to deal with idiopathic thrombocytopenia over the course of almost a full week. This is a condition where you don’t have enough platelets in your blood, and platelets are incredibly important, as they help your blood to clot. My platelet count? One. A normal level is between 200 - 450.
While some members of my care team thought that my last cold, brought home by my darling daughter, was the cause of this illness, the lead doctor was comfortable saying that they just don’t know what causes it. That’s why it’s idiopathic.
Luckily for me, after two transfusions of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) my platelets were back up to 54. I was discharged on the condition that I would have my blood checked a week later (I was up to 117) and be seen for follow up in a specialized clinic.
Even more amazing is that my energy is back up. I don’t hesitate to run up the stairs, chase my daughter around the house, go for long walks, or get into the debates and discussions that I used to love.
Most important is the realization that the absolute bone weariness that I had thought was my new normal is gone. While I hope this was a one time thing, I will certainly go directly to my doctor if I start feeling this type of exhaustion set in again.
To all the other new moms out there: there is normal “mom tired,” and then there is this sheer exhaustion. I learned the hard way that what I was feeling wasn’t normal mom tired, and so my advice is simple: listen to your body and don’t wait to go get checked out.