Parenting a newborn baby is hard. Parenting with Meniere’s disease is a lot harder.
As many of you know, my wife Megan gave birth to our first child, Zack, on August 12th at 3:05 pm. After a difficult 40+ hour labor, our little guy was born healthy and happy!
The past few weeks have been truly incredible, but also some of the most challenging experiences of my entire life. I’ve honestly never felt such a confusing whirlwind of emotions.
After a stressful and complicated high-risk pregnancy that pushed us to our limits, I was really worried that Meniere’s disease was going to rob me of the moment I would finally meet my son. (It didn’t, but it didn’t do me any favors either.)
And now that things have calmed down a bit, I want to share what it was like to support my wife through an incredibly difficult pregnancy, and what it’s been like to be a new parent with Meniere’s disease.
The C word:
For the first few months, Megan’s pregnancy was picture perfect.
Aside from the occasional odd food craving, she was sleeping better, less stressed, and didn’t experience any morning sickness at all.
Every doctor’s appointment and test result brought good news – no genetic or chromosomal problems, the baby was developing beautifully, and best of all, we were having a boy (Megan didn’t care but I always wanted a son!)
Everything changed in an instant on May 31st.
We were waiting in line to get on a flight to visit my family in Maryland, where family friends were throwing Megan a baby shower, when Megan got the call.
Suddenly, she was crying hysterically. She couldn’t speak, so I grabbed the phone. It was her obstetrician.
“I know you’re about to get on a plane so I’m really sorry to have to tell you this. The baby is going to be fine, but the biopsy results came back – Megan has invasive breast cancer.”
Panic squeezed my chest as I fought back tears, and I suddenly felt very dizzy. The anxiety spiked my Meniere’s symptoms nearly instantly. But I had to be strong for Megan. We had only minutes to call family and no time at all to process the news.
My mind raced the entire flight, “Is she going to die? Is the baby going to be okay? How are we going to deal with this?”
I had no answers and didn’t dare ask the questions out loud.
It was a terrible flight.
Family is everything:
The diagnosis cast a dark shadow on what should have been a wonderful trip. But in hindsight, it was a blessing in disguise.
We were surrounded by loved ones the entire time. Our close friends and family showed up in droves. We were never alone. And we got our first glimpse of hope almost immediately.
For a long time, a lot of my family has volunteered and helped fundraise for the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. Cancer has affected us before and it’s always been an important cause.
Once everyone knew what was going on, a family friend and one of the lead researchers and oncologists at Lombardi called us to give us an idea of what to expect.
She would likely need surgery, possibly chemotherapy or endocrine therapy, or all of the above, and that more testing would reveal the best course of action. He stressed that it was going to be a difficult experience, but in the end, the baby would be fine, and Megan would be, too.
He also helped us get an appointment with one of his colleagues at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami.
The trip was difficult. But our family made all the difference in the world.
Cancer, Pregnancy, and a husband with Meniere’s disease:
When we got home, the doctor’s appointments began – so many doctor’s appointments.
But a plan was finally coming together. Before anything else, Megan was going to need a lumpectomy to remove the tumor in her breast.
In the days leading up to the surgery, I was stressed beyond comprehension. I would toss and turn in bed for hours as my mind raced with anxiety, every single night. Megan wasn’t doing much better. Surgery is scary enough when you’re not 32 weeks pregnant.
I’m happy to report that the procedure was a resounding success, but it was also one of the longest days of my entire life. After only 4 hours of sleep, we got to the hospital at 5:30 am and I didn’t get back to the hotel until after 10 pm.
The waiting gets to you pretty quickly. Hours would pass with no news at all. Luckily, I wasn’t alone. My mother and father-in-law were with me for most of the day.
When the surgeon finally came over to give us the good news, I broke down in tears.
Megan and the baby made it through surgery without any complications whatsoever.
In the days and weeks that followed, the rest of the plan slowly fell into place.
We were hopeful at first – our oncologist said there was a good chance that Megan wouldn’t need chemo.
But then the genetic testing results came back showing a high risk of reoccurrence. She would need chemo after all, and we were going to have to induce her at 37 weeks to make sure she had time to recover from giving birth before starting treatment.
We also found out she was going to need radiation after chemo, and several years of endocrine therapy in the form of hormone blocking medication.
It was a hard pill to swallow. With such a difficult road ahead of us, it was hard to enjoy the weeks of relative peace.
Between doctor’s appointments, I worked as hard as I could. The medical bills were already pilling up, and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to work very much once the baby arrived and Megan started treatment. My stress levels creeped higher and higher.
To complicate matters further, the increased stress not only triggered my Meniere’s symptoms, but other health problems as well. After weeks of horrible coughing, laryngitis, and the constant need to clear my throat, I was officially diagnosed with GERD and Laryngopharyngeal reflux.
We just couldn’t catch a break. I already felt so run down, and it was only going to get more and more difficult.
We had help lined up, but I was terrified that I would end up having to take care of both Megan and Zack, keep making money, all while somehow finding time to take care of myself.
Still, I couldn’t wait to meet the little guy.
After so much uncertainty, so much chaos, the big day finally arrived – or so we thought.
Because Megan was going to start chemo about 6 weeks after delivery, it was extremely important for us to avoid a C-section if at all possible.
The plan was to start the induction, but not force it. We hoped she would deliver quickly, but if she didn’t go into labor right away, we would stop and try again the next day. What we didn’t know was how difficult this would be for Megan.
In the end, it all went according to plan, but that meant an extremely long and painful labor, with intense contractions for multiple days.
I slept about 4 hours the first night and not at all the second night. I was running on pure adrenaline, trying to comfort Megan through hours of intense pain. It’s a miracle that my symptoms didn’t flare up.
Things got a lot easier once they finally started the epidural. So much so, that Megan experienced the birth without any pain whatsoever and got to actually appreciate the moment.
It was smooth sailing until we found out the cord was wrapped around his neck.
But it ended up not complicating the situation very much. While Megan pushed, the doctor used a suction cup to help pull him out more quickly, until finally Zack was born!
When I heard him cry for the first time, I broke down in tears. I was so relieved. He was as healthy as can be. In fact, he’s the healthiest of the three of us.
After so much adversity, after so much heartbreak, everything was finally okay.
He was so beautiful. I felt so much love.
Being a new parent with Meniere’s:
The last four weeks have been a roller coaster of higher emotional highs than I’ve ever known, frustrating lows, and a mixed bag of Meniere’s-related issues.
Everyone said to pay attention, that the time would fly by, and it definitely has. Each day seems to blur into the next. Part of me feels like we just left the hospital yesterday. The other part of me feels like it has been an eternity.
For the first week or two, my symptoms flared up a bit – some fatigue, brain fog, dizziness, ear fullness, and tinnitus spikes – but nothing too serious. I felt my health fraying at the edges, but I somehow kept it together despite the sleep deprivation.
Interestingly, one thing that has really helped me over the last few weeks is CBD. I’ve been testing out a fantastic new company called Joy Organics that makes full spectrum CBD oil and softgels without THC, which is something I’ve thought should exist for a long time, but never actually found, until now.
Their CBD oil has been a lifesaver over the past few weeks and has kept my anxiety under control through incredibly challenging moments. (At some point soon, I’ll post a more thorough review.)
Meniere’s disease has made parenting more challenging than it should be, and I haven’t even had any major episodes. (I have so much respect for all the parents with Meniere’s dealing with violent vertigo on a regular basis.)
As a new parent, I’ve felt so many beautiful emotions like love, awe, and pride. But every wonderful moment is accompanied by encroaching Meniere’s symptoms and fear of what’s to come.
Facing the mountain:
For now, I’m just trying to take it one day at a time. I still have nothing resembling a routine or balance in my schedule, and between all the responsibility of being a parent, and all the doctor’s appointments, I’m only able to work a few hours a day.
It’s why I haven’t posted much in a while, either here or on social media. I’m going to do my best to post when I can, but it won’t be on any kind of schedule for the next few months. Until this post, I’ve only had enough time to work with my tinnitus and Meniere’s coaching clients.
Moving forward, Megan starts chemo in 2 weeks. She also started fertility treatments 3 days ago to create and freeze embryos because there is a good chance we won’t be able to have any additional children naturally once she’s done with chemo.
We’re facing a mountain of adversity.
But right now, it’s the calm before the storm, and I’m just trying to enjoy the moment with Zack as much as I can, savoring every smile, hiccup and funny face.