One year ago, I got HELLP syndrome. I was 1 day shy of being
Posted On Saturday, January 09, 2010 by Rachel
One year ago, I got HELLP syndrome. I was 1 day shy of being 37 weeks pregnant with our first baby, Madelyn.
From the beginning, I had a frustrating pregnancy. I had severe bleeding early on and almost miscarried. I had threatened premature labor and was placed on bed rest twice. And I had "morning" sickness from the beginning to the end. (Except it lasted almost all day . . . )
I had no idea what else this pregnancy would throw at me . . . I definitely wasn't expecting HELLP. In fact, I had never even heard of it.
One thing that WAS normal throughout my whole pregnancy was my blood pressure. Nurses would comment frequently on my checkups how good my blood pressure was.
On the morning after Christmas (my due date was Jan 20), I woke up in extreme pain in my upper abdomen. It felt like within minutes it went from "bad" to "I can't sit still for one second" intense pain. On top of the pain, I was also having regular contractions. And I was throwing up. Unlike with just the morning sickness, this was CONSTANT throwing up and dry-heaving.
I called the on-call Dr, who told me to go to Labor and Delivery.
There I was greeted my a nonchalant nurse who didn't seem to understand the severity of my pain. I'm sure she's used to everyone coming in in pain. I told them I was at an 8 of 10 in pain. If this was labor, it was way more excruciating than I thought it would be. My doula didn't even understand my pain -- she kept assuring me it would only get worse as my labor progressed. (Not comforting . . . )
They checked me over, and to them everything looked normal. I was not dilating . . . so they filled me with a bag of IV fluid, told me I was dehydrated and sent me home. They had offered pain meds but (stupid me), denied them because I had wanted a natural birth.
I had a horrible bumpy ride home in the snow back to the house. I spent the next 8 hours in the rocker, trying desperately to get on top of this pain and the contractions and vomiting. My husband didn't understand. I found out later he thought I was being a little overdramatic about how I really felt.
By 8 pm that night, everything but the contractions went away. And I slept like a baby.
The next 2 days, it was back to normal. No pain. No crazy nausea.
Then on the 3rd day, i woke up again in worse pain than before. I was throwing up and dry-heaving. I couldn't stop from crying. Broken bones, a ruptured ear drum -- nothing compared to how this felt! I called the Dr. She said it might be my gall bladder, so she told me to come in again.
This time I got a good nurse (YAY!) who treated me seriously. I begged for pain relief this time, but they wouldn't give me any until they could figure out the source of my pain. One nurse took my blood pressure OVER AND OVER AND OVER again. She kept muttering, "this can't be right." I wanted to yell at her: "Of course it's right! You're a competent individual. You know how to do this! Now stop with the blood pressure and give me relief!" But I refrained . . .
A few more nurses all took my pressure, and it was sky-high. From there it felt like a whirlwind. Bloodwork was taken. I received a shot of morphine which did NOTHING for me. The Dr. came in and told me I was going to have this baby today. I had a moment of sheer panic . . . then determination.
They started me on pitocin. I did not want it, but at this point wasn't really given an option. I got the epidural (which was heaven), and finally got relief. I slept for a few hours, ready to gear up for birth.
They started me on magnesium sulfate -- and I began shaking like crazy. I couldn't focus my eyes on anything. They also put another bracelet on me . . . I found out later it was to prepare for a possible blood transfusion.
The drs said I wasn't progressing quickly enough. At this point, I was told I had preeclampsia. That my liver was deteriorating quickly. They said that was the pain I was feeling. And that I had some problems with my blood.
I had no idea how serious this really was. I didn't know my liver was about to erupt. That I was on the brink of a blood transfusion. Or that they were concerned my blood wouldn't clot if they waited much longer to act. I didn't even know I could've gotten seizures.
It was then they mentioned a C-section -- my nightmare. I told them that I didn't want it. They agreed to let me try laboring a little longer.
Then Madelyn's heart stopped. Several nurses rushed at me --- putting an oxygen mask on me, turning me this way, then that. After what felt like eternity, they got her heart beat back . . . but it was weak.
At this point, these were my options. My dr said: "C-section now, while we have a good chance of saving you and baby. Or labor a little longer and we'll do an emergency C-section, where we won't have as good of a chance of saving you." My choice was made.
Madelyn was safely delivered by the surgeon's hands. She was brought to me for a minute, but I couldn't see her because I couldn't focus my eyes. She went away, and I didn't see her again for several more hours.
My hopes of instant bonding, having a natural childbirth and breastfeeding as soon as she was born were all but demolished. I didn't even know what she looked like. I felt jealous as family visited me and told me about her. I wished I could hold her.
The next 24 hours was horrible. I felt ABSOLUTELY horrible. I don't even remember holding my baby. And nurses woke me up on the hour every hour to check my vitals.
Thankfully in the end Madelyn was perfectly healthy. And to the relief of everyone, I healed up as well. At least physically . . .
Emotionally, it was another matter. I had so many questions. I was so disappointed by the events around her birth. I felt disconnected from Madelyn. I wondered if I had done something to make this all happen to me. If I had caused it. Maybe it was just the baby blues, but I was seriously depressed for a few weeks.
Everyone told me I should just be happy we were alive and well. That it didn't matter HOW she came out, just that she did. But it DID matter -- at least to me.
At my 2 week checkup, I finally asked my dr. about the c-section. She assured me that was the only way I was going to live and that madelyn was gong to live. She told me that she tried to hide it while we were at the hospital, but that she was scared. Scared for our lives.
At that point, I felt a little closure about the C-section.
I went home and researched HELLP -- looking for answers. Looking to hear from anyone else who may have experienced what I did. I was sorely disappointed in what I found.
I had almost died. And so did my baby. And I had no one to turn to for support or understanding.
Gradually I was able to be thankful for our lives and accept the c-section. But, like tonight, a year later, I still look around for answers on HELLP.
And I found this forum. For the first time, I felt like I found what I was looking for. I didn't just need facts -- I needed to hear from others who had experiences like mine. I feel like a part of me is healed just from reading others' stories. I wanted to share my own, just in case it might help anyone out there.
Thank you for reading my story.
After surviving a very traumatic first pregnancy with a nightmare delivery (30 hours of magnesium-induced hell, ending in an emergency c-section) and even more debilitating recovery, one would think I was DONE having children. Let's be ...