We started week 35 and had our weekly OB / ultrasound this morning. Everything continues to appear perfectly healthy with our babies… praise God. They weren’t measured this week, but should be close to 5.0 to 5.5 lbs each. The last several days I had sensed that they’re moving less, but didn’t freak out about it… I figured there’s getting to be less and less room to move around in there as we get closer to the their births. Sure enough, the ultrasound tech had to get the “buzzer”… that was a new one on Scott and me! She saw movements and the heartbeats were just fine, but she wanted to see each baby specifically move their diaphragms as if they were taking a breath… this is a test as a precursor to when they’re breathing air in a couple of weeks. Daddy and Mommy held our breath in anticipation, but are pleased to report that both girls passed quickly and with flying colors!!
This morning’s appointment was a nice touch to what has been an extraordinary week. Scott’s been in CA all week, he flew home again on the red eye last night to make it back in time for our appointment… he had about four minutes at the house before we had to head to the hospital… bless his heart. I know what it feels like to have to be away when all you want to do is be home with your loved ones. His father went into the hospital unexpectedly on Wednesday. I was able to spend quite a bit of time with him and Rosie that day, giving Scott a full update, but it’s never like being there yourself. More good news this morning though, Mike is back home and they believe his ailments are being caused by an intestinal infection that can be treated with a heavy dose of antibiotics rather than related to his cancer. Another praise God.
Scott also had to suffer the 2,500 mile distance this week with me being in and out of doctors offices myself… thankfully not our OB though. For the last few weeks I have been having sporadic and seemingly unrelated symptoms. They were all head / sinus related and on the surface appeared to be signaling pre-eclampsia but my blood pressure hasn’t been anywhere near high. I’ve had significant fluid in my nasal passages since the beginning of pregnancy, but in the last few weeks it seems to have escalated deep in my head with more severe headaches and difficulty sleeping at night. We’ve discussed the symptoms with our nurse practitioner a few times, but again, in the absence of high blood pressure she didn’t think they were directly pregnancy related… it’s a known phenomenon that pregnancy can exacerbate any rhinitis issues and there are not many traditional medications that are considered safe for the baby/ies so mom just suffers through to delivery.
This had been my plan of action until last weekend, when I started getting an incredibly loud sound in my left ear… like a flock of Canadian Geese overhead! I called our NP on Monday morning and she advised a visit to my PCP, which I did Tuesday morning. As had been the case in the other three PCP visits during this pregnancy for sinus issues, there was no sign of infection but she did suggest a steroidal nasal spray this time to open everything up. She decided against a neurologist evaluation at this time because they’d want to start with a CT evaluation, and we wouldn’t want to do that until after the births. Given that we’re pretty far along in the pregnancy though, our OB approved the steroid nose spray (turns out our NP has been on one for her entire pregnancy, for allergies).
My PCP also suggested I wash my ear out with water using one of those blue suctioners typically used on babies’ noses because she saw a hair on my left eardrum… makes sense that could be causing vibrations and the strange constant sounds. And she suggested a physical therapist for my sore upper neck / headaches as she thought they were tension related.
Thank God I was afraid to irrigate my own ear and made an appointment with an ENT, because about five hours before that appointment for yesterday afternoon I realized I really did needed a specialist. I have to share all these details, because what all my seemingly unrelated symptoms were leading to was a pinched nerve that controls the muscles on each side of the face. In the shower yesterday morning, I realized that although it appeared to be closed (with no light penetrating) I couldn’t close my right eye completely to prevent water from coming in. Afterward, looking in the mirror, I could tell a difference in my smile on the right side. I did my research on the Internet and learned about this little nerve (the 7th cranial nerve) that has to fit through a tiny hole in the skull behind each ear to reach the facial muscles. This nerve can get tweaked, either through trauma, stress, a virus like Lyme Disease or… cranial pressure from prolonged congestion. Turns out, pregnant woman have a three-times higher prevalence than the average population… usually from pre-eclampsia, but even in the absence of high blood pressure there can be isolated chronic cranial swelling in pregnancy.
The ENT had a look of non-surprise on his face as he shook his head and said, “yep, I’ve seen this before”. He removed the hair but said the sound in my ear would continue until the cranial pressure was relieved. He prescribed an oral steroid (which my OB approved over the phone before I ever got to the ENT, because with the facial component, he had figured on the diagnosis)… but there is no prognosis, everyone response differently. The ENT said likely, even with steroids now that I had been having the headaches for a few weeks, nothing would resolve until at least after delivery… then it could be spontaneous or a matter of months. He asked me to call if I saw a marked decrease in function, which if it was going to happen should occur in the next week.
Last night when I finally settled down after dinner, I started thinking about what I heard during the day and what it could mean short and long term. My thoughts somehow miraculously turned to my sister, Julie… and instead of worrying or feeling sorry for myself, instead I giggled at the fact that this is yet another thing I get to experience with her… albeit 13 years apart. I am blessed to always have a sense that she is with me, even after her death, and that my life is a small part of an extension of hers given how she affected me so profoundly in her last couple years of life. At her diagnoses, she presented with 17 brain metastases. Eventually, one of them became so large and was pressing on vital nerves that it had to be removed. Back then I didn’t know the specifics, but it was located just above one of her ears and was altering her facial muscles on that side… I suddenly realized we both have had 7th cranial nerve issues!! And it was as if she was peaking to me, saying everything’s going to be ok. God has a wonderful way of bringing us back to what really matters. So far, my effects have been much less dramatic and will hopefully be resolved shortly after the birth… and gift… of two beautiful baby daughters. But I am left with the indelible memory of my beautiful sister, who faced every challenge… even her changed facial expression and baldness!! with the greatest grace and faith I have ever been blessed to witness… and I was with her often times 24×7… a person can’t fake it for that long!! She never withdrew, she never gave up, she never held her head down… she knew none of that mattered, only her salvation though Christ Jesus.
I’m also blessed with a husband and three wonderful children by marriage, who have all said today in one-way shape or form, “it’s really not that noticeable”. I’m so thankful for them, for the example of my sister, Julie, and that this symptom has absolutely no impact on our babies… now, if I can only get these geese out of my head so I can get a decent night’s sleep!! Job 7:18