Sunday, October 9, 2016

Life after cholestasis

In the weeks leading up to Kate's birth, after being officially diagnosed with cholestasis, I knew that it would be a while before I would have another baby. I was traumatized enough from the itching as it was, BUT I knew that I would have another baby someday.

That feeling was prophetic on some counts. There is a 3 1/2 year age gap between Kate and Livia. Partly intentional, partly not. I had a miscarriage in between pregnancies. 

When I became pregnant with Livia, people told me that maybe I wouldn't have cholestasis again and to try to focus on that instead of worrying when it would come back. Of course, I was realistic knowing my personal and family history. I just didn't think it would show up as early as it did. I had hoped that it would be more like Kate's pregnancy and I would only really suffer for the last couple of weeks and be done. No such luck, since it came back as soon as I hit my third trimester. Those were the longest nine weeks of my life. 

Now that Livia is a year old, I've had a lot of time to process the experience. 

I find myself feeling more sad when Livia reaches milestones than I was with Kate. I knew that I would have another baby after Kate. We don't know if we'll have anymore.

Livia is still very young, so we aren't planning on trying for another at the moment. Plus, I have the Nexplanon arm implant, so the chances of having an "oopsie" are practically zero for the next few years. It's more effective than tubal ligation and completely reversible, so I'm not worried. If any of you try to blame birth control for cholestasis or my previous gallbladder issues, you'll get an earful.

Stephan was leaning towards the "we're done" side of the equation. He kind of blames himself for me having cholestasis, since I can't exactly get pregnant without him--and yes, he knows how irrational this is. There's also how helpless he has felt seeing me go through the itching and not being able to save me from it.

Currently he is on the "maybe we'll have another, maybe we're done". Progress, I suppose. We are happy with the children we have now and Livia is still a baby (yes yes, she's one, but SHE'S STILL MY BABY!). And no, Stephan does not "need" a boy. He's happy with our girls :)

I also worry that if I do have another, I will be judged. A family member (who shall remain anonymous) said to me (not asked) ONE WEEK before my induction: "This is your last baby, isn't it?" I am proud of my response, for how taken aback I was, "Can I have this one first?"

Basically, I fear that IF I have another baby and WHEN the itching does come back, people will basically say, "Well, you did bring this on yourself. You didn't HAVE to get pregnant again" and not be the slightest bit compassionate.

Then there are those who tell me that I'll get amnesia about the whole itching experience.

Ha ha, you NEVER forget about that itch. Believe me. My mom's last child is 26 years old and she still remembers. She had it the very worst with me

There's also the fear that the itching will start even earlier than last time. I've heard of women having symptoms as early as *gulp* six weeks. That's like one of my worst nightmares.

I probably didn't need to write this post, as it is a bit more personal than some of my other it does talk about family planning, but I did promise a post about life after cholestasis.

Some little girl pictures...

They are worth every last itch.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Bye bye gallbladder

So...yeah I got my gallbladder out in July.

Originally, I was supposed to have it out on July 15, but then my surgeon was going to be out of town that day, so it got moved to July 22. Don't worry, it wasn't a last minute change--I still had about a month before the surgery when it got rescheduled. It ended up working out really well--it was a holiday weekend so Stephan only had to take one day off of work.

I was nervous about the surgery, even though everyone and their mom told me that it wasn't a big deal. Livia was sleeping so horribly up to my surgery that I joked that I would actually get to sleep during the surgery itself.

I was scheduled to be at the hospital at 7:45 in the morning. My mom had flown up to help with the girls. She showed up around 7:15; I woke Livia up to nurse her; and then I handed her off to Grandma. Kate woke up after we left, but she was happy to see Grandma.

Got to the hospital and went into the Outpatient Surgery Center.

We signed in and we were given one of those vibrator light-up thingies that you get at restaurants when you have to wait for a table. I thought that was amusing--I imagined that when the thing went off, I would hear someone yell, "Laura Anderson, your operating room is ready!"

But alas, that did not happen.

While we were waiting though, we were subjected to Donald Trump on the Today show. Grrrrr....this did not help my nerves. I was thirsty, but there was a sign above the drinking fountain that said, "If you're having surgery today, you cannot drink from this fountain." Okay, fine, it probably didn't say it quite like that, but that's the gist of it. Sigh. Why did you taunt me drinking fountain?

My only experience at the hospital was labor/delivery and I thought it would be like that--check into a room, wear a gown, and have a private bathroom. Nope.

When our thingie went off and a nurse came to get us, we were led back into basically a glorified triage. No rooms, just a bunch of beds only divided by curtains. I had to go into the one bathroom by the nurse's station to give a urine sample...and I had to carry the speciman container filled with my urine back to my curtained corner. Awkward.

And don't get me started on completely disrobing in those flimsy glorified shower-curtained quarters. Actually, I wonder if my shower is bigger than those "rooms". The hospital gown was a stiff mesh thing--seriously?

Various males introduced themselves--one of them recognized Stephan from high school. I found out that all these guys would be my surgical team. Apparently having an all-male surgical team was an oddity. Lovely, I was going to have a bunch of guys working on my unconscious body. Did I mention that I was completely naked under the gown? But, I've given birth twice, so I don't know what dignity is anymore.

Before I knew it, it was show time. I kissed Stephan good-bye and was wheeled down to the operating room and the anesthesia took effect. The next thing I remember was waking up to an oxygen mask on my face and a kind nurse taking care of me. I was surprisingly coherent, and I asked her how everything went. She said that everything went well and my gallbladder really did need to come out. I guess it looked pretty bad. The mask came off, and I was wheeled into recovery. She gave me apple juice and Lorna Doone cookies.

Do you have any idea how disappointed I am that I wasn't goofy coming out of anesthesia? I even told Stephan that if I was goofy that he could video it. Apparently I respond to anesthesia REALLY well.

I was in and out for the next little while, and then I could leave as soon as I could get my clothes on.

Putting on clothes after having abdominal surgery (even laparascopic) is a special kind of hell. We take our abs (however nonexistent they may be me) for granted. Stephan helped me dress in the flimsy little curtained room.

Then there was climbing the three flights of stairs to the condo. Never have I cursed that trip up the stairs so much, and believe me, I have cursed it many times. My mom and Stephan helped me up the stairs. Then I went to bed, and I spent lots of time in bed for the next few days.

The first few days were rough, but I got better as the days wore on. I was so grateful to my mom for coming up to help with the girls so Stephan didn't have to take too much time off.

Oh, and I have a picture of my diseased gallbladder that I will show upon request, because I'm not interested in grossing everyone out....yet.

I feel better than I've felt in a long time, which makes me wonder just how long my gallbladder was giving me trouble. So, if you are putting off getting your gallbladder out, don't put it off any longer. I promise that life without one isn't so bad :)

Livia turns 1!

Livia had her first birthday in September, and I still can't believe my baby is a year old.

We didn't do anything too fancy--we tend to keep birthdays low-key around here. We invited Grandma over for dinner and cake and presents. We had a last minute panic looking for the lighter and never did find it, and then Livia got impatient to have her chocolate cake and started going after it while we were looking for the lighter.

Oh well.

She got some cute clothes, her first pair of shoes, and a few new toys.

Oh, did I mention that she took her first steps a few days before she was 11 months old?

Now she's toddling all over the place.

She had her one-year checkup a few days later and got a clean bill of health. The doctor giggled over her too. Like her daddy and big sister, she's long and lean...and perfect :)

Livia turning one is so very bittersweet to me. I love seeing her grow into her own little person, but I miss the baby-ness. I don't remember feeling like this when Kate turned one, but that was partly because I knew we would have another. With Livia, we aren't sure we will have another...well, if we do, it won't be for a long time. Pity because I do make the most gorgeous babies ever. 

She has a couple of words: dadada for dad, mamama for mom, nuhnuhnuh for no

Sometimes when she's babbling, she whispers, like she's sharing a secret. It melts my heart. 

The sisters love each other, though Kate still doesn't always know how to be gentle, but I am grateful that Kate now at least tries to respect Livia's nap time. 

Livia has been a source of so much joy and comfort. The timing of her joining our family was no accident--she was born after a series of difficult trials in our family, not the least of which was the passing of her grandpa. Things haven't been easy since we had her--I developed postpartum anxiety about four months after she was born. I've been coming out of that cloud thanks to meds, therapy, and many prayers. Through it all, she was a source of hope. 

We love our darling Livia.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Cholestasis: the emotional rollercoaster

In honor of ICP Awareness Day.

Even normal pregnancies are fraught with many emotions. There's the emotions surrounding the transition: excitement and nervousness. Then there are the emotions about going through pregnancy itself: Ee! I'm going to have a baby! Oh my gosh, you mean I have to go through nine months of THIS? This random thing is making me cry. The baby is kicking! It's so beautiful! Aggh, my life is over!

You get the idea.

When you find out that your pregnancy is high risk is another matter altogether. 

I know for other high risk moms that there is a lot of anxiety and stress surrounding their pregnancies. Extra appointments; possibly lots of medication; worrying about the baby; worrying about their babies needing extra help when they come out; worrying about long-term ramifications to their babies and possibly themselves; etc.

Now, I speak only of my own experience having a rare pregnancy-related disease here, but these are some of the emotions I experienced, most especially during my second pregnancy. 


Relief? Say what?

I remember both times feeling a sense of relief when I was officially diagnosed. It was more of a "thank heavens, I'm not crazy after all!"

There was also the relief that I was being taken seriously and I would be getting the treatment and monitoring my baby and I needed. I was also relieved that there was a time limit to my suffering, since I wouldn't be allowed to go past 37 weeks.


The drugs are going to cost HOW much? Agh! 

How am I supposed to take care of my three-year-old when I'm so tired and itchy?

What are people going to think seeing all these scratches and bruises on my body? 

Crap, I have to find someone else to watch Kate so I can go to ANOTHER NST!


How many more weeks? I can't do this anymore. 

I am so sick of explaining a million times why I have to be induced early. 

This low fat diet so I don't have another gallbladder attack SUCKS.

These are just a few of the thoughts that stressed me out during my second pregnancy.

Did I mention that stress makes the itching worse? Oh yes.


I was mostly frustrated with all the ignorant comments and questions I got as my pregnancy wore on.

You're being induced at 37 weeks? WHY?! (my liver wants to eat my baby)

What's cholestasis? (my liver is not working properly and is becoming homicidal towards my baby)

How's your blood pressure? (MY BLOOD PRESSURE IS FINE!)

This is your last baby, isn't it? (Let me have this one first, mmkay?)

Oh, it's better to let baby cook longer! (not if your body is trying to kill baby)

Are you worried about NICU time? (I'll take a little NICU time over possibly losing my baby)

Aren't you supposed to be on bedrest? (my medical team hasn't told me I need to)

Do a liver cleanse! (number 1, cleanses are not safe during pregnancy or anytime really. Number 2, cleanses are a load of bunk)

Did you know that using hormonal birth control causes it? (genetics caused mine. Now leave me alone)

You look terrible! (Why thank you, have you heard of thinking before speaking?)

Stop scratching! (Try not breathing--not so easy, is it?)

You get the idea.

I have had people tell me (after expressing my frustration with these comments) that most people don't know about cholestasis, so I should just get used to these comments.

When an expecting mother says, "I have preeclampsia", most people know that it's serious and will hopefully offer sympathy. I want it to get to the point when an expecting mother says, "I have cholestasis" that people will say, "Oh, I've heard the itching is just awful!" or something along those lines.

As it is, when someone tells me that they have heard of cholestasis, I want to cry tears of joy and kiss them. I just tell them, "Thank you for not making me explain what it is! It's so refreshing!"

I confess that I really got annoyed when other pregnant moms whined about having normal pregnancies. Still do, actually. I know I shouldn't. I just wish I could have a normal pregnancy.


I felt so completely alone when I was going through it. Most people were kind to me, but no one (except my mother, who had ICP herself) really understood just how miserable I was. My support network that would have helped me out was down during my last trimester: my mother-in-law was caring for my father-in-law in his final days; my good friend who would have happily "kidnapped" Kate was sick (unknowingly pregnant, long story); and most of my ward was also pregnant.

Oh, and I am really really bad at asking for help. No, really, I am. I just don't ask for help. I really don't know why this is.

I should mention that my husband was incredibly supportive, even though it was hard for him to see me go through something he couldn't "save" me from.

It got to a point where I only left the house if I absolutely had to. I became self conscious of my scab and bruise-covered limbs--I was seriously afraid people would think my husband was beating me or something. Sleep deprivation makes you think crazy things. Oh yeah, I was also too tired to leave the house unless I had a very good reason. And it was hot outside, and the heat made itching worse.


I already have depression, but sleep deprivation and feeling like my body was turning against me only made it worse. There were days I wondered just how I was going to make it to 37 weeks without losing my mind.

Actually, I did pretty much lose my mind. I wanted to jump out of my skin and run away.

Next up, I will talk about the emotions I experience after having two itchy pregnancies. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Weekly Check-in: Coming out of the fog?

Physically: Zzzzzzzz....Livia has not been sleeping well. At all. We don't know why. Argh. But even when she does sleep well enough, I have insomnia. Grr. 

Emotionally: Feeling slightly better...maybe? I haven't felt quite as foggy in the head despite my sleep deprivation. Maybe it's adrenaline. 

Spiritually: Not doing so hot. I've been feeling empty and trying to fill the emptiness with really ridiculous things--maybe spending a little more than I should, too much internet time, trying to escape reality. I really need to do more meaningful things with what little free time I have. 

Goals: take things a little bit at a time in all areas in my life. Stop with the all or nothing thinking.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

ICP Warrior

I am an ICP Warrior. Two times over.

What does that mean? I had Intrahepatic Cholestasis of Pregnancy (or simply, cholestasis) twice. ICP is a rare liver disorder (1 in 1000 pregnancies in the United States) where bile production is slowed down or stopped, causing bile salts to develop in the bloodstream. One of the most common symptoms of ICP is intense itching.

Intense doesn't begin to describe just how miserable the itching is, at least for me.

Imagine you have bug bites all over your body, and I mean every square inch. The itchiest kind. Then turn your skin inside out. That should give you a small idea of how bad it was.

No, this itch cannot be helped with Benadryl (though it can help with sleeping for some). No, lotion will not help because it is not dry skin. Unless that lotion has menthol and/or lidocaine in it, then it will give some temporary relief. My favorite remedy was the Aloe Vera sunburn relief gel that has lidocaine and menthol in it.

And no, I could not just stop scratching. I couldn't help it! Okay, I could stop long enough to slap the itching spots and stomp my bare feet on the cold kitchen floor, or smack my hands on the dashboard in my car.

The itching was much worse at night, so I didn't sleep. With Kate, it was really only about two weeks (which was bad enough). With Livia...I had nine weeks of itching. Nine sleepless, miserable weeks. I was given Atarax to help me sleep, but it didn't help. It got me to sleep, but when I woke up in the middle of the night, the itching just got worse, AND I was drowsy to boot.

To give you an idea of just how bad the itching was, I will share some pictures of my battle wounds. Warning: if you're squeamish, you might not want to look.

I also had a lot of bruises because cholestasis can interfere with Vitamin K absorption.

I was induced at 37 weeks with both Kate and Livia. Other than a bit of jaundice (because of early delivery), Kate had no complications. Livia ended up spending 48 hours in the NICU because of breathing issues--her lungs hadn't been QUITE ready when she was born. But 48 hours in the NICU was better than possibly losing her if we had waited longer to induce.

Kate on the day she was born
Livia being monitored in the Nursery.
Both are completely happy and healthy :)

But here is the scary part:

Everything I went through was with proper treatment. I never had to fight my healthcare providers for diagnosis or proper treatment. Early induction was a given--I didn't have to fight for that either.

There are many women who have to fight their providers about SOMETHING related to cholestasis, whether it be diagnosis, treatment, and sometimes even early induction. Or else their doctors tell them that itching is normal and they are crazy (this happened to a college friend of mine who I helped get diagnosed).

I am grateful every day that I never had to fight for diagnosis, treatment, or induction. I even remember telling the midwife who ordered my tests with Livia about some providers not taking this seriously, and she was shocked. "We take cholestasis VERY seriously at this practice!" she exclaimed.

"Laura, you talk about this too much."

Yes, I do talk about this a lot. The reason I am so passionate about spreading awareness is because there are still healthcare providers who are ignorant about this--saying nothing of the general public. People have a general idea of what preeclampsia and gestational diabetes are, but when you say you have intense itching...they sometimes start asking, "Is it your blood pressure?" or "Do you have to go on bed rest?"

Another reason I am passionate about this is because my particular case of cholestasis is the result of genetics. I am a third generation Itchy Mom, but the first in my family to be diagnosed and treated. We got the dominant form of the gene, which means I have passed this down to Kate and Livia. It is my hope and prayer that by the time they reach childbearing age, more will be known about cholestasis and even more can be done for it.

They are worth every last itch
June is ICP Awareness Month. This year, our theme is ICP Warriors. We are warriors because battled cholestasis and somehow survived. Many are warriors because they fought for proper diagnosis and treatment. We are all warriors because we are fighting to save more babies.

For more information, check out

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Checking in

I've been thinking, and I am going to start doing weekly check-ins about how I'm feeling physically, emotionally, and spiritually. You know, be accountable of sorts...and so people don't worry too much about me (are people worrying about me? Shut up anxiety)

Physically: Blah. Bedtime has been a battle at our house recently with both kids, ergo, zzzzzzz.....or I wish I could. Of course, being tired is par for the course with parenthood I guess. 

Oh, and I'm getting my gallbladder out in July. I had a few attacks recently, and I promised a few very dear people (like Stephan) that if it happened again, I'd make arrangements to get it out. It happened again, and now my gallbladder has an eviction date.

Getting my gallbladder out before I turn 30...that was totally one of my life goals! 

So, I've had a conflicted relationship with food recently. 

Why am I waiting until July for my surgery? So I can get everything in order for the kids. I'm not so much worried about surgery as I am hijacking my children's lives. I am such a mom.

And no, this will not prevent ICP in future pregnancies, so don't even ask.

Emotionally: Uggghhhhhhh

I had a therapy appointment this week. Processing is both challenging, but freeing once the session is over. We're seeing progress, but it's still going to be a long road. 

But I've been really struggling with my anxiety especially these last few weeks. Like, really. I've been fighting the urge to be convinced that everyone hates me and is trying to sabotage me. Of course, whenever I say this out loud, people try to be nice to me, but then I think they're only being nice to me out of pity. So...yeah, I pretty much think people either hate me or pity me.

Well, except for a few select people. Stephan is one of these few people. 

Yes, my head is a pretty screwy place to be in right now. *insert swear words*

I've also been stressed out about things. Planning ICP Care/Itchy Moms Meetup (I am so bad at planning events it's not even funny). Need to contact landlord about some household repairs, but STUPID ANXIETY makes me think that I am horribly inconveniencing her even though this is her job...etc. etc.

Spiritually: Needs improvement

We have 8:30 church currently and I won't lie, I hate it. Sure, it's nice to be out of church before noon and have the rest of the day to enjoy...but it is so hard getting to church on time with two young kids, especially if Livia has had a rough night. She seems to pick Saturday nights for her rough nights for some weird reason. We keep getting to church after the Sacrament, which is frustrating because one of the main points of going to church is partaking of the Sacrament.

I try to remember that the Lord knows the desires of our hearts and blesses us. 

But dang it, I just want to get to church on time! #mormonguilt

I also try to remember that currently, the main point of taking kids to church is to get them in the habit so they don't totally hate it later on. Hopefully.

Someday my kids will know what it's like to actually sit in the chapel for Sacrament meeting...

I haven't been good about doing spiritual daily things--I really got to do that. I haven't been reading my scriptures very faithfully because I've gotten into the bad habit of thinking, "I have read these soooo many times that it's so BORING now." Yeah, I probably need to rethink my scripture reading habits. Sigh...

Goals: find some way to make scripture study more meaningful and get out of the house more

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