I have spent countless hours on the Preeclampsia Foundation webpage reading and researching, but I have never added my story until now. The further I get from my pregnancies, the less frequently I obsessively mentally rehash my experiences with pre-e, and the more my memories of the ordeal have gradually dulled; considering the trauma at the time of the events, I am thankful for this usually diminishing pain, but then I'll read a piece of news about another woman experiencing this complication and my memories all come rushing back to vividly haunt me for a few more days and I'm right back here checking stats and brushing up on the latest medical findings. In hindsight, I wish I had written it all down right away, but with endless trips to the NICU, finding time to type up a memoir just wasn't a priority. I appreciate the opportunity to add my story here.
My first pregnancy was initially easy and I had no risk factors for preeclampsia. I sailed through the first 23 weeks gaining only a few pounds (which my OB said was normal - later I would learn low weight gain is one symptom of pre-e), and then packed up and moved 1200 miles by myself to the Army post where my husband had recently started training. Within two weeks, I wasn't feeling right, but I had not been assigned a doctor yet, so I had to visit the ER to be treated; they referred me to L&D, I was admitted with a BP of 165/110 and spent the next ten days there on strict bedrest before being transferred off post to a better equipped area hospital. At 27 weeks I had an emergency c-section due to severe pre-e and delivered our daughter, weighing just 2 lbs 1 oz. My husband arrived at the hospital post-delivery barely able to stand after getting about a dozen hours of sleep in the previous ten days, and had to handle both the terror of seeing his tiny baby hooked to a million machines fighting to thrive, and me, both very sick and very hysterical. While my daughter received absolutely fantastic care in the NICU, my care in the maternity ward was subpar and most of my terror, anxiety, and anger stemming from the birth is related to how poorly my care was managed. The lack of education and professionalism of the doctors and nurses - at a hospital with a Level III NICU who regularly handled patients with pre-e and related complications - was astonishing. My follow-up out patient care back at the Army post was also a nightmare.
In the end, my daughter spent 11 (thankfully, almost uneventful) weeks in the NICU, and three and a half years later she has experienced virtually no resulting complications; she is healthy and happy and we are constantly in awe of what a wonderful thing can come from such a difficult beginning. Only a few weeks ago did we show her for the first time pictures of herself in the NICU after she asked because she had seen a picture of her younger sister shortly after her birth. (My second pregnancy was closely watched. I developed PIH at 35 weeks, spent 6 weeks on moderate bedrest at home, but had a successful VBAC at 41 weeks. I consider that a "really great" pregnancy in comparison, despite battling the anxiety that came with nervously waiting to see if something would go wrong again.)
I credit my second delivery with most of the closure I have achieved for my first, but I recognize how fortunate I am to have had such a "healthy" successive pregnancy given how early and severe my pre-e was the first time around. Not everyone who experiences pre-e is as lucky, and my heart aches for every mother, child, father and family that is affected by difficult pregnancy complications or tragic maternal and fetal deaths. I wish for our children and hope, like everyone here, that preeclampsia can one day be screened for and prevented.