Wednesday, June 13, 2012

4th Year With RA

It is extremely hard to believe, but it's already time for my fourth yearly update on this blog. Four years ago, I was a grad/law student living with my boyfriend. Today I have a law degree, a masters in environmental policy, a husband, and a son.

And, yes, I also have RA.

Don't get me wrong - RA has played a huge role in the last four years of my life. But, at the same time, it is somehow less important than it was four years ago. I find that I don't focus on it as much as I used to. And though it has sometimes made things more difficult (often a lot more difficult), I haven't let it stop me from achieving any of my goals.

Our first year of marriage has been a busy one, starting with our amazing honeymoon in Spain. Unfortunately, as soon as we got home my fellowship lost its funding, and I've found myself working from home (on a book and some contract legal work) ever since.

We have really enjoyed being involved with the Arthritis Foundation this year. I especially loved going to JA Camp last summer - and I'm honestly a little bit bummed that OZL will still be too small for me to participate this year. Last summer APL and I both volunteered at JA Family Day (which hopefully we will still be able to do this year) and I became a member of the JA Workgroup. We also attended Advocacy Training and I signed up to be an Arthritis Ambassador. I represented the Arthritis Foundation at the Massage Envy Fundraiser on World Arthritis Day and Team Z raised over $2,000 at the Jingle Bell Walk. Unfortunately, I had to miss the 2012 Advocacy Summit in Washington DC because I was too pregnant, but I really hope I will be able to go next year. I also did some other RA advocacy work online this year for WEGO Health and CreakyJoints.

Because some RA drugs take many months to leave your system, I started weaning off my RA medications well before our wedding so that we could safely try to conceive a baby after we got married. Dealing with untreated RA while trying to get pregnant was no easy task. In particular I dealt with a lot of hip pain, which made the process extremely uncomfortable and frustrating. I searched for positive, hopeful, and uplifting advice to help me along but, unfortunately, found very little. So I honestly shared my own story in the hopes that others in my situation can learn from it in the future.

If the process of getting pregnant with RA was a little bit complicated, so was being pregnant with RA. In addition to ordinary morning sickness and regular pregnancy complications (placenta previa and preeclampsia) my RA also presented some unique issues. I had trouble with my SI joints and continued issues with my hips during the first trimester, which resulted in the need for physical therapy. I did end up experiencing some remission during my second trimester, but my RA flared pretty badly during the third trimester. I was extremely stiff in the mornings and had pain in my hands, continued issues with my hips, and trouble with my knees. The RA flare was particularly difficult to deal with when I got put on strict bed rest as a result of preeclampsia.

But it was all worth it when our beautiful son, OZL, was born on May 30th. I fall more in love with him every day and I can't wait to keep watching him grow (only don't grow too fast!!) I still worry about the inevitable post-birth flare - which could realistically be coming any day now - but I know that with support from APL we will find a way to get through it. 

All in all, it has been a pretty amazing year.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Introducing OZL!!

APL and I are both extremely excited to announce the birth of our son, OZL, who is one week old today! OZL was born last Wednesday, May 30th. He weighed 6lb 14oz and is 20.5 inches long. Because he was breech (meaning his butt was pointing at the birth canal rather than his head) I needed to have a c-section. The surgery went really well and he and I are both doing great. 

So far (knock on all the wood ever!!!) my joints are all behaving. I think it must be some kind of birth-induced remission, because my joints are doing markedly better than they were last week when I was on bed rest, even though I am still pretty immobile. (Though I am also still taking a maintenance dose of prednisone, which probably helps.) That's not to say I am currently pain free - my incision hurts, my nipples hurt from adjusting to breastfeeding, and my back and shoulders are sore from figuring out the best ways to hold him - but I don't have any complaints about my joints right now. And that is awesome. 

I've got zero idea how long this relief from joint pain will actually last, so I've already started pumping to build up a supply of breastmilk in our freezer. That way, if/when I reach the point where I need to stop breastfeeding and re-start my RA meds, we'll hopefully have a supply of breastmilk so we can extend the health benefits to OZL a bit longer. In the meantime, I'm super grateful not to have to deal with joint pain on top of everything else right now. 

And I have fallen completely in love with my little boy. Everything I went through to get pregnant and everything I dealt with during my pregnancy has been 100% totally worth it.