My birth story- Emergency Cesarean after Preeclampsia at 31 weeks
I wrote up this story soon after my son was born, and I wanted to keep it just the way it is to get a real sense of where I was at. This is my birth story, open and honest. It was a story I was never expecting to go through and was all very overwhelming. You never plan for a preemie, especially if it’s your first baby. Truth is you don’t have much control over what happens when things go wrong, and you just need to trust the people around you to get you and your baby through alive and well. In the end, we had a gorgeous baby boy, who is so strong and brave!
So here goes:
I was around 30 weeks pregnant when I started experiencing symptoms that progressively got worse and I was quite aware that something wasn’t right. I had more headaches, more swelling and just generally not feeling great. I just knew something was wrong. I had my blood pressure tested on March 1st, and it was quite a bit higher than normal. We had it tested again the next morning and again, it was high. So I immediately contacted the midwife on call, who then said I should go buy some urine protein testing sticks and let her know the results. So after the third pharmacy, we finally found a place that had them, and we rushed home to test my urine. My urine had been clear at each check-up, so I was interested at what it would be this time. After peeing, the test quickly showed positive for protein. Not a good sign. So I phoned the midwife back to tell her, and she said she would phone my obstetrician and see what the best thing to do was.
She phoned me back soon to tell me I would be admitted to hospital that afternoon to do a 24 hour urine collection and blood pressure monitoring. I wasn’t expecting to be going to hospital anytime soon, and I was so unsure about what to pack as I had no idea what to expect. I just packed a few things I would need for 2 days or so. And off we went. The nurses explained what I needed to do, peeing into a container and collecting it over a period of 24 hours. They would send this in for tests to measure the concentration of protein. If it was higher than normal I would be diagnosed with preclampsia and have to stay in hospital until the baby was delivered. To be honest, I was expecting this, and I had a strong feeling that my baby would be arriving soon.
I stayed in hospital for 3 days, and while I was there my condition was worsening. My headaches were getting really bad and continuous, my face was getting more and more puffy, my blood pressure was rising and I was feeling horrible. I was now on BP meds to help prevent blood pressure spikes, and the other major concern was for the baby. They were doing regular fetal monitoring to make sure there were no signs of fetal distress. Surprisingly, the baby was completely fine the whole time with a strong heart beat and moving around regularly.
Finally my tests results came back and there was a high concentration of protein in my urine, and I had blood tests, which now showed I had liver enzymes and lower platelet levels. All signs of eclampsia, developing into the HELLP syndrome. They would keep the baby in for as long as they could, but it seemed my condition was getting bad really quickly, I wouldn’t have to wait long. On the 4th day in hospital I started with a new symptom of epigastric pain.This is pain just below your rib cage, and it’s really uncomfortable. I made the nurses very concerned at this point. Developing new symptoms was a bad sign. They gave me meds to try relieve the pain, which made no difference. By the end of the day, the doctor felt they had waited long enough and she would rather me not have a fit, so she announced that they were about to induce labour and see if I could push this baby out.
This was the first time I panicked. I had now mentally prepared myself for a cesarean, and to be suddenly told that I had to try push a preterm infant out of me was a shock to the system. I had too many questions. I hadn’t had time to even think about birth plans and get myself ready. I mean, we had only gone to one antenatal class. I immediately phoned my husband, who was thankfully still awake (it was about 11pm at this stage), and he quickly made his way to me. Once he arrived I felt a lot calmer, and the nurse had explained the whole process to me.
They started me on magnesium salphate, which helps prevent seizures. It is quite horrible, it makes your body feel really hot and sweaty. On top of that I had a continuous headache and epigastric pain, I felt exhausted as I was in too much pain to sleep, and I was becoming swollen every where now… My face, hands and feet, as well as my eyes, neck, my sinuses were almost bursting from fluid build up, and even my ears were blocked. I felt like a wreck, and I had no idea how I would manage labour in this condition. To start off labour at my worst was not appealing to me. At this stage, I just wanted the baby out, but I had to last another 36 hours of attempting to induce labour before they decided to do a ceserean. I don’t remember much about this whole process as I was so out of it.
Throughout this process, Steve was by my side, supporting me in any way he could. He was amazing, and we went through the process together as a team. I never once felt alone, anything I needed he provided as best as he could. He fed me, helped me drink water, and even helped me go to the toilet. I’m not sure how I would of managed without him.
Finally on the 8th of March, after having failed at induction, the doctor thought it was best to get this baby out as soon as possible. I was only too happy to hear those words. I was ready. They were soon preparing me for an emergency ceserean and getting everyone else ready for the arrival of a preterm infant. We had made it to 31 weeks at least.
There is a funny story about the theatre they wanted to use. There was a theatre available in the labour ward but when my doctor phoned to see if we could use it, she was informed that we couldn’t because the anesthetic machine was broken. Later, she found out that actually the machine upstairs was broken and they had taken this one to use instead. So she insisted that they bring it back down for them to use. After all, it was much better to be as close to the NICU as possible as it’s more effort to move a 31 week preemie than an anesthetic machine. So she made it happen.
They wheeled me in, and I was met with many friendly faces. The pediatritian came to introduce himself who said, ‘Happy Birth Day!!” and I realised that today was the day we were going to see our baby. It all seemed so unreal. The anethetist prepared me for my spinal, explaining everything so nicely. My doctor put her arms around me, held my hand while my spinal got to work. What a weird sensation! My trunk became warm, and it washed down over my legs, which soon became numb. But not completely numb. I would still feel pressure, and people poking, I just couldn’t feel pain, or move my legs. They laid me down on my back and got to work. My husband was by my side the whole time, taking many photos as I requested. He seemed excited. And I soon heard him shout out, “It’s a boy!!”, proceeded by my baby’s strong cries. All I could do at that stage was just feel a huge relief that my baby was crying, he was alive and I was okay. Tears ran down my face as I smiled to myself for getting through this. I got a seconds glance of my tiny boy, before they rushed him off to be examined. I understood that he needed medical attention and I accepted that I would have to wait to see him.
They stitched me up and it was all over in about 15-20 minutes. They quickly wheeled me off to high care where they could monitor my blood pressure for 24 hours. I also got a morphine drip for the pain, which is great but it gives you a very fuzzy head, which I didn’t enjoy. All the nurses were so supportive, and I often got to hear their stories of their babies being born early from preclampsia, which was encouraging for me to hear. I was still out of things for about 2 days as my body recovered from its ordeal. I don’t remember much, but vague memories of people popping in to see me, falling in and out of sleep and occasionally eating.
The next morning, I was starting to feel more human. Being more aware of just how painful a Cesarean was, but feeling grateful and relieved to hear the wonderful news that my baby was doing so well. They took me back to maternity ward, where I was determined to get up and start moving around as soon as I could despite the pain. I managed a walk to the toilet, but felt terribly light-headed and nauseas. I really wanted to see my baby, so they organised a wheelchair and my husband took me in to meet him for the first time. I felt unsure of how I was allowed to touch my son, but soon he was holding onto my little finger, and I had my other hand holding his legs. He looked so perfect. I just starred in awe, contemplating that God had made this tiny human inside me, and he was fully formed and so strong. I felt a sense of pride and joy.
My recovery was slower than normal because of the condition my body was in, and I stayed in hospital 4 days after the operation so they could monitor me. But one thing was for sure, was that I looked a lot better. Each nurse would walk into my room, so surprised to see the puffiness in my face going away and me looking more alive. I think they don’t often get to see patients with a condition as bad as mine, so they all got attached to me and I could feel their care and concern for me.
When I was discharged, I felt so relieved to be going out of the room I was stuck in for 11 days, to get outside and be at home with family. But on the other hand, it was incredibly difficult to leave the hospital without my baby boy. But I knew he was in good hands and in the best place for him to grow and thrive. It might be a long journey but soon he’ll be home with us.
What I went through I found incredibly traumatic, and it’s difficult for me to read through. I now realise the importance of a natural labour, immediate skin-to-skin and establishing breastfeeding as soon as possible. These are all things I missed out on, which had a huge impact on bonding with my son. Obviously those things were out of my control in my situation, but I had to work so hard to feel a connection with my baby. I realise now, the moment I met Ethan in the NICU, he honestly didn’t feel like my baby, but everyone was telling me that he was. I struggled to connect the tiny human that was inside me to the tiny human that I saw in-front of me. But after many many hours of holding him, talking and singing to him, skin-to-skin and later breastfeeding I slowly feel a deep connection begin to build and grow.
Have you had a similar experience? I would love to hear from you! One thing that that remains with me through this experience was the presence of a community around me, people popping in for a visit, bringing snacks, praying for me and reminding me that God loves me so much and has all of this under control. It was my community that got me through this, for which I am forever grateful for. Even weeks and months down the line, I still have those certain people who check up on me, and it’s something so simple, but so appreciated!