Since I have put my postpartum preeclampsia story “out there” as a way to drive awareness of the condition I feel I have also become a person that many women reach out to for hope and help. There are many days I will get an email from a woman filled with so much raw emotion seeking someone who can comfort her and someone who has been there. Some days, most days, it is all too emotionally overwhelming for me and I cry. I read the stories shared with me by complete strangers filled with private details of their birth, their health and their emotional instability. Women sharing their fears that they won’t get better, that it will happen again and that they are scared they won’t be able to care for their children the way they need to.
Today I decided I needed to share more of my preeclampsia story and not just the medical part to drive awareness of the signs and symptoms. Today I want to try and put it out there how I felt and how I feel preeclampsia truly impacted my emotional being. Aside from the horrors of September 11th, I had never faced such an extreme fear of death like I did when I heard that my blood pressure was in the 200’s. I remember my husband saying “what? is that bad” and I told him “it’s REALLY bad.” It was at that point in the emergency room, 6 days postpartum and away from both of my kids that I thought, “Will I die?”
It took hours for the ER staff to figure out where to send me. I often forget this part when retelling my story because I like to accentuate how amazing the staff was once I got to the maternity ward. However, being postpartum, I was sent first to the ER and left waiting for many, many hour before the attending ER doctor finally consulted OB. For HOURS I cried. Rob would try and tell me to relax and all I wanted to do was scream.
HELLO, I COULD DIE HERE!!! HELLO, I HAVE BABIES, I NEED TO GET TO MY BABIES!!!
At one point I was sent up for an MRI or something. Six days postpartum, c-section still painful and I was wheeled up by a guy that knew nothing about what to do with me. He left me on a gurney in a quiet hallway, laying there for what felt like forever. I was so scared, in a hospital gown, c-section stitches, lactating, crying and then he put me in some machine. I finally panicked and yelled for him to stop the test. I needed to get out and up. I needed to get home. I cried, I cried to this 20 something hipster guy that I just wanted to get home because it was Halloween and Derek was going to be a fireman. Derek loved firemen, I told this to the guy, I can’t remember his response but finally he brought me back to the ER to Rob.
Eventually I was brought to OB and I was told what I had was preeclampsia. I have already shared that story many times so I won’t here but I will link to it HERE. What I intended to really share in this post is what happened when I left the hospital. I wanted to share how scared I was to be home. I was petrified, that even though my blood pressure reading were down to the 150/110 range, that I might have a seizure or a stroke, IN MY HOUSE, ALONE. I was scared to walk and hold Hayley because I was so light headed I worried I would drop her. I was so scared that she and Derek would hate me for leaving them for 3 days when they really needed their mommy. I left my brand new to the world baby without me for 3 whole days. She didn’t have her mommy’s skin, her mommy’s love or her mommy’s milk. Every single thing they say that is so important for a brand new baby to have in those very first days, Hayley didn’t have. My son was only 27 months old and he was a new brother but was also so excited about being a fireman for Halloween. He LOVED firemen and he never got to go trick or treating that year. He had never been away from me and now he was away from me for Hayley’s birth and then his dad and mom were gone for 3 days! You might say, whatever it was only 3 days, but it was three whole days that I was hooked up to an IV unable to get out of bed and unsure if I would make it home so when I finally did it felt like I had been gone forever.
Rob stayed home for a week after I was discharged. I remember one morning we woke up and Derek was getting ready for preschool. Derek asked if he could stay home and we told him he had to go to school. Derek then said something like “but I want to be with the family too” and something in that broke my husband. Rob lost it and cried like I rarely saw him do. I realized then how much this hit us ALL!! Rob, Derek, Hayley AND Me. It was a tough and scary road back to “normal” but we got there. I felt very isolated for a long time afterward. I think it was a self imposed isolation and that I needed to deal with not having what I thought would have been the picture perfect homecoming with our little bundle of pinkness. I don’t think I felt depressed as much as a fear driven need to grab hold, VERY TIGHT.
Here we are 4 1/2 years later and heading into our 4th Promise Walk for Preeclampsia. Every year at the walk I can be sure of a few things. I know that I am reminded how lucky I am and that I need to continue on this path to help support better maternal health. I know that Rob is my rock but then at the walk, every year, he breaks down in tears. I know that women, men, families and kids all come together one day a year because we have all been there, to varying degrees and we all need to be reminded that we are not alone.