Thursday, April 25, 2013

Baby Fever and the Oncoming Storm

Once I knew I was going forward with the baby plan, it became difficult to think about anything else. I didn't tell many people, because I didn't want to face the questions if I didn't end up pregnant. My immediate family and a handful of friends knew, and that was the extent of it.

But it was tough to contain my mounting excitement. I could no longer go to Target without a trip through the baby department, looking at clothes and cribs and car seats and baby bathtubs. Hell, I would even wander through the baby food aisle at the grocery store, debating the nutritional value of the different brands and wondering if I would actually be able to stay on top of making my own baby food from organic fruits and vegetables.

I kind of had a one-track mind.

You could even probably say I was obsessed.

I had full-blown baby fever.

In the past, when I'd thought about having kids someday, I'd always imagined that my first child would be a baby boy. However, knowing that this was probably a one-shot deal and I would probably only have one baby, I started to envision a different future, with a baby girl.

I pictured her at different ages and stages, what her personality would be like, the baby and toddler clothes that I would dress her up in, how I would fix her hair, what her little voice would sound like. My biggest mistake was that I named her.

When she wasn't even a reality yet.

I had a boy name picked out, too, but it was the girl name that I was really set on. I had my whole future - and hers - planned entirely.

My body had other plans.

Looking back now, I can see that there were warnings in the weeks after my first appointment. Little signs that trouble was brewing. Still, I doubt that anyone besides a complete hypochondriac would have paid much attention before the storm hit.

I blame a lot on the Norethindrone. I don't know if that's completely fair. I've never been able to find any research linking Norethindrone with what happened to my body over the next month, but I also think the timing was too suspect for it not to have been involved somehow. I think it's entirely possible that there was some kind of interaction between the drug, my immune system, and my stress response to other events that hit at the same time.

Of course, I suppose it's also possible that what happened was always going to happen, no matter what I did or what medications I allowed into my body.

I actually considered not taking the Norethindrone, though, and just starting on the birth control instead. I wish now that I had done that. It may not have changed anything, but at least now I wouldn't still be questioning whether I'd had a direct hand in what happened to me by taking that drug. But I decided to go ahead and take the Norethindrone because I was going back to the doctor in 3 weeks, and if I hadn't had a period by then, I knew he would have a lot to say to me on the subject. Basically, I took it to keep from being lectured.

The doctor prescribed the Norethindrone because I had specifically requested that he not put me on Provera, which I'd taken several years before, and it resulted in some sort of horrific hormone-induced psychosis. I'd spent ten days bursting into inconsolable tears at the slightest provocation. It was not an experience that I wanted to repeat. Of course, what I didn't know at the time was that Norethindrone was essentially the same as Provera, just with a different delivery system.

The first sign of trouble was that my face broke out. Horribly. Of course, with the influx of progestin in my system, I naturally assumed that this was acne. I was wrong.

A couple nights, I came home from work feeling out of sorts, and discovered that I was running a low-grade fever. Each time, I was fine by morning.

On the 4th of July, I noticed that my right knee was hurting for no apparent reason. The pain wasn't horrible, just enough to be a little annoying, and nothing that I did seemed to alleviate it.

Meanwhile, I went for my follow-up appointment the week of the 4th. I joked with the doctor that the Norethindrone hadn't really worked for me either, because it was like my entire adolescence had been condensed into two weeks. And I told him that I'd made my decision. I was even pretty sure that I'd settled on a donor by that time. All that I needed to work out was the money. I had some savings, and was applying for medical financing. I would just need to save up for a few more months, and I was hoping to get it together to do my first cycle in October.

The doctor approved of my plan and told me to schedule my next follow-up sometime in September. I got all my preliminary lab results that everything was good to go, scheduled the September appointment, and left.

The weekend came, and I was out all day Saturday. When I got home that afternoon, everything seemed okay, except that I noticed that the baby gate I used to confine my dog to the kitchen was no longer in the doorway, and instead was propped up against the wall. Mostly, this just confused me. I live right next to a historical cemetery, and I like to think that friendly ghosts frequent my house sometimes. It wasn't the first time something strange had happened in my house. Little things happened here and there - lights that I was certain I'd turned off were on when I got home, doors that I'd closed were open. The only part that was throwing me was how the gate ended up propped against the wall.

Still, nothing else seemed amiss, and all the doors had still been locked when I got home. Nothing was out of place downstairs. I called my mom and told her that my house ghost was acting up again.

"Are you sure no one broke in?" she asked.

"I don't see how they could have," I replied. "I haven't been upstairs yet, but nothing is missing downstairs."

But when I got upstairs, I immediately realized that I had been wrong. I was greeted in my bedroom by empty spots where my TV and video game system had been.

After I called the police, I realized that the bathroom window, which looks out over the kitchen roof, was open slightly. That was how the thieve(s) had gotten in. I could have sworn I'd had all the windows locked, but I can only assume that I missed that one. Or maybe I just hadn't thought that one was important, because it was so small that I hadn't imagined anyone could actually fit through it. But it was easy enough to access because you could climb onto the kitchen roof from the next door neighbor's backyard without being visible from the street.

In case you're wondering, the window has been locked ever since, with the little pull-out pieces in place so that the window can't be opened more than an inch and a half.

All in all, I figured out that about $2,000 worth of stuff had been stolen, including my great-grandmother's amethyst and diamond ring, which was by far the hardest loss to take. A TV could be replaced. The ring could not.

I'm pretty sure the stress of the break-in played a part in that brewing storm, too, because it hit the very next day.

But even the first wave seemed relatively innocuous at first.

On Sunday, my mom and I tried to go to local pawn shops to see if anyone had tried to pawn GG's ring. Pretty quickly, we realized the flaw in our plan, which was the fact that none of the pawn shops were open on Sunday. So we spent the day thrift shopping instead.

As the day wore on, my left hand, which had been hurting since I'd woken up, swelled to double its normal size. By the end of the day, I wasn't able to move it at all. Eventually, I figured out that the pain was radiating from one of my knuckles, but my entire hand was throbbing. Still, I wasn't thinking too much of it. I'd had unexplained episodes of tendonitis before, and I assumed that's what this was. It always cleared up with a short course of prednisone.

By the next morning, though, I was achy and feverish with a sore throat, and my hand was still throbbing. I called in sick at work, and made a doctor appointment. Nothing terribly eventful happened at the doctor's office. My rapid strep test was negative, but the doctor gave me antibiotics anyway in case the culture was positive, and started me on a five-day course of prednisone.

It was another day or two before I realized that something was still not right. With my previous experiences with tendonitis, it had always cleared up almost immediately with prednisone. This time, after a couple days, my hand was feeling a little better, but pain was jumping around from joint to joint. One day it would be my right elbow, the next, my left knee. By the end of the five-day course of prednisone, it was clear that nothing was getting better - it was only spreading around my entire body, and I never knew where the pain was going to hit next.

And I was starting to panic.

I went back to the doctor with another sore throat and continuing joint pain, and he ordered both another throat culture and a blood test for strep, as well as some other blood work. The throat culture was negative but the blood test for strep was positive. He suggested that I might be experiencing something called reactive arthritis, which is when the body has a malfunctioning immune response to certain infections. It was self-limiting and usually lasted a couple months. However, when my blood tests indicated abnormally high levels of inflammation, he referred me to a rheumatologist.

It would be months before I would have any definite answers.

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