Unusual Postpartum Symptoms: My RA Story

2014 was supposed to be the best year of my life. I was newly married and had a baby on the way, due in April 2014. The day for my baby to join us came and I was happy, my dreams of being a mother were fulfilled and my life was just perfect.

When my baby girl was about 6 weeks old, I noticed that my hands were sore, like really sore. One morning I woke up, my husband at work, and I could not move my hands without the most intense pain that I have ever felt. This pain made my C-section recovery look like a walk in the park.

Painfully grasping for answers

Being the stubborn and self reliant person that I was, I did not call my husband to come home. I took my 4-week-old baby and put her in her car seat but could NOT grab those tiny buckles to buckle her in. I made my way to the ER. They took X-rays of my hands (normal) did some minor bloodwork (normal) and told me that the pain I was feeling was most likely carpel tunnel. They hooked me up with an orthopedic surgeon and sent me on my way.

A week later, my maternity time was up and I was going back to work at a local family medical practice. My job entailed a lot of computer work and I just could not type without pain. One day back and I practically begged one of the doctors at the practice to see me. I did not have a primary care doctor before, because I never seemed to get sick. Ever.

Worsening symptoms

The doctor who saw me looked over my hands and my sore feet and kind of played off my symptoms as postpartum. But I urged him to run tests, so he reluctantly did. The next day, I had to call in sick. I couldn't button up my pants or tie my shoes. My feet began to ache. There is a little part of me wondering if my employers were beginning to think that this was all a ruse so that I could stay home with my newborn. It wasn't.

Things at home were bad. All the stress and pain had dried up my breast milk. I couldn't screw the lids on for bottles. I couldn't button up her clothing or grab the tab on the diaper to change her bum. All things baby fell onto my husband. The mother I wanted so badly to be, I just couldn't be. I slept for hours upon hours. Unable to move.

Figuring it out

A couple of days later that doctor who saw me at work called. He apologized for not taking me seriously. He had tested for the rheumatoid factor. I'm sure all of you know that this is the test that tests for proteins that are made by our immune systems that can attach healthy tissue to the body. The normal range is less than 16 units per milliliter. Mine was 685. My body was attacking itself.

Now, I consider myself very, very lucky to be working in a medical practice that was connected to the largest medical facilities in my state. My doctor made some calls and I was in to see my rheumatologist that next week, just 6 weeks after my baby was born.

Finding joy admist the pain

And that's not where my story ends. That's just where it starts. Many trials of medications, many failures, and 2 more autoimmune diagnoses. Another successful addition of another girl to our family. Many tears, pains, struggles, miracles, and tender mercies.

RA doesn't define my life anymore. Even though it has never gone into remission and I still struggle with my pain on a daily basis, I am so very grateful for my doctors, my family, and modern medicine. I love my life.

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