Just Like Missing the Prom: My HELLP Experience

Post On Monday, September 28, 2015 By melissa

Just Like Missing the Prom: My HELLP Experience

Many women, when they reach the sixth month of pregnancy, start to think about the “essentials” they need to get prepared: what will the nursery look like? Do I have enough clothes? Disposable or cloth diapers might be questioned. And of course, the unmistaken fear that the hospital bag won’t be packed on time.

My mind was most definitely on my “hospital bag” in this, my second pregnancy because the check list this pregnancy is much different than the last time. I am not worried about the baby’s coming-home gown, a breast pump, comfortable PJs, or slippers---I have one article of clothing on my mind and that is all I believed I needed… A PROM DRESS.

Yes, you heard me right, a prom dress! For my second pregnancy, after HELLP syndrome with the first, I was determined to convince my practice of all of the reasons why they should allow me to wear a prom dress while I gave birth. If a prom dress was not an option, I planned to surely be clad in a tiara and sash.

Why? Because as preeclampsia survivor moms, we have missed our prom.

I guess I should start at the beginning…

April 1, 2013 holds a heavy place in my heart. It is a difficult anniversary of the super emotional experience of giving birth to my twins and living through HELLP syndrome. I truly celebrate life and seek to be an inspiration for other woman who may have "on the way to a dream had to dream a new dream," or as I now like to say... "Missed the prom."

Two years ago during my first pregnancy, my husband and I knew something was really wrong with me. I was tumbling downward fast. (One of my best friends even jumped on a train from DC when she heard how "awful" I sounded on the phone. I told her I felt toxic and knew in my heart something was wrong.)

April 1, 2014 will be my twins' second birthday. Last year, the week before their big first birthday, I called my mom crying. I was having a hard time remembering where we were this time last year. I expressed my feelings of survivor's guilt to her: we all lived, so why was I sad? I expressed my anger that I have no memory of what should be the best day of my life. So many emotions; I just could not sort through the guilt and the pain.

My mom, in four short words, changed my perspective and my life. "You missed the prom."

The moment the twins were born was hard on her as well. She also dreamed of the moment her first grandchild would be born. Although it was great to see them, she couldn't get her mind off of my medical state, wondering would I be okay. It validated my emotional reaction to the twins' first birthday.

My mom then tried to make me laugh by saying, "You're just like the girl that didn't make it to prom. Girls dream of prom, plan for prom, assume everyone gets to make it to prom. Eventually, the girls who don't go to prom move on, get married, have kids, and prom becomes just a small glimpse of the big picture."

At that moment I knew exactly what she meant. I'm one of the lucky ones; all three of us lived through a disease that many mothers and babies don't survive. I do not have any memory of the birth of my children or the next 2 days. I was placed on very strong drugs that caused amnesia, and my babies were born via emergency C-section. My husband stood outside of the room, as they did not know if I was strong enough to get through the surgery. It's not an experience that any parent expects to have, much less go through.

I may have missed the prom, but my mom reassured me that I would dance again.

A week later, on the twin's first birthday, she sent me flowers and a card that said, "I hope you dance." It was so healing.

From that day forward I embraced life and thanked God for our miracle. I shook off the scary thought that mortality rate for mothers and babies who develop HELLP syndrome is high. At that moment I decided to become a survivor instead of a victim. I no longer questioned "why us?", but embraced our miracle. Sadness may come and go, but the deep pain is truly behind me.

I have shared my "so you missed the prom story” with other HELLP syndrome survivors, who grieve as they approach the first birthday. They too, understand the feeling of missing prom.

So there I was, almost 6 months pregnant with my third child, less than two hours away from the twin's big second birthday, yet that year I am nothing but happy---no tears! I sat there and wanted to write my story and explain “the prom.” I wrote a letter to convince my practice why I should be allowed to give birth in a prom dress. It was not a letter that I necessarily planned on giving my doctors, but rather a letter to all women who have experienced "missing prom."

I knew that chances were in just 3 months with this pregnancy, I was going to make it to prom, and get the chance to dance again. So for then, we would eat cake and celebrate! The dance was coming up and it was time to go shopping! I shared: who’s coming with me?

Epilogue-- And So She Danced...
(July 21, 2015 the night before my third child's first birthday)

I can't believe I am here... this has been a moment that I have looked forward to for a long time. I sit here again, the night before my third child's first birthday, and I am elated with emotion that I am here, my song has not stopped, and I continue to dance.

As I sat in the passenger seat on the way to the hospital on July 22, 2014, I knew there was still a chance that my body could turn on me again, there was still a chance that my dream of making it to prom may crash before my eyes, but there was still a chance that I would dance--and that was really the only plan I had. I was ready.

I laced up my toe shoes, threw my hair in a bun, and put on the biggest brightest tutu I own. I could hear the music blaring like it was the opening scene of A Chorus Line, "A 5678! Step, kick, kick, leap, kick, touch... Again!"

Ok, ok---realistically I had on a maternity top, my flip flops, and most likely some form of classic rock was on the radio... but in my mind this was my performance, I had my partner by my side, and today was our day to shine.
I will never forget laying on the operating table and Steve crying out, "it's a boy!" We both instantly started to sob and as Derek Emmanuel was pulled from me, so was my fear, anger, hate, sadness, and loss. I was dancing, this was our moment, and it is just too incredible to put it into words. But that is ok, our story lives in our hearts and that was a defining moment for me. Derek may have been the one that was born, but his birthday was my re-birth. I danced again.

I encourage everyone who may have in their own way, with their own life story, "missed the prom" to find a way back there. Find a way to dance... and dance your heart out.

So here we are again... hours away from the year anniversary of my prom--and I have not stopped dancing. Derek, happy birthday, baby boy. I love you more than you will ever know. Your brother and sister taught me that life throws you curve balls that you could have never predicted. When you look death straight in the face, you can't help but to change who you are. They taught me to never take a single breath for granted and to cherish life every single day... but I was left a little broken. Derek, you saved me... so today on your first birthday... I want to thank you for the dance... it was the best day of my life. Happy Birthday, baby, I love you.

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Posted On Monday, November 30, -0001 By sarah

Beautiful, just like pregnancy!  While I did not have HELLP, I stained in my 30 week and the Dr. told me to go home and stay on bedrest for the weekend.  That evening, I started to get diarrhea and abdominal pain which I thought was my Colitis acting up, but it was premature labor.  My son was a very quiet baby during my pregnancy and after he was born they immediately transferred him from my hospital to a specialized NICU hospital (this was 1978 - you never forget) so I could not see him for 3 days when I was released from the hospital.  So, I too, felt like "I missed the prom".  This should make you chuckle though.  I loved being pregnant so much, so when I got pregnant with my next child, I would constantly poke at him to get him to kick me.  I not only wanted to be at the prom but I wanted EVERY DANCE WITH MY LITTLE BABY.  Oh, he also was a preemie, but I only missed one month of that pregnancy.  In my case, it is due to an autoimmune disease called Antiphospholipid Syndrome which causes multiple miscarriages, fetal loss and prematurity.

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