Having a healthy pregnancy, baby & complication free delivery is a blessing. Sometimes though, complications like bells palsy appear after baby is home from the hospital.
A few weeks ago, I had my third baby. A beautiful baby boy born on the Monday before Easter.
I had a normal delivery. And recovery seemed to be going well.
Day 4 I was snuggling with my daughters and even did a load or two (or four) of laundry.
Day 5 started a little strange. My right eye felt like something was in it all day, and my lips just wouldn’t align straight when I tried to put on chap stick.
My face felt like it was going numb and I just assumed that it was an allergic reaction to medication. I’m a glass half full kind of girl, so when my family started throwing around the words bells palsy, I refused to look it up for myself.
They had to be wrong.
By the end of day 5, my right eye would not close completely and it watered all night long. At that point, I started to get concerned.
Day 6 was Good Friday and my doctor’s office was closed. They advised me to go the ER. I was devasted. My husband drove me so he could stay outside with the baby. When you have a brand new baby that you are breastfeeding, the baby has to go everywhere you go. Since the ER is filled with germs, our plan was to text if he needed me and I would run out and nurse him.
Thankfully I was in and out of the ER in an hour. I hobbled in with one eye watering and told the intake nurse my story. I had only been discharged two days prior and my eye was watering so profusely that he handed me a tissue and quickly got me to the back.
The doctor on call gave me a quick look over and said it looked like I had bells palsy. He sent a nurse in to do some bloodwork just to rule out other things–and before you know it, I was discharged with several new prescriptions to take.
The following Monday, I met with the PA in my obgyn office and I heard those words again, “bells palsy.” I was so overwhelmed by details that I couldn’t stop the tears from falling. She asked if I was depressed. Then asked my husband to confirm.
Last January I had a miscarriage and was very depressed, so I knew this time that was not what I was faced with.
I was just mourning my face.
I never knew that I was attached to my image. I had to come to grips with the fact that my face could potentially be stuck like this for another month or two.
I considered telling all of my friends not to visit.
I was embarrassed and didn’t want anyone seeing me this way. With half of my face temporarily paralyzed, I could feel a lisp when I spoke and frustration when my food and drinks fell out of my mouth.
My mom reminded me that people wanted to see me, and check up on me. They would not be concerned about how my face looked.
So on Saturday, I mourned my face. I cried in the bathroom for about 30 minutes. I finally admitted to myself that my face is important to me, and that the situation really sucks.
After I had a good cry, I decided that I was going to move forward.
I decided not to let the temporary situation steal my joy. I had just delivered a beautiful, healthy baby boy. My girls are obsessed with him and want to hold and touch him every chance they get.
I was blessed to have him so close to the end of the school year that I don’t have to return to work until the end of the summer. I can’t waste four months of maternity leave stressing about what I can’t change.
At 3 weeks postpartum, the right side of my face is still temporarily paralyzed. I still drool on myself if I drink without a straw. But, I’ve mastered the art of the half smile. When my four year old asks me if I can smile yet, I say no and change the subject.
The stress that childbirth puts on your body can often affect the speediness of your healing. But it doesn’t have to affect your spirit.
If it happens to you, remember to seek medical attention immediately and that this situation is temporary.
If your eye doesn’t close and continues to water, get a sleep mask or eye patch the reduce the stress of the open eye. Your doctor can also prescribe eye lubrication to keep your eye from drying out while you are using your reserve tears (who know there was such a thing?!)
Drink through a straw and take small bites while eating to minimize your frustration of food and drinks falling out of your mouth due to the paralysis.
Take all the help you can get from family, friends, neighbors and church members. Allow your body time to heal and minimize stress as much as possible.