Wednesday, July 28, 2010

ENTRY # 11 - Dependency Issues of a Bad-Ass

Short Description of Bad-Ass: a person who does not easily waver from their stance and woe to those who try to sway them.

It is July of 2010, I am now 42 years old. I have two amazing daughters who are currently 22 and 19 years of age. Weird. I have been married over 24 years - for more than half of my life. I wasn't even 18 years old for a full 30 days before I got married to my Airman. It's been a very exciting life. As a baby, I came out stubborn and determined, this is true. All of this is important so that my diagnosis of Addison's and the devastation of having to be Steroid-dependent is understood, at least for my situation.

As a small town girl living on the edge of one of the largest metropolitan cities in the nation, I had a double-dose of American pie. I was blessed enough to get both versions, small-town and big-city, up close and personal. Even with great exposure to all kinds of substances, throughout my youth, I constantly veered away from any kind of alcohol or drugs; it just wasn't my thing. I had a great time surrounded by friends who were unable to "let loose" unless they had their personal concoction, but it did not suit me. In fact, beyond that, I was terrified of becoming drunk or with doing drugs because I never wanted to lose control of my mind or my body. Maybe I am a control-freak, but that's okay. I've reconciled this part of me.

When I gave birth to my first daughter, we lived in Germany. My husband was stationed at Spangdahlem A.B. and we lived on the economy (with the Germans, not on base). At this time, Spangdahlem was very small and we had to go to Bitburg A.B. for most support services and luxuries. When I went into labor, the American hospital on base was full, so I was transported by ambulance to the German hospital (Krankenhaus) in Bitburg where midwives deliver the babies. At this time, a German doctor stepped in only for C-Sections and to administer the procedural epidural for all births.

I knew little German language at this time, so when the Dr. came into the labor and delivery room, he abruptly walked up to me to inform me that he was about to give me an epidural. I had already made it clear to everyone, repeatedly, that I was not taking any drugs for pain; I even spoke it in German. I was delivering naturally. This Dr. made his opposite feeling known; I was not his ideal patient. He kept telling me that he was preparing to give me the epidural. I repeatedly told him, "No thank you; I am going to have natural labor." The German Dr. was obviously furious. His jaw was tightly clenched and his body was rigid. He turned away from me, then he took my husband by the arm and pulled him to the corner of the room and with a thick German accent, he ordered, "You need to go tell your wife that she must take the epidural; it's super-super." That part momentarily amused me, "super-super." Ha! Yes, I realize that most women will agree, epidurals are "super-super," but not for me.

For a brief moment, I held my breath as I watched these men wrestle over my dependent state, then my husband said firmly, "My wife already said she didn't want one. She can speak for herself." Then, my husband walked back to my side. The Dr. literally stood there with his mouth open. I was so proud of David. He really did have my back. My husband had already dismissed the Dr. from our presence by turning his back on him, so the doctor stormed out of the room and the two midwives exchanged nervous glances. I was a little scared that he was going to return and attempt to tie me down and do as he wanted with his "super-super" drugs. I worried that my husband would be taken away by the Polizei. I never forgot...this wasn't America. Also, I was not on base. I watched the doorway and remained ready to make my escape, even while in labor. The German doctor thought he was so tough and forceful, but he didn't understand my 19-year old determination. Maybe it's because I have part Native-American blood running through my veins. Cherokee blood. Don't mess with me you little German man.

With a petite frame of 5'2" and just at 109 pounds before pregnancy and only a few pounds later with my full term pregnancy, I pushed out an 8 pound 4 ounce little gal that was just at 22 inches long. A couple of hours before delivery, a German midwife had conducted an ultra-sound and after taking measurements of the unborn baby's head on the screen, she said in part German, part English, "Oh my, the child is large." I understood her words and saw her concern.

The midwives had been sweating bullets in an effort to make me deliver the baby faster. They had even started a pitocin drip that increased my agony tenfold. My water had broken before ever going into the hospital and they had a strict delivery time table for women whose water broke early on. I know it was to prevent other complications. But, I was the one "delivering" and everyone else was "assisting." Still, these German women seemed to become desperate as they wrapped towels around the metal bars on the sides of my bed to cling to as they climbed on top of me to "help push the baby out." It was brutal. We have a video of this ordeal as the camera sat on a window ledge secretly taping. I still can't watch it. I never imagined my first baby would be delivered with large German women on top of me.

Thankfully, my husband decided enough was enough; he yanked the towels out from around the bars and threw them aside while saying, "She can't breathe with you on top of her; no more of that!" I believe it scared the midwives straight. They could see that David meant business. They didn't try this technique any more after my protective husband's forceful stance. Yes, the rest of it was painful. Beyond description. However, I did not take any pain medications. It took eight hours. I was so scared of medications and so determined that my child would come into the world drug-free that I refused to ease my own desperate suffering. It was worthwhile. Little did I know that this little baby would one day end up to be a gorgeous 22-year old graduate of Texas A&M with her degree in Biology and a contestant on "America's Next Top Model" Season Eight...the two-hour opener. She's the "Boot Camp" girl. So much like the love of my life, her father.

Near three years after my first delivery, we were back in America and at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston, Texas as I was getting ready to deliver our second child. Being my typical "difficult patient" self, I refused all pain medications and even refused to give permission for an IV to be administered. Again, the staff was not pleased. However, I had to re-think my hard-lined position as things quickly went sour. The baby, with an internal/head-attached monitor, went into dire distress. Those monitors and their horse galloping sounds that are the baby's heartbeat were loud and clear. Her "gallop" was slowing and coming to a complete halt. At this point, I was ready to sacrifice my own body to whatever intervention that was needed to save her life. I would have given my life to save hers. I didn't even know the baby was a "she" at this point. We hadn't wanted to know until the baby was in our presence. In my sudden submission, after terrifying moments of hearing the baby's heartbeat slow to a near stop...the experienced nurse used skilled fingers to knock the tip of the baby's head and the heartbeat slowly and audibly picked up again. At this moment, I barely noticed my own pain.

Turned out, the baby was entangled in her own life-giving cord in such a way that it had created an actual noose around her tiny neck. Each contraction pulled the noose tighter. The situation was not a good one. So, I complied. I finally laid back and went into zombie-mode so I could be prepped for an emergency C-section, just in case. It was a necessary precaution. They put the IV put into place. But, an amazing thing happened, my unborn baby, in her own determination, had a sudden, rapid descent without the Dr. in the room. On the video with the side-view ONLY it can be legs aren't even in stir-ups yet, the lights are being knocked about wildly by the medical staff, the doctor has rushed in and doesn't even have her protective gown tied into place - her arms are barely in the sleeves and it is falling off of her; she herself is yelling while reaching to catch the baby. My baby could not be held back. The doctor yelled, "Don't push! Don't push!!" Well, sorry for the inconvenience...I didn't even need to push. Nature has a way of taking control. My beautiful baby made her way into the world incredibly fast. So tiny, yet fierce in her determination to survive. It was so fast that I had gone from the nurse checking me to show I was dilated to eight and before the nurse could discard her gloves at the doorway on her hurried way out of the room to give the report, I felt the baby coming. Within FOUR minutes of that moment, Stefanie was born. Thankfully, I ended up delivering my baby before any drugs or further intervention could be given. Another natural birth delivery without any drugs.

Initially, the baby was in bad shape and wasn't making a sound. The doctor was frantically untangling her from the cord and trying to joke, "Oh look, she's trying to wear the umbilical cord like a wrap." But, the doctor's expression didn't match her words. On top of that, I was not in good condition myself; I literally tore apart in three directions. I was on FIRE. The traitors used my IV to push in drugs AFTER my delivery to spare me the sight of my daughter's life struggle. Suddenly, as my mother stood by my side and my husband hovered over the newborn, I was pleading for someone to tell me if the baby was okay. I looked into my mom's eyes and could see her distress. She leaned into my face and in an effort to not lie, she told me, "Baby, you will be okay." That wasn't the answer to my question! Suddenly, I found that I couldn't breathe and a weird sensation came over me. I'd never felt anything like this before. What is wrong? I started to mumble while trying to tell everyone that I couldn't breathe. Then, someone broke it to me. "We had to give you something; there is a lot of work to be done." It was my absolute worst fear. I'd been drugged, without consent. In hindsight, I realize that the frantic medical staff could not deal with a strong-minded, injured mother along with a tiny baby fighting to live. It was Demerol. This wasn't fair!!! I made it through the ENTIRE delivery only to have them shoot me up to shut me up AFTERWARD. Well, to be honest, they knew I was badly shredded and they had to sew me back together in several directions. Surely, I didn't have the mysterious disease of Addison's yet or I probably would not have survived this trauma. The physical and emotional stress was tremendous. The baby rated 2 on her first AP-GAR score and 4 on the second one, ten minutes later. The nurses dubbed her the "miracle baby." She grew strong; she made it, and she is a healthy gal today who just finished her first year as a Marine Biology major at the Texas A&M-Galveston campus. I am proud to say, she is a lot like her mother.

So, ten years later, when I developed Addison's Disease, I was horrified at the thought of having to take medications every day. Especially steroids! Like most people who are told they must take a daily medication dose in order to continue living...yes...I was initially devastated. It also meant that there was something really wrong with my body. It was simply an extension of an overall greater issue. On one hand, I knew those pills were miracle pills because I had nearly died after being in a long-term state of Addisonian Crisis. I had already had a Code Blue called on me while on the cardio-floor, so I understood very clearly the value of those pills to my life. Still, the reality of being dependent...DEPENDENT...on medication every day was an overwhelming reality. I was angry. I was getting the "talk" from multiple doctors about how there were not any other choices for Addison's Disease...I conducted an unbelievable amount of time researching for alternatives. Don't take too little; don't take too much; the side-effects will be horrible, but focus on the pills keeping you alive for today. Steroids were the only choice, if I wanted to continue living. I learned the hard way, those pills would keep me horizontal.

After my initial diagnosis, I remained deep in denial, I could not help but wonder if the disease had mysteriously disappeared. It was my hope. Perhaps I could stop taking the pills, and I'd magically find myself healed, never to need another dose. Unfortunately, this would not be an option. Such a diagnosis brings many layers of changes. This new way of life, with medicine constantly in my system, this would be a new way of life I would have to accept. The road to that acceptance was not without major bumps. Steroids...a new understanding of this "media-hyped" drug mostly relating to athletes would have to become settled within my mind. It pertained to me in a uniquely different way. For my body, it was not for a "recreational" need; it was simply a supplement to aid survival. I needed daily steroids to live, not to be "physically-superior." For those of us with Addison's, it just doesn't work that way. We are steroid-dependent. I've said it before, it's as if we Addisonians are underwater and our steroids are our oxygen tanks. We don't take them, we don't survive. Period. Bottom line. I decided to keep breathing. I expertly pop those "oxygen tablets" and I am happy to live another day.

Oh, and in that German hospital, the day after my delivery, an American military doctor and his assistant visited me. These military men told me how amazed they were that I held up against the German doctor because they had never known an American woman to deliver naturally in a German hospital. There weren't too many women delivering naturally on base either for that matter. Not in this era. He told me that the Germans were about 50 years behind us in this regard; they still wanted control over the women who were delivering. High-tech German advancements weren't too impressive in this situation. The American doctor wasn't telling me something I hadn't already learned by personal experience. I wasn't too surprised. My baby Heather was tightly swaddled in a little plastic-edged bassinet next to my bed (I had to fight for that too and fight against the Kinder-Tea bottles). The American doctor gazed down at her with a huge grin and he left all decorum behind when he looked at me with a victorious expression and pumped his fist into the air while saying, "Bad-ass Americans!" He was loud in his proclamation. Then, we three laughed as the baby contentedly gazed upward at the doctor and he unwrapped her swaddling to start his proud inspection. It was some kind of a triumph for him and a moment for me to always remember. Glad I could oblige. Yes, I am certainly difficult and perhaps, deep down, sometimes I am also a "Bad-Ass."


  1. Very well written Momma! I never knew that much detail about Stunny's birth or mine. :-) I love you!

  2. It's all in my journals along with much more. I'm now pulling out past experiences and melding it with my life with Addison's Disease. For me, it's an interesting journey of introspection.

    Love you!!

  3. I was there and you are the Bad Ass American that I love very much..

    your Husband


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