About a year ago, I was blessed with a baby boy (38wks). He lights my world. Unfortunately, I cannot think about or talk about his birth with any semblance of a happy tone. And I am frankly terrified of getting pregnant again, although my husband wants another one relatively soon.
I experienced diet-controlled gestational diabetes and steroid-treated PUPPPs in my third trimester. I had some surprisingly painful early labor. Five days before I was scheduled to be induced, I saw my OB. All of my stats (blood pressure) were normal and I was dilating and effacing on cue with the mucous plug lost.
The very next evening after my OB appointment, I started having contractions after dinner. Within a 10 minute time period, I vomited, got into the shower to ease the pain, and then started having more serious, non-stop sharp, tight upper abdominal pain. I dropped to the floor of the bathtub and called my OB, who said I should go to the hospital.
By the time I got into the car, I had the most excruciating pain in the base of my head. I have never felt pain like that before or since (including what happened in the rest of the story below). I could not control my cries and was on the floor of the car on the drive to the hospital. With each contraction, my head screamed to burst.
In the hospital, I was screamed at by a nurse who thought I was a hysterical pregnant woman. She roughly catheterized me for a urine specimen and incorrectly attached the fetal monitor when I first arrived---she told me I wasn't having contractions, which were clearly shown when the monitor was reattached.
The pain in my head was so bad that morphine and Percocet did not take any of the edge off. They were not convinced it was preeclampsia, but put me on a magnesium sulfate anyway and also pitocin to speed things along. I loved the magnesium; it was the only thing that eased the pain in my head. My blood pressure had been through the roof, and the contractions still caused the head rush.
Within four hours of my arrival, they rechecked my blood and found that my platelets had severely crashed and my liver enzymes were awry. My life was in danger. They told me they were taking the baby out right then and would have to use general anesthesia. My husband would not be allowed in the room.
Unfortunately, they did not administer enough general anesthesia. I awoke in the middle of surgery while the physician was performing a deeper level incision and felt everything. Even more unfortunate was my intubation, which prevented me from crying out or letting anyone know what was happening. Thankfully, I fainted.
The first thing I said to my husband was "I woke up." When I told the anesthesiologist what happened, she apologized and asked if I need to talk to a counselor. At that point I said no, filled with irrational postpartum fears that I would be seen as unable to care for my child.
Although I felt horrible, the postpartum nurses treated me as if I'd had a normal delivery, and tried to cut down on my pain medications way before I was ready. One nurse, who attended the delivery, got my baby's delivery mixed up with another's and told me that my baby had to be resuscitated. Hospital records show that he did not.
It took me a long time to heal and my blood levels to become normal. My son still has residual red blood cell and immune system problems stemming from this.
I have never felt so powerless. I could not talk about the birth for a month. Later, when I did talk about it to a few select friends, I never felt that they could grasp it. I had nightmares for a week and then they went away. I thought I was getting past it, yet, a year later, I seem to have insomnia and an irrational fear that something will happen to me or my child and I will not be able to protect him or prevent it. I still like having the baby sleep in my room because his room isn't close enough or safe enough. I have become a lot more introverted and home-bound. Sometimes I dream about losing a baby or my baby being abducted.
The thought of getting pregnant, facing extreme pain or death frightens me. It is different with a baby; I don't want him to grow up without me. My sister-in-law (husband's sister) had twins at 30wks (both ok) with a slow-onset, predictable and monitored preeclampsia/HELLP the same week I had my son. She was able to have a normal C-section with a spinal block and her husband present. I had no warning with mine. It was a journey into pain and loss of control.
I have read about post traumatic stress for traumatic birth experiences. For various reasons, I will not be able to see a counselor until the end of this year, but I do plan on seeing one before getting pregnant again, if I decide to do that. Any interim advice? How do you move forward to feeling empowered again? Feeling safe again? How do you decide to have another child?
Baby Boy (Feb 2003)-Gest.Diab/HELLP/preeclampsia/Emergency C-Sect
Have you suffered from HELLP syndrome or had a pregnancy complicated by an underlying disorder? Discuss your concerns here
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