My path to motherhood seemed to be so easy. I got pregnant the first month we TTC. I had a little nausea but nothing too serious. Life was great. And then came the third trimester.
Looking back, I started having warning signs around 30 weeks. I started having episodes of racing pulse and shortness of breath. I also started swelling quite a bit. I reported these symptoms to my OB at my 32 week appointment, and he blew me off. These were all typical pregnancy symptoms, I was a first time mom who just didn't know what pregnancy was like. I should stop worrying.
At my 34 week checkup, I had gained ten pounds in two weeks, a HUGE warning sign. I had pitting edema, meaning when I pressed on my swollen legs, it left an indentation that stayed for quite a while. My blood pressure, which had consistently been 90/60, was in the 130s/80s. This is a significant jump, but since it wasn't across the magic 140/90, it "wasn't enough to be concerning." A urine dip test showed trace protein, which also "wasn't enough to be concerning." (Clearly, with everything taken together, it SHOULD HAVE been concerning, and at least warranted closer monitoring.) However, I was GASPING for breath even while resting, and my resting pulse was over 100. Since I was obviously having trouble breathing, he gave me samples of an allergy medication and told me to come back on Friday.
That Friday, at 35 weeks even, I blacked out in the shower. I had an extreme headache and spots in my vision. When I got to the doctor's office, we found I had gained another four pounds in three days, was dipping +3 protein, and had +3 reflexes. I was so swollen I couldn't bend my fingers, and my blood pressure was 150/110. The OB wouldn't even let me drive myself to the hospital. I had severe preeclampsia with centeral nervous system invovlement and would have to deliver within 48 hours.
I was transferred to another hospital with a level 3/4 NICU an hour away. They had talked about sending me by helicoptor, but I stabilized enough to go by ambulance. I was started on magnesium sulfate, a medication used to prevent seizures. It is lifesaving but NASTY with a lot of side effects. A Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist (MFM) came in. He explained what was happening to my body: I had cerebral edema (swelling of the brain), pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), pleural effusion (fluid in the chest) so bad I was in congestive heart failure, my platelet count was below 60,000, my liver enzymes were climbing. I wasn't officially diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, but I was just short of it.
He said, "I don't know if you're praying people, but you need to pray the induction works. A c-section would kill you."
We started the induction at 2:00am, and my beautiful baby girl was born 26.5 hours later at 4:28am October 12, 2003. She weighed 4lb 4oz and was mildly growth restricted. Amazingly, she had no trouble breathing and never needed to be intubated. She was in the NICU for 9 days as a "grower".
For the first few years of her life, she continued to have trouble gaining weight, which I believe is due to her growth restriction in utero. She also caught every bug that came along, getting sicker and staying sick longer than anyone else. Today, she's 8.5, very smart and healthy, and has finally started to grow well.