- 2 years ago
- Wedding: October 2013
Our birth story really begins before the birth. I had wanted a birth that was free of as many interventions as possible. I had done all the research, and I had written the birth plans and knew exactly what type of birth I wanted. Of course I knew that things could go wrong…but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine what happened on June 20<sup>th</sup>, 2014.
I chose an OB that had great reviews online. Mostly, I liked them at first. They were very hands off and seemed to know their stuff. Yet, I began having problems with them later on in my pregnancy. Any complaint I had became “oh that’s completely normal” or “yeah, we hear that all of the time”. I felt rushed, and my appointments never lasted more than 15 minutes. I complained about the massive swelling in my face, feet, and arms and still it was deemed “completely normal”. Eventually, I was struck with horrible rib pain. It was so sharp I couldn’t sleep at night. I brought it up with them and they told me it was just baby G’s feet in my ribs. I also had what I believed to be a pinched nerve (at least that’s what it felt like to me). They didn’t think twice about it, I “must have slept wrong”. My blood pressure was starting to get higher than it typically did which was apparently “completely normal for pregnancy”. My weight began to skyrocket! I had gained 45 pounds, but the majority of it was in the last couple of weeks. Due to this they sent me to the nutritionist. I also wasn’t getting regular urine tests. For my entire pregnancy up until 36 weeks, I only gave one urine sample. You might be able to see where I am going here…
On Monday the 16<sup>th</sup> of June I was given a clean bill of health at my checkup. By the 19<sup>th</sup>, I was in the ER with full blown preeclampsia and hellp syndrome. I went into the ER when the rib pain became unbearable. I walked around for hours and my breathing became shallow. It was terrifying. When I got in, they couldn’t even take my blood pressure correctly because my arm was so swollen the cuff would fall off. I had my pressure taken probably 50 times in that one hour. My blood pressure ended up being 200+/ 120+, my blood platelets under 60,000 and my liver enzymes were through the roof. The rib pain I was feeling for weeks was my body going into liver failure. The “pinched nerve” was my liver storing toxins behind my shoulder. My weight gain, massive swelling, and nearly every other concern I had brought up to my doctors turned out not to be “completely normal” but life threatening instead. My birth plan was out the window, but more than anything, I was scared for my life and baby G’s.
I was told I would be induced immediately. Because my platelets were so low, they were scared of doing a c-section because I had the possibility of bleeding out. I was put on magnesium sulfate (along with 6 other drugs) and pitocin once my blood pressure stabilized. I was given a catheter and forced to lay on my left side for the entire 24 hours I was in labor. Labor was a blur. I was given an epidural very quickly due to the chance of me bleeding out. I was NOT prepared for how badly that hurt. I’ve almost forgotten the intensity of all the pain of labor, but the snap of my spine during the epi, I’ll never forget. It wasn’t worth it though because it didn’t work on one side. So for the entire 24 hours, I complained it wasn’t working. The button they give you to administer more of the drug didn’t seem to be working either. The anesthesiologist didn’t believe me and assured me they were both working great. And because of my platelet count, I couldn’t get another.
They also couldn’t monitor baby G well so they decided to do an internal monitor, which they had to due twice because the first one fell out during a cervical check. I think this part was where I was the most upset
Finally, after 24 hours, a foley balloon, and lots of pitocin, I was at 10 centimeters and fully effaced. It was time to push. I had to grab my ankles, put my chin to my chest, and push. I remember thinking how ridiculous it was that I was being told to push in this position and how I now understood why so many women complained about it. I pushed for a good 30 minutes. Baby G wasn’t doing well. His heart rate was dropping into the 60’s with each push and he wasn’t descending down the birth canal. My mom noticed his heart rate and alerted the nurse. My doctor (who I hadn’t seen in over 12 hours) told me it would be best for me to have a c-section. She said I could try to push on my right side, but I knew baby G wasn’t doing well and I bit the bullet and told them to go for it.
That’s when the anesthesiologist realized that the epidural wasn’t working on my left side. To make sure that I couldn’t feel anything, they used a cold wipe across my stomach. I told him I could feel the coldness and he didn’t believe me. He rudely told me to lift my left leg, which I did very easily. The button to administer more of the epidural, as we found out was leaking onto the floor the entire time.
The actual c-section really wasn’t that bad. I needed oxygen to help me stay calm and it nice having M by my side holding my hand. You can feel them tugging you and the blood, but nothing else. It was definitely scary though. They asked M if he wanted to see them pull out baby G, he declined. When they pulled him out, I couldn’t see him. They whisked him away while M and me just waited to hear him cry. A minute passed and I hadn’t heard his sweet cry. More time passed and I started to panic. I couldn’t see baby G, but I could see M’s face. I’ll never forget the look of worry on his face and the look of joy when we both heard him cry. Baby G had been lodged in the birth canal. It took quite a bit of pressure to pull him out. His scalp had a large scratch on it, and two smaller cuts from the internal fetal monitor. I was never told his apgar score. At 36 weeks, he was 6 pounds 3 ounces and 18 inches long.
Going into recovery was nice because it was an entire hour I got to spend alone with M and baby G. Baby G latched on right away and breastfed like a champion. He was so beautiful and I was over the moon.
I couldn’t go to the maternity ward, but I had to stay in the surgical recovery unit for a day still attached to the catheter and the magnesium. I wasn’t allowed to eat for another 24 hours either. So from Wednesday night until Saturday morning, I couldn’t eat. When I finally got to the maternity ward, I was allowed to stand up for the first time and take a shower. I didn’t really expect to be so weak. It was very hard to even get in and out of bed. M helped me shower and I can’t explain how much better that made me feel. I didn’t expect to bleed so much after having a c-section! It makes sense now, but for some reason I didn’t think about that part. The mesh panties and huge hospital pads came in handy!
I found that breastfeeding takes more work than you might would think. It’s completely rewarding, please do not get me wrong. However, it really takes dedication, lack of shame, and willingness to ask for help. I had so many people from the nursery as well as the lactation consultants helping me and baby G latch. I had to get over that these women would grab and squeeze my breasts because they knew what they were doing. I also got a hospital grade preemie medela pump so I could cup feed him extra colostrum. While he did lose more than 10% of his body weight, his blood sugar never dropped and he never became jaundiced.
Coming home I was given pain medicine, iron supplements, stool softeners, and the typical “call us if this happens” postpartum list. I wasn’t told to check my blood pressure. My mom had read online that for victims of hellp syndrome, coming home is sometimes the most dangerous part. She went out and bought me an automatic blood pressure cuff. That night after we were all settled in, I checked my pressure and it was 198/ 124. I called my emergency doctors line and was told to come into the ER immediately. I was devastated. I would have to leave my infant in the middle of the night. He would have to be given formula, and if I was admitted into the hospital, I didn’t know when I would see him again.
I went into the ER and my pressures remained high. They checked my blood levels and my platelets and liver enzymes were trending in the right directions. They put me in blood pressure medicine and made an appointment with my OB’s office to see me later in the week. The next night, my pressures were spiking again for no reason. I decided to just wait until the morning to see my OB. That same night I was breastfeeding my son and suddenly got very dizzy and weak. My left side became numb, I became short of breath, and my heart was racing. I felt like I was going to pass out. M was at the grocery store and my mom called him to rush me to the hospital. Again, I was devastated. I knew something was very wrong with me. I left my house wondering if I would ever see my infant again. That was genuinely the saddest/ scariest moment in my entire life. I felt like I was going to die and no one was actually taking care of me or taking me seriously.
We got to the ER and my pressure had actually gone down. Therefore, I didn’t make it past triage. I waited three hours to be seen. By the time I was seen, they hadn’t taken my pressure in over three hours. I asked if we could take it again and the PA rudely told me that we didn’t need to take it every 15 minutes. I was so defeated. I felt like they weren’t taking me seriously. I was in pain from not having any pain medicine (from being in the ER), my breasts hurt from being engorged, and I was just overall exhausted and scared. I sat in the ER and bawled. An hour later (after I had fallen asleep) they took my pressure and it was back up again. Then, they finally realized that I needed higher doses of blood pressure medication. Six hours later I was sent home with another appointment to see my OB later that day.
Now, nearly a month out, I’m still having blood pressure issues. I can control it myself with my medication, but it’s possible I will always have the issues. The second night in the ER will haunt me for a while. I was very lucky that my blood pressure stabilized as I was at risk for a stroke or seizure or worse.
I’ve harbored a lot of anger over the doctors that took care of me as well as my OB’s office. I think about it often and wish I had stuck up for myself in those moments. Yet, I know how lucky I am to have survived hellp syndrome because I know it could have been a lot worse.
Now, my swelling has all but gone away. Before, I couldn’t fit my feet in a wide width flip flop. I’m also down 40 pounds (most of which was just fluid). I still get headaches about every day, but as long as I stay fed, hydrated, and get a moderate amount of sleep, those are tolerable. Breastfeeding has become easier. The first two weeks we had latching issues. Now, he is a barracuda feeder and wakes up every three hours on his own to feed. I suffered from baby blues and cried a lot when I came home. Talking about it with M helped. I had a lot of anxiety about my body and was constantly worried something else would happen.
I still worry. But I also know how lucky I am to have a healthy baby boy and that I am trending in the right direction. I know this story is long, but I just wanted to really emphasize to people that they need to stand up for themselves when it comes to their health. Know the warning signs and advocate for yourself.
And of course last but not least, picture!