I should apologize now if this isn’t entirely coherent. I started this at around 6:30 AM when I gave up trying to sleep due to this post writing itself in my head and finished it at 8AM. PS pregnancy insomnia is FUN.
I keep going over in my head, ever with the doubts, “Is this early leave really necessary? Am I just being a big baby?”
A couple of months into the pregnancy I started experiencing cramping my in uterus and lower abs. It was sporadic at first and I never at any point really worried about it. In the sense that, duh, shit is getting real down/in there. Cramping happens. As time progressed, what was sporadic became more and more regular and constant. What was usually triggered by me rolling over to fast, had no obvious trigger. I was just cramping. 7 months into the pregnancy the cramping has changed in location and style, but it’s still there. I’m still not overly concerned about it. It hurts like hell at times. It has been known to cause me to literally double over. Usually, it’s at it’s worse at work because that’s when I’m the most active. But that is not enough to have me go, “Hey, I need to stop working.” It’s not like that’s the only time I cramp. And all through this my OBGYN has been aware and up to date, and we are all in agreement that it’s within the realms of normal.
There were some incidents of bleeding and a lovely couple of days at around 18 weeks where I thought the baby was trying to fall out of me. All were potential warning signs of something serious, but after careful examination everything was fine. The first bleeding was placenta attaching to my uterine wall, it can cause bleeding. The massive pressure on my cervix was the baby pushing the bladder in a new interesting location and well, it was trying to escape. Keeping it empty and giving the baby a chance to reposition, alleviated that. The second bleeding at 27 weeks was of unknown cause. Completely. BUT everything checked out so I was good to go. All three episodes led to me taking it easy for a few days, but I was otherwise fine to continue on.
At no point in this was working fun. I don’t have the type of job that is easy going for a pregnancy, but it was doable and I pushed through. There were miscellaneous this hurts and that hurts, but nothing serious. Nothing outside the realms of “Well duh, you’re pregnant.”
Around May things started to change. See the store gets really warm. Especially the front. Lots of people, lots of machines, doors constantly opening letting in warm air, and a metal roof which doesn’t help. Last summer, when I wasn’t even pregnant, was pretty bad heat tolerance wise. Winter was blissful. When others were cold, I was comfortable. When the warm weather came back around and I, who am naturally warm anyways, was no longer at all able to regulate my body heat, I knew I was in trouble. If I could work fastlane, I was in bad shape but I could make it through. Regular lane was a whole different story. Within 2 hours of being put on lane, I was in serious danger of passing out. All the warning signs and symptoms, it was just a matter of time. It got to where most the time, they didn’t even try to put me on lane, no one wanted me to pass out. But there were days where lane was where I was put anyways, for various reasons. All but one of those days, minds were quickly changed when it became obvious that maybe they should take things seriously. But I tried. Most of the time I hate fastlane so I really did want to be on lane and I thought maybe I could make it through. But no. It should also be noted that while the air in the store was turned on in May, it was broken right up until a couple of weeks ago. So that didn’t help.
With the heat issue I started to think that maybe my plan of working straight through to labor might not actually work. I did drop down to 4 days a week hoping that would help with the over all of everything. I knew nothing that was going on was grounds for a medical leave so I was determined to stick it through. I really didn’t want to quit. Not only am I not currently hireable, but with me paying into short term disability, my leave I did take, would be paid. I’m not stupid.
Meanwhile, I was spending the 20 minutes leading up to my daily clock in in tears because I hurt, it was hot, and I had 8.5hrs ahead of me. There were days that I actually wished I would be put on bed rest so that I would have to go on leave.
This pregnancy was kicking my ass and work wasn’t helping.
But there was no medical reason for me to do anything other than keep on going. So I did.
All the while resenting the baby because I felt like she was trying to kill me. (Looking back, how was this not a huge warning sign?)
My mental health, through all this was deteriorating.
The day before 28 weeks, 3rd trimester is the day things went from kinda bad to really bad.
By that point the regular headaches I get mid-way through each pregnancy had started. There were 2 actual migraines, and the rest were just every day non-stop, can’t get rid of them headaches.
Around 26 weeks is when the after a long day lower back pain became a non-stop back pain.
But it was at 28 weeks the sciatic nerve started acting up. I’ve already discussed it here a few times but the key thing to note is this: when it’s at its worse, I can’t walk. That first day was the most severe of the not being able to walk, but 2 weeks later, it still happens. At first it was a solid 8-9 on the pain scale. With no relief. The ice and stretching that I was instructed to do, is what brought it down to the 8. I had to work hard for an 8 on the pain scale. Now I’m down to about a 7, usually. First thing in the morning it’s at it’s absolute worst and I’m back up to that 8/9. After being up for an hour it goes down to a 6/7. It’s one part loosening up the hip joint, and also just getting out of a laying down position. As the day progresses and I’m active (doctor appointments, and other basic activity) the pain increases. If I’m on my feet for more than 15 minutes here and there it goes back up to the 8/9. If I’m able to remain off my feet, I can keep it at around a 7.
Once the sciatica kicked in, I had three doctors agreeing work currently wasn’t an option. BUT it wasn’t grounds for a medical leave because no one’s life was in danger. Sucks, but I understood. So our goal was to get it taken care of as quickly as possible and get me back to work, doctors note to have me out in the meantime. There were grounds for that.
Then the treatment didn’t work. You’ve been updated on that. This past Thursday was not a good day for me. On the one hand I was ready to return in the sense that I need the escape work brings me. So yes, despite all the misery, part of me really does want to return. NOW. Even to a job that isn’t my favorite job. I need freedom. But I also knew, physically, I was screwed. I was in just as bad of shape as I had been the first day I missed because of all this. But I had missed 2 weeks, there was no money.
I broke down. My mental health, Thursday, bottomed out. Granted it had been going downhill for months. But the constant severe pain plus the thought of going back and the severe pain becoming worse as a result, but knowing there was no money for me to do otherwise… Thursday I hit rock bottom. Or as close as I can currently get, keeping in mind I won’t hurt myself while pregnant. But oh did/do I want to.
Thursday evening after a particularly harsh sobbing jag, my husband brought up short term disability on the grounds of mental health. I had briefly thought of it but pushed it aside. Yes I was rock bottom but why was I rock bottom? Was it serious enough of a rock bottom since I wouldn’t actually go through with anything while pregnant? Was mental health even grounds for a medical leave that would lead to a pay check? Lord knows an unpaid leave because of mental health would only make the mental health worse, so that would be counter productive. I knew my OBGYN and reg doc had been resistant towards an official leave for medical reasons, what kinda of resistance would mental health reasons bring? Yes, I have my psychiatrist and yes, she would be the one I’d need to talk to, but in the years of being her patient, I’d never really had something like this come up so I didn’t know. If this wasn’t directly (however aided) caused by BPD, was there anything she could do.
Friday I was out of bed at 8, a half hour before my usual wake up, and 2 hours before I was scheduled to be at work. My plan was to test the waters. First and foremost, was this a morning where I could walk? I could, but it wasn’t a pleasant experience. I honestly figured I was headed to work. Pat told me it was up to me. As stressed as we both were over money, he at that point was more worried about my mental health. I think it was mostly that. My physical health as well, of course, but only one was potentially life threatening.
And well, I was at the point where I’d rather put a bullet in my head than spend 8 hours on my feet anywhere. Not just work, anywhere.
By 8:30 I was on the phone with work, 5 minutes later I had a doctor’s appointment.
And the rest is pretty well documented.
But my initial questions of, “is this really grounds for leave” still lingers? I guess I feel bad like I’m taking advantage of something? Of what, I don’t know. What detail I gave my psychiatrist on Friday when I called her to ask about it lead to an instant “of course I’ll fill out the paperwork” which should logically lead me to think I’m just being paranoid.
And the thing is, while the mental health might be the official reason for my leave, I know my physical health is a huge factor for me.
Yesterday, my mom sent an urgent email saying there was an event she had discovered last minute that she wanted to take me and the boys to, was I up for it. Er… sorta? I’d actually, just the night before discovered a way I could sleep (involving 4 pillows piled exactly just right) that made my morning easier. I was no longer starting out my day at an 8/9. I was actually starting at a 6. So I said I’d be willing to try. There would be walking but opportunity to sit as needed, and if all else failed I could stay put and they could go on without me. So we went. I’ll be honest, while it was only about an hour and a half with plenty of sitting brakes, it kicked my ass. Really kicked my ass. Here it is the next day and my ass is still kicked. So that right there was all I needed to confirm that no, working a shift at work is still not physically an option. BUT on the flip side, it was really good for my mental health. My boys were in heaven and even I was in awe. (Granted then we left and realized we were all hot, tired, hungry crabby and in my case in pain so it wall went to hell…) So it was awesome, but no, I really can’t be on my feet for long.
I will say the weight off my shoulders knowing this paid leave is happening a huge relief. That alone has actually helped get my mental health state back in the right direction. I’m still dealing with what the constant pain is doing to it, but knowing I can just focus on healing and not what the healing process is doing to us financially is a HUGE relief.
And fact sitting on my mind that I was already resenting the baby for my physical misery, led me to wonder did I really want to be resenting the baby for forcing my hand at living through my mental pain?
Maybe that last one, is the key to accepting that my medical leave is on grounds of mental health, and not physical.
Though to me, the are both a factor.
I guess what I really need to hear is that I’m just paranoid. Yes mental health is a very valid reason for a medical leave. With or without the coexisting miserable pregnancy and complications that is technically what is making my mental health worse.
What say you?