Facing the challenge of having epilepsy and being a parent

June 29 | Guest post by Ashley Mosquera

familyEpilepsy is one of the most misunderstood and most hidden brain disorders in the world. Whenever I say I have epilepsy people automatically think that when I have a seizure I flop around like a fish out of water and swallow my tongue. I do not do any of those things–I actually suffer from complex partial seizures. That means I do fall to the floor (or anywhere for that matter) and my consciousness is impaired.

For those who are not familiar with the disorder, there are many different types of seizures. Those in which you jerk around on the floor are called Grand Mal seizures. Having a seizure disorder is very dangerous since we could have an "episode" at anytime, anywhere. All of us with epilepsy have different things that trigger seizures. For example, my seizures are triggered by stress, lack of sleep, different light patterns, physical exertion–even some smells making my everyday activities a gamble.

I was diagnosed on my 16 birthday with epilepsy–not exactly the words I wanted to hear. I knew one day I would be faced with the thought of having kids and this would be a big mountain to overcome. Given that pregnancy is hard enough on a woman's body, throwing in epilepsy would make it that much harder and this scared the living shit out of me.

Well, one day I ended up with the sweet surprise of pregnancy. First, excitement set in and then, the sound of all my doctors yelling at me filled my head. Once my doctor confirmed I was pregnant, the craziness started. I was booked to see my neurologist & the obstetrician at 15 weeks pregnant. Normally you see your OB at 26 weeks. I had to go for MRIs and EEGs once a month. I was also taken off my medication since the side effects to the baby could be fatal. We were told the chances of our baby having a cleft palette or spina bifida are pretty high given that I have been taking anti seizure medicine for 7 years. Now, passing epilepsy on to my baby was another risk we were facing, but my fingers and toes where crossed that my baby would never have to go through what I had already endured.

My pregnancy was not piece of cake. I had countless doctor's appointments to make sure the baby was okay and to make sure that I was feeling fine. Since I was off my medicine, I was trying not to think about the fact that I could have a seizure triggered by my body going through this change–but my doctors kept reminding me everyday.

At 32 weeks pregnant I was taken to the hospital with severe pains in my stomach. My OB came into the room and checked me over, and it turned out that I was starting to go into labour due to my body being stressed. The doc immediately started to push meds through my body to stop the labour. Thankfully she stopped Xavier from coming out too early.

She also talked to me about my final birth plan. She decided that being induced at 38 weeks (if I could make it to then) would be best for the safety of the baby and was afraid that I could have a seizure brought on by stress. The doctor told me that she would be giving me an epidural no matter what due to the fact that labour could throw me into one of my episodes. I was also ordered to bed rest for the final weeks of my pregnancy.

On November 10th 2009 at 3:45pm I gave birth to my son Xavier. I ended up 38 weeks and had a completely normal delivery despite all the worries the doctors had. He also came out without any medical issues. He was healthy and absolutely handsome. I could not believe I had just given birth to my son, and all my fears of having a seizure during labour where gone. But the threat of having seizures was, unfortunately, not, and a few weeks after giving birth I had a seizure at 3 or 4 am due to lack of sleep. Luckily, I was not holding my son at the time of the seizure.

I have been medication free for over a year now and have had only 1 seizure since being off of it. The threat is still there every single day but I try not to let it take over and stop me from enjoying spending time with my son. I go on living my day raising him and hoping that he will not have epilepsy.