It’s been a crazy couple of weeks involving a high school graduation AND a birth. The upswing? There is a beautiful and healthy new baby in our lives, the teenager gets to go off to college in August, and I’ll be able to enjoy a glass of wine with Wining Husband on our anniversary in a couple weeks. The downswing? Baby 4 is here due to an emergency induction.
First, the graduation. The teenager blows me away with how accomplished he is at 18. You should see the stack of medals and awards he has accumulated. I do not think it is possible to be more proud of him than I am. He’s going off to college on multiple performing art and merit scholarships in the fall. I want to eat up as much time with him as possible before he heads off. I am so glad I got to see him walk across the stage. On Monday, it didn’t look like I would be able to do that.
From Low Risk to a Cause for Concern
In March and April, I was hit by a nasty, nasty respiratory virus that knocked me out for a few weeks. On top of it, I had some family issues going on in the background, that evidently were enough to create a good amount of stress. I noticed at my doctors’ appointments that my blood pressure, normally in the 115/60 range, had started to creep up. I was gaining more weight than is normal for me at the end of pregnancy. I started to look for other warning signs and red flags for preeclampsia.
On Thursday, May 4th, I woke up and my feet were extremely swollen. I put my feet up and tried to stay off of them as much as possible until my OB appointment in the afternoon. The swelling did not go down, even though I was resting. I even took a nap on my left side. We got to my appointment, and my blood pressure was the highest it had been. They collected a urine sample, and I was sent home with instructions to go right into labor and delivery should I develop a headache or visual disturbances.
Will I Make Graduation?
I heard nothing back on Friday, so I assumed no news was good news. However, I continued to feel worse in terms of fatigue levels. Saturday we did graduation prep – we got decorations and the teenager’s graduation gifts. I’d intended to finish up any client work and an outstanding customer order over the weekend, but just heading out for that bit of activity wore me out. I felt that something was wrong, very wrong. It was more than just anxiety. I knew there was something not right. I took it easy, only because I had no choice. I couldn’t focus, and I felt like heck. On Sunday, the contractions began – but they wouldn’t get regular. I started to worry I wouldn’t make it to Tuesday’s graduation.
Late Monday afternoon, I finally heard back from my doctor’s office. It turned out I DID have protein in my urine and glucose. They wanted me to come in again the next day, Tuesday, for further evaluation.
A Very Risky Situation
I went in. My blood pressure was very elevated, over the 140/90 threshold. I still hadn’t had a headache or vision disturbances, but I did feel really out of it. Plus, I was nauseous and having horrible heartburn. I also was having a hard time catching my breath. Just the short walk from the bed to the bathroom was wearing me out. My OB wanted me to go in for immediate induction, but she agreed that if I could pass the non-stress test that I could go to graduation and then head in for induction right afterward. I was hooked up to the monitor, but Princess Ladybug was fluttering all about and they couldn’t get a good tape on her. So, it was off for a biophysical profile ultrasound to ensure that she was safe. 30 minutes later, I was cleared to head to graduation. I was in a world of back pain, but I ate, I visited with my sister who had come in to support my teenager for graduation, and then I rested with Princess Boogie Oogie and the Chunky Monkey until it was time to head to graduation.
Mid-graduation, my head started to hurt, and my ears started to ring. I started to feel even worse. I was very glad I was being induced soon. I watched the teenager walk across the stage, clapped, watched the closing, took pictures, scarfed down some food, dropped the small people off at their grandparents’ house, made sure the teenager got to his grad night celebration, and headed in to begin the induction. When we got in, my blood pressure was the highest it’s ever been in my life. I felt completely awful.
19 Hours Later…
19 hours of unblocked (no epidural, no pain medication) natural except for Pitocin labor later, Princess Ladybug made her appearance. There was cord compression going on, and I tried to remain calm for the purpose of getting her into this world as quickly and safely as possible. I was 38 weeks along, she was 6lbs 11oz and 19.75″ long. My husband cut the cord, and my sister was there for the entire birth…and yes, I was making goofy jokes and faces on a yoga ball when I was dilated to 7 cm because I was trying to remain calm and focused to get through the pain and get baby here as soon as possible. By that time, my blood pressure had returned to normal, and the headache had turned into a hunger and thirst headache. The swelling had gone down a good bit. My OB decided not to give me magnesium sulfate unless the headache persisted through eating, having some caffeine, resting, and hydrating. Baby was examined by the pediatrician – and she looked great!
We Got to Go Home!
The next day, after the 24 hour testing for myself and Princess Ladybug, we were able to go home. Everything had returned to normal for me, and Princess Ladybug was doing great. She’s the smallest birth weight of my 4 kids. I still have to be on the lookout for any sudden change – particularly a headache that won’t go away or blood pressure that goes up for the next 6 weeks. Moreover, because I had preeclampsia, I’m now at an elevated risk for preeclampsia should I become pregnant again and my stroke and heart attack risk have doubled. It’s really important (as if it weren’t before) for me to stay on top of my health. I’m not going to lie. I’m an emotional wreck. I’d been hoping that in a couple of years that we would try for the last baby, baby 5. Now, we’ll see what my OB says. That may be too risky to my health and that baby’s health. I have four kids who need me earthside.
Preeclampsia Warning Signs
The thing that saved both mine and Princess Ladybug’s lives was familiarity with the warning signs of preeclampsia. I had a mild case of it that could have become much worse had I not had great medical care and raised a concern over the swelling. Here are the warning signs. Share them with the women you know. It’s also important to note that you might not feel any symptoms, hence why its so important to have regular prenatal care where your blood pressure and labs are carefully monitored.
- High blood pressure (140/90 or higher, or significantly higher than your baseline – 15 degrees for diastolic, 30 degrees for systolic).
- Protein in your urine
- Swelling – particularly in the face, hands, and feet
- Headaches that do not go away with Tylenol, food, water, or rest
- Sudden onset of nausea or vomiting after mid-pregnancy
- Abdominal and/or shoulder pain
- Lower back pain
- Weight gain of 2 or more pounds in a week
- Vision changes including flashing lights, auras, light sensitivity or blurry vision and spots
- Super fast and strong reflexes
- Shortness of breath
- Anxiety, racing pulse, mental confusion, or a sense of doom
I was lucky, as my symptoms largely disappeared during late labor and after birth. Many women are not so lucky. Preeclampsia occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period in 5-8% of pregnancies. It can progress really quickly after 20 weeks. Preeclampsia, HELLP Syndrome and eclampsia are responsible for 76,000 maternal deaths and 500,000 infant deaths every year.
You can learn more about preeclampsia and learn how you can help with research on this disorder at the Preeclampsia Foundation’s website.
I am running behind on book reviews, client work, and customer orders at the moment. I am doing my best to work through the backlog, but my health has to come first.
I am so glad and so thankful that Princess Ladybug and I are both here in this world.