March 10, 2023 By Laura Dufief
My first pregnancy was pretty uneventful until I started to swell noticeably at about 32 weeks. At 35 weeks, I went to my OB for a non-routine appointment, concerned that my swelling never went down even while I was sleeping. They said my BP was in normal limits and I had no protein in my urine, so I should just stay hydrated and take it easy.
The next day I felt terrible, like I was having cramps all up and down my back. I thought maybe I was in early labor. I called my OB, who said to rest and drink water. I took a bath, and shortly after I got out, I threw up. My husband and I thought it was something I ate, so he went to bed. I stayed up for a little while longer until everything started to look blurry and I began to feel like I was going to pass out. I knew something was very wrong, so I stumbled into our bedroom and managed to scream my husband’s name and fall safely on the bed before I blacked out. He woke up in horror to see me having a seizure.
I woke up in an ambulance on magnesium sulfate, completely confused as to where I was or what had happened. Within a few hours, I was put under general anesthesia for an emergency C-section. Thankfully my son Samuel was healthy and didn’t have to spent any time in the NICU! I, however, had a week-long stay in the hospital until my BP stabilized. I was so out of it in the hospital that I was unable to really bond with my baby, which still makes me sad to think about today.
For a year, my husband and I were terrified to have another child. When we finally worked through some of our trauma from Samuel’s birth, I became pregnant again. I knew I would listen to my body and pay close attention to my BP this time. I had a C-section scheduled for 39 weeks, but I started to feel what I can only describe as a sense of doom around 33 weeks. I knew something was happening again in my body, though I wasn’t overly swollen and my BP readings - which I was taking twice a day at home - were mostly OK.
But sure enough, 2 days before my scheduled C-section, I couldn’t stay awake during the day and I started seeing floaters. MY BP was hovering around 140/90 (which for me was really high…pre-pregnancy I was closer to 105/65). My husband was at work so I decided to drive myself to the hospital. When I arrived, they took a urine sample and started the usual blood tests. While waiting for the results to come back, my husband made it to the hospital and I told him I probably overreacted and I shouldn’t have come in.
Not long after, my OB burst through the door and said, “You’re having a baby - right now!” My liver enzymes, which are supposed to be less than 40, were over 1,000. I had severe HELLP syndrome. If I hadn’t come in, my liver could have ruptured or I could have seized again. After another emergency C-section, I was lucky to give birth to a healthy baby boy, Luke, and my liver enzymes returned to normal within a week or two.
With my third pregnancy, I made it to my 37-week scheduled C-section with no problems and delivered my third perfect boy, Max. About a week postpartum, though, my BP spiked and I was admitted to the hospital and once again put on magnesium sulfate until my BP stabilized.
It’s been 5 years since my seizure from eclampsia and I am grateful to be healthy. I see a cardiologist annually and try to stay in shape. I know there is physical damage to be aware of in the future for preeclampsia survivors, but for me, the emotional damage will always be the worst part to live with. My birth experiences have all been traumatic, but they have taught me that health is not guaranteed and I should not take it, or any of life, for granted.
For those of you considering another pregnancy after a traumatic preeclampsia experience, I know your fear. Having more children isn’t the right choice for everyone, but I want women to know that it is possible to have a better, though maybe not perfect, outcome if you pay attention and advocate for yourself.
My pregnancy was anything but normal. We found out we were pregnant with our first child in January 2020 and before we’d even really ha...ReadMore