My two healthy children have wiped my memory nearly clean of the trauma of their two separate births and first months of life.
Both my daughters were born entirely too soon--by all standards. Lily was born at 29 weeks, 5 days. Chloe, at 31 weeks. Both were cheated out of ten weeks in the womb--ten cozy, cuddling weeks to grow big, develop strong lungs and you know, finish the whole gestational process like God intended.
I would have sold a kidney to experience the last 10 weeks of pregnancy. And my babies, my babies were in no hurry to be born. I never went into labor, never even had a Braxton Hicks nor did I make it to a birthing class. There were no embarrassing scenes during which my water broke at the grocery store: my doctor broke my water during my emergency c-section, while I was hooked up an IV of magnesium sulfate and a blood pressure cuff squeezed my arm every bleeping minute to make sure I was not about to stroke-out or something.
I had preeclampsia, twice.
And it nearly killed me. It nearly killed my daughters before they even had a chance to see my face.
I like to consider myself a unique individual--but preeclampsia is not even remotely uncommon (about 5-8% of pregnancies are afflicted and if you ask a room full of mothers--my bet is one of them had PE). Preeclampsia is the leading cause of maternal and infant death globally (deaths are in the realm of hundreds of thousands). It can be mild or severe or anything in between. No one knows what causes it. And there is only one cure.
End the pregnancy. Deliver the baby.
Twice, I started my pregnancies in fantastic health. With Lily, I had just finished a year of running and had completed a half-marathon. With Chloe, I was an active yogini--teaching, training and practicing daily. When I began my first pregnancy, I did not have any of the traditional risk factors: no family history, no high blood pressure or diabetes and not one auto-immune disorder in sight.
But, somewhere between 28 weeks and 29 weeks during my first pregnancy, something went awry. I was swelling--what I thought was normal pregnancy swelling was not--I gained 50-60 pounds of water weight. I woke up the morning that Lily was born, March 13, 2006 and was nearly blind in one eye. It was fluid build up. At my OBGYN, my blood pressure was slightly elevated. Then a simple urine test revealed my kidneys were spilling protein.
My doctor told me: Pack your bag. Get to the hospital. You will have a baby by the end of week.
There was no hesitation in his voice. For the first time in my life, I thought I was going to die.
My check-in blood pressure at the hospital skyrocketed to 210/100. My Doctor scheduled the c-section was scheduled for 10 p.m. It was 8 p.m. Lily was born and moments later was whisked to the NICU.
The second time around the story was similar, but with the support and knowledge from the Preeclampsia Foundation, I was better educated on my risks, current therapies and had the unconditional love and support of other mothers.