Category Archives: Sick

This is Why a Perfect Pregnancy is BS (Parents Magazine)

Why A Perfect Pregnancy is BS, Parents Magazine, Virginia Sole-Smith

It was the 18th week of my second pregnancy. I lay in a fake-leather recliner, holding my breath and my husband’s hand as a maternal fetal medicine specialist slid an ultrasound wand over my abdomen. This wasn’t your standard anatomy check. The doctor was trying to see if our baby had all four chambers of her heart. And if she would be spared the 12 surgeries, six months of hospital life, and countless moments of pain and panic that our first daughter endured during her early years.

 Violet was born with a rare collection of life-threatening congenital heart defects, all of which were somehow missed on the half-dozen ultrasounds I had during my pregnancy with her. We didn’t know anything was wrong until her heart began shutting down when she was a month old. Violet is now a happy and healthy 4-year-old who begins every sentence with “Actually… ” But her heart condition is lifelong. The question that haunted every conversation Dan and I had about a second child was: What if it happens again?

The odds of that were small, but much bigger than if it hadn’t happened the first time. So my second pregnancy was immediately classified as high risk. I underwent every genetic test and screening because my doctor was determined not to miss so much as a prenatal pimple. And so, after searching the grainy images of our baby on the ultrasound monitor for about ten minutes, my doctor turned to me with a huge smile. “Her heart is developing normally,” he said. “This baby gets an A+. Good work, Mom!”


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Talking Jimmy Kimmel, Heart Kids and Saving the ACA on CNN’s Don Lemon

I had a quick appearance on CNN with Don Lemon last night (watch it here). Pretty much everyone has been talking about Jimmy Kimmel’s beautiful monologue about his son Billy, who was born a few weeks ago with complex congenital heart defects. It’s thoughtful and eloquent (and still funny!), all the more so because he delivered it so soon after Billy’s first open heart surgery. Their family is just beginning to process this diagnosis and the traumatic journey they’re now on. But he recognized the importance of using his platform to raise awareness about protecting the Affordable Care Act, as the Republicans try once again to take it down.


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Wonder Drug [ELLE, November 2013]

This is one of those very tricky stories that made me think very hard about stuff that I’ve long taken as gospel. Specifically: That The Pill is the best thing that ever happened to women’s healthcare and maybe to women, period.

I know. As a good feminist and generally responsible human being, I have long assumed that being on the Pill was more or less my civic duty. I thought I had to be on it the same way I have to vote because, you know, Susan B. Anthony and Seneca Falls.

But you guys already know a lot of my back story here: Migrainesendometriosis, what have you.* And at some point along my merry way, I started wondering about the Pill. It was clear that all of my health issues were hormonal. And the Pill — which I had been taking faithfully since the age of 14 — is nothing but (synthetic) hormones. I tried lots of different kinds and ultimately got to this catch-22 situation where I couldn’t stay healthy off the Pill but I also couldn’t find one that worked for one problem without making the other one worse. In talking casually with girlfriends and many readers of this blog, I realized that lots of women struggle to find a good fit with the Pill… yet we also all take it for granted that it’s The Best Thing Ever For Women’s Health. Because choice and responsibility and empowerment, right? 


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Going the Alternative Route with Migraines [Organic Spa Magazine, December 2012]

Organic Spa Magazine December 2012

Here’s a fun one that I wrote for Organic Spa Magazine, a new mag about all things eco-beauty and wellness. It’s no secret round these parts that I live with migraines or that I’ve actually had to go the fairly aggressive route to deal with them and the related issues. There was that surgery, which, alas, is turning out to have mixed results. Plus my neurologist injects my shoulders, neck and scalp with 25 to 30 shots of Botox every three months, which makes me feel vaguely like a car getting its oil changed (oh so painfully) but does seem to be working.


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Horace & Co Are Gone!

And I’ve got these delightful get well flowers* plus three cool-if-creepy holes** in my stomach to prove it.

So just a quick check-in to thank you all for the supportive comments and emails before my surgery last week. It was an intense day, followed by a blur of painful/painkiller-filled days. I’m definitely still recovering, but have turned a corner and no longer feel quite so much like death/can brush my teeth and even shower without immediately needing a nap afterwards.

Also, all of you who were so appalled to learn that I hadn’t gotten around to reading the Hunger Games yet: Good news! Read all three in three days and yep, you were right. They definitely go on the list of Brave Books for Girls (Not Princesses).


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Horace is Made of Chocolate


When I first came clean about my various health woes back in January, I promised this wouldn’t become a sad sack sick girl blog… and I’d say making you wait almost five months for an update achieves that goal.

So here’s the word: Tomorrow morning, Horace and all his little cyst friends are getting cut out.

I’ve been consulting with a fancy gynecologist who specializes in hard-to-treat ladyparts like mine for the past several months. We’ve tried the Pill — a low-estrogen version that isn’t supposed to interfere with my migraines. Horace is unmoved and continues to flare up with waves of stabbing pelvic pain and 12-hour migraines several times a month. The rest of the time, he wakes me up in the middle of the night, hurts when I pee, spasms when I do certain yoga poses and is generally annoying.


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On Really Liking All Of You

Because I like you all SO much!

I’ve been delightfully inundated with your sweet comments and emails this week, in response to Tuesday’s post about my body not liking me right now. I won’t lie — I was nervous to press publish on that post. Migraines and cysts are the kind of “female complaints” that carry no small amount of crazy girl stigma, and I worried I’d come off as unwrapped, self-indulgent or just… weak.

But you guys reminded me that we don’t fight stigma by succumbing to it. And hearing from those of you who have dealt with this same kind of nonsense reminded me that I’m not alone — which is a cliche, but also, everything.  Apologies to anyone I haven’t yet responded to directly. Please know that I’ve read what you wrote and am so thankful for it.


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On Liking Your Body When It Doesn’t Like You Back

So here’s the thing: I’m sick.

Not in a life-threatening way. Or a crazy way. But rather, in a way that makes it hard to even type “I’m sick,” because I definitely don’t identify with those words. I don’t have cancer. I’m not dying. I’m tremendously fortunate to pass with flying colors on all of the physical markers of health that they check at your annual physical (blood pressure, cholesterol, reflexes, what have you). And I spend so much of my time behaving very much like a not-at-all-sick person.

But I have two chronic medical conditions — migraines and ovarian cysts — which are what doctors call “benign,” because they don’t kill you, they just beat you up so much that sometimes, you kinda wish they would.

Since I woke up today pain-free for the first time in six days, and this is a victory, I decided it was high time for me to write about what’s been going on. Because the fact is, being sick like this profoundly impacts how you feel about your body. And that seems like something we should be talking about more, but just aren’t.   Read more…

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    The Eating Insinct: Food Culture, Body Image, and Guilt in America by Virginia Sole Smith

    Pre-order now!