Based upon the random symptoms of our disease, it can be difficult to differentiate what is lupus and what isn't. Signs of the flu, a cold, too much exercise, or even pregnancy can easily cross over into lupus territory.
Take the flu, for instance - you're feeling run down, have tender or swollen glands, and feel achy all over...is it a bug, or is lupus afoot? And if you've been hitting the gym hard a few days in a row - and suddenly your joints seem sore and a little tight - did you work out too much, or is your disease acting up?
And the effects of pregnancy - fatigue, swelling, and difficulty touching your toes - certainly have similarities to lupus symptoms (as do the symptoms of postpartum, too.) However, over the last 8 months, I've concluded that the context of lupus and pregnancy symptoms are actually quite different:
1) Fatigue - Being tired is a drag, no matter what the circumstances. With pregnancy, you feel wiped out - pooped because your body is busy making a baby, and putting your legs up at the end of the day feels heavenly. With lupus, being dead dog tired is just the beginning. It's the complete exhaustion, the feeling of depletion, and the notion that you cannot take one more step or utter one more word that really sets it apart from anything else.
2) Swelling - No doubt about it - being pregnant and swollen stinks - the feet, the fingers, even the face - it can seem as though no body part is left untouched. But thankfully, there's typically little to no pain - just tightness, right? With lupus, swelling is almost always accompanied by joint pain, making it practically impossible to put any pressure on or make use of any of those swollen, painful joints. Bummer, huh?
3) Sudden weight gain - during pregnancy, you're expected to gain weight. Even if it's in all of the wrong places - people look at you and say, "for the baby's sake, have another slice of cake." Unfortunately with lupus, nobody gives you a pass for those nasty prednisone pounds. Or that terrible moon face. Thankfully, in both the case of lupus and pregnancy, the weight gain has the potential to go away...but that's a whole another topic, don't you think?
4) Immobility - When your belly takes on the appearance of a decent sized watermelon, and you find yourself hobbling and waddling around due to the imbalance, you tend to get some sympathy. At the grocery store, in restaurants, even at the post office...everyone seems to jump to help with doors, chairs, and the like when you're pregnant. With lupus, we have the disadvantage (if you can call it that) of not looking visibly disabled, so even though our joints are throbbing, and we find it difficult to put one foot in front of the other, no one knows that we could use a hand.
So I guess for the remaining couple of weeks, I should just enjoy the advantages of being pregnant, and know that once my belly returns to normal, I'll have to start fending for myself again. Of course, by then, I'll be pushing Deirdre in the stroller while carrying KitKat in a baby bjorn.
Gosh. I think I just earned myself another 6 months of sympathy.