Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Medical Uncertainties

It's been a week of a lot of doctor's appointments.  Doctor's appointments make me think of Samuel.  The last month of my pregnancy, I saw a doctor twice a week.  I had an ultrasound every Thursday and a non-stress test every Monday.  One of those appointments landed me in the hospital for overnight observation.  Throughout my pregnancy I had many, many appointments -- I saw my regular OB, the perinatologist, and the pediatric cardiologist on too many occasions to count.  And once Samuel was born, we were surrounded by more doctors than friends.  For me, the medical world will always remind me of Samuel.

A week and  half ago I had some blood work done, and something unexpected showed up.  According to the measure of TSH in my blood, I have hypothyroidism.  Essentially this means my thyroid is underactive.  When I looked up the symptoms of hypothyroidism, I was a little shocked.  It includes exhaustion, irritability, depression, hair loss, inability to lose weight, being cold, menstrual irregularities, and miscarriages.  I have all those symptoms to some degree or another, and I attributed most of them to grief.  I thought, "Of course I'm exhausted all the time -- I'm grieving.  And of course I'm irritable and a bit depressed and my body seems out of whack.  These are normal responses to grief."  It never, ever occurred to me that there might be a contributing medical component. 

I have had varying responses to this news.  On one hand I am thankful that we found this as I would never have seen a doctor for any of those symptoms, and when untreated, hypothyroidism can result in miscarriages or poor brain development during pregnancy.  As I certainly hope to be pregnant again some day, this seems like very important information and crucial to take care of.  Also, I would love to feel better -- more like myself with more patience, more energy, more joy, and not freezing all the time. However, I do think it would be foolish to expect medicine to remove all symptoms of grief.  Though it may regulate my thyroid, it will not take away my sorrow and the simple truth that I am a grieving mom. 

On the other hand, I feel annoyed that this is even going on.  Sure it's great we found it and can do something about it, but did there really have to be anything to find?  I am due for some non-drama and a little break.  But I know that's not how life works, and do I really want any life other than the one God has for me?  No, I don't.  So, I am trying to remain thankful that this turned up.

At first I felt really hopeful that medication would solve the problem and get my body well for a future pregnancy.  But after numerous tests (the official results of which I won't get until Monday), I am feeling far less hopeful.  One of the tests suggests that in fact I have hyperthyroidism -- or an overactive thyroid.  I was reminded, yet again, not to put hope or firm feet on a particular medical diagnosis.  New test reveal new things and mean new approaches and a need for flexibility.  I didn't really think I needed to learn this lesson again, and frankly I'm a little irked that I have to and have to deal with this, but so be it.  Things could be so much worse. And there is certainly a bright side to all of this.

One thing I know I don't want to face again is another miscarriage, and if finding this all out and treating it means I will avoid that road for the third time, then I am really thankful we've unearthed this problem.  I do look back on my two miscarriages and wonder if hypothyroidism was at play then and explains those losses.

The worst part of all of this has been wondering if my thyroid issues explain Samuel.  I emailed Dr. Videlefsky, Samuel's pediatric cardiologist, to ask him if he thought hypothyroidism could have contributed to Samuel's heart and lung problems, and he told me that he doesn't believe it did, but there is no way to know for sure. Before hearing back from him, I came to the conclusion that it doesn't really matter if my thyroid did or did not contribute to Samuel's death.  It can't be undone, and if God had wanted to save Samuel, He would have.  Me taking or not taking medicine wouldn't have stopped Him.  This is the story God wrote, and this is the story I am living.  There is no point in "what-ifs" and no benefit.  I am reconciled to the path God has lead us down.  Samuel is with my Savior, and there is no better place for my son.  Samuel does not wish things had worked out differently.  He is complete, fulfilled, healed, and more alive than I have ever been.  I don't wish anything else for him.  Somedays I certainly wish something else for me, but again I have to put my trust in Christ and walk forward faithfully, courageously, and sincerely.  Each day I put one foot in front of the other and choose to live the day God has made.  And this is today.  I am living it, and I am looking up to Him for the strength to keep moving forward and to keep embracing whatever He has for me.

So whatever Monday's results reveal, so be it.  That, too, will be the day God has made, and I will rejoice and be glad in it.


  1. Kathryn! I knew we were meant to be friends! Welcome to the club of crazy thryoid issues! :)
    I have had a crash course in the thryoid since my diagnosis of hypothyroidism last summer. Please, please contact me if you have any questions.
    I can encourage you with a couple of personal experiences (I hope!). The first is that hypothyroidism is somewhat common as a post partum condition. If I understand, it occurs in 1 in 4 postpartum women. Now of that 1 woman, 1 in 4 of them, this condition does not self-correct. This is what happened to me, I believe. I did not have symptoms before I had Harper. But her first two years of life were some of my most physically difficult. I literally felt like I was walking through water everyday-exhausting. Plus a ton of other random things-dry hair, unexplained weight gain, etc.
    I have been on Synthroid for a touch over six months now and feel AMAZING-more like my old self. I can actually keep going after the kids go to bed. There is light at the end of that tunnel.
    I would love to talk to you about this. Admittedly, my story is a bit scary and I'll try not to freak you out, but I can certainly relate. Also, I would love to know if you've been recommended to an endocrinologist. I'm currently hunting for a new one.
    I know this is the last thing you want to deal with right now, but trust me, it is so worth it to feel better.

  2. Hi, I just wanted to let you know that your condition is very treatable and you will be able to go on have another child. I developed Hashimoto's Thyroiditis after the birth of my first child (a daughter). Hashimoto's is an autoimmune disease and causes a person to develop antibodies to their thyroid gland and these antibodies try to destroy the gland. I was six months postpartum when I went through this crisis and received my diagnosis. My TSH was through the roof at the time and my practitioner wasn't exactly sure how I was standing up straight, let alone breastfeeding, taking care of my baby plus working out at the gym four times a week trying unsuccessfully to lose my baby weight. I started treatment immediately with Synthroid and although it took quite a few months, my TSH stabilized. My weight that I had been trying to lose came off very quickly, and my mood and extreme tiredness improved. I lost a lot of hair (I normally have very thick hair) and had to get my long hair cut off very short. The good thing about hair is that it grows back!

    After becoming stabilized, I became pregnant again. My son arrived 27 months after the birth of my first child and he was a very healthy 10#9oz. My TSH was monitored throughout the pregnancy and I had no problems.

    My next child, another daughter, came 22 months later. I always tell her that she was "divinely inspired" because my husband and I didn't plan her but God did. Again, my TSH was monitored and remained very stable throughout the pregnancy. She was my smallest child and weighed in at only 8#9oz but was very healthy.

    My babies are all teenagers now (17, 15, and 13). I continue to have my TSH monitored and so far, my Hashimoto's hasn't flared up too much, although I have had to have my Synthroid adjusted a bit over the years. I work hard at eating well and exercising daily in order to prevent future inflammation.

    On a side note, I have sometimes wondered in my journey, if Thyroiditis is also partly an "emotional disease". This is just a theory and I think that scientifically, it might be difficult to back up. I do wonder though if somehow "emotional negativity" in some cases, triggers antibodies to attack the very body that they were meant to defend.

    In my case, I did suffer with extreme anxiety during and after my first pregnancy. I almost miscarried my first pregnancy and had to be off work for two months. When I was 18 years old and in university, I had an abortion. So when my body was threatening spontaneous abortion, my previous abortion weighed heavily on my mind and heart. After delivery, I was told that my bowel and vagina had ruptured while pushing. After blood transfusions and surgery to fix my bowel and vagina I had a very slow recovery and felt really "bummed" out about it. A few months later, I found myself in the doctor's office being told that my antibodies were mounting a large attack on my thyroid gland. The whole time was stressful. With God's help, I recovered and I have been pretty stable since. My husband has also been extremely supportive too.

    Someday, somewhere in the future, you'll look back and see what you went through and how God was with you and guided you. Your journey is totally different than mine and it is not insurmountable (otherwise God wouldn't have put you right smack-dab in the middle of it!). Remember to rest, eat well, exercise, surround yourself with the positive and most importantly, keep in touch with The One who created you.

  3. Hey there, you guys don't know our family, but we found you off another blog that we follow- our friends from Pod- G at Vanderbilt Children's. We just lost our little girl Kaydence this past December and have found some help in your family's story of Samuel. Thank you for your honesty in writing.


  4. Hi B & K,

    God brought you to mind and I just prayed for you.

    K - Reading your words greatly encouraged me today -- especially the part about not wanting any other life or story than the one God has chosen for us. You shine so brightly.

    I am praying that Samuel's memory remain vivid and clear to you as long as you live and that you feel God's presence in a real way today.

    P.S. I too have hypothyroidism. You aren't alone!

    Becca Daws