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My New Face

I woke up Tuesday morning and lounged in bed for a bit, relaxing. I’d slept well. I felt good. Except for my left eye, which felt a little weird, like it wouldn’t close all the way when I blinked, but whatever. Mike was grinding coffee in the kitchen, the whirr of the blades drew me from bed. My small cup of morning coffee always a treat, something to look forward to. I brushed my teeth, filled my mouth with water to rinse, and water sprayed from the left side of my mouth, down my swollen belly.

What. the. fuck.

I smiled at myself in the mirror, a strange grin, because only half my face smiled back at me.

I thought I was having a stroke. Mike tested me (thank heavens for EMT-trained husbands) and assured me that wasn’t what was happening. “But call the doctor,” he said, “let’s get you checked out.” While I was on the phone, he was googling, and bless his heart he didn’t tell me what he read. Later on he mentioned that I should NEVER google medical symptoms, but darling, I told him, I already knew that.

We checked into Labor & Delivery around 10:30 a.m. It’s where Kaiser sends any pregnant woman with any medical concerns. They had me undress, put me in bed, hooked me up to a million machines, wanted to keep an eye on the baby. She’s doing fine, they promised. She’s perfect.

Thank God.

My OB came and checked me out. Said it’s probably Bells Palsy, but he wanted the house MD to see me too. He left. We waited. They brought us lunch – sandwiches and fruit salad. The house MD came in, made me run through a million stroke tests, just to rule everything out. Was perplexed by the pain in my neck and the numbness in my tongue. Left. We waited.

My OB came back and said he’d spoken to someone in neurology. It’s probably just Bells Palsy, he assured us, but they’ve ordered an MRI to rule out stroke, blood clots, brain tumors. He left. We waited. I cried. Mike held me.

“Everything has been perfect so far, so easy, why is this happening?”

“Because things can’t be perfect all the time. Life would get too boring.”

The nursing staff was lovely. Brought us snacks, water, cranberry juice. I tried to nap. Got up and walked around. Did some yoga stretches on the bed. Practiced my deep, slow, labor breathing.

At 4:25 they brought a wheel chair in, guided us through hallways and corridors, me in my hospital gown, a blanket around my shoulders, my bare feet on the cold metal foot pads. I thought, “I’m so glad I’ve kept my pedicures up.” And then, “If its a stroke, or a blood clot, they’ll probably have to do emergency surgery. And they’ll start with a c-section. And I might never get to hold my baby.” And then I practiced my slow, deep breathing some more.

The MRI wasn’t so bad. I can see how easy it would be to panic inside one of those machines. I kept my eyes closed the whole time, except my left eye which leaked in bright lights, white, clinical plastic. I took slow, deep breaths. A single tear slid down my right temple, pooled in my hair. I started counting my inhales and exhales in time with the unbelievable cacophony of the MRI. Inhale – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Exhale – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 , 10, 11, 12. When thoughts crept in I reminded myself, Inhale – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. Exhale – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 , 10, 11, 12. Twenty-five minutes passed like five and we were done.

I waited for the nurse to collect me, Mike from the waiting room, and take us back to L&D. I cried quietly into my hands, so people wouldn’t see. A woman in scrubs congratulated us on our new baby, assuming that’s why we were being wheeled into L&D. A stupid assumption from a medical professional, especially when the mother is weeping silently, face buried in shaking hands.

I got back into bed. Mike rubbed my back and whispered sweet things in my ear. We waited. They brought us dinner. At 6:30 we got the results. All clear. It’s Bells Palsy for sure. No big deal. A strict regimen of Prednisone (completely safe to take while pregnant, they insisted) should show improvement in a week. I should have full use of my face again in about two weeks. It could have been so much worse.

They released us at 7:30. It was 8:45 before we left the hospital, long lines in the pharmacy. Sick people coughing all over us.

I’ve been “the pretty girl” most of my life. An awkward child with glasses and gap teeth, I bloomed in junior high and never looked back. I haven’t always felt pretty, or thought I was pretty enough, but it wasn’t until I was a grown, married woman that I began to learn that my pretty face isn’t the most important part of who I am. Still, I’m vain enough that this, this paralysis of the left side of my face, the lopsided smile and gecko-blinking eyes, hurts my ego in a very deep, hard way.

“I deserve this,” I told Mike.

“You do not deserve this.”

“I do. There’s a lesson to learn here.”

It’s okay if you think I sound shallow and silly. I feel shallow and silly. I am so, so, so unbelievably lucky, I know. For all the things it could have been, it’s likely only temporary. And most importantly of all, no matter what happened to me, the baby girl in my belly is 100% unaffected and totally, absolutely healthy. I couldn’t ask for more than that.

I consulted with four doctors, my midwife, my doula (who is more than my doula, she’s been my friend for seventeen years), and my family before I agreed to take the Prednisone. I haven’t even felt comfortable taking Tylenol since I’ve been pregnant, and Prednisone is a serious steroid. But everyone told me the risks of not taking the Prednisone far outweighed the risk of taking it, so I’m taking it. I started acupuncture yesterday, too, because Mike read that it yields the best results for Bells Palsy.

Talking is difficult. Eating is difficult. I drool a little. When I drink, whatever I’m drinking leaks out the side of my mouth. Using a straw is worse because I can’t wrap my lips around it properly.  The muscles in my jaw and the right side of my face ache from over-compensating. I’m terribly self-conscious. I’m working on my attitude. There’s a lesson to learn here, I know it. But I’m still trying to figure out what it is.

 


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  • ‘Cita

    What can I say? You are wonderful – I love that you always seek the lesson to be learned. I admire your attention to priorities, your lack of vanity, your skilled expression, and all of the thousands of other things that make you who you are.

    • http://ASeriousGirl.com/ Patricia Frost

      I love you Mama.

  • Hawk

    You’ll always be beautiful because the inner you shines out from within.

    • http://ASeriousGirl.com/ Patricia Frost

      You’re gonna make me blush!

  • http://www.kimskitchensink.com/ Kim’s Kitchen Sink

    Oh god, Trish. I called you this morning probably while you were writing this. I had no idea, but clearly the universe was telling me to reach out to you or something. Friendship spidey sense.

    I love you and I’m here for you via chat and text and email and everything if you need anything.

    • http://ASeriousGirl.com/ Patricia Frost

      Thanks love. I appreciate it. I’m okay. Just trying to deal. :) – or more accurately – :-/ Since that’s what I look like when I smile now.

      • http://www.kimskitchensink.com/ Kim’s Kitchen Sink

        I’m glad you’re ok…temporary or not, sounds like a trying ordeal. I’m glad you and Baby Nugget are healthy.

        • http://ASeriousGirl.com/ Patricia Frost

          Right?? That’s the most important thing. xox

    • Sazal Khan

      My Uncle Colin just got blue Honda Pilot SUV from only workin parttime on a pc at home… this website

  • lyzl

    Oh no! This is terrible. And you know what, it’s okay to let yourself be upset and pissed about this. It’s not shallow and silly. It’s normal to feel this way. You will always be one of the most beautiful people I know.

    • http://ASeriousGirl.com/ Patricia Frost

      Blushing! But thank you for your kind words.

  • Josey

    Oh my goodness, hon. I can’t imagine how terrifying that entire day must have been. Thank goodness that your daughter is okay and that you will be okay. Try not to feel so badly about being self conscious about your face. It’s human nature to care about the image we present to the world! Praying for a quick recovery for you. ((HUGS))

    • http://ASeriousGirl.com/ Patricia Frost

      Thank you Darlin. xox

  • dsiple

    First, your blog is new to me (and thank you for adding me to your list), and I had to read a little to see it was yours….

    Okay, Big Bummer Because of Bells – This too, dear one, will pass. You have many loving people surrounding you with love and care. And you’ve got that great, big, gorgeous hubby who’s taking such good care of you, and who will be a wonderful daddy because he’s the one you chose to do this, and the rest of your life with. You chose very well (you knew that a long time ago). All of this is a hiccup. It’s surprising (whaaat?) It’s inconvenient (Why the hell now, and how am I going to look in my pictures with my new baby?) Whaaaa!! It sucks (yeah, it does, dammit, just when I was all ready to have things perfect). This is all just stuff. Everything IS perfect. You’re getting great care, which you’re close to. 911 works. Mike’s ready. I’ve told you, and I think I can speak for Paul, that if you need ANYTHING – and I mean round the clock – we’re prepared to drop what we’re doing and be there. And we’re only two. There are a lot of others on your team.
    And dear, dear Trish – you are so lovely and beautiful – the fact that you felt you deserved it (while I find your thinking process very limited at the moment you thought it) means that you’re full of humility. And THAT’S beautiful. It doesn’t matter a whit what you look or sound like. Really, take some selfies – do a video post, and put some of your humor into this. I know we’d all love it, as we love you. Honey, you will always be beautiful. It’s who you are, not what you are. Give me a crooked smile! Say shxchleeeeez!!

    • http://ASeriousGirl.com/ Patricia Frost

      Aw, thank you Dennis! I really appreciate your love and support. I know it will all be okay. And I was actually planning to make a video! I can finally do a killer Elvis impression. :-) – er – :-/

  • Sarah Colebrook

    I’m a new reader and so sorry to read your experience. I felt somewhat close to you as my own mother had a stroke 10 years ago and still affected by it as it was a very severe one. Glad your husband was there to hold you.
    Sometimes things happen to a lovely person like you whether you think you deserve it or not. I don’t think anybody deserves sickness, or illness. Take it easy and rest to meet your gorgeous baby. Love

    • http://ASeriousGirl.com/ Patricia Frost

      Thank you so much for your kind words and support Sarah. I’m so sorry to hear about your mother’s stroke – what a terrifying thing to go through. You’re right – no one deserves something like that.

      Love back to you and your family.

  • Connye Griffin

    May this pass quickly, and may I humbly offer a lesson to consider. Pregnancy and parenting are full of joys, but many aspects are not at all glamourous. Chronically punctual people must learn to be late and smile to make others feel better–an easy feat when you pat yourself on the back for putting your child’s agenda a bit before your own. People who require absolute perfection of themselves will learn to forgive themselves for being uncertain, emotional, and imperfect now and then. This temporary setback is training for all the other changes and adjustments you will soon make. Best wishes for speedy healing!

    • http://ASeriousGirl.com/ Patricia Frost

      Amen, Connye. Beautifully said and definitely words of wisdom for me to keep thinking about. Thank you.

  • bayram poyraz

    Where are you now ey of what a mistake if I’ve forgiven you keep the size of em … I’m still walking around day will behold Rover went you could not forget you forgotten ME

  • bayram poyraz

    is a hope to live.

  • bayram poyraz

    You’d love it.

    You give value to him only in his heart.

    Enter together when distance.

    Did you miss if you love me forgot it at work do not know him!.

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    Wow! I love you sister. Can i to get tips about new face to you?