Life · Motherhood lately

Motherhood lately

Chapter 1.

I’ll be honest. The past 4 months have been hard. Dealing with rheumatoid arthritis is hard enough. Mothering a newborn AND dealing with rheumatoid arthritis? It’s just punishing.

I haven’t been on my meds since before I got pregnant. At first what was remaining of the medication in my system kept me afloat until I got pregnant, and then as predicted by my rheumatologist, the pregnancy itself helped my symptoms ease up. My doctor reminded me though that after I give birth and once I start breastfeeding, the flare ups would return and will be worse than ever. And man have they returned, with a vengeance too, it seems. 

It’s as if my joints are disintegrating by the day (well they literally ARE deteriorating). The stiffness is bad. The pain has been overwhelming. A month ago I dislocated my right shoulder and tore the labrum from just throwing a piece of fruit across the room. Now I need surgery to have it repaired. If you remember, my left shoulder also went through surgery in 2014 because of recurrent dislocation that started with a basketball injury. Talk about damaged joints. There hasn’t been a single day without pain ever since I stopped my meds.

And why, one might ask, am I not back on my medications? As simple as it may seem, the decision I made was not. I chose to breastfeed our baby. And for me, it was and still is worth the sacrifice. 

Breastfeeding didn’t even come easy. In fact we all worked hard for it. And when i say “we,” I mean all three of us- Sam, the baby and I. First off, I only have one functional breast to nurse her with. The other one’s milk ducts have been scarred and subsequently blocked by a previous surgery. It took us a lot of trips to the lactation consultant, a lot of crying in pain, a lot of breast pumping, a lot of sleepless nights, and a lot of frustration, which was just one of the many other emotions overwhelming me at that point. It didn’t even help when other moms made it look so easy! (Don’t get me wrong, I know it must have not been easy for them too when they started, but you get what I mean 😉 )

At around 2.5 months things actually finally eased up a bit and I felt that baby and I were finally getting the hang of it. I was beginning to see the brighter side of breastfeeding. Or so I thought. Along with the ease of breastfeeding came the increasing RA flares. All I could take was Ibuprofen and that didn’t help either. At a little past 3 months, I dislocated my right shoulder and tore the labrum with an arm movement that wouldn’t normally cause dislocations in people with normal joint integrity. Miserable couldn’t even describe how I felt in the few weeks after that incident. Nowadays, I just try and make sure I don’t drop the baby whenever I lift her out of her crib or the bouncer. Sam is scared I might drop her at some point because certain positions just give me severe sharp pain. But you know what, even if it’s deathly painful for me to lift her, I don’t think I would ever drop her. It’s a mom thing, I guess.

Anyway, I have been contemplating about shifting to formula because of the needed surgery and the need for me to retake my medication. Sam has been convincing me to, for my own good, and subsequently the baby’s too. And it’s not that there’s anything wrong with formula, it’s just that I’m scared and a bit anxious to let go of the breastfeeding (which is selfish of me, I know, or is it? This whole obsession on breastfeeding deserves another blogpost). I may have become attached to the act of breastfeeding itself. And besides, shifting to formula would be a whole new stressful stage for both of us. My baby is highly allergic too (thanks to both of her parents) and she’s started to manifest her atopy in dermatitis. Just when we’ve started to get comfortable with breastfeeding, these circumstances get thrown our way. But Sam has repeated time and time again, that the best way to take care of the baby right now is to take care of myself first- stop breastfeeding, shift to formula, restart my medications, have the surgery. Because for  him, how will I even be able to take care of her when I myself am debilitated? Logically, he’s right. But my heart tells me otherwise.

I know I need to listen to Sam’s advice and put my heart in the backseat. And so we have reached a compromise and are aiming for her 6th month. I am dreading the day we start weaning her off the breast. In the meantime, I am hanging on to God’s promise of healing and His strength as I press on and take care of our baby every single day, in the best way I could.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.                                                                                                                    ~ Psalm 73:26

 

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Faith · Life

When God answers prayers

OVERWHELMED. Today I finally found it in myself to tell a part of our story. I remember when I was single and struggling with the idea of never having this chance. It was when endometriosis started to appear on the list of illnesses I have, the surgeries became more regular, and the wounds healed on top of each other, the scars being a painful reminder. I was repeatedly told I could never get pregnant. Fearing that you may be infertile is different from knowing and being diagnosed with it. So I never thought this time would come. After 6 years. Our story is long, the details numerous, but the journey has been longer. And yet this will be one of those rare times I will write without a lot of words (and not in a blogpost). Because for now, no words can express how overwhelmed we are everyday.

HOPEFUL. I know and have met a lot of women (and couples) who have gone through, and are still going through this struggle called infertility. We’ve formed some sort of a community, and in it, we have found much love, encouragement, support, and prayer. I am not leaving our community though, because honestly, I am finding it hard to. I will continue to pray with you. Because for anyone, infertility is never, never easy. It is especially harder to go through it feeling alone. And for every treatment failure, for every negative test, for every loss, I will continue to mourn with you because I, too, have been there and I will never forget how it feels like. However, it is my prayer that our story be a story of hope so that those who are fighting and praying continue to do so. It is my prayer that you continue to hope, and hope in the Lord, for those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.

GRATEFUL AND REJOICING. God, you have been immensely amazing. Truly, Your goodness, Your mercy, and Your faithfulness have no bounds. We are grateful, more than words can ever express. And we rejoice. We rejoice together with our families, with the people who have prayed with us, the people who have encouraged us, and the people who have supported us. And we will glorify the Lord, for He has finally heard our cries. Because just when we were at peace with a lifetime of just the two of us, God gives us this little miracle.

I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him. 1 Samuel 1:27

 

*This was a facebook post 😉14066394_10207415656415088_6937086220880629619_o

Life

30 Plus things I am grateful for this year

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Because my birthday always falls on the same week or day as Thanksgiving, I wanted to write a gratitude list this year. And I am hoping to write one every year during my birthday. When we cultivate an attitude of gratefulness, no matter the circumstance, God rewards us with joy, peace and contentment. So, here goes:

1. I am grateful for being alive. Life itself is not an opportunity everyone gets to enjoy for a long time.
2. I am grateful for my family. We have our quirks, differences, similarities. We call each other weird names. We argue, we fight and we wrestle. But after all that, we’re still family. And we will fight and defend each other to the very end.
3. I am grateful for my body. It may not be perfect. It may have its share of defects. It may be fond of attacking itself, giving me pain everyday, for the rest of my life (yeah, autoimmune disease sucks bigtime), but that doesn’t define me. What I would like to get noticed though is the strength that is keeping this body together. God is indeed the strength of my heart, my body, and my soul.
4. I am grateful for friends. Bestfriends. Close friends. New friends. Facebook friends. Twitter friends. Instagram friends. The idea of being a friend has been really confusing nowadays. And so at this age, I am realizing that great friendships take a lot of effort, and love.
5. I am grateful for the roof above our heads, the car (we call her Soobie) that takes Sam to work everyday and both of us to the grocery, and the clothes that keep us warm everyday.
6. I am grateful for cellular phones and computers. Communication is key. Enough said.
7. I am grateful for the internet. Boy, how this one really makes our lives easier.
8. I am grateful for the opportunity to be here. Although if you’ve read my previous blog posts about not understanding why, I want you to know that I changed my mind. I found some enlightenment. I now understand why, well kinda. God is revealing it in ways I could never have imagined.
9. I am grateful for being part of a church who’s made us feel like family.
10. I am grateful for Sam’s job. I could not overemphasize how much he loves his job. And I love seeing him loving what he does.
11. I am grateful for the opportunity to take part in Perseverance Theater’s ASTI this year. I have missed acting so much.
12. I am grateful for the opportunity to take review classes with Kaplan this year. Oh my, they’re expensive. I hope it would be worth it.
13. I am grateful for this chance and the time to review for the US medical boards.
14. I am grateful for my Aunt and Uncle in California who have opened their house to me and Sam.
15. I am grateful for the ability to still be able to play the guitar and the piano in spite of the pain and stiffness of my finger joints.
16. I am grateful for people who have opened their homes to us, those who have fed us (haha), those who have treated us like family in Alaska. (The Arsuas, the Shiers, the Dotys, the Magleos, the Ihnats, the Frickeys, Michelle, and others)
17. I am grateful for the availability of rice and dried fish here in the US. Yep, they’re important to me.
18. I am grateful for health insurance, my doctors, and the availability of my medications.
19. I am grateful for the sunshine everyday when I’m in California. And I am grateful for the rain and the snow when I’m in Juneau, although I’m not necessarily happy about the cold.
20. I am grateful for the responsibilities I have- as wife, daughter, niece, daughter-in-law, sister, friend. It gives me purpose.
21. I am grateful for having my shoulder surgery this year. After a gazillion dislocations, I finally had it repaired. I can now play basketball again!
22. I am grateful for having just one surgery this year and not multiple. I should be a surgical patient hall of famer.
23. I am grateful for my driver’s license. I just got my Alaskan driver’s license this year.
24. I am grateful for my parents’ and aunt and uncle’s visit to Juneau last summer. I won’t say how many buckets of Alaskan King crab they devoured.
25. I am grateful for the opportunity to visit the east coast with Sam this year.
26. I am grateful for the opportunity to become a blessing to others.
27. I am grateful for religious freedom.
28. I am grateful for water. Goodness, I cannot imagine this life without water. My affinity to water is evident in my love for washing the dishes and doing the laundry. Oh, and I guess I would have to include excessive handwashing- the feeling of running warm water over swollen and painful hands……
29. I am grateful for Sam’s ability to take beautiful photos of the Aurora Borealis.
30. I am grateful for words. Words are my greatest means of expression…and sometimes my source of stress. My grammar is not perfect, but obviously bad grammar just bothers me a lot. Especially those on social media. Haha
31. I am grateful for Sam, of course. Without him, I would be just Keziah. With him, we are Sam and Keziah. Haha. Seriously, he is the best gift God has ever given me in this lifetime. It would take a whole new blogpost to elaborate on this one.
32. And…I am grateful for love. Without love, I am nothing. God has afforded me the opportunity to love and be loved. I will always be forever grateful to the God who loves me unconditionally.

There. Now you know how old I am. So this is how it feels. It really is true. Once you turn 30 and beyond, you actually stop counting. Haha. And as usual, Sam’s witty reply to my emotional upheaval the day before my birthday was, “You should learn to accept that you’re getting old this early, and you will be able to age gracefully.”

“In everything, give thanks..” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Faith · Life

Officially a Mother-in-waiting

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When you’ve gone through a lot of physical pain in your life, you eventually become numb to it, even without painkillers and such. Yet the pain of infertility is not just physical, it’s largely emotional as well. Did you know that roughly 40 % of women with endometriosis are infertile? That makes endometriosis one of the top three causes of infertility, according to the Cleveland Clinic. However, there are ongoing researches about the relationship of endometriosis and infertility, and this is a good thing.

I have been aware of this to some extent ever since med school, and I think I prepared myself to accept the probable consequences of my multiple surgeries due to endometriosis. Sam, also, had already been carefully briefed even before we got married. The very first time I was told that I was highly probable to have difficulty getting pregnant, I was 25 years old and just fresh out of medical school. You can imagine how I panicked. I will not go into the details of panicky emotional moments, wrong and hasty decisions, and how many people I’ve hurt in the process, but it did cause a lot of commotion in my life, that was for sure.

When Sam and I got married, contraception was never an option. Fast forward to last year, when Sam and I officially started getting help fertility-wise after my third pelvic surgery. After the 4th cycle, I was drained, both physically and emotionally, and it was only the most basic step in the reproductive treatment plan! So after trips to the specialist, injections, pills- I never did get those two pink lines on the test kit. And kneeling on the bathroom floor in front of the test kit, each time, didn’t help either. The word, “horrible” couldn’t even describe the feeling of waiting for a whole month, for 4 successive months, to get some urine on that stick, only to get a negative test result. “Devastating” would be close, but not quite.

We gave up on the injections and the meds temporarily, well I did. And as a consequence, I had to go through severe pains and bleeding again. As the doctor said, it’s either I get pregnant or stay on medications. Right now, I’m on medication in the meantime, as they’ve found new growths again on my remaining ovary. There are a lot of other options and solutions, I know, we know. We have studied every medical solution to our problem, and by “we” I mean Sam and I have been reading together about it. Sam probably knows more about endometriosis than I do now. And yes, we have considered adoption too. We have taken a lot of fertility advice, even some weird ones. And yes, we followed each instruction to the tee (weird as it may be). We have prayed about it for as long as we have been married and even before we were.

We love kids. I love kids, I really do. I taught preschool in the year after I graduated from college and before I went to med school. I wanted to become a pediatrician. I worked with kids in the slums during my social work days. I dote on my bestfriends’ kids. So, why is this happening to me? I’ve asked that question a million times.

 I never got an answer to that question. I’ve formulated possible answers in my head, but that’s just me. And you know what, in this life, maybe I will never get an answer for all the ‘whys” I’ve asked. But by God’s grace, I’ve learned to accept that and be at peace, at least for now. Here’s what I learned in this endless cycle of physical and emotional pain and negative pregnancy tests- I may never know why God intended for it to be this way for me, and for Sam as well; I will never know at this point if we will ever get pregnant sometime in the future, or at least how- like if we would need further medical help in conceiving or something; one thing we know for sure is that GOD’S HAD OUR BEST IN MIND EVERY TIME HE’S SAID “NO” FOR THE PAST 4 YEARS. He is too wise to be mistaken. Maybe He’s reserved us for something different other than raising kids at this time; maybe the kids will come sometime in the near future; or maybe we were never really meant to become parents; or He may still be preparing us, because we simply may not be ready yet.  We have come up with a lot of possible explanations, believe me. But we’ve concluded that the best thing to do now, still, is to wait, even if we have to wait forever. I trust that God’s timing and purpose is always perfect. And so I’m waiting for this day to be my day too someday, and I’ve officially called myself a mother-in-waiting. So to us, who are still waiting for that bundle of joy to arrive- Happy Mother-in-waiting Day!

 Oh, and you might want to watch this tearjerker of a video too:

Life

How to cope with physical pain

Tomorrow I will be having my fifth surgery. The surgeon will be repairing my left shoulder, which, 2 weeks ago, dislocated (on its own) while I was asleep. Don’t make any conclusions yet, Sam didn’t have anything to do with it, he was at work. It’s been dislocating on and off for 7 years now. The first time it happened was while I was dribbling the ball back to home court in a basketball championship game in medical school. But this has got to be the worst episode. I woke up with sudden severe and shooting pain on my left shoulder, recognized right away that the ball was out of the socket, manipulated the joint on my own and reduced it effectively, after 3 failed and painful attempts. I know, it’s gruesome. I couldn’t feel my hands at one point. I was sobbing on my own, called Sam, and finally asked our friends to drive me to the Emergency Room at 1 am to get an X-ray done. So on top of my Rheumatoid arthritis flares and my endometriotic pelvic pains, I get to endure shooting pain coming from my left shoulder. I couldn’t help but laugh at myself this time. Believe me, I don’t laugh alone because my husband usually laughs at me first. So, because of all this physical pain that’s come my way, I’ve cooked up something that could, hopefully, help you deal with whatever physical pain you are in right now. The title should’ve then been “How to cope with physical pain the way I do.”

  1. Know that everything comes to pass. It will eventually come to an end. Look forward to that freedom from pain. It’s like looking forward to the light at the end of the tunnel. Aside from the prayers that I cry out to God when I am in pain, I usually say, “This will end,” over and over again. And when it does end, learn to appreciate those pain-free days more and whisper a prayer of gratitude.
  2. Know that pain is your nervous system’s response to damage or injury to any body part. It’s like an alarm system. It tells us that something is wrong. And it leads us to take care of our body even more to avoid having to feel that same way again. Take heed and listen to your body. If it means having to change your diet and lifestyle, then by all means do. Not everything works though. Sometimes, some things make the pain even worse than when you even started doing, eating, or drinking it.
  3. Remember that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. When you are able to endure pain, you are stronger than most people in the world. My husband always tells me that I’m stronger than him, well, in terms of enduring pain, that is. But of course he’s my husband.
  4. Thank God for the pain. Remember when the Apostle Paul told the Thessalonians to give thanks in every circumstance? Well, that includes being in a painful situation. It reminds us that God is our ultimate Healer. It reminds us that His strength is sufficient. It allows us to look forward to that time and place where… “God will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain…” (Revelation 21:4)
  5. Know that you are not alone. There are people around the world who are dealing or who have dealt with the same amount of pain that you are dealing with, some even worse. An epic example of this (one my husband always reminded me of) would be Job. ““And now my life ebbs away; days of suffering grip me. Night pierces my bones; my gnawing pains never rest.” (Job 30:16-17) Oh my, I could imagine what he went through. Yet he still praised God.

Believe me, dealing with physical pain has never been easy. And yes, for some people, it makes suicide a very viable option and an easy way out. But that would be a selfish thing to do. Really, if there is one thing that has kept me up all this time in spite of the amount of pain I have to go through everyday, it is knowing that God is still sovereign. And even for this kind of life He has afforded me, I know that He does have a purpose in mind. I may not understand it now, but He will let me know eventually, in His own time. And besides, this physical body is just temporary after all. Sometimes even I would forget that; I would wallow in my self pity, and just plunge into nothingness. And guess who always pulls me out and reminds me that God does listen to my cries? Sam, of course. I hope and pray that you wouldn’t have to go through what I’m going through. And if you do or if you already have, please let me know how you’ve coped with your pain. There is always comfort in sharing.

The Alaska Night Sky *photo taken by sam*