June 18, 1982: Sarah was conceived and I experienced a very normal pregnancy. I was
June 18, 1982: Sarah was conceived and I experienced a very normal pregnancy. I was 28 and this was my first pregnancy, so I was nutritionally and physically fit. Working out regularly and losing any extra weight before I conceived was a goal, so I began the pregnancy weighing 127 pounds, which is good for my petite 5'4" height.
My mother had three normal deliveries and I read all the books available. Of course I skipped over the chapter on preeclampsia, since I just KNEW that would not be a problem for me.
My husband and I decided that I would substitute teach instead of renewing my teaching contract. As the Thanksgiving holidays approached, I began to eat sweets and high fat foods. I also began to gain weight. I was so excited about Lamaze and breastfeeding that I didn't consider the consequences. By Christmas holidays, I was like a water balloon, ready to pop.
At the time, I didn't recognize this but during the course of the pregnancy, I saw signs of problems within our marriage. As I got larger and the doctor was restricting my activities, including housework and cooking, my husband grew more agitated and angry. He would 'allow' me to use the four hours of standing time on the duties in the house and cooking. The stress increased as I allowed him to dominate me. (I am not blaming him now. We went through three years of counseling and were divorced in 1997). I only mention this information because I believe it is a pattern other women can learn from.
The doctor admitted me into a hospital in Tulsa, OK on January 18, 1983. I had been up most of the night before thinking that my head was exploding. The swelling had progressed up to my head and neck area.
They tried to contain me in the bed with seconal but I was up and around, hypertensive as ever, and clueless about what was really going on. They called in a specialist who would do the delivery and we were all hoping I would make it to the eight month mark. I remember there were talks of beets and diabetes.. but before I had to eat those disgusting beets, I was taken down to 'check the baby'.
On January 25th, around 1130 pm?? they checked me and the baby. My blood pressure was always normal before pregnancy, but when this night came, I was at stroke level and my weight was 210 pounds. My husband was prepped to be in there as I would have a c-section/bikini.. and then.. all of a sudden, I remember them inserting THE tube.. up the nose and down the throat and asking him to leave.
Sarah was born 6 1/2 weeks prematurely and had some respiratory distress. I was on mag. sulfate for at least two days. I remember waking up on the 28th or 29th and seeing my little 'frog baby' in a polaroid picture. I couldn't touch her or hold her until I was strong enough, which was a nightmare. They told me later that I was still in danger of having a stroke, so the mag sulfate was to keep me from stroking.
I lost eighty pounds of water before I left the hospital. When I was dismissed, January 31, 1983, I was home only minutes when I received a call from the doctor stating that she had had a bleed in her brain. I was never told there was any damage done. (I had extensive information from college on the causes of mental retardation, so I was just a tad apprehensive). I am a special education teacher and have seen first hand the babies who were born prematurely and had had complications.
I was determined to breastfeed and was fortunate to have a friend who owned an electric breast pump. I had phlebitis in one arm so it was a life saver! I was able to breastfeed successfully for twelve months. I would, however, supplement with feedings in between with formula, so she had the best of both worlds.
My blood pressure remained high for approximately six months.
I don't know if there were other details worth noting about my condition.
Hopefully these next two items have changed.
1. When I was in the room trying to get Sarah to breastfeed, I was surrounded by charts for nurses to read/not patients.. about how to deal with a mother whose baby has just died....NOT a good idea!!
2. I was told to limit my time to 20 min. a day of having her outside the incubator, so she wouldn't lose weight trying to keep her temp. up.. which I understood..
I walked in one day, only to find a nurse, glibly walking around with MY baby.. outside the incubator... and not just taking her somewhere.. Needless to say, with the blood pressure still elevated in me.. I came unglued. The perinatal doctor came over to me and wrote in the chart my frustrations, at my urging her to do so. Hopefully this rule has changed.
We visited the hospital six months later and the nurse who greeted us was my nurse in OB the night Sarah was born. She said the doctor usually doesn't stay all night, but the doctor knew that I probably wouldn't make it, so he just waited there beside my bed. I was told I had slits for eyes and that from my lower chin to my shoulder was like a grotesque pillow of water. I wish I could draw it, but if you were to take a line and begin at the ear and come down to the shoulder.. it would be the line.. If we are talking degrees .. it would possibly be 75 degrees. I can understand why the nurse didn't recognize me, when we made our impromptu visit.
Sarah was delayed in her developmental milestones approximately three to six months. She ended up having ADHD and auditory memory problems. We still look at the needle pricks on her heels. We jokingly say that she wears sox to bed and loves to sleep with the lights on, due to her first twenty five days of life. She repeated the first grade and I home-schooled her for a year to catch her up in her basic subjects.
Whether the next bit of information is due to her birth, her family's dysfunction, her dad's never ending criticism and non acceptance of her and his inability to love her unconditionally, or other factors within her .. but she 'used' for four years.. and has been drug free since December 2005. She still struggles with the ADHD, anxiety, and insecurity.
One item worth noting for other mothers: I blamed myself for her having all these problems for many, many years. I have worked through that now. She also used to mention that she almost killed me during childbirth. I don't know if she had guilt or not. In the past, we would joke about her personality being present at birth. The doctor decided to give me a 'zipper', as we fondly call the incision. The doctor said he usually has to fish down to get the baby, but as soon as she could, she popped her head up.. as if to say, 'Well, if you are going to do it.. here I am!"
She has served our country in Iraq and has been in the military for the past four years. I am so very proud of her. She has always been the survivor, since birth!
I was able to conceive the second time in January 1988. I had her sister, Erin, a week overdue.. and had no signs of distress. I was a bit swollen and my BP rose, only because I was overdue. I delivered Erin totally naturally in October and Sarah was there and got to trim the cord. She was a integral part of the whole process.
Thank you for letting me share. I have always had a heart for women trying to get pregnant and I pray for pregnancies and delivery situations when I know about them.
Just tonight, a high school friend, whose daughter gave birth two months ago, told me of her daughter's plight with her liver enzymes and HELLP. It was when I googled the HELLP, that I found your website.
I am so grateful to know you all exist. I don't have much time or money, but I surely will help as I am able to do so.
Thank you again!