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My Battle with Postpartum Bell’s Palsy

Jordan Rhodes

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This article was originally published on our old site in January 2017

Many surprises come with labor and delivery, but I don’t think any are as shocking as waking up with half of your face frozen in place. I have Bell’s Palsy. And I got it as a result of giving birth to my third baby. Some of you probably don’t know what that is, so I’ll break it down simply – Bell’s Palsy is when half of your face becomes paralyzed, and mine was most likely a result of “the trauma of childbirth combined with a severe ear infection” according to my doctor. While I was one of the lucky ones whose facial nerves started coming back within two weeks, it can take up to six months to move your muscles freely again, and some people don’t make full recoveries; four months later I still have pain and tenderness around my eye. It was a terrifying experience, and the worst part about it was not being able to freely enjoy or smile at the little miracle I had just given birth to. But for every bad thing that happens in your life, you have to look for the good, or you’ll never fully heal. Here are the lessons I learned from having Bell’s Palsy, and the things I did to recover, besides constantly praying. Hopefully they’ll help some of you going through the same thing.

1) Don’t panic
Most people make a full recovery, and those who don’t are usually suffering from something much more serious, like a stroke or brain tumor. Bell’s Palsy is actually not uncommon for people between the ages of 18-45, and who are pregnant or have just given birth. Keep that in mind because panic makes everything worse. You need to stay as stress-free as possible to regain full use of your muscles again.

2) Start medication immediately
Go to your nearest Ear, Nose and Throat doctor so they can first, diagnose you, and second, start you on steroids plus anti-viral meds or antibiotics, depending on what ailment most likely caused the BP. Starting the steroids is extremely important because this is what will help reduce the inflammation that is pressing on the nerve. I won’t tell you how much I was on, because I don’t want to contribute to self-medication, but the dosage was high. I credit it to my fast recovery, but a warning – steroids are no joke and made me extremely moody and irritable for several weeks (I apologize again to anyone who had the luxury of being in my presence during that time).

3) Take vitamins
I also credit vitamins to my fast recovery. I admit, prior to this I hadn’t been taking them every day like I should have, especially for someone who was nursing a newborn (by the way, my meds were deemed safe to use while breastfeeding and my now four-month-old is healthy, a normal size, and one of the happiest babies I’ve seen), so this was one of the blessings of having BP. I’m now in the habit of taking vitamins everyday which will benefit my health in the long run.

4) If you believe in the power of crystals, get a Himalayan salt lamp
While I definitely thank God everyday for my recovery, and highly believe in the power of prayer, I also believe in other earthly healing powers. A friend told me about Himalayan salt lamps, which, when plugged in, emit a glow that promotes the sea salt to penetrate the air. As natural negative ion generators, they promote healing by reducing symptoms of illnesses (in addition to cleansing the air and calming the mind as a result of its peaceful glow). I’m not kidding, the first night I plugged it in and slept I woke up with slight movement for the first time. Of course that may have been a coincidence, but I was willing to do whatever it took to improve. And oftentimes people just need something to believe in to feel better.

5) Rest
Obviously as a mom with a three day old this was a challenge for me, but it forced me to give up absolutely everything else in my life – a blessing in disguise. For several weeks I stopped the usual nonstop socializing, the constant charity commitments, school commitments for my other two kids, household chores, work on my website and app. While this wasn’t totally ideal, it did force me to step back and prioritize what was most important in my life, and in the process I reconnected with my husband and kids in a way that I had lost in this social town that I live in. Galas and nights out lost their importance and were replaced with movies in bed and wine on the couch. I’ve cut back on everything I used to do, and I’m thankful for the excuse because my time with my family has become so much more precious.

6) Talk about it
The power of conversation is so important to healing and moving on. I’m not always good at expressing my feelings to others, but this has made me open up, and along the way I have made new and better friends as a result. There are wonderful people in this world, especially fellow mamas who know what it’s like to just be a mom and to struggle. The steroids gave me the baby blues like I’ve never had before, but talking about it with other women has made a huge difference. I’m thankful for my tribe, and while I’m still saying no to a lot of social activities, the ones I say yes to have been really healing.

7) Smile
There’s nothing like waking up and losing your smile. The power it holds is amazing; I realize what an impact a smile can have on your mood. Those days of zero facial movements were dark for me, made worse by my worry over my baby not receiving joy and warmth from this new person staring down at her. I was so worried she wouldn’t be happy, and I hated hearing my two older kids say, “mama, what’s wrong,” and “why are you sick.” Now that I’ve regained the movement, I smile at them as much as I can, because it is a gift, and it also has an incredible influence on the way you feel. Smiling instantly changes a mood. Try it now. Smile. I bet you feel a little happier.