For 8 months, I had the perfect pregnancy. I had never felt better in my life. No more breakouts, no more migraines, even my IBS was gone. It was like pregnancy was magic for my body, that my hormones were perfectly in balance with the introduction of the crazy pregnancy hormones. Sure I was tired and I had the occasional ache or pain, but overall, I felt great and totally had the pregnant woman glow. Strangers would stop me in the mall to tell me how cute I was. I would tell my husband I could easily do this 5 more times. My blood pressure was always low and peeing in a cup started to seem like a formality because it was never anything other than normal. Then everything changed at 37 weeks.
I had been having these strange abdominal pains as I turned 36 weeks. I remember being at my brother-in-law’s 30th birthday party and having to go lay down because of the pain. It was a stabbing, burning pain, definitely not a contraction, but felt more like heartburn. And having never had heartburn before, I didn’t know the difference between that and the pain I was feeling. Not to mention, I didn’t ever pass through my sister-in-law’s kitchen that day without grabbing a cookie or some other goody, so I figured I was dealing with what I had coming to me for eating like that.
The pain would come and go over the next couple of days. That Wednesday, May 28th, I had a team lunch at work. Tons of bad for you, fried and sugary foods. So when the pain came roaring back that night, again I thought I had it coming. It was only when I couldn’t walk upright to get myself to the bathroom for the 5th time in 2 hours that my husband insisted I call the on call doctor. It wasn’t my doctor or even one in her practice, but he asked the standard questions, told me to take some Pepto Bismol and if it continued an hour later, go to the hospital.
We were on our way to the maternity ward at 10:30 pm. We had just recently packed our bags so we grabbed those just in case, but I told my husband not to worry about grabbing pillows or the CD player because I was sure we were going to be home in a couple of hours. We were taken to the maternity triage rooms, I peed in a cup and then I was hooked up to the monitors (so cool), and the nurse took a couple of vials of blood from me. The monitors showed I was having mild contractions though the nurse agreed that they were not the cause of the pain I was feeling. I laid there for literally hours. We called our moms to let them know what was up and settled in. At 2:30, the nurse reported that she shared my test results with the doctor on call and though things were a little off, he wasn’t concerned. She gave me a shot of noubain for my pain and they admitted us to a room for a 24 hour observation.
My husband ran home to get all the stuff I told him to leave behind and I tried to sleep. We were up pretty early and watched TV for a bit. I wasn’t hungry so my husband went to the cafeteria to find something for breakfast. While he was gone, my doctor’s partner came to see me. My doctor had been put on bed rest the day before for her pregnancy, so her partner was taking over her patients. It was a little after 9am when she came in and told me I had HELLP. I didn’t even know what HELLP was. I skipped those pages in the pregnancy books. But whatever it was, I had it and it was enough of an emergency that I couldn’t be induced for fear I would have a seizure. I had to have a c-section as soon as the room was available. I called my husband on his cell phone. He rushed upstairs, calling my parents, his parents, his sister and my boss on the way. Nurses started to file in, hooking me up to IVs, asking me to sign a gazillion forms, and giving my husband some cheese and crackers to eat before whisking me off to the OR.
Everyone was very kind. A nurse held my hand during the spinal block at my husband’s request. He knew that part terrified me more than anything. The nurse anesthetist was gentle and quite funny, actually. Not that he remembered, but he was also performed my sister-in-law’s epidural for her c-section and he made quite the impression on my family from their video of the birth. It seemed to take forever to get my son out and I remember two things quite clearly before I heard him cry. I think I was annoyed at how long it was taking and I told my husband that Addison on Grey’s Anatomy could have a baby out in two minutes, so what the heck was going on over there. And then just before the doctor pulled my son out, she said, “He is really hanging on in there, he doesn’t want to come out!” I remember feeling sad and guilty that I couldn’t keep him in until he was ready.
The rest of our story is very happy. He was a healthy 5lb 14oz little boy with great Apgar scores and no NICU stay. My HELLP disappeared that day and I recovered quickly. Mentally, I was not ready to bring him home. Sure, the nursery was ready and his clothes were washed, but we had to go out and buy preemie clothing, and I lost the last 3 weeks that I thought I had to get ready for him. I felt like a failure that he was so small, like it was my fault I didn’t grow a bigger baby any faster. Later I felt a lot of disappointment that I didn’t even really feel a contraction. I still feel cheated out of that experience, especially because I don’t believe a VBAC is in the cards for me given some additional fertility-related complications and surgery I’ve had since then. I try to stay focused on my beautiful, healthy, almost three-year-old little boy and be grateful that my ending was much happier than I have read about from others who had HELLP.