Forgiving your body for its betrayal. A story of healing.

This is an extremely personal post and one I tell in hopes of helping someone else. If you have Hashimoto’s or any other condition that has caused you great loss in the past or the present I wanted you to know you are not alone.  I am talking particularly about pregnancy loss. Whether you have had a miscarriage or a stillbirth, like me, you can get through it and come out okay on the other side of it. 

My hypothyroidism was diagnosed in spring of 2002 after my second child, a boy, was born. I went to the doctor for something else and had mentioned how tired I was so he also checked my thyroid. My TSH was around 150 and he put me on Levothyroxine and adjusted my meds over the next few months until I was producing labs in the conventional normal range (.5-5.0). 

I thought all was good since the doctor said so but after some time, I just didn’t feel right. Looking back now I know exactly why that was. I was consuming the Standard American Diet (SAD) of low fat, high carbs and grains with every meal. Little did I know how sick it was making me and exactly how my body would respond. 

In 2003 my husband and I found ourselves expecting our third child and boy did I feel terrible. I never have gotten physically sick with any of my pregnancies but I was nauseous 24/7. I felt terrible all the time and was also taking care of a four year old and a two year old. It was fun. My whole pregnancy I never felt like things were okay. Something was never quite right in my gut. We ended up going to a perinatologist for what they thought were issues with this baby’s brain and spinal cord. We had an MRI done in March of 2004 where they confirmed for me that everything was okay. We were going to have a healthy baby. I was relieved but still felt terrible heading in to my third trimester. 

In the middle of this pregnancy my doctor checked my thyroid and found that I had gone in to a hyperthyroid state so he took me off my meds. This should have been clue number one to check me for Hashimoto’s but the sad thing is that it would not have changed the care I was given. I had inner trembling, insomnia and was losing weight but of course I never felt bad when at the doctors office so I always forgot to tell them about my symptoms. 

A month after being given the all clear from the perinatologists, I went in to labor- six weeks early. I had taken my daughter to preschool and went to a parent/child class with my son. I didn’t feel right there so I left a little early and went to get my daughter from preschool. Thankfully my friend took the kids and I called my husband and doula to tell them I was in labor. We all met at our home and the doula wisely reminded us this baby was early so it might be a good idea to go in to the hospital sooner rather than later. 

When we got to the hospital were put in the triage where they checked to make sure I was really in labor. They confirmed I was but went to get the doctor to run the ultrasound. The doctor had the job of telling us there was no heartbeat. Our baby would be stillborn. My husband broke down and I found myself in another place entirely. I still had to give birth so I asked for an epidural so I didn’t have to feel anything. The baby came without and epidural. They cleaned our baby boy off and handed him to me and I sobbed and sobbed. I couldn’t believe it. 

Something like this happens and as a mother you think you could have done something to prevent it. You could have said something a week ago or done something different and he would still be alive.  I remember thinking of this woman I had seen on Oprah who’s ex husband had come to her home early one morning while she was out walking with a friend and shot and killed all three of her kids. I thought, “At least I don’t have to go through what she did”.  We spent the night in the hospital with our baby, taking turns holding him and crying and talking and being alone. The next day, we went home without him and with no explanation for why this happened. It was so devastating and I have always suspected my thyroid and I was really pissed at my body for betraying me.  

In a matter of hours our lives were changed forever. You become part of a club you never wanted to join. You have to find a new normal because what you knew to be normal will never be again. 

Once my husband went back to work and our families left to go back to their lives I was able to get an appointment with an endocrinologist with a referral from my doctor. I had a mission to have another baby, and a healthy one at that. I wanted my thyroid to be in good working order. 

So I saw an endocrinologist for some time- what a colossal waste of time and money that was. He ran labs every six weeks of TSH and T3 and T4 and felt my neck as I swallowed. That was it. No testing for antibodies, no Hashimoto’s diagnosis. Had I been diagnosed I would have dove in head first with some research on how to live optimally with this disease.  

It took 8 months for my thyroid to calm down and be at a “normal” level again. I say normal in quotations because what conventional medicine calls normal and what functional medicine call normal are two different things. Conventional lab ranges are based on all the people who had their thyroid tested the previous year so your labs are compared to all the sick people and all the healthy people lumped together. Functional lab ranges are based on what a healthy person would be at.  Once they thought my thyroid was in a good place we decided to try for another baby. I got pregnant right way and was bound and determined to have a healthy baby. 

My doctor agreed to see me exclusively throughout my pregnancy and in the third trimester I had biweekly and then weekly appointments to measure the heartbeat of the baby for an hour each time to ensure there was no distress. It was a long nine months of worry and stress but we made it through and my thyroid managed to do well and we had a healthy baby too. 

What I know now is that I was going through a major Hashimoto’s flare when we lost our baby to stillbirth. I wasn’t diagnosed with Hashimoto's until 2011 when I sought out the help of a Naturopathic Doctor. She did some thorough testing of my thyroid and some food sensitivity tests. When I found her I had already begun researching gluten free diets and had gone cold turkey gluten free about a month before seeing her. Something in my gut told me that might be the way to go. I had severe blood sugar regulation issues, adrenal fatigue and this terrible itchy rash on my chest and arms that never went away. I knew I wasn’t going to get any answers from my regular doctor so I started to search google and found some information about gluten free diets and natural doctors. 

Two weeks in to my new gluten free diet my rash was completely gone and my head was feeling clear and I was feeling pretty good. My new naturopath told me I should also be dairy free (and egg) among other things. I was a little bummed about that one because a major replacement of the gluten in my diet was cheese. It kept me full and now I couldn’t have that either. How overwhelming. She also wanted me to consume very little sugar which was the only love I had left.  It has taken me four years but sugar no longer has a hold on me. 

I still miss some good quality artisan bread but I never consume it. I have learned that doing so will only launch an attack on my thyroid tissue by my immune system. I would like to keep the rest of my thyroid tissue alive and well thank you very much. 

If you have Hashimoto’s or any other Autoimmune condition, you should never consume gluten. It is very inflammatory to your gut and will only cause problems for you and your health. There are probably other foods you will have to give up too because when you have autoimmune disease, you tend to have other foods that cause an inflammatory response in your body. The best way to know what those foods are is to go on an elimination diet for a month. 

I wish I would have known when I was pregnant with my son what Hashimoto’s was and how my diet and lifestyle were affecting the pregnancy. When we were told our baby would possibly be disabled that put a lot of stress on me. I was high strung already and that just made it worse. My diet was SAD. I baked every week so I ate gluten at least 3 times a day if not more and consumed large amounts of sugar. All the bread, pasta and baked goods I ate was contributing to the large amount of inflammation in my body and the sugar was the icing on the inflammatory cake. All the sugar (carbohydrates and actual sugar) kept my body from being able to handle the emotional stress I was under as well as the physical stress from all the inflammation and the pregnancy. 

You see, it is your body’s job to maintain stable blood sugar first and foremost and then deal with all the other stressors. Cortisol helps manage blood sugar and all the other stress we experience bothy physically and mentally. When there isn’t enough to go around, your body pays the price. 

So my point here is that with the Hashimoto’s flare up during that pregnancy I was like a ticking time bomb resulting in the death of my son. I blamed myself and my body for only a short time. I knew that if I concentrated on that I would go so far down the rabbit hole, I wouldn’t find my way out and I had people who needed me to be there for them. I was pissed at myself for not being able to protect my baby. I was pissed my friends got to keep their babies. I was pissed at women I didn’t know who where pregnant- I wanted to tell them they could lose their baby anytime. I wanted to tell them what I thought they didn’t know. I was pissed at my doctor for not doing more for me. I felt the feelings and then I moved on. I knew it was the only way I would find true healing. I allowed myself to go through the grieving process. I allowed myself to feel. It took me about two years to feel emotionally good again. Now 11 years later, when his birthday comes around I am sad but I am not a mess because that is what works for me. If you are a mess every year, be a mess until you don’t have to be a mess anymore but feel what you need to feel. It is okay.

This journey has been a long one. I have discovered a way to be healthy. I have a new relationship with food (which is still a work in progress). I have a new relationship with my body too. We love each other. 

If you have Hashimoto’s and have experienced a difficult pregnancy or have fertility issues you can find help through nutrition. Share this with someone if you think it can help them.

Remember this: 

  • Hashimoto’s and gluten don’t mix

  • When you change your diet you need to do more than just replace your old foods with gluten free ones

  • Gluten is only one piece of the puzzle

  • Sugar will have a large impact on the inflammation you experience and on hormonal balance

  • It is okay to be pissed off about your situation, but don’t let it rule your life

  • You are not alone

  • You are not your dis-ease

  • Getting well is a journey. It doesn’t happen overnight

  • You CAN feel good again

  • I care about you