Let’s rewind back to 2008. It was in April of that year that my husband and I discovered we were about to embark on the wonderful journey of parenthood. Within the third month of trying I was elated to see those magical two burgundy lines appear on the home pregnancy test strip.
Dario and I were ecstatic. After enduring three months of morning sickness I thought that I had overcome the worst part of such a unique albeit slightly terrifying journey. The next two month of my pregnancy I felt fabulous. Seeing my belly grow each day and beginning to feel my baby’s presence within me was a breathtaking experience I could never have imagined.
But all that changed when I reached the end of my second trimester…
I was sitting at my desk at work during my lunch break and glanced at a chart on the wall and noticed that my peripheral vision was completely blurred. At first I thought it could be a one-off thing so I tried to locate the same information from the chart once more, only to have the same outcome. Being my first pregnancy, I casually asked one of my colleagues who already had a child if what I had experienced was just one of those things that happen during pregnancy. The look she gave me told me all I needed to know.
That afternoon I went straight to my GP to discuss what I had noticed and hopefully get the all clear, or even better the ‘it’s nothing to worry about’ speech. The look he gave me made it clear that this was not going to be the case. He immediately called one of the other senior GPs at the practice to seek their opinion on the symptoms I was experiencing. At this stage it was beginning to dawn on me that perhaps things were more serious than I had originally anticipated.
The next day I saw an ophthalmologist. Upon examining me he ordered an emergency MRI scan to take place immediately after the consultation at the local hospital. I nearly fainted when he told me he suspected a brain tumor.
So off we went to the hospital, not knowing what to expect to do the MRI. My unborn beautiful miracle of a child all the while kicking like crazy as she no doubt felt the fear and anxiousness I was experiencing.
Afterwards, the doctor handed us the films from the scan along with a report for a neurologist to go through with us. A neurologist? I had only every heard of a neurologist on shows like RPA and ER. In fact, I’m not entirely sure I even knew what one was at that point.
Fearing the worst I took my Dad along to the appointment. Dario had already missed a few too many days off work to support me through my many appointments and tests so he was happy to oblige.
The neurologist held up my scans, read the report of my MRI scan and proceeded to explain that I had developed an extremely rare brain condition known as Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension. He then informed me that I was his first ever pregnant patient. This, coming from a senior neurologist in his 50s didn’t do much to wane the hopelessness I felt.
So I finally had a diagnosis and an explanation for all the symptoms I had developed. I’d be put on medication and all would be fine, right?
What he told me next is something I never saw coming. He asked me if I had ever heard of a lumbar puncture before or a spinal tap. I had heard the words before but didn’t really understand what they entailed. Before I knew it he had passed over the paperwork to me for the lumbar puncture to take place within the next few days. Dad saw the fear in my eyes as the tears began to well and spoke up for the first time. He questioned the neurologist as to whether or not it was entirely necessary to do the lumbar puncture, were there any other alternatives?
“Yes certainly Sir, your daughter can just let it go and give birth, then be permanently blind.”
Then it hit home for me, there was no way out. I had to have this procedure done in order to confirm the diagnosis as well as relieve pressure from my brain and save my vision.
I spent the next couple of days researching on Dr. Google. All the googling in the world could not have prepared me for what I was about to experience.
The pain of the local anesthetic and the large needle they then used to drain the fluid from my spine were somewhat manageable. It was the excruciating ordeal I had to face afterwards when I was ordered to lay flat on my back for five long days. I could probably liken the pain level I experienced to having 50 migraines at once. The three months of morning sickness were nothing in comparison to the pain and suffering I endured.
Thankfully we were blessed with a perfect and healthy daughter on the 9th of January, 2009. This journey has taught me, above all else, to always trust my instincts no matter what.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem