“I was having a stroke or developing Bell’s Palsy…”

“Several moments have shaped my view of my own body image but none as profound as the one that began one week prior to our second daughter’s birth. It was “due date day” and we decided to take our first daughter (who was 19 months old) to the beach to meet two of our dearest friends. I was ginormously pregnant and trying to enjoy the tranquility of the beach before baby #2 made her arrival. Our friend looked at me and said “your face looks different from when you arrived.” My husband agreed and said, “It looks like your face is starting to droop.” As a Speech Pathologist, I knew that meant one of two things: I was having a stroke or developing Bell’s Palsy (a temporary facial paralysis). So I did a few mini tests on myself and tried to remain calm.  Once I realized it wasn’t a stroke, I was a bit calmer but I still felt scared. I called my midwife and Naturopathic doctor immediately. I didn’t want to go to the ER because I was scared they would induce me and I did not want a repeat of my first birth story.  I knew they would want to put me on steroids and I didn’t want that for me or my baby. So I started an intense regime of massage, homeopathic medicine, acupuncture, and chiropractic care. Thankfully, I stopped working already and spent the week prior to baby’s arrival trying to treat the Bell’s Palsy, which apparently is quite common in third trimester pregnancies.  I never thought I was vain until I looked in the mirror and saw a stranger looking back at me.  My right eye was so droopy that it wouldn’t shut and constantly was tearing up. I couldn’t smile, spit, eat, or brush my teeth without drooling. My words slurred so much that it was very difficult to understand me…a Speech Therapist who couldn’t talk, imagine that. My face muscles on my right side twinged and twitched all day and night with crazy pain. I was a hot mess on the outside AND the inside…not to mention, ridiculously pregnant. But that wasn’t the worse of it. It was the murmurs or pitiful glances from my friends and family that was most difficult. Hearing things like, “She was so beautiful. Wow, you look so different. Don’t worry; I’m sure you’ll look normal again.”  I know they meant well but it hurt. I was still me but different. Even though I knew it was temporary, I felt scared that I’d never be “me” again. Our second daughter was born six days post the onset of the Bell’s Palsy. I didn’t want any pictures of me with the baby unless they were on my “good” side. I’m glad my family didn’t listen to me because in that moment of vulnerability, I was learning to be courageous. Slowly but surely I started looking more like me. My face never fully returned to the previous me but most wouldn’t know or notice that. I do though and maybe that’s what that journey was about. A reminder that my beauty lies within me…no matter how wacky my face looks and no matter what people say about me. I’m still beautiful and courageous, not because of what I look like but because of what I have conquered in my many moments of vulnerability. My “different” face is that reminder…daily.”



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