I’ve got some updating to do after last week. That UTI? Not a UTI. Thanks, Collins.
So here’s the scoop. Wednesday I had an OB appointment where I discussed the pain in my right side, my urinary tract inflammation, and both urgency and frequency in using the bathroom. I guessed I had a UTI because it’s the only other problem I’ve had which has produced similar symptoms, particularly difficulty urinating. The OB agreed that symptoms pointed to UTI and wrote me a Rx for antibiotics while a culture was being sent to the lab. She warned me to hydrate excessively because the antibiotic was going to begin flushing the bacteria from my system and I didn’t want it to dwell in any point of my urinary tract for too long. I drank an extra two liters of water before bed time.
I slept very poorly. The pressure in my right side slowly built from discomfort to pain and I think I gave up on further sleep around 6am. I called the OB around 8am Thursday morning requesting a same day appointment because the pain had returned so suddenly and with such gusto. By the time I was in the office my pain level was around a 6. Reminder: the greatest I ranked my labor pain at was 7. I am in borderline tears talking to the midwife. I have a different midwife than I did the previous day. She doesn’t seem moved by my pain. At no point does she touch or examine me. She insists the pain is probably caused by the UTI and that we should “wait and see” over the weekend. She also suggests that I go to the ER if the pain increases or persists. I ask her what the ER will do so differently from the care I’m receiving sitting in front of me. She says they may try more aggressive IV antibiotics.
I gave up trying to talk with her and left very upset. At this point as far as I’m concerned the problem is not diagnosed. I’ve been “waiting to see” for four months and I’m not getting any answers. I’m emotional, irrational, and angry.
Let me temper the post here by saying I understand how difficult diagnoses can be in medicine. I’ve only dipped a toe into medical knowledge vicariously through my family members, reading, and some television. I know there are millions of variables and very few which we understand at that. But it is infuriating to be told that pain comparable to labor is normal, and, worse, to feel as though your care providers do not believe you are experiencing the pain you describe.
Thursday evening my pain intensifies, even after a dose of extra strength tylenol. I send a message to my husband asking when he’ll be home and if he can speed his journey. This is not something I’m accustomed to doing. He is home within the hour and I immediately draw myself a hot bath. Laying in the bath my body relaxes a little and I realize that my pain had begun throbbing at some point, but I can only realize now that it has decreased in the comfort of the bath. I keep my entire right side submerged for about an hour, then feel revived enough to exit the bath and go through bedtime routine with Joel and Sisu. When Sisu is asleep I go to bed. I take a hot water bottle for my feet (to warm them), but end up using it on my side. I can not sleep more than 40 minutes or so at a time. I have to use the bathroom frequently, though with little progress, and my side aches and throbs. Eventually around 3am I go back to the bath. I take some food and another liter of water with me so that I can take my next does of antibiotic. I drink about 3/4 of my liter and fill it back up before getting in the bath.
The bath relieves my pain slightly, but it’s still very strong. At its height I would say it reached an 8. I was in tears due to the pain. It literally feels like the right half of my body is in labor, radiating from my kidney. The bath relieves the pain enough to stop me shaking with each new raking throb. At a total loss for the cause and with no one at hand to talk to, I log onto the baby center community board and pose a question if any other women have experienced this kind of pain during pregnancy. After an hour or so I receive a few responses and my side isn’t hurting nearly as badly. I decide to stay in the bath for a little while longer as I read the responses.
Two different members within minutes of each other both chime in: kidney stones. They describe their own experiences and their descriptions sound very familiar. I researched kidney stones briefly via Dr. Google. My jaw drops. I could have written these articles describing what kidney stones feel like. In fact, I’m pretty sure I have been dictating them to my OB midwives for four months. I ask the girls on the board a few more questions and their answers all but confirm my own. I also remember that my father has a history of kidney stones and that one of my brothers has experienced them as well. My father has actually been hospitalized with kidney stones on more than one occasion to be administered heavy pain medicine to ease their passing. By this time I’ve finished my refilled liter of water long ago and feel the need to urinate. I’m able to in the bath, and as I do I feel something distinctly sharp and pinching travel down, pause on the brink, and then finally exit my body. I’m 99.99% certain this was a kidney stone. I’m now feeling a great deal of relief, the pain is only residual, not pressing and throbbing, and I feel I can empty my bladder completely. I return to bed for an hour or two of sleep around 6am.
My mom is set to visit on Friday. We were planning on going out for breakfast, but she messages to let me know she’s running late and asks if she can call. We decide she’ll pick up something on the way and I tell her only that I had a terrible night, but that I’ll tell her all about it when she gets here. I get Sisu up and she’s an absolute angel. She’s been very good while I’ve been feeling bad these past couple weeks in particular. She’ll bring her toys into the bathroom and play with me while I’m using the toilet for long amounts of time trying to pee just a little more, and once when I was in terrible pain sitting on the floor she came over and patted my back, as if to reassure me everything would be okay. She’s absolutely wonderful.
When mom arrives, I tell her everything that happened the last few days, including the past night and she asks me a few pointed questions. She specifically asks about a simple physical examination that would be conclusive if kidney stones were present. It’s a physical examination I have not been given in the past four months. Mom is a retired NP who worked in Cardiology, Internal Medicine, and Surgery. She is sometimes a bit more cautious with me when I’m not feeling well than I think she would be with a patient, but she’s sharp and won’t beat around the bush if she thinks I should see a physician about something. She agrees that I probably have been having trouble with kidney stones for months and encourages me to change my OB appointment for the following week to a primary care appointment. I agree, though I’m skeptical what my primary care can do seeing as most doctors don’t want to treat you while you’re pregnant.
Mom helps take care of Sisu through the day, which is awesome. I honestly couldn’t thank her enough. I take tylenol most of the day, but it barely helps. I drank water constantly and we got out a little which helped my spirits and gave Sisu some time out and about. That night I take some tylenol before bed and I’m able to finally drift off to sleep with a hot water bottle on my side. I think I only fell asleep because I was so tired from the past night. I was still in a lot of pain. Around 2:30 Sisu woke up fussing, but quickly goes back to sleep. I realize that my pain is mostly gone. There is some small amount of residual pain, but it feels more like an overtaxed muscle than the labor like throbbing sensation I’d been experiencing the past 3 days. I slept like a brick.
The rest of the weekend Joel was a huge help. My pain tapered away until it was virtually gone, spiking at a 2 if I moved suddenly or picked up something heavy. I figure a second stone must have been passed into my bladder, but I haven’t felt it leave my system yet.
At my primary care visit I discuss my ongoing problem with my doctor. I tell her I’m concerned I may have kidney stones and begin describing the past four months. Every time I pause to continue she says “yup, that sounds like kidney stones.” I lost track of how many times she said it. Her face told me that she was really concerned and listening to what I said. She gave me a brief exam (hey, what do you know, she did that exam mom told me about) and she told me, “well there’s good news and bad news.” She said yes, I almost certainly have kidney stones. The conclusive test is a cat scan, which shouldn’t be done while I’m pregnant. If the kidney stones are severe I could have a procedure done where I’m sat in water and sonic waves break up the stones, but this is not done on pregnant women. She referred me to a urologist to get a more poignant opinion and asked if I needed help managing the pain. Emphatic yes. I explained to her the severity of the pain while my mom was over, that I couldn’t pick up my own child, etc. She understood and disappeared for a few minutes to double check a Rx for safety during pregnancy and get the info for the urologist.
At this point there doesn’t seem to be much that can be done. I’ve restricted my dark soda intake to one every 3 days and I’m weaning myself onto water only. I don’t expect the urologist to be able to do too much, but I’ll go none the less. I’m glad that I FINALLY know what this is and that I have some answers on how to decrease my risk of getting more kidney stones and what to do in the mean time if I begin to pass another. I’m very frustrated that it took so long to diagnose and that there are things I could have changed along the way to decrease my continuing risk and help the pain and passing, but I’m trying to look forward. I’ll probably talk to the midwife at my next appointment about how frustrating this was, and how disappointed I am, but I’m not expecting much. The ladies know babies, which is why they care for me, so I’ll stay within the practice.
All in all, I’m just so very glad to be feeling myself again. Or at least as much myself as I can feel while my body’s shifting during pregnancy. Now if we could just get some warm weather so Sisu and I can go on some adventures we’d be set!