A new mom has told of her terror after she woke up one morning while pregnant and discovered that her face was partially paralyzed.
Jocelyn York, 29, of Guilford, Vermont, began having trouble chewing food when she was two weeks from her due date and initially brushed it off as tiredness.
But the following morning the social worker ‘freaked out’ when she woke up and looked in the mirror to discover that the right side of her face was frozen.
Morning shock: Jocelyn York, 29, a social worker living in Guilford, Vermont, was two weeks from giving birth when she woke up to find the right side of her face paralyzed
Before: Jocelyn was 38 weeks pregnant when she began to feel a strange sensation in her face
Damper on the day: Jocelyn, pictured with her wife Meg York, 34, was heartbroken over not being able to smile at her daughter after welcoming Ida in August 2017
Terrified Jocelyn thought she had suffered a stroke because she could no longer smile or close her right eyelid, but doctors diagnosed her with Bell’s Palsy.
The condition is a form of facial paralysis that occurs when the cranial nerve is swollen, compressed or inflamed, and in her case it’s thought to have been caused by shingles.
It meant Jocelyn was unable to grin at her newborn baby, Ida York, for five months after she was born last August.
Jocelyn, who lives with her wife, lawyer Meg York, 34, said giving birth was the ‘happiest day’ of her life – but it was tainted because she couldn’t smile.
The mom-of-one said: ‘The night before it happened to me I had this strange sensation in my face.
Sussing it out: Doctors told Jocelyn that she had Bell’s Palsy, and that it may have been caused by a dormant shingles virus
Mom and baby: Jocelyn and her wife welcomed their baby Ida with the help of a sperm donor
Out and about: Jocelyn, pictured with Meg and her father, was also unable to close her eye
‘My partner and I were eating dinner and I found it really hard to chew.
‘It was weird but I didn’t think that much of it. I just went to bed, thinking I was just exhausted because I was 38 weeks pregnant.
‘I woke up the next morning and my face felt so strange.
‘I got out of bed and walked to the mirror and I realized I couldn’t move the right side of my face.
‘I was scared, I immediately thought I was having a stroke. It was like one side of my face was frozen.’
Jocelyn, who conceived baby Ida using a sperm donor, added: ‘I felt like I was in a prison. I couldn’t express emotion.
Healing up: Jocelyn, 29, was forced to wear an eye patch in the months after her diagnosis
Happy baby: Jocelyn worried that her baby Ida would never know her smile
Support system: Jocelyn felt embarrassed while walking outside, worried that friends might think she was being rude for not being able to smile back
‘I was worried that my baby wouldn’t know what a smile from me even looked like.’
Jocelyn’s paralysis is thought to have been caused by shingles, an infection caused by the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, part of a group of viruses called herpes viruses.
The illness – which Jocelyn had aged nine – lies dormant after recovery and can become reactivated in certain scenarios, such as with a weakened immune system.
Herpes viruses can also cause Bell’s Palsy and women who are pregnant are three times more likely to suffer from it. In Jocelyn’s case, it was difficult to determine the exact cause.
Soon after she developed symptoms on July 29, 2017, doctors warned her that she might live with a permanent inability to control her facial muscles.
To treat the condition, she was placed on a course of anti-virals and prednisone, a drug which is designed to bring down inflammation.
Jocelyn, originally from San Jose, California, also had to wear an eye patch for three months and said her emotionless face caused problems for her in public.
Active couple: Doctors warned Jocelyn that she may have permanent paralysis in her face
Loving mom: Doctors put her on a course of anti-virals and prednisone to treat the condition
All together: Jocelyn also started getting acupuncture two times every week, which she believes helped her improvement
‘I live in a small place and I worried that people thought I was being rude in the street, when I couldn’t smile back at them,’ she said.
The mom, who welcomed baby Ida York on August 14, 2017, added that although the day was the happiest of her life, it was tainted because she could not smile in photos.
She said: ‘Ida came out perfectly fine and healthy, it was the happiest day, but it was hard because my face wasn’t working.
‘Meg loves to take a lot of pictures but I was just really uncomfortable being in them. I couldn’t smile at all.
‘We ended up taking a lot of Ida’s photos from strategic angles so that I felt more comfortable.’
Much to Jocelyn’s relief, she started seeing small improvements in October 2017 as the swelling around the cranial nerve began to go down.
Familiar face: After a number of months, Jocelyn finally felt herself regaining control over the facial muscles
Real smiles: Five months after that fateful morning, Jocelyn can finally smile at her baby
The mom began attending acupuncture twice a week, which she feels aided her recovery.
Now, five months after it happened, Jocelyn is finally able to crack a smile – so long as her mouth is closed.
She said: ‘Three months after it first happened, I began to get so itchy, behind my ears and all over my face, which is a sign that your muscles are regaining control.
‘I was so excited when I started seeing those tiny improvements, it meant so much to me because I thought I would have to come to terms with being paralyzed forever.
‘I’ve worked up to a point now, five months after it first happened I can finally smile with my mouth closed.
‘It was such a frightening experience at the time but I’m glad to have started to come out the other side of it and to be able to smile back at my beautiful baby.’