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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Health Update - Maternity

Just noticed I've been so busy with the kids I haven't even had time to post!

My RA overall has been under control with Enbrel and thank God it still works. However, My rheumatologist suggested during my last visit that we add on another medication since I complained of neck stiffness but I declined as I know  I would be fine if I had taken my Enbrel dose. It's just I'm breast feeding and though my specialist suggested that Erika is old enough to digest the medication and not be affected by it; my gut just tells me the less is better.  Of course she and my 3 year old need a mobile healthy mom, so it's a fine balancing act.  As for yoga and excersize, I haven't made time to go and regret not taking these steps of self care more seriously.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Spot Light on Rheumatoid Arthritis Research for Cause and Treatment and Cure

Recently there seems to be more exposure and spotlight on Rheumatoid Arthritis Research.

1. In June of this year, more than 14,000 people from over 110 countries gathered in Madrid, Spain to attend the largest rheumatology event in Europe, the annual meeting of the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR 2013). 

2.  New York Times featured a  Three Part Q & A on Rheumatoid Arthritis

Both articles seem to highlight the importance of taking our medications and the effectiveness of biologics. Many RA patients also commented on Diet and Exercise as crucial steps to better health and maintaining the disease. 

PTSD & Rheumatoid Arthritis

What I failed to see but am quite positive is that there is a positive correlation between PTSD and RA.

Here are a couple of studies I found online:

My Own Journey - Healing Process

I visited my Rheumatologist today to review my blood work. He was happy to see that my Rheumatoid Factor has decreased from 400 to 30!!! 

Currently I take my Enbrel on an as needed basis (1 - 2 / month), avoid foods that I'm apparently allergic too, but did not know (gluten, mushrooms, eggs), bikram yoga as my form of exercise and meditation.  In addition, I've been through multiple counselling sessions to heal my traumatic memories using EMDR, CBT, and grounding exercises.  - One of the keys to my healing I believe is calming my nerves literally, by practicing deep breathing, working through my triggers, and listening to my self better.  An area that is not yet spoken of in these recent discussions. Perhaps its still an area the light needs to shine on for most.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Product Review: Safety First Espresso Swing Gate - Terrible!

I bought the Safety First Espresso Swing Gate from Walmart for $74.88 thinking to spend a bit more and invest in something safe and esthetically nice for our home.

However, after drilling holes in my walls and banister, I realized that one of the bolts to the gate had a manufacturer defect and didn't fit properly causing the gate to warp.  - See below - I exchanged for another one.

My husband installed it this time and had the SAME problem.

The gate is quite flimsy and the hardware a terrible match - I wouldn't trust this product.

Frankly most items I've used from the brand Safety First has been quite disappointing other than their nail clipper.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Finding Cause and Cure for RA (cont.) - Bikram Yoga ?


Back Ground: What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) is an autoimmune disease where a person's immune system attacks itself, specifically the synovial fluid in the joints, causing inflammation, stiffness, and in most severe cases immobility and deformity.

What is the Cause?

Research shows that the cause of RA is UNKNOWN.  However, I've done my own personal research, and have compared my findings to my own personal life events, environment, and triggers.  This is my own conclusion.

I believe RA roots from trauma. When we experience trauma, our nervous system automatically responds and tells our brain & body to either 1. Fight, 2. Flight or 3. Freeze. (further reading: Waking the Tiger, by Peter Levine, Phd)  However, unlike animals who shake out the trauma, most humans are left still traumatized inside. We can continue our life as if nothing happened, yet easily find ourselves living in a hyperactive life full of stress as if it is our norm (our own familiarity). This hyperactivity speeds up our immune system with it, combined with the excess stress, our immune system begins to attack itself. It also then begins to attack familiar objects as if they were foreign and can manifest itself into "allergies". 

A book titled "When the Body Says No" by Gabor Mate, suggests that internalized stress and repressed feelings, will manifest itself into illnesses, one of so called mentioned, Rheumatoid Arthritis. See: Pychoneuroimmunology Post

Steps to Healing...

I believe the key to healing involves integrating our mind, body and spirit, allowing God to breath "peace and stillness" into every living cell that still shouts  "HELP".   In addition, loving ourselves enough to eat healthy, sleep at least 8 hours a day, drink 6-8 glasses of water and recognizing our own limits. 

Since I've discovered my own allergies "gluten & eggs", (see: Natural Path Allergy Test Report Post), diet plays a huge roll, eliminating foods that causes further inflammation.

Finally I have been doing bikram yoga once a week for the past 5 weeks. In the heat, as my heart races, I am at the same time, STILL, telling myself that I am safe. My body becomes stronger, my joints more flexible and mobile, and best of all, my mind at peace.  During the savasna pose (rests), I lie in stillness, thanking God and myself for every breath I take.

It's been 5 weeks since I've taken my enbrel injection. Do I flare? .... Sure I do. I notice joint stiffness when I burn the candles on both ends, staying up late night and waking early to care for my toddler and my 5 month old baby. However, I feel better after a yoga class, and the joints that hurt the night before are better the next day.

I will keep you posted and if truly Bikram Yoga will help enough that I can be drug free and since I still breast feed, my baby drug free too. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

My Second Birth Story

Erika 1 Minute Old

I believed when I was forewarned by my doctors, family and friends that second births would be FAST! However, I did not think it would be THAT FAST! WOW!
I woke up at 5:00 am with what I thought might be Braxton Hicks, but they were a tad bit stronger so I wasn't sure. I timed 3 of them 10 minutes apart and called my Douala at 5:30 to let her know. She said if they start becoming closer together and stronger to give her a ring again. As soon as I hung up the phone they started to become closer, so we left the house right away to drop off our toddler at his grandparents and head to the hospital.
When I arrived, I seemed ok. I even contemplated whether to fake more pain or not so they will take me in for sure and not send me home! When they took my registration information, I asked right there if I could sign the papers for the Epidural right away instead of having the asthesist read me a long list of warnings and waivers while I labor in pain.
Anyhoo, the registration lady, said no, she didn't handle that and that I would have to ask the nurse. They rolled me into the assessment room, where my Douala and mid wife came to meet me and to check how far I was along.
Apparently I was 5cm dilated already! Amazing ! I asked her this time, "Can you please make sure i get the epidural? It's really important to me that I get the epidural, ok?"  She said "yes of course" and left the room to make arrangements to admit me to a proper hospital room.
My contractions after the exam went from a scale of 3 to 8 and I started howling my "OOOOWWWW", "OOOOOOWWWWW", "EPIDURAL PLEAAAAASSEE!!" - a nurse came in and said ok, lets get her in the chair and they started to roll me to the assigned room.  She asked if she should stop during my contractions but that would mean my Epidural would be delayed, so I said "No No, just go go!"  As we were in the elevator, I started to feel the urge to push, but was afraid to let anyone know, as they might not give me my Epidural! So I howled away as they pushed me to the bed. At this point I was screaming "No, I'm pushing! I don't want to push, No!!!" 
I heard someone ask if I wanted Gas and I said very firmly "NO GAS, I WANT THE EPIDURAL NOW!" But ofcourse, that was not possible, as I wasn't even on the bed yet, nor got an IV  started. 
As I was climbing onto the bed, I heard "Stop pushing, I can see her eyes!!!"
OMG! I thought. What??? My body was on autopilot really and I didn't know how NOT to push. My Douala shouted "look at me! breath short breaths, hah hah hah hah" I used all my effort to open my eyes and look to focus on short breaths and not pushing for the life of my child, I needed to do this.  I was afraid for my baby's life, not sure why, but just was. So I did everything they told me.
As soon as I climbed on the bed, (on all fours), I heard, "ok, you can push now" and just like that after a couple of pushes Erika was born!  I was shocked, stunned, and thankful that we were both alive! For some reason, I doubted my body, had morbid fears of one of us dying, and fears that Erika would be born missing fingers or toes. I was afraid of the pain of not having an epidural and before I knew it I gave birth absolutely drug free!
She was PERFECT! I didn't even tear below! I entered the hospital at 6:45 and she was born 7:46.
7.4 Pounds and Absolutely Healthy! (see her 1 minute photo above)
There it is short fast sweet and miraculous! And to be very honest, it didn't hurt as bad as I thought it would.

Friday, February 15, 2013

RA and Acupuncture during Pregnancy

Acupuncture at Accumamas

Wow, I didn't think I'd be even later with my second child. Lucas was born 40 weeks plus 6 days and was naturally induced with the help of the verbena augment tea.  Erika now is 41 weeks plus 1 day and still quite enjoying life in the womb.  I've had 4 sweeps, 3 doses of the Augment Tea, and finally I thought I'd give acupuncture a try. My midwife recommended Accumamas, who specialize in acupuncture and Chinese medicine during pregnancy. Check them out at:

Since I have RA, I tried acupuncture once before for my inflamed wrist, however found that the heat that was added to the needles aggravated my wrist further and my flare got worst. Ever since then, I have not tried again. But, since I'm anxious to see my little Erika out and healthy, I thought I'd give it a go. 

By the time I got Lucas and myself ready, dropped him off at is grandmas, and arrived at my appointment, I was stressed and breathless. My technician was Renee and she didn't seemed bothered that I was a bit late and on the phone the entire time I was filling out the new client questionnaire, but instead said "Take your time... , whenever you are ready.."

After submitting the form, she lead me upstairs to the treatment room and we took about 10 minutes to chat about my concerns and purpose for the treatment. It was quite clear that I was there to induce labor.  I've also learnt that a few factors must work together including:

1. Cervix Effaced
2. Baby's head engaged
3. Cervix moving from anterior to prosterior
4. Contractions
5. Dilated

At my last check up, I was told that the head was low and engaged, but my cervix was still high and about 1.5cm thick and I was dilated about 3cm. She also mentioned that she could feel baby's head, which I couldn't grasp how that could be possible with my cervix being "high" and "thick". But after research and asking Renee, I came to understand the cervix was still in the anterior position and needs to move forward.

Anyhoo, these are probably the big questions:

What was the treatment like? Did it hurt?

I'm absolutely a wimp when it comes to needles but I can tell you honestly, it didn't hurt at all! Some points I didn't even know she had inserted the needles already. She put a point in my forehead, a few in my lower back, a couple in my feet and ankles and one in my hand. She then twisted the needles to stimulate the trigger points and asked me rest for 10 minutes. I of course couldn't rest and wanted to fiddle with my phone and check my emails. I noticed that my hands started to grow weak and when I moved I could then feel the trigger points in my back, so I threw my phone on the floor and rested! She came in as I dozed off and stimulated the points again and left me to rest more. After another 10 minutes, she took the needles off and they came off as discreetly as they were put in.

Did the treatment work?

Here is the BIG question. Well, I must say, I had my doubts and went about my day. I did start to feel a bunch of braxton hicks contracions in the late afternoon. Nothing seemed to be different in the next 24 hours; however, at my next check up, I was told my cervix did shorten from 1.5cm to .5cm and I was 3 - 4cm dilated compared to 2-3cm dilated. There was progress indeed and I did end up giving birth 2 days later to an amazing healthy daughter.  My labor was extremely short and perhaps the acupuncture played a role? I'm not sure, but glad I went.

Did the treatment affect the RA symptoms?

There was no heat involved in this treatment so I did not find that I flared at all afterwards. Another consideration is that RA is suppose to be in remission during the last trimester, but I DID flare a couple days ago before this treatment and tackled it with a dose of Enbrel. 
(Again for those who are curious about Enbrel during Pregnancy, please see my previous post). I called motherrisk to confirm.

Well there you have it. I will post my birth story next. Stay Tuned~

Sunday, February 3, 2013

40 Weeks Pregnant Plus 2 Days - Verbena Augment Tea Natural Labor Inducement

So I had ANOTHER membrane sweep done a couple days ago and still NO Baby Yet!

I did however feel regular braxton hicks contractions from 4am to 6am last night every 10 minutes though.  I ended up sleeping as the tightening in my tummy was not painful at all and woke up the next day with no further progress; except for the continuous loss of my mucus plug. 

For people who wonder how a mucus or part of mucus plug looks like, I recommend googling the image. You can see for yourself.

So here I am 2am, at 40 weeks plus 2 days, contemplating whether I should make the Augment Tea that I drank last time with Lucas and absolutely worked!  See:

I would be using the same bottle of verbena oil and the shelf life as I've read online is about 3 years, so we are cutting it close. It may not work at all or it may? Are we really ready?

Well, I'm going to decide and keep you posted if I do prepare this and drink it and if it works again, then this "Tea" is golden!


Feb 4th Update - 40 weeks plus 3 days

So I did prepare the Verbena Labor Induction Cocktail however this time I stuck with the recipe to the T! I mean it said only 5 Drops of verbena oil, so this time only 5 Drops!  If you read my blog from Lucas's birth, I was both eager and skeptical of this cocktail, so I probably put 10 drops in my brew and ended up with crazy contractions that were one after the other.  OOOOWWWWW!!!

I drank a dose this morning at 11am, and right after put me to sleep for an hour. No contractions, or signs of labor by 7pm, so I made another dose and drank that. Again, it put me right out for another nap.  It is now 12am and I'm brewing yet another batch.  I wonder why this time it is taking much longer? I am using the same bottle of verbena oil, so maybe the potency has decreased? Anyhoo, I'm sticking with 5 drops and if I don't labor, well at least it relaxes me enough to put me to sleep tonight.  I will keep you posted! Thanks for reading. (Click on link above for the recipe if you are interested).

Sunday, January 27, 2013

39 Weeks Pregnant - Membrane Sweep

So here we are at 39 weeks and 3 days, that is 4 days from my estimated due date of February 1, 2013. Here is an update from my last check up:

Measuring Small
Again I measured small per the midwife, and I thought perhaps this is an indication that baby will come later, but as I've read and asked around, small babies can come early too.

2 CM Dilated
I am currently 2cm dilated! Yeah as this is progress, but I could remain 2 cm dilated for weeks. It really depends on when baby is ready at which that time, I'm sure I'll jump from 2 to 4 in no time. (second births I hear are alot faster).  I was then offered a membrane sweep and I said yes, the light version if possible?

What is a Membrane Sweep?

"Membrane sweep", also known as membrane stripping, or "stretch and sweep" in Australia and the UK - during an internal examination, the midwife moves her finger around the cervix to stimulate and/or separate the membranes around the baby from the cervix. This causes a release of prostaglandins which can help to kick-start labor.

The "sweep" was done at 12pm, Jan 25th (48 hours ago).  It was uncomfortable and I had some spotting immediately afterwards.  At about 5pm that same day, it seemed that I lost part of or entire mucus plug, so I thought I was going into labor very soon.  We immediately packed the car and made sure we were ready to boot it to the hospital if anything happened.  Since then, nothing has happened and I'm back to waiting.  She will come when she is ready.

Meeting our Douala - Forming a Birth Plan

The very next morning I met the same Douala that helped us with Lucas's delivery. She asked me about whether I had formed a birth plan or how I would envision our second birth?  If I wrote a birth plan, it would be this and I'd slap it down on the admitting table before I give them my name:

She tried to introduce other methods of pain reduction, but honestly from what I remember last time, NOTHING worked for me except for the epidural. The gas mask sucked, because I could barely breath, I didn't want to be touched what so ever by anyone because I was in so much pain, so could not really enjoy or be alleviated by any massage techniques, and finally, my mind was so terrified of the next contraction, that I couldn't visualize jack or come up with any affirming thoughts. 
If I were to describe what labor pains feel like it would be this:
Imagine, someone slowly inserting a 12" knife into your stomach and as the pain increases to a point where you think you can't take it any more, the person wrenches the knife causing unspeakable pain and then slowly pulls the knife back out. I didn't know when the next one would be as I had taken the verbena oil conjunction to induce labor for Lucas's birth and it sure worked. Check out my previous blog for more details on this.  Anyhoo, I don't mean to scare any first time moms but that is my truth. The good news is did I live? Would I do it all over again?  YES YES YES!!! Having a baby is the best thing that has ever happened to me and I have the privilege to birth another gift!

Thanks for Reading!

Friday, January 18, 2013

38 Weeks Pregnant and WAITING!!!

 The count down begins and as I'm closer to the birth of my second child, I am experiencing all but familiar behaviours as I did with Lucas such as:

Insomnia - Mid Night Awakenings
As if my body is training for the round the clock feeds, I wake up in the middle of the night (such as now) and simply can't sleep.  A portion is probably due to maternal instinct and preparation and the other portion, simply anxiety. 

Just the other day I went to London Drugs to buy storage boxes. I wasn't quite sure what I was going to store in the 10 boxes I bought!!! LOL!!! As I checked out, the lady behind me said "Looks like Mama bear is Nesting!"  and like that it all of a sudden made sense - Yes I AM Nesting! I want to get my home clean and organized for our new arrival! 

Adding to the Labor Bag
I prepared for Lucas's (my first son) labor bag much more in advance.  I suppose with this one I know now what the hospital provides and what is NOT necessary - such as packing a YOGA BALL!  You should have seen what I had packed for Lucas's birth. It was insane.  This time round, I have just what I need and am still adding to it as things come up.

  • Clothes and blanky for our new born girl
  • Nightgown and slippers for me
  • Juice boxes for energy and thirst
  • Car seat
  • Outdoor suit for our little girl
  • NB diapers and baby wipes (hospital will provide as well)
  • Reminder to grab phone charger, purse, and toiletry

I've been measuring small every visit for example, my last doctors visit was at 37 weeks and I should be at 37cm from pelvic bone to top of the uterus; however, I'm at 35 weeks. I went in for an ultrasound and the technician had to measure 7 times around the baby's belly until she was confident that she's ok! So a part of me is wondering if she will be healthy! Did I not eat, sleep or rest enough?

Also I'm still waiting for maternity benefits after 1 month from applying to service canada. I certainly hope I don't have to go through maternity leave without pay again! But if I did it once, I can do it again. Just frustrating as I've been paying EI since I was 13 and have well contributed into our system.

Finally I'm anxious about the delivery. Will I be stuck in traffic? Will I have time to drop off Lucas first? As some of you know I've moved away further from Vancouver, so the distance from BC Women's Hospital worries me as I"m absolutely NOT the home birth type of gal. I NEED THE EPIDURAL!

Last but not least, I received our first gas bill from Fortis BC and its $540! We just moved in for 26 days! This is insane and if it is what it is I'm afraid we can't afford this.

Body Aches and Pains
Well my upper back is killing me along with annoying lower back pain and swollen feet. I went for a prenatal massage just the other day and it was GREAT! However, the relief didn't last long. The pelvis pains as I've read seem to be common as the baby drops lower into the pelvic bone. As for the RA flares, it hasn't been that bad (except for occasional shoulders and odd finger), so I've steered clear of taking my usual Enbrel shots this time.  Overall these bodily unconforts will end soon and I know I will be overwhelmed with Love for my new baby and family that I won't even notice it.

Well thanks for joining me with this rant! I'm sure I'm not the only 38 week preggo lady waiting .....