How My Newborn Saved My Life
I have spent the past couple of days deciding if I really wanted to write about this. My newest birth story is a hard one. Most of the seriousness hasn’t totally hit me, yet.
My pregnancy was difficult. It started with headaches so severe and strange that my general practitioner had me get an MRI. The headaches faded away along with my morning sickness as I entered my second trimester. Things went pretty well for a little while, then as I got closer to my third trimester, I started to experience muscle and joint pain.
My midwife and I put it off as ligament pain. She did have me go in for a few extra tests and I did come back as very anemic. I started taking an iron supplement and started physical therapy in hopes of helping my poor muscles work better.
I now know that a good number of these symptoms are the lesser symptoms of something pretty serious. Well, something life-threatening, if you want to get to the bare bones of it. I just didn’t show the main symptom of high blood pressure. My bp was actually really great most of my pregnancy. Until I became anemic, then it dropped. And, along with the anemia, my heart rate rose.
My pain became so severe that I was unable to even drive my car. My ribs started popping out of joint at the slightest movements. I was forbidden to sweep or clean. We had to send my youngest son to the grandparents because I was unable to bend down to help him with anything. I had a hard time dealing with him being away from me. My in-laws asked me to stay with them. Partly because they felt bad for me being away from my kiddo and partly because they were really concerned about my health.
On the night of December 22/23, I started feeling pretty regular contractions. I finally woke up my husband at around 4:30. We got dressed, ran home, and grabbed the emergency hospital bag I had packed when I started to hurt. I was 36 weeks and 3 days, which means that I was not allowed to have a home birth.
We went to the hospital and were sent straight up to labor and delivery. My contractions were pretty light, but regular, so we were put in an exam room to determine what was going on with me. They took my blood pressure and then immediately ordered blood tests. My blood pressure had shot up.
When my results came in, my nurse came into my room and told me that both doctors wanted to talk to me and she was going to have to transfer my care to nurses who were more experienced…
The doctors came in and point blank told me that I had HELLP syndrome and preeclampsia. My blood platelet count was down to 24,000. A normal platelet count should be 150,000 to 250,000. Looking me straight in the eye, they both told me that there was a chance that I would die. The cure for HELLP and preeclampsia was to give birth as soon as possible, so I was moved to a regular room and hooked up to pitocin in an effort to really get my contractions going.
I hate pitocin. That stuff is nasty and rough. And because my platelets were so low, I was not allowed to have an epidural. I was also not even allowed to have general pain medicine such as Tylenol and Ibuprofen due to my liver and kidneys not at optimal functioning. I was given a straight drip of pitocin along with magnesium to keep me from having seizures, two bags of blood, and a bag of platelets. I had IVs in both hands. It was as if I had wings of IV drips.
The pitocin started as a low dose. They were hoping to get things going. They slowly cranked it up.
I don’t actually have much memory of the active labor. I know the nurses kept telling me not to push. I pushed anyway. I know I had the whole L & D floor running to my room and the doctor made it just in time to catch the baby. I nearly crushed the fingers of my husband and doula and I guess I was screaming because my throat hurt afterward. I like to think I roared that baby out. It was probably less dignified than that.
Thankfully, I did not tear. I did have more bleeding than normal, but it did stop. Probably due to the clotting shot I was given. I don’t remember what it was called.
And thus was Baby Max introduced to the world. He was placed immediately on me, skin to skin. And we snuggled and I weakly attempted to breastfeed him and he weakly attempted to eat. What a pair we were. I was weak from my malfunctioning blood and he was weak from coming so early.
It has been a week now and my arms still look like I was on the losing end of a fight. I am still in some muscular pain and I have discovered that I really do have to take it easy. If I try to go grocery shopping and do dishes, I am totally wiped out afterwards. I am getting better. With my last lab work, my platelets were still low, but staying steady. I get to have more lab work next week.
I have lost a lot of weight from this pregnancy, which I think some people would think a good thing. And while I do not mind some of the weight loss, I do mind the muscle mass that I am also now missing. I can now pick up a dinner plate and a full water bottle, but it is more effort than it should be. At least I do not have the pain that I had when I attempted these tasks while pregnant.
Now, I am healing. Max is growing. We are going to be ok. I will be making sure to get back to my gym as soon as I feel able to. I plan on getting a session with a personal trainer to set me on a track to rebuild what I lost. I think I will set a goal of at least one 5K this summer or fall.