"It's better to be wrong and alive than to be right and dead."
Before I begin, let's talk about what preeclampsia is.
Preeclampsia is also called toxemia, but basically, it's a condition that pregnant women can develop which is marked by high blood pressure and protein in the urine. It usually occurs at the end of the second trimester or the beginning of the third, and usually in first time mothers. When a woman has preeclampsia and her blood pressure gets high enough she can start having seizures, which then means she has eclampsia. There is no cure for preeclampsia or eclampsia except for delivery of the baby. In rare cases, delivery doesn't cure the condition and further treatment is needed to stabilize the woman's blood pressure and protein. Without the treatment, in those rare cases, death can occur.
So here's what happened to me...
We first noticed something was up when I was 37 weeks pregnant with Rosalie. I went into my midwife appointment thinking everything was fine, but my blood pressure said something different. It was up just a little bit; borderline high but not dangerously. But then, the next week at my 38 week appointment it was up a little more. And then up a little more at my 39 week appointment.
Not to get too TMI but they had me do a test where they collected my urine for 24 hours and then tested it for protein, which is a tell tale sign of preeclampsia. Actually, I kind of insisted that they test me because my intuition was telling me I had preeclampsia after that first appointment where my BP was up at 37 weeks. I remember calling my mom and telling her I was afraid I might have it and she told me to go with my gut. I'm glad I did! Anyway, the 24 hour urine test said that there was no protein in my urine. I had no other symptoms of preeclampsia so the midwives I saw decided I may just have a slight case of gestational hypertension, which is a rise in blood pressure during pregnancy, and not too, too serious. It made sense! I had no other symptoms so I assumed I was wrong about having preeclmampsia. Big mistake...
The midwives I see are very thorough and very careful so, just in case, they wanted me to do come in and have a a nonstress test (or NST) done. An NST is a test that records a baby's movements, heartbeat, and how he or she reacts to contractions if the mother is having any. During my NST I was having some Braxton Hicks contractions and Rosalie wasn't reacting too wonderfully to them. When a woman has contractions and/or when baby moves around in the womb, the baby's heart rate should increase. Rosalie's wasn't increasing, but it wasn't decreasing either; it was staying the same. That's not a terribly concerning reaction, but it's still not good. On top of that, when I first arrived at my appointment, my blood pressure was sky high. I can't remember exactly, but it was something like 184/104. When they took it again later in my appointment it had gone up. The head midwife performed an ultrasound to see how my fluid levels were around the baby and they were fine.
But then, during the ultrasound, my urine test came back from that day and there was a concerning amount of protein in it. The midwife said, "You're going to the hospital when I'm done with this ultrasound. We're going to have to induce you. This is just too concerning!" My heart was beating a million miles a minute!
I'll post more details about the labor and delivery in Rosalie's birth story (whenever I get to writing that) but they induced me and my blood pressure stayed high but didn't get higher, thank goodness. Rosalie started responding better to the contractions and I was able to have her on my own/without c-section. After delivery my blood pressure went down and the midwife was comfortable enough with it to discharge me. They did, however, want to see me in their office a few days later to check that my blood pressure was back to normal and my preeclampsia was gone.
But, two days after I got home from the hospital, Charlotte got the flu, and I caught a more mild version of it. I was not about to go out in the cold with my sick, cranky toddler while I could hardly get out of the house myself since I felt sick too. I cancelled the appointment and told them I'd try to get my blood pressure checked at the Walgreens right down the road from my house when my husband was home to watch Charlotte either that day or the next. It wasn't until the next evening that I was able to go to Walgreens and sure enough my blood pressure was up again. But, the midwives office was closed so I waited until the next morning to call and let them know what it was. When I told them it was back up, they wanted me to get it checked again, so I went back to Walgreens that evening and it was even higher. But this time I left a message for the midwife on call. She called me back and let me know that my blood pressure was dangerously high; in the severe ranges, and that I needed to come into the hospital right away. Since I'm breastfeeding Rosalie I knew I'd have to bring her with me. The midwife said that in that case, I'd have to have Tom come with me too because if I ended up getting admitted, someone would have to be there to take care of the baby while I was being treated. Charlotte was already in bed for the evening so I knew someone would have to come stay at our house while we went to the hospital. Luckily, Tom's brother and his wife were so sweet to come stay the night while we were gone.
^ Check out my vlog from when I was in the hospital! ^
We left after they got to our place around 9:45pm and got to the hospital about 20 minutes later. They monitored my blood pressure for about an hour and it kept creeping up higher and higher. They told me that wanted to admit me and my heart sank. I had just left the hospital the week before and now I was back! Ugh. Thankfully Tom was with me and kept me in good spirits! And, luckily, we have the best behaved baby ever who slept for all of this ordeal! They got me into a temporary room at about 12:30am where they started me on magnesium sulfate, which they'd have to administer for 24 hours to get my blood pressure down. For the first 30 minutes of receiving the magnesium, they had to give it to me in large doses to get my blood pressure down quickly. I was flushed and nauseous; pretty miserable to be honest. Again, thankfully, Rosalie slept through all of this. After the 30 minutes was up, I was put into my own room and was able to sleep just a bit between feeding Rosalie and being checked on a lot by the nurses.
By the time the sun came up I was absolutely exhausted and was starting to really feel the effects of the magnesium. It basically acts as a muscle relaxer to prevent seizures and keep my blood pressure down. I felt it a lot in my face - my eyes were not coordinated anymore. I felt like I had a lazy eye and that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't see straight, especially when looking straight ahead or upwards. As the day went on I could start to feel my legs and arms become weaker and weaker. It was difficult to walk without feeling like I was going to fall over, and my eyes didn't help anything. I also started developing a bad headache - which I only got a break from when I fell asleep, but like I said, sleep didn't last long when I was nursing Rosalie and being checked on, poked and prodded every few hours.
(Of course I can't complain that the nurses were "poking and prodding" me because they were only making sure I was getting healthier. They were rock stars in my book! But being an exhausted mom who was trying to take care of my baby while feeling miserable and getting no sleep at all, I did wish they would leave me alone for awhile I admit.)
Everything intensified as the day went on, and on top of that I knew Tom would be leaving soon to go home and be with Charlotte for the night. I was so thankful for him going to be with her - I knew she must be so confused. She woke up that morning and her family was completely gone. Her aunt and uncle were there watching her of course but mommy, daddy and baby sister were all gone and I knew she must be sad and confused about that at the very least. I knew Tom had to be with her that night. But still, I felt so out of control of my own body, my emotions, and just about everything really, so when it came time for Tom to leave I was a mess.
At this point I was counting down the hours, minutes even, until they would stop the magnesium. 1am couldn't come soon enough! Since Tom left, my sister came to stay with me to help me with Rosalie. She kept me distracted while we talked and laughed for a few hours. Thanks, Tara! The nurses checked my blood pressure every few hours and it started going down! And then, when 1am came, they stopped the magnesium. Finally! I felt like a new woman. I started to get my sight straightened out (literally) and my muscles slowly got stronger. It was about midday that my mom came to relieve my sister and stay with me. Thanks, Mom! (No matter how old you are it feels so good to have your mommy there when you aren't feeling well. Am I right?!)
I kept asking the nurses when I'd get to go home and they kept saying they thought it would be that day. Whew! I felt better and better and I waited and waited. The physician who was supposed to discharge me didn't come and I got really discouraged. I thought maybe I'd be there another night and the thought of that just killed me. I just wanted to see Tom and Charlotte. It turned out that physician had an emergency to take care of so, understandably, he wasn't able to come assess me. Luckily, another doctor was able to fill in and came to let me go. YAY! I finally left the hospital around 7pm and went home to my sweet family! I was so happy!
They did give me a prescription for some blood pressure medication which I would have to take for 6 weeks, and I was perfectly fine with that - whatever kept me out of the hospital!
I went into my midwife's office a few days later where they checked my BP again and it had continued to go down. I went again a few weeks later and my BP was still going down. I was so happy I could cry. I kept thinking maybe it would creep back up again. Thankfully it didn't! I'm happy to say that I'm now off of my medication, and feeling amazing! While I was taking those meds, I would sometimes feel dizzy in the evenings, which is a normal side effect. And I guess "dizzy" isn't the right way of putting it. Kind of, but I would barely notice a little bit of it for a few minutes and then it would go away. I'm so happy to feel completely back to normal now!
I guess my reason behind telling my story is so that I can remember it, and be thankful for my health now. But mostly, I wanted to tell everyone out there, men included, to trust your instincts. I have always had a lot of self-doubt, especially when it came to pregnancy. Right after I found out I was pregnant with our first child, Charlotte, I was having some pains and had Tom take me to the hospital because I thought I had an infection or something. Being a first time pregnant mom I had no idea what was happening and my mind kind of freaked out. I hadn't seen my midwife yet because I was so early in my pregnancy so I didn't know that I should have just called them. When I arrived at the ER they ran all sorts of tests and basically said, "You're fine... You're just pregnant and sometimes you feel weird pains." I felt like an idiot! I should have known that, right? Well, maybe in that circumstance, yeah, a suspected bladdar infection could have been tested for at my regular doctor or midwife's office, but I didn't know that. So, ever since then, I didn't trust myself. I'd look online first every time I had an ache or a pain.
With my preeclampsia, I think I was about 34 weeks when first I thought something was up. I had a few headaches and looked it up online. One article mentioned preeclampsia so I researched more. Another symptom of it is decreased urine output. I thought about it and realized I hadn't been getting up to go to the bathroom as often. I though that was a little weird but kind of brushed it off because again, I didn't trust myself and knew that if anything was wrong they would catch it at one of my weekly appointments.
For the next few weeks it kept nagging at me in my mind.
But again, it all back back to not fully trusting myself. To me, it felt like every time I made a big deal out of feeling a certain way physically during a pregnancy I was completely wrong. Luckily those nagging voices in my head kept persisting. It must have been my guardian angel. The nagging in my head saved my life. When I asked to be tested, they did the 24 hour urine test, and it came back negative, and that was yet another blow to the little bit of confidence I had. I knew something still wasn't quite right and that was confirmed when my BP shot up. Thankfully I was under the care of amazing midwives who kept a close eye on me.
The moral of this long story is - trust your instincts! Trust them especially when you're pregnant! My condition could have been fatal to both Rosalie and I if it had not been treated. If I had ignored the midwives when they told me to go to Walgreens to get my BP checked, I may not be here now. I was tempted to ignore them because I wasn't feeling well, I was a week postpartum, and had a sick toddler, but I knew I needed to go. My gut told me to.
And if that voice in your head tells you that you'll just be wasting your doctor's time if you call them or go see them about something that's bothering you - you're not! That's what my head was telling me. "I'll just be wasting their time." "They have much more serious things to deal with." "I'm probably wrong again anyway." NO. If it's bothering you - you go make that appointment now. And if something if bothering you about a loved one? Encourage them to go get it checked out. It's better to be wrong and alive than to be right and dead. Your doctor is there to help YOU. You are no less valuable than any of their other patients. They want you to come and "bother" them with your concerns. They want your mind to be at ease.
(FACT: Did you know stress is really bad for your baby? Yeah. Even if you're wrong, seeing your doctor/midwife and them confirming that you're okay will relieve stress which will be healthier for your baby.)
Call your doctor/midwife if you have ANY concerns. I learned my lesson. Don't learn yours too late!
Pass this article on if you think it will help someone you know! I hope you all have a wonderful day and are having a happy (and healthy!) new year so far!
My name is Hannah and I'm a lucky wife to Tom, and mama bear to two sweet girls - Charlotte & Rosalie. Coffee, lipstick, sunshine, and dresses are some of my favorite things! I love to blog about God, motherhood, "wifeyhood", food, health and much more.
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