I Suck at Suffering

The rest of us whine about it

I was hoping to make it through this pregnancy without those horrible migraines I had with my first and third pregnancies. Things looked good for a while, too; I started getting the migraines at about twenty weeks with Liam, and until yesterday I had made it to just over 24 weeks with nary a sign of impending migraines.

Then I got one. And it hurt. And Tylenol, as expected, was about as effective as the incessant whining I was doing, so I called my doctor.

I’ve been a little unsure of my doctor up until now. She seems nice but I don’t get the feeling that she likes me much, and I don’t get the feeling that I like her much, which doesn’t do wonders for my trust in her. Yesterday she decided that I needed to come to the hospital to have my blood pressure monitored, which was annoying but pretty standard, so I went.

They monitored my blood pressure for an hour and a half before deciding that perhaps I should be given some medication to help me stop feeling like the main character in PI.

 That was extremely annoying. Also annoying was the fact that my current doctor felt that the best medication to give me was Imitrex.

If you’ve ever had a migraine, you’ll understand why this is annoying. That particular medication is a triptan. I’ve never had Imitrex before but I have had a different triptan. They don’t work very well for me, and they don’t work at all for anyone unless you take the medication at the first sign of a migraine. Five hours in, when you’re seeing floating lights and trying not to puke on the nurse, they’re not going to be particularly effective. But at that point I was so desperate that I didn’t even argue with the nurse, except to say, “I’ve been told by every OB/GYN I’ve ever had that this medicine is absolutely unsafe in pregnancy. Are you sure it’s okay?”

The nurse gave me a withering smile and said, “Well, your doctor does this for a living, so I imagine she knows what she’s doing.” Reassurance with a massive side of condescension. Just what I needed.

I took the pills, then settled back and dug out my rosary to offer up some of the suffering. Or to attempt to. I’ve never been good at offering things up, because I spend most of the time mentally retreating from the pain instead of embracing it, but I was determined to make a go of it last night.

My internal monologue went something like this:

Dear God, please unite my suffering with Christ’s, for all the women who have true complications in pregnancy. Please, God, bring them comfort, and also please make this medication start working because this really, really hurts and I don’t want to suffer anymore, even for a noble cause. I’m not Christ. I’m just me, and this frakking hurts. (Yes, I said frakking during a prayer. I believe God will forgive me.) Sorry, God. Okay. Please accept this Hail Mary as contrition for my terrible attitude. Now, please help me offer this suffering up whole-heartedly, and embrace it as a gift I have been given, that I might have a chance to suffer with Christ. Please owowowowowowowowowowowow this hurts Oh dear God just make it stop! I don’t care about offering it up! I don’t want to suffer anymore! Take it away!

It was just about at this point that the medication kicked in and made me feel as if my head had been disconnected from my body and was spinning around in space, which in turn made me start throwing up, which in turn made the pain in my head so intense that I started sobbing.

The nurse came in and said, “Oh, well it looks like the meds kicked in!” and I had to physically stop myself from punching her in the face. She handed me a vomit bag and cheerfully said, “Does your head feel better now?” With tears streaming down my face, I shook my head and moaned, “nooooo. wooooorse.”

She pursed her lips and looked at me doubtfully. “Are you sure?” she asked, which I answered with a spectacular second round of vomit and tears.

She went to call the doctor, who ordered an IV drip with anti-nausea meds. The nurse failed to tell me that the meds would make me feel like I had just shotgunned an entire bottle of tequila, so I was sitting up, utterly unprepared, when she put the phenergen into my IV drip. Five minutes later the room spun dangerously and I nearly slammed my head against the railing of the bed as I fell sideways off the bed. The nurse sort of pushed me back so I was laying down, and I managed to slur out, “Z is nurrrmalll?” The nurse smiled and said, “Oh, yes, this medication always does that.” I really wanted to thank her sarcastically for the warning, but at that point the sledgehammer drilling into my brain made everything else seem pointless, even pointed sarcasm.

The nurse left the room and I stared at the swirling ceiling, convinced that I was actually dying. Gone were any noble thoughts of offering up my pain or my obviously impending death. Instead I spent a half-hour feeling good and sorry for myself, thinking how sad and terrible it was that I was going to die here, alone in a dingy triage room, with my family sleeping soundly an hour away, blissfully unaware that they would be short one wife and mother when they woke up. I thought about how no one in the entire hospital except my nurse even knew I was there, and how she probably wouldn’t even bother to revive me when she came in and saw that my brain had exploded from the pain. She’d just dump my body out behind the building and go on with her evening, not caring that my life had ended so pathetically. I thought about my poor little unborn son, who wouldn’t even get to live because his mother died from a migraine that no one seemed too keen on ending.

I may have been feeling just a touch melodramatic

Just as I was imagining our headstones, the nurse came back in to tell me that the doctor had ordered another dose of Imitrex for me.

That did it. Right then, I was convinced that a) I was not dying and b) my doctor hated me and might in fact be trying to kill me. I decided not to go quietly, and I informed the nurse in no uncertain terms that I absolutely was not going to take another dose of a medicine that not only hadn’t helped, but had made me feel twice as bad as I did when I came to the hospital. She frowned at me disapprovingly and went to call my doctor. I sat up, trying to ignore the pounding in my skull and the swirling letters, and tried to text my husband to tell him that I was going to make them release me and get a cab home.

The nurse returned to tell me that the doctor had said that if I wouldn’t take the Imitrex, they could give me morphine.


I swear, I would have been less surprised if she had come in with a bottle of laudanum and said, “This’ll cure what ails you!”

Seriously, this isn’t Civil War America. The last time I checked (which was the last time I was pregnant and had severe migraines) there are like six different grades of painkillers between Tylenol and morphine. I asked the nurse if the doctor could please prescribe something significantly less strong than morphine. The nurse said that there was nothing available, that my only choices were Imitrex or morphine.

By this point I was in pain, nauseous, dizzy and pissed. This was not my first rodeo. I know damn well that there are other options for pregnant women, most of which are much less drastic than morphine. So I told the nurse I’d like to go home.

She said perhaps it would be best if she sent me home with a sleeping pill and that perhaps if I were able to sleep the migraine would be gone when I woke up. I agreed. She went to call my doctor.

By this point I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at the reaction, but I was still kind of stunned when the nurse came back and said my doctor had “not wanted to send me home with any pills, and if I wanted to sleep I could take Benadryl, but if I wanted to get rid of the migraine I could stay there and take the medicine she prescribed.”

I knew that there was no way Benadryl was going to make me sleepy enough to drift off with the Empire State Building being constructed in my temporal lobe. I wanted to ask for another doctor, or a second opinion, but I also just wanted to go home. Most of all, though, I wanted my head to stop hurting. Exhausted, defeated, and sinking back into an acceptance of my impending melodramatic death, I said I would take the morphine.

Unsurprisingly, the medication put me to sleep fairly quickly. Also, it did not kill me. The nurse woke me up a few hours later and said I could go. My headache was gone, but so was any lingering trust in my doctor or faith in my ability to suffer nobly.

But now I have a new type of suffering to endure: the search to find a new OB midway through pregnancy. Here’s hoping that I tackle this one with slightly more grace. And if you feel so inclined, I would love some prayers that I make it through the rest of this pregnancy with no migraines. Because, seriously, morphine? 

  • Maria

    Is this for real?! I'll be praying for you to find a new doctor quick! During my first pregnancy, I stuck with a doctor who seemed "nice but I don't get the feeling that she likes me much, and I don't get the feeling that I like her much" and it has ended up being one of my biggest regrets for the CRAPPY way she treated me during labor and delivery. Did you have a home waterbirth with Liam? Is that not a possibility this time around?

  • http://allthemasons.wordpress.com/ allthemasons

    Holy smokes Calah! I haaate condescending nurses and doctors. I would have been so pissed off I would have left and been really pissed off afterwards. Hopefully no more migraines for you :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09942928659520676271 JoAnna

    That's AWFUL! Ugh! Definite prayers for you! I'm glad you're finding another doctor.I suck at suffering too. During my last labor, I tried really, really hard to offer up the pain of my contractions. My labor went something like this: 5cm – "I offer up this pain for X, Y, and Z…"7cm – "*inhale* For the sake of His sorrowful Passion *exhale* have mercy on us and on the whole world." 8cm – "God help me, this HURTS. Help me get through this, God."9cm-10cm – "OH GOD MAKE IT STOP MAKE IT STOP THIS FREAKING HURTS THERE'S A CHAINSAW IN MY UTERUS I WANT A C-SECTION" Thankfully, he was born about ten minutes later.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12557248434888642114 Melanie B

    Oh man, Calah, I'm so sorry about the migraines. It does sound like you'd be much better off with a different doctor. And I fully understand how much it sucks to find one at this point. It's amazing to me too how abysmally awful some nurses can be. My experience has been that there are some wonderfully awesome ones and they can really make your day but that one bad nurse can make your life hell because they have such absolute control over you and you have such little recourse. You don't seem to ever have the right to just fire a nurse and demand that someone else more compassionate and competent take over. I've been on morphine a couple of times as the post-op painkiller after my c-section. Perhaps the thinking was if they gave you a less potent painkiller and it didn't work then they'd have to wait even longer before they went up to something stronger? Me, I'd gladly take the morphine when I have a migraine and never think twice. I'm a super wimp about my head hurting.As far as being graceful while suffering, the most I've ever been able to manage is the thought of offering it up. I figure that's just got to be good enough and God won't hold it against me if I can't embrace it serenely.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17887429052179249473 Dwija {House Unseen}

    This story is INSANE. Is she TRYING to lose you as a patient or something???? Crazy.I have the same question as Maria- is another homebirth not possible this time around? Praying for you either way!

  • http://geeklady.wordpress.com GeekLady

    That doctor is insane, and you ought to fire her. And I'd do it in no uncertain terms and tell her something like this: "It's obvious that you are not (comfortable / experienced / competent / up to date / etc.) handling migraines as a complication of pregnancy, and I need to see an obstetrician that will take this issue seriously." Experienced is probably the best of the choices, it's every bit as insulting as competent, but less able to be sloughed off by the doctor ego.I picked my OB for this pregnancy based on the purely subjective factor that he was the only medical personnel I saw during my miscarriage last October that said he was sorry to hear I'd miscarried. The doctors in the ER kept coming in and asking peppily "Now what do you say is the problem??" till I wanted to scream "Read my *redacted* chart on the *redacted* door, you *redacted* *redacted*". And my regular obstetrician's office, which I hadn't even gotten in to SEE yet, since I was a new patient, put my name on a Similac mailing list, so about two weeks after my miscarriage I started getting free samples of formula in the mail. Frankly, I consider that a HIPAA violation, but there's no way to prove his office did it. *grumble*

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00489950329698009256 Deltaflute

    well, it could be worse. They gave me phenigrin and instead of feeling woozy, I started getting agitated. I couldn't sit still and started to sympathize with people who suffer from Tourettes (sp?)I would have left. I get migraines and you're right. Obviously you're ob has no idea what she's doing. She has no understanding of migraines.I also hate hospitals. Usually I tough those things out and wait until my husband comes home where I either go nuts with high caffeinated stuff or sleep it off.

  • betsy m

    some nurses suck. some doctors suck. I'm so sorry. Why are they so shocked when a drug doesn't work the same for everyone. Especially when it's for migraines – there is so much they don't know about migraines, so many different kinds, and so many women that has intense hormonal involvement in their migraines, that of course one drug isn't going to help every woman. argh.That said, Morphine definitely has it's place. I was 5mos pregnant and had a kidney stone…no not a passable pregnancy kidney stone that just hurt, but a 5yr old kidney stone from prior to pregnancy, which had been hanging out in my kidney and had grown to 1cm (!!). It took them a couple of hours in the hospital to determine that since the tylenol -> ibuprofen -> hydrocodone -> demerol didn't touch the obvious excruciating pain, a Morphine drip (for 3 days!) was ordered, until they could put in a stent and then try to find some justification for surgical intervetion. God bless my urologist, she found studies supporting kidney stone surgery for pregnant ladies.The point is though – they tried the other stuff FIRST. Though the Morphine was needed and was just awesome (I had a button…sweet relief), it was still an extremely strong drug to give a preggo.Good for you for working to be your own advocate – no one is going to do it for you. Find a provider you trust, and NEVER be afraid to ask for a different nurse or a different doctor, or to leave if you are being mistreated. You don't have to wait to sign anything. If you can get yourself safely out the door and your family is aware of your status, don't be held hostage by a medical provider who has lost control of your situation and has dug his/her heels in.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11889780681891693861 Sarah

    When I had migraines during my pregnancy with Maggie, my OB prescribed me Prochlorperazine…worked like a charm. Made me tired, but it helped so much with the headaches. I hope you'll find a solution that helps.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05117120475033380036 Emily G.

    Wow. I'm so glad you have already made the decision to switch doctors because, if you had not, I'd be virtually yelling at you to do so across the internet. :) Get far, far away from that doctor. If her behavior here is any indication, you'd have the worst birth ever if you stay with her that long.I had a terrible, awful migraine (just one though, thank God) when I was pregnant with Maria. I also got called in for monitoring. They gave me an injection, a cocktail of compazine and pheregen. It was a miracle for me. I felt totally normal within ten minutes. However, different drugs work differently on different folks, so I can well believe pheregen did nothing for you. Kind of like when I was in pitocin-augmented labour with Maria, and everyone told me that stadol would help me. Instead, it made me unable to open my eyes, feel like I was floating limply through space, and leave me free to concentrate on every last tiny bit of excruciating pain wracking my body. It was the last straw-I asked for an epidural a half hour after that. I hope you are able to find a doctor or midwife who actually knows their field and is a compassionate human being. Praying for you.