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More than 50 comments emerged from a recent Facebook post to describe how preeclampsia changed the way you live. Women who had delivered prematurely, lost their baby, or lost their adult daughters to the disease responded with various tales about the shortness of life and how nothing should be taken for granted. Together, the posts tell a story of how people learn to live again after being struck by preeclampsia. Many families are given a lifetime of lessons in one fell swoop - complete and staggering and with instant illumination, whereas others acquire the same lessons on a small scale through a series of lifelong events that gradually come together like a mosaic of many pieces. Respondents commented on how their experience "put things in perspective" and how they have a "new outlook on life."
Not surprisingly, for many, it was an eye-opening experience that called attention to the fragility of human existence. One respondent commented, "Now, I see the truth and I am not exempt from the pain in the world that babies are born prematurely, regardless of whether or not the mother smoked or used illicit drugs, and mothers still die in childbirth."
Many still mourn the loss of a normal pregnancy, a feeling heightened by the decision of many to end their plans for having additional children and growing their family. Along with that grief come a wide variety of emotions and conditions ranging from anger and bitterness to gratitude and enhanced spirituality. For some, the window into what could be lifelong health complications had instilled a fear that impacts their entire life. One respondent commented how her older children, as a result of her later pregnancy, now fear her doctor's visits and she has to work hard to convince them that she will return home to them after a doctor's visit. Lingering health effects for some make even little tasks a chore and for others have inspired aggressive, pro-active lifestyle changes to fight those health conditions head on.
Minnesotan Sara Ross Reisma lost 116 pounds, began running races, wanting to get as healthy as possible before ever trying another pregnancy. She chronicles her path on her blog, www.fatlittlelegs.com.
For those who went on to subsequent pregnancies, they did so more educated, attune to their bodies and the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia. Many have become advocates for the "empowered patient" movement, to ensure they get the best care possible and aren't ignored.
Renee Feagan, who shared her story in the November 2010 Expectations, commented how "each day I struggle not to let preeclampsia define me, but to let it only be a chapter in my life that has changed my course a bit. By changing paths I am a better mom, wife and friend." She further commented on how she no longer multi-tasks, she does fully engage, she cherishes the live-in-the now philosophy, and she focuses on making memories with her daughter. Similarly, other respondents shared how they have given up on their previous tendency - or need - to plan everything as a result of their experience.
For some, surviving or losing a loved one can bring life issues into such focus that "just being" is more than enough. . . and by being - and being present to friends and family your legacy is cast. Others feel called to take a specific action - start a blog, refocus their business or career to support preeclamspia awareness or research, volunteer in their community, or, simply, take a different approach when engaging in idle conversations about pregnancy.
Do you have a story about how preeclampsia changed your life? Want to find out more about the impact on other families like yours? Visit our Facebook page or "Share Your Story" on the Foundation website.