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? 

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07632005486245515873 Calah

    Melanie, I totally agree about the nurses. They make or break every hospital experience. I probably wouldn't have been so wigged out except I've never had morphine before, so it looms large in my imagination as the most drastic of painkillers. I'm a wimp about my head hurting too. It's awful.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07632005486245515873 Calah

    I love this! "There's a chainsaw in my uterus!" Amen. Jeez.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07632005486245515873 Calah

    Maria, yeah, I think this was probably good to motivate me to find a new OB. I told Dweej below, but Ave is 45 minutes from a hospital, and I don't feel safe attempting a homebirth that far out. If anything were to go wrong, it's would take at least 15 minutes for the ambulance to get here, and that's an optimistic assessment (like if the ambulance is already running and with people in it). It's not worth the risk for me. I'm looking into a birth center, but because I need asthma meds (and probably migraine meds as well) I have to have someone who can write prescriptions, so a CPM is out, and this center doesn't have a CNM. Grrr. Frustrating.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12507330852895229468 Jenny

    I had mild migraines for about a month with my oldest. It was awful, but the doctor prescribed Tylenol w/codeine for them which worked well enough. I wouldn't wish it on anybody. I'm not sure why a doctor would be consider it a reasonable treatment for you to have to come to the hospital every time you get a headache. Definitely get a new doctor.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12507330852895229468 Jenny

    Stadol is the devil! Do they all go to the same school where they learn to say the same thing? I was also told, "it'll take the edge off." Umm no. It only brought incoherence along with the pain. It's like they think if you can't focus enough to construct a sentence, you must not be feeling any pain. Have you ever met anyone that stadol helped? I haven't.

  • StephC

    Calah, here's a link to the content sheet for Lifetime Professional Prenatals, which are the prenatals recommended in Marilyn Shannon's awesome book "Fertility,Cycles & Nutrition." (The link is to a pro-life online pharmacy, btw.)http://www.kuhar.com/profprenatal.pdfSo a full prenatal dose of magnesium is 500 mg, which is 111% of the RDA for pregnant or lactating women. But you've gotta balance the other vitamins/minerals, as well. These prenatals ROCK, I tellya!

  • StephC

    If 600 mg ibuprofen is the "prescription strength", how is another 200 so bad?!Yes, taken regularly during the 3rd trimester, ibuprofen can interfere with fetal lung developement. But up until then, if my choice is 24 hours in agony, in bed w/the shades drawn vs. 3 little ibuprofens & relief, I am going to trust my sturdy kidneys and liver to do the diluting for baby.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14587665766913467582 Beth

    Yikes! Hope you find a new and better doctor, stat. I hate it when they treat you like you know nothing about your own pain.That being said, I am literally in labor right now, waiting until contractions are serious enough to wake my husband up before we go to the hospital, and your account of your attempts to offer up the suffering resonate hilariously over here. That'll be me in about 12 hours. :)

  • M

    Oh goodness – fellow migraine sufferer here, though yours sound worse than mine. They are HORRIBLE things, and you have my sympathy. However, the frequency of mine nosedived once I discovered the herb butterbur, which is rapidly gaining recognition as a migraine preventative. Total lifesaver, and the sole side effect is one weirdly plant-tasting burp shortly after taking the dose. The downside? It's not recommended for pregnant women, as not enough research has been done to ascertain its safety for pregnancy. I'm hoping and praying that research is done soon, so more women can use this amazing treatment!

  • Jocelyn

    I don't know you, but I hope your labour and delivery went well!!!