I know I've promised a couple of times recently to write a post about the R-word, and I have to admit that I have honestly been thinking about it a lot lately. So here it goes:
For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, the "R-word" is "Remission." (There. I said it.) Considering the trials and tribulations of the past three and a half years, sometimes that word seemed too magical to say (type) out loud. You mean all the pain, fatigue, and suffering could just....go away? I could actually feel normal again? I could go back to doing everything I want to do?
Since getting pregnant, I've been thinking a lot about that magical R-word, because if you've ever read anything about RA and pregnancy, you'll have read some static about the possibility of going into remission (or at least seeing a big improvement in RA symptoms) while pregnant:
- Around 50 to 75 percent of women with RA who get pregnant go into remission - everyday Health
- Approximately 70 percent of women with RA experience an improvement in symptoms beginning in the second trimester and lasting through about the first six weeks after delivery - Arthritis Today
- Many women, up to 75%, find that the pain and swelling associated with RA is much improved during pregnancy usually in the second trimester - National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society
So now that I'm well into my second trimester, I feel like I have been asking myself daily if this is really it - am I actually in remission? APL thinks I might be. And, the more I think about it, I think he is probably right.
I mean, if you look at the posts on this blog you can see that I have had trouble with a lot of my joints over the past three and a half years: toes, ankles, knees, hips, shoulder, elbows, wrists, fingers, jaw....and you know what? None of those joints hurt right now. And I honestly haven't had much trouble with any of them since I got pregnant. (The the only pain I have been dealing with lately is the pain in my SI joint - my low back on the right side - which my rheumatologist says is more related to the pregnancy than my RA.) So if my RA made all of those joints hurt on a regular basis, and none of them are hurting now, maybe I actually am in remission?
So why don't I sound/feel more excited about it?
Here's why: I think I had unrealistic expectations about what pregnancy remission actually meant. I mean, APL and I literally used to joke about getting me pregnant just to avoid having to deal with the RA. I honestly thought that if I was lucky enough to be in the 50-75% that went into remission, it would be like a magical pathway back to my life before the RA diagnosis - where I would feel great and be able to do all the things I used to do, at least for a few short months.
I'm sure some of you have had the same dreams/expectations about pregnancy remission. If you have, I truly hate to burst your bubble about it. In fact, that's one of the reasons it has taken me so long to write this post - I really hate to take away anyone's hope for relief because sometimes that's all you have to keep you going when the flares get bad. But this blog has always been about honestly telling my RA story, and the reality of remission has been a big part of my RA story lately. And though it's true that this post might take away some of your hope, maybe it will also save you from disappointment.
Because I have to admit, if this is remission then I honestly feel a little disappointed by it. I mean, don't get me wrong, it's really great that the long list of joints that have given me trouble over the past few years are all behaving. I am truly grateful for that relief - and I'm really not trying to look a gift horse in the mouth or anything.
I think I gave the magical R-word way too much credit. And I think I also underestimated how difficult pregnancy itself can be. Because deep down I thought, once I got past the nausea of the first trimester, the magic Remission was going to kick in and I was going to feel truly great. But I really don't. Most of the time, I actually feel pretty crummy. I'm still dealing with huge amounts of fatigue (which is now probably from being pregnant rather than RA - but who really cares? I'm exhausted!), I've got hormone headaches and pain in my SI joint that I can't take any meds for, I'm being tested for pregnancy complications, and my body is still doing all sorts of crazy stuff - from pre-cancerous spots on my face to disappearing armpit lumps (for which I am, of course, grateful - but it was still an exhausting experience.)
My point is this: I am still struggling. Remission, if this is really it, has not been a magic pass to feeling fantastic. But, though it has been hard, I am actually still pretty happy. I know all this struggle is for a really good cause this time. And I realize now that pregnancy remission can't be a magical pass back to my life before RA, because there is no such thing. That life - my life before RA - is gone, and there's no sense clinging to it. Like the title of this blog, I have to look forward, not backwards. And honestly? Forward is looking pretty good right now.