Preeclampsia/emergency C-section at 23 years old.
Posted On Wednesday, February 20, 2013 by Nicole
I'm so relieved to finally be able to tell my story to people who understand what I went through. No one quite knows how traumatic my birth experience was.
Right after high school I was diagnosed with endometriosis and was told it would be very difficult to conceive if I ever wanted kids. I was heartbroken. A year later I began dating my current boyfriend. We've been together 4 years this month. In December of 2011 I took a pregnancy test because I was late and my boobs were killing me. I didn't think it would be positive, but to my surprise it was!
As the months went on, I had a few bumps in the road. I was 1 in 4 for down syndrome, I had to go off my Zoloft cold turkey (which was hell because of the withdrawals), and being a first time mom I was petrified of the time I would actually have to deliver. At about 34 weeks I went into work and my mom (who was also my boss) and my grandma could not believe the size of my feet. They were so swollen it hurt to walk and they jiggled when I hit them on the floor. It was just like jello. I'm normally petite, 5'2'' and 120lbs. I thought it was normal to become swollen during pregnancy (but I didn't realize it was that bad.) That day when I got home I called the clinic because my mom and grandma were hounding me about it. I was stubborn but finally called, talked to a nurse, and she said to drive up so they could do some tests. They hooked me up to a fetal monitor that goes around the belly and I was having regular contractions. I was having them for the past month, but they did not hurt, and I thought it was just the baby moving. My belly would rise in one spot very high, pause, then go down. I had no idea these were contractions. They weighed me and I had gained 9 lbs in 7 days. The week before I had an appointment and the doctor said I was perfectly normal.
I remember sitting there with the monitor on my belly while the nurse went to the hall to call my doctor. When she came back in she said to go home, pack my bags, and go to the hospital. I was not prepared for any of this. I didn't have a bag packed, I needed to shower, I was scared. I didn't know what to think. As I write this I feel so anxious (I suffer from anxiety/panic attacks, which is why I was on and am currently on Zoloft). I drove home, told my boyfriend we had to go to the hospital, took a shower, and headed up there. I was admitted on a Tuesday and would stay a whole week, until the following Tuesday. The first few days consisted of a lot of testing. I had to do 2 24hour urine tests (both had protein in them) monitored me constantly with the belly monitor (which hurt because it poked into my extremely large and tender belly) and who knows how many time they took my blood. I looked like a drug addict by the second day.
At first the doctors said they were going to prolong the pregnancy as much as they could, and I could possibly go home by Thursday. Well I'm not that lucky. Friday came the doctor said I would deliver my baby ASAP. A lot of it seems like a blur, but this is what I remember. I remember going into a large beautiful delivery room where the nurse said it would be the last time I could walk/stand in a while. They hooked me up to a colostomy bag (which sucked), gave me an epidural (which wasn't that bad) and then hooked me up to magnesium. MY WORST NIGHTMARE. They told me I'd feel really really bad for a while, but it'd get better. I remember telling the nurse that when I get IV's I can taste the medicine in my throat and go into anxiety attacks. My boyfriend, his mom/stepdad/sister, and my mom were all in the room. I got really hot, sweaty, and began to panic. I literally thought I was going to die. I thought that was the scariest moment, but I was in for much worse later on. While I was gasping for air and crying in pure horror I held my boyfriend's hand as everyone walked out of the room in tears. That scared me even more because I thought for sure I was going to die.
Next thing I know a doctor came in to see where I was dilated to. It was about a 10 if I remember correctly, and I felt the urge to push. I remember arching my back (but maybe I imagined it) and just wanting to push so bad. The next thing I know I'm in a white Emergency Room with a ton of doctors around me. I remember wondering where Drew, my boyfriend, was. I didn't know what was happening. Apparently when I was trying to push the baby's head got stuck in my pelvic region, along with his umbilical cord and his heart rate dropped. His head was squishing his cord so the only other option was to get him out ASAP. My family/boyfriends family were all in the waiting room and they knew something was wrong when they saw my doctor sprinting down the hall. Drew's 12 year sister asked what was going on and her mom said 'it's OK, Nicole just crashed, everything will be fine.' But later on she told me she didn't know what was going to happen. Drew's stepdad was chewing his gum a million miles an hour and just stared at the door. My mom was crying hysterically, and no one knew what to do. It seemed like hours they said. All the while my boyfriend was thrown into a closet and told 'put these scrubs on, we'll come get you when we can.' He said he could have been in that small room for 3 minutes, or 2 hours, he was in shock and said he paced back and forth until they came and got him.
In the emergency room I remember a blue sheet covering me just below my collar bones. The doctor asked me 'can you feel this?' and I felt him pinch my lower abdomen. I said 'yes.' He asked again, and again I said yes. All the sudden I felt a slice and a lot of pressure. I felt them cut me open. I was the worst feeling I've ever had. When my boyfriend was finally able to come in I remember screaming in pain, but I don't know if it was in my head or out loud. I just remember saying 'OW OW OW OW OWWWWWWWW!' over and over again. He said when he walked in all he saw was blood and guts, my insides. The baby was still stuck and they had to pull and pull to get him out. I literally had 2 hands up my vagina and about 4 hands trying to pull him out. I remember the doctor saying they had to hurry and close me up because my placenta had ruptured. I remember looking back at my boyfriend with tears in his eyes, but a few minutes later I heard the most beautiful sound, my baby crying. They gave me something to drink so I wouldn't throw up, but I threw up all over. They brought him over to me and asked if I'd like to kiss him. I said 'yes, but I just threw up.'
I don't remember being in recovery but apparently the first thing I asked was 'does he have down syndrome?' He didn't, but he weighed 4lbs 9 oz, and was born on July FRIDAY the 13th. (Perfect day for such a horrific experience.) He didn't need any help breathing, but he was badly swollen and bruised and had a black eye from the delivery. (I'll post pictures). I don't remember holding him for the first time, and the day after I had him (Saturday) I don't remember a thing. On Sunday I woke up in my hospital bed alone, and not knowing what happened. They had me on Paxil which I freaked out on. I called my boyfriend hysterically because my mind was not in the right place. I thought everyone abandoned me and I thought my baby had died. As the day went on I was slowing remembering what happened in the Emergency room. My boyfriend told me if he could take away all the pain, and place it on his shoulders, he would. He was hurting from what he saw emotionally. That's when it really set in how bad everything was. That day I got out of bed, very slowly. It was like I had been in bed for years and had to learn how to walk again. When I sat on the toilet I had a large pad in my underwear. I looked at my vagina and it was the size of my fist, black and blue. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I just about passed out. I remember putting my head in my hands and just sobbing on the toilet. I then realized the large padded bandage clued to my abdomen. I was afraid to know what was under there. That day I was finally able to go up to the NICU to see my son, because I knew that was what I HAD to do. I didn't want to, but I remember thinking if I didn't everyone thought I was a bad mom. When I saw him for the first time I hated myself because who was I to put this poor child through such a terrible birth. He was tiny, skinny, bruised, and alien-like. I didn't recognize him as mine. I was in shock, but I didn't know it at the time. When Monday came around I had to lower my blood pressure in order to go home the next day. I tried and tried, but I was far too anxious. I don't know what made it happen, but I kept hearing voices in my head. At one point I was turned to the left in my bed when I heard a voice say 'It's curly.' I thought I was losing it, a long with my vision. I wanted to go home so bad that when the nurses would ask if I could see ok I would say yes, but I kept seeing orbs and had very blurry vision.
On Tuesday I finally got to go home, but that was an uphill battle in itself. The nurses told me I could take off my c-section bandage but I was not prepared to feel the staples. I asked my boyfriend if I should look...he said no. After a few hours I got up the courage and nearly passed out. When it was finally time to pack up and head home a nurse took the staples out and put steri strips over it. When my boyfriend and I got to our apartment it was exactly as if the past week never happened. But it did. There was happy baby things everywhere, but there was no baby. I felt as if he wasn't real. I laid down on the couch right as I got back and remember hearing the dings of the NICU monitors in my head. My boyfriend had to go teach a fitness class that day, but I was in no state to be left by myself. I had thoughts of suicide and didn't want to be alive anymore. I called his mom (she and Drew's stepdad live right down the street) and told her I wanted to be picked up. I don't think anyone truly understood what I was going through. When she got to our apartment I got in her jeep and just began crying. For the next few weeks I was in a zombie-like state. I had to pump around the clock (even though my milk supply was not in yet.) I was under so much pressure it felt like. I was suppose to give birth, take a few weeks off, then go back to work (cleaning houses.) I was broke, couldn't pay rent, and was so stressed out over thinking about the medical bills I'd have.
That night I got up to pee at about 4am when I saw my c-section incision was oozing out blood. I was so exhausted I went back to bed. I showed my boyfriend the next morning and he said I needed to go to the clinic. They reopened my incision and scraped what looked like grape jelly out of it. It stayed open for the next month and a half. My boyfriend had to help me pack it with gauze and clean it. I was humiliated because this is not how he should ever see me. I felt helpless but he was amazing because he took care of me. I had to go to urgent care every time I had to get it looked at, which was $100 every time.
As the weeks went by I was extremely depressed. I couldn't eat, I got sickly skinny, and I didn't recognize myself. I was sick, literally. My son, Leighton, finally got to come home after spending 23 days up in the NICU. Everyday for 23 days my boyfriend would go up to the hospital to see him. I had PPD and PTSD, but I tried to keep it hidden. It was impossible to do so. I shut my mom out because she was overbearing and I didn't know what had happened. Everything went by so fast and I felt as if I didn't give birth, but that I was ripped off from the whole experience. Nurses told my mom they could tell I was in shock and that they had never seen anything like what I went through. I had bruises all over my body from the delivery which lasted a long time, then got rashes on top of them. Once our son came home it was still difficult for me, but every day seemed to get better. I got back on Zoloft and he is now 7 months old. I'm still confused about the whole situation, but when people ask me 'I heard you had a complicated delivery?' I just want to break down and cry and say 'Yes, my son and I almost died, why us!?' But I just calmly nod my head and explain I had preeclampsia as if it's not that bad. It makes me feel terrible and to ask myself 'what if'.
I'm exhausted mentally from reliving this story, but it's part of me, and I'm so thankful to still be here despite the thoughts I had back when I was going through my PPD and PTSD. My son, Leighton, means the world to me and I couldn't imagine him not being in my life. As of now he even has 2 teeth and is developing great! I think more women should be educated on preeclampsia because I had no idea what it was or what to look for until that day in the clinic. I believe everything happens for a reason, and this is now part of who I am.