There are all sorts of answers to this question.
Some women will say that their bodies were never the same: their breasts, their abdominals, their hair, their hips…. the list goes on.
Some women will say that their relationships with their partners were never the same: something shifted, something got lost, something became less important, something became more obvious, something became more stressful… and the list goes on.
Some will say that their professional lives, financial lives, and personal goals were never the same: they dropped out of education, they left practice, they had to take out a second mortgage, they couldn’t afford the vacation they wanted, they were too tired, there were too many demands… and the list goes on.
The sadness, bitterness, and even resentment about all the things women lose in motherhood is tangible, even if its cloaked in a joke or wry smile. But then, nearly all women will immediately insist that it was worth it. That the experience was and is worth it. That this person that they are bringing into the world was worth all the sacrifices and the many more to come.
I always thought women were kind of mean, and kind of stupid, and kind of sad, and kind of brainwashed, and kind of crazy, to say and think such things.
Because I thought that the cosmetic changes of pregnancy and post-partum were superficial and missing the point. Because I thought that a true loving relationship rooted in mutual respect and understanding would simply expand to include a child. Because I thought it possible to live a healthy balance of professionalism and motherhood, because I believed in the importance of my own contributions that come from my heart, mind, and hands, and because I had a solid financial foundation and few personal material desires.
Because of these things, I did not think having a baby would be much of a sacrifice.
And then my pregnancy became complicated. And then Adahlia was born without the ability to make enough red blood cells to survive. And then my kidney kept failing. And then the VA failed to do anything about it.
And if you look at all the losses, they are staggering. I lost thousands of dollars in savings and all the future plans for it (both personal and business) when Adahlia and I got sick and Joe lost his job. Joe and I’s relationship has been stretched to a breaking point. I lost my scholarships and had to quit my doctoral program when I could no longer pretend to be able to keep pushing forward, when it was clear to me that Adahlia needed me and that my health wouldn’t allow it. And though I tried numerous times to re-start it, I never was able to reopen my healing arts practice when I closed it 6 months into my pregnancy, to give myself time to enjoy the last months of my pregnancy.
I would have never guessed I was closing it for the foreseeable future.
And I would have never guessed this latest loss: my surgeon informs me that the kidney function test says that my right kidney is only contributing about 10% to my overall kidney function. Therefore, they won’t operate on it. They won’t try to save it. They want to remove my right kidney.
So, in addition to all the above, I learn that my pregnancy has cost me a kidney.
They tell me not to worry: my left kidney is functioning fine. I will have to be very careful not to get an infection, but lots of people survive just fine on one kidney, and I won’t necessarily have to go on dialysis anytime soon.
Yet, for someone who was climbing mountains and scuba-diving and rock climbing prior to pregnancy, someone who enjoyed traveling to remote (i.e., dirty) parts of the world and was planning on being a world traveler again, this is NOT okay news.
Moreover: my left kidney doesn’t FEEL fine.
Would this be any less upsetting if I had birthed a healthy child? A child able to make her own red blood cells, who wasn’t always teetering near death? Would it be easier if, at the end of all the tallying, I could at least point to Adahlia, and like the aforementioned women, smile somehow wanly and blissfully at the same time, because at least a healthy child has been brought into the world, and a child is a world of possibility unto itself?
It appears pregnancy demands sacrifice, and if one doesn’t find the typical road very sacrificial, a road will be created so as to test one’s ability to withstand it.
Of course, this is not the end of the story.
There are second opinions to be obtained. There are battles to be waged in consultation offices. There are losses to be cut and there are new directions to be explored.
There is a time to push onwards, because it is one’s truth, despite any and all obstacles.
And there is a time to cut free, and move in an entirely new direction.
And perhaps, as they wise woman in my dream said, the point is this: “How low can you go?”
How low can you ride the tide? Can you ride it until it hits bottom without losing yourself? Without falling into despair? Where is your center? Because if you cannot ride it down, then you cannot ride it to the top. You must find serenity of mind and integrity of purpose. Let the waves come. Let the hurricanes blow. In the center, beauty and joy awaits irrespective of outrageous fortunes. But, it requires work to find the center.
Meanwhile, Adahlia is amazing and is doing well at 4.5 weeks post transfusion. I took her to the oriental medicine physician and herbalist I trust, and we tested her, and her inflammation is significantly less. The auto-immune reactivity is almost gone. We tested the homeopathic spagyrics I was using to flush her system last month, and they tested beneficial for her in addition to the chinese herbs. It appears the therapies are working synergistically, and so I will start using them together.
I cannot speak for all children with DBA, but I know that I have been right about what is going on with Adahlia, and that whether or not she has a genetic marker associated with DBA, she also has a deep-seated intracellular infection that spurred an auto-immune reaction and systemic inflammation. We are resolving these things little by little, month by month.
There is no doubt in my mind that Adahlia will be fine. She will eventually be cured.
Can I regain my right kidney function? Doctors say no. I say yes. I say that with the right and consistent application of acupuncture, moxa, herbs, and energy work like reiki and qigong, if they will just fix the kink in the ureter and leave me my kidney, that eventually, it will start participating and contributing more to overall function. If this surgeon won’t do it, I need to find a surgeon that will repair the obstruction and give me a chance to heal my right kidney. Because I completely agree: a non-functioning kidney will be a potential seat for infection.
After all, what happened during my pregnancy? My right kidney became blocked by a preexisting (congenital) but previously unproblematic obstruction in my ureter. The urine backed up into the kidney, causing it to swell (and become rather painful.) It stopped functioning. It failed. And (my theory): an infection then went wild, unchecked by my immune system because it was suppressed for pregnancy, infecting Adahlia and triggering Adahlia’s bone marrow failure, causing systemic inflammation and auto-immune reactivity in us both, and well, that’s our story.
And I will need a report saying that I only had 10% function at a certain point, if I want to show that that these natural medicines truly are amazing, as we all know that they are, and that my kidney has recovered, and is now contributing 20% or 30% of function, correct?
Meanwhile, healthy or not, I have the most amazing little friend. She has big, wise eyes and she strokes my face and wraps her little arm around my neck, pulling my forehead close to meet hers, and smiles. She pats my back when we hug and she wraps her neck close to mine, as if we were giraffes giving a neck-hug. She climbs onto my lap and stands, jumping up and down, holding onto my hands and swings herself side to side, singing: “laddle, laddle, laddle!” She gets on her wooden rocking horse, rocks it to its extreme point, and then climbs up onto the back of it, balancing there, taking on the risk of falling, standing on its back like she’s the lady on the white horse in an old time circus tent.
She steps down to thunderous applause.