Today, Jenny is sharing a fabulous story and a mountain of amazing information! Grab your pens and pencils and take note - you won't want to miss a thing she has to say! I'm in complete awe of Jenny's journey towards wellness and you will be too. It's a true inspiration to read about what she has gone through and how she has overcome; Such a testimony to the power of fighting the source of illness rather than just the symptoms.
You can take a peek at more of Jenny's life over at her blog too!
You can take a peek at more of Jenny's life over at her blog too!
- - - - -Hi, I'm Jenny! I'm a wife to Aaron and mama to our sweet little man, Casey. Aaron and I grew up together and met when I was only 8 and he was 10. I had a mullet and Aaron wore sweat pants rolled up to his knees. Yes, we were a match made in heaven from the start. Aaron's family moved a few years later, but we reconnected through email in our early 20's while Aaron was on a deployment with the Air Force. We wrote letters for 6 months before finally reuniting in Washington DC after he returned to the states. Soon after, I moved from Washington State to Virginia so that we could be together. We fell deeply in love, got engaged and were married on July 26, 2008 - all in less than a year. We loved our short engagement! Being married to Aaron has taken me on many adventures. Our greatest adventure has been that of parenting. We welcomed Casey Lowell into our arms on June 3, 2011. Casey has added so much love and character to our family and our hearts. We now live in Texas where Aaron works as an engineer and I work my tail off as a SAHM! Best thing about Texas: Organic farming year round!
I had a number of challenges during and following pregnancy and have wanted to share about my journey back to health for quite a while. I'm excited to finally have that chance because I hope that my story will help other women. I believe that the challenges we face are meant to be used for the greater good.
When we found out we were pregnant, we were shocked and thrilled. We had really "tried" all but one time to conceive. Things happened fast! I felt great for the first few weeks. In fact, by 9 weeks, I hadn't had any morning sickness. I worried a lot from the start because I had very low progesterone. At just 5 weeks of pregnancy, we were told that I would likely miscarry. By God's grace, that didn't happen but it certainly gave me a lot of anxiety. I thought I was in the clear with morning sickness until week 10 - BAM! Mercy, I was sicker than a dog. At 14.5 weeks, I had a very traumatic experience with passing out. I was home alone and actually had symptoms of a stroke. I made it to my neighbor's house, passed out and then vomited all over her living room. I went to the ER, but all the tests came back normal. We actually found out at that time that we were having a boy. It was pretty obvious! As the weeks went on, I continued vomiting regularly and my dizzy spells persisted. I also developed an irregular heartbeat and by 18 weeks, I had started having full-fledged panic attacks. Sometimes they would happen while driving, so my doctor ordered me not to drive for a while. I was worried about putting other people on the road at risk (as well as myself and our son). I was forced to leave my dream job as a director at a local crisis pregnancy center. But I knew in my heart that that job would always be waiting for me to return to someday. It was time for me to focus on the baby.
Through my entire pregnancy, I struggled with nausea, massive amounts of fatigue and an irregular heartbeat that would literally make me wake up gasping for air in the middle of the night. I was terrified that I and/or our son would die. I went to what seemed like a bazillion doctor appointments, saw specialists, had tests done and yet nothing could ever explain my symptoms. It wasn't until after pregnancy that someone told me I likely had hyperemesis. I was surprised that none of my doctors suggested this. I was on Zofran from about 18 weeks through the rest of my pregnancy and had all the fun side-effects along with it, and I was still sick at 36 weeks. I would often end up in the emergency room with panic attacks, but I was treated like a freak - literally. I once had a doctor tell me I was "crying wolf" and that I "needed to stay home." I was frustrated after being treated in such a way. I felt like no one in the world could really help me and I was suffering. Doctors continued to tell me that my symptoms weren't abnormal and that I'd be back to feeling like “me” again after our son was born. I held on to the hope they gave me but they were wrong.
We had our son in a typical hospital setting. My labor progressed very quickly and by only 2 hours into it, my contractions were back to back. The nurse came in and said I should have an epidural. I was in so much pain that I said very certainly, "YES!" So the anesthesiologist came in to administer my epidural. As I was working through contractions, I could feel her jamming the needle into my spine. I wanted to pass out! She then asked me if I knew I had a "twisted spine." I told her that I didn't and she seemed irritated. It took her almost 15 minutes to finally insert the tube. I was able to get some sleep and Casey was born just a few hours later with 1.5 hours of pushing. Within a week of being home, I noticed that I could barely bend over. I was healing great from the delivery, but my back was killing me. There was a pretty noticeable, though small, hole in my back where the needle went in. If I leaned up against anything, I would feel a zing up my spine all the way to my head. It was enough to shoot me out of my chair. I called my OB as well as the hospital. The hospital denied up and down that it could be related to my epidural. To make matters worse, my balance started to decline. I would fall over in the shower and run into walls. As it turns out, this was likely the result of yet another problem following my epidural experience and related to my spinal fluid. The idea of an epidural causing this type of reaction is considered controversial, but it’s quite possible in my case. Thankfully, my balance has improved and my back pain has gone away. I regret not doing more research on epidurals before heading to the hospital and I now encourage pregnant mamas to be informed on this topic.
Within a month of delivery, my fatigue returned. Of course I thought this was just from sleep deprivation, but I was having trouble getting myself out of bed just like I had felt when I was pregnant. I felt like a terrible mother and I was drowning in regret and sadness that I couldn't keep up with demand of caring for a newborn. After moving to Texas when Casey was just 4 months old, I went to a doctor with my symptoms. I was referred to a cardiologist because my heart beat was still irregular. I had a stress test done that revealed my heart was beating too many times in a single series. The specialist didn't want to put me on medication to correct it because it could pass through my breast milk. I had walked away from countless doctor’s appointment with no answers, no help, no solution and having spent literally hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on all the testing. I felt hopeless!
By the time our son was 10.5 months old, I was desperate. I'm a member of a local natural parenting group in Texas and I went to the message board on Facebook and told them that I thought I might have post-partum anxiety or depression. I received an out-pouring of support. I'm sad to say that I more or less diagnosed myself. Not a single doctor ever suggested this. That's when another mama recommended that I see an herbalist. I thought, "An herbalist?" I literally had no clue exactly what that meant or what they did. I couldn't afford to waste more money on "treatments" that wouldn't work. But I felt a strong nudge in my heart to call. It was the best phone call I ever made.
I spent two hours with the herbalist whom I now consider my "physician." Shari has practiced herbal medicine for over 30 years, owns a number of acres out in Texas country, grows most of her herbs and makes her own tinctures and teas. She works with midwives and teaches classes at the college level based on herbs of the Bible. She helped me when modern medicine couldn't. She told me that I had a major imbalance with my hormone levels and that all my symptoms pointed to that 100%. She also shared that this is fairly common! I finally felt like I was being heard ... really being heard for the first time since my health problems began.
For starters, she gave me, and our entire family, homeopathic drops for allergies called Bioallers. These drops have been amazing for us! They are safe for babies, nursing, pregnancy, etc. Let's just say they are completely safe. Allergies can cause various symptoms, so she knew I needed to treat my allergies first. Second, she addressed my hormone imbalance. She started me on a tincture called Vitex. Side-note: It will only decrease sexual desire if taken by men. In fact, it increases the sex drive in women. I did a lot of research on this amazing herb and I recommend others do so as well. If you have any of the symptoms I've described, or you have difficulty with fertility, low milk supply, PMS, menopause, etc. this might be the best and safest treatment for you. It has changed my life. Shari also helped me to understand that the liver takes quite the beating during pregnancy and post-pregnancy. For starters, your liver must work extra hard (like all the other major organs!) to detox, but it's also literally squished for the entire second half of pregnancy. Because of this, a lot of women have trouble during and post-pregnancy with fatigue, general fogginess, adrenal imbalance, acne and more. Though things like pregnancy acne can be due to hormonal changes, it can also occur as the result of your liver being over-worked. The liver tends to detox through the skin when it's working harder than usual - thus producing acne. One of the easiest and budget-friendly ways to detox is by bathing in Epsom salt (Target sells containers for about $1 each). You will want to soak in about 2-3 cups of Epsom salt for about 30 minutes.
After following this regimen for about two weeks, my symptoms improved and I felt like a much better person. Am I completely healed? No. I’m still on my “journey back to health” and I have days that are better than others (my irregular heart beat and fatigue tend to resurface from time to time), but I'm a firm believer in natural medicine. As my herbalist says, "It's not alternative - It's been used for thousands of years! Modern medicine is alternative medicine." We’re officially an herb family!
If you, or anyone you know, suffer from symptoms similar to mine, please share my story with them. Post-partum complications are real and also very manageable. You don't have to suffer alone or in silence - especially when people may not take you seriously. I hope my story can help improve the health and well-being of others. If you're interested in herbal medicine, I encourage you to contact an experienced herbalist in your area by using this website.