Tuesday, April 06, 2010


Yesterday I had the worst headache of my whole life.

I had never had a migraine until I was pregnant with Bryn, when a 5-day monster kept me largely bedridden before my doctor prescribed migraine pills. Migraines were a constant companion for my second trimester of that pregnancy, but they miraculously disappeared after having her. I didn't have another one until I was pregant with Shay.

I figured, okay, I only get migraines during pregnancy. Just another side effect to deal with, likely due to all the hormonal shifts. They'll go away when the baby comes.

But they didn't.

I continued to have migraines in the two years between Shay and Liam, and when I got pregnant with him, they upped the ante, appearing almost daily until a few weeks into the third trimester.

I was so hopeful that they'd be a thing of the past after Liam arrived. But yesterday's was a record-breaker. It started while the kids and I were at the zoo with our friend Lauren. I thought it was just a regular headache, maybe from being out in the sun or something, and popped some Tylenol. (Note: I would have preferred Advil, which is WAY more effective, but it also encourages bleeding, which I've been trying to avoid with my head wound.)

By the time we got in the car to head home, the ache had worsened. I knew where it was headed. I took my migraine medicine as soon as we got home. I drank a bunch of water, wondering if maybe I was dehydrated. I threw the girls in bed, let Liam continue to sleep in his carseat in my room, pumped some milk, laid down myself, and waited for the migraine meds to work their magic. Nothing.

Let it be said that my migraine pills are Midrin, which is the wimpiest migraine medicine out there--which is why it's also the only one that's safe during pregnancy and (I think) nursing. I am supposed to take 2 pills at the onset of the migraine, and if that doesn't kick it, 1 pill an hour after that, until it goes away or up to 6 pills, whichever comes first. Occassionally I've had to do a third pill, and even a fourth once or twice, but never over that.

So I laid in my bed, head throbbing, forcing myself to get up to bottle Liam when he cried. After an hour, my headache had soared to new heights. I took another pill. Nothing. More pumping. The girls woke up and I settled them in front of a movie, navigating as best I could with the sunbursts exploding behind my eyes. At somewhat of a loss for what else to try, I drank some Coke, because the caffeine usually helps a lot in speeding up my migraine recoveries. It squished around uncomfortably in my stomach. I forced down some peanut butter toast, hoping that food would help.

As soon as Ben got home from work, I took a third pill and laid down again, desperately hoping for the sweet oblivion of sleep. I laid a cold washcloth at my head, then marvelled that it stayed in place. I reached up to touch my own head several times and was repeatedly surprised to find that I was laying still. I concluded that my overwhelming sense of vertigo must be from the room spinning around me, and I tried to lay still while the world tipped and whirled. Outside my window, thunder rumbled. My head pulsated. Another hour.

Cloudburst. Pounding rain. Pounding head. I stumbled to the top of the stairs to check on the kids, as they are occassionally afraid of bad storms. They were totally happy, watching a Dora DVD, eating popcorn, and cuddling their SuperDad. I drank more water, took another pill, and laid back down. The room continued to spin, and my head banged in time with the storm. I wondered if the headache could be caused by the rapid change in weather. I know that's possible with migraines, but it had never happened to me before.

Ben came up to check on me. He suggested that if I couldn't sleep because of the headache, that I should do some quiet activity to try to distract myself. I cautiously crept across the room to my rocking chair. I kept off the lights, because light hurt my eyes. I drank more water. I wrapped my entire head in a heating pad, trying to soothe it. I watched an episode of "Glee." I pumped yet more milk, my head pulsating in time with the pump. The ache expanded from my head to the base of my neck. I had a small snack. I cuddled Shay and kissed her good night. I took another pill. I thought about throwing up and wondered if it would make me feel any better.

I laid down next to Bryn. She stroked my hair, kissed more forehead, and said she hoped my "owie head" would get better soon. She fell asleep. My head pounded. The room spun. At some point, I finally fell asleep.

I woke up to pump more milk. I cautiously crossed the room to my rocking chair. I took my 6th pill. Carefully, I made my way downstairs and sat with Ben on the couch to watch the end of the heartbreaker Butler-Duke game. At this point, I knew I couldn't take any more pills. The ache had expanded so far that my teeth throbbed. I crawled back into bed and fell blessedly asleep with the room still spinning around me.

I woke up to the sound of Liam crying around 2:00. I gave him a bottle and rocked him back to sleep. The headache had retreated to just my head, leaving my teeth and neck alone. The room only spun when I was standing, remaining largely stationary while I sat. I considered this a good sign.

Back to bed. Up again with Liam around 4:00. He settled down relatively quickly. I pumped again. The throbbing in my head was no longer quite so intense. Back to bed. Moderate spinning of the room as I laid down rocked me back to sleep.

Up with my alarm at 6:45. I felt like I just had a normal headache instead of a migraine, so I took some Tylenol and moved on with my morning. I was still dizzy but found it to be bearable as long as I moved nice and slow. I headed out for the dermatologist, where I got my stitches removed. Great--then my head hurt on the inside AND the outside. Then home to get Shay and Liam from Ben, then onward to a MOPS steering meeting, where my wonderful friend Cathy dropped off Bryn after picking her up from preschool. Then a rush home to meet my brother, who was dropping off some of his stuff to put in storage in our basement before departing for his cross-country move to California. Lunch, and thank goodness, naps. Liam actually cooperated with naptime, and after I laid down for a bit, the dizziness felt much better. After naps, a mad dash for Bryn's dance class, followed by registration for soccer, both with all 3 kids in tow. And interspersed in this whole day were various sessions of both pumping and nursing. All in all, I can't wait for bedtime, and I'm crossing all my fingers and toes that maybe Liam will at least allow for a decent stretch of sleep tonight.

With all of today's chaos, it would have made sense if I got a headache. Yesterday, though, I can figure no rhyme or reason for, especially one of such epic proportions.

Anybody have advice (other than the many things I tried) on how to get rid of a migraine? Because yikes, I don't ever want to have one like that again!


SlyGly said...

That sounds horrible! Does Imitrex (or its many siblings) help at all?

jules said...

I came across your blog through friends of a friend's blog. I have had migraines chronically for about 10 years. I take a daily medication (first it was a blood pressure med and now it's a very low dose antidepressant at night to help me sleep).

I found that with my migraines, if the medication doesn't help ward them off, I have to lay down in a cold room and put an ice pack/cold eye patch thingy and just wait it out. I have puked before and that took care of the nausea. I also found that taking a very very hot shower helps. For some reason the water pounding on my head helps get rid of the pain.

I was also reading in my parents' AARP magazine and there is an article about migraines. Apparently ginger and the herb feverfew can help curb them.

Good luck!

Andrea said...

Yikes! I used to get migranes, but we found they were due to my birth control pills so I merely stopped taking those and haven't had one since. I actually had to go to the hospital twice due to migranes because I couldn't stop throwing up. The only advice I have beyond what you are doing (taking meds immediately) is to maybe check with your doctor and see if you can't pinpoint the cause. Good luck!

amypfan said...

G - I don't know. I've been 1) pregnant, 2) breastfeeding, or 3) trying to get pregnant ever since I started getting migraines, so Midrin is the only thing I've been able to take. My sister takes Imitrex, though, and it seems to work for her.

Thanks for the tips, everyone!

Amy said...

Sorry, I tried all the migrane meds and only found that Frova works for me. It sees to be a miracle drug for me.