Pregnancy’s unexpected curve ball
Each pregnancy, like each child, is different. A mom might experience some similarities between pregnancies or they may all be completely different. For my first three pregnancies, they were pretty similar and uneventful. I experienced extended periods of nausea and varying amounts of puking with each one. The only thing to stand out from one pregnancy to another was that in the last month or two of my last pregnancy I developed high blood pressure and was put on medication. Still, nothing big or concerning. Of course, after having three healthy and relatively problem free pregnancies, I should’ve realized that a fourth pregnancy was pushing my luck and something was bound to go wrong.
From the first blood pressure check at my first doctor’s appointment at 10 weeks along, I have had high blood pressure. This isn’t something that I normally have when I’m not pregnant and again, I only had issues with it for the last month or two of my third pregnancy, but not since then. After months of making excuses for it and trying to just relax, I finally had to go on medication for it. After a month and a half of medicine and adjusting the amounts, my blood pressure was still very high (I can’t imagine why considering I have three boys six and under at home). The doctors continued to monitor me and set me up to see a specialist. On Thursday night, a little over a week ago, I developed a headache that was pretty bad and just wouldn’t go away despite ice and Tylenol. By the time I went to bed, I could literally hear my heart pounding in my head and I was having shortness of breath. My blood pressure was about 174/101. I decided to wait it out over night, mostly because it was late and I had three sleeping children and no one to watch them if I were to go to the hospital. The next morning I felt a little better, but figured I’d better call my doctor just incase since we were headed into the weekend. My doctor wanted me to come in to be checked out and monitored, which I pretty much expected. What I hadn’t expected when I left my house that morning was that I wouldn’t be returning home for possibly more than a month and that I’d be no longer pregnant when I did return.
I was only 29 weeks and 1 day when they admitted me to the hospital over a week ago. At first I was told it was just going to be a 24 hour monitor of the baby and me. However, it quickly became clear that there was no way I was leaving anytime too soon. Even scarier was that there was a very real possibility that my baby was going to be delivered in the next 24 hours at just barely 29 weeks. My doctor was so convinced of this possibility that she wouldn’t let me have anything more than ice chips for at least 24 hours and that was only after several nurses begged for some on my behalf.
They started me on a magnesium drip to bring my blood pressure down. For those of you who have never experienced this, I hope you never have to. As soon as they start the drip, an instant sensation of burning creeps through your body starting at the IV sight and traveling until it has reached every vein in your body. As it reaches your chest and stomach, you begin to feel violently ill and like you are going to pass out. Then your face begins to burn and feel like it is melting off despite the fact that your body is shivering and cold everywhere else. I eventually passed out for a bit and awoke to a reprieve from the violent nausea I was feeling, but my face continued to burn while the rest of me shivered. It was very hard to remain conscious for more than 15-20 minutes at a time. During this time, I attempted to call and text family members (including my husband who was home caring for the kids) to let them know what was going on. I’d eventually be overtaken by another wave of magnesium and feel the burning sensation creep up the base of my neck and eventually wash over my head making it impossible to keep my eyes open. When I did close my eyes, it was like I was on some sort of horrible acid trip or something (I can only assume, since that is not something I ever experimented with). I would see crazy colors transforming into different shapes behind my eyes. I felt limp and heavy, like I couldn’t move, but then I’d suddenly feel like I was falling, jerking my eyes open to find myself still in the hospital bed, all the while, my face was on fire.
After about 24 hours, they finally took me off the magnesium. My face began to cool and I was able to remain conscious for longer amounts of time. They’d brought my blood pressure down enough that I was no longer at risk of stroke and the doctor even agreed to let me eat something, though she warned that there was still a risk of needing to deliver until they had my blood pressure permanently stabilized. It still took about another 24 hours to get the magnesium completely out of my system and during that time they began experimenting with different drug combos and amounts to try and find something that would permanently keep my blood pressure at a safe level.
As I regained my faculties and was able to finally think again and even allowed to shower, the reality of what was happening and what laid ahead of me began to sink in. Not only did I have severe chronic high blood pressure brought on by pregnancy, but I was also diagnosed with preeclampsia. The baby was doing fine at the moment, but because of this diagnosis, both mine and the baby’s health were at risk of going downhill at anytime. Preeclampsia can severely affect a mother’s vital organs, such as the kidneys and liver, as well as affect the placenta and the babies growth. The only cure for preeclampsia is to deliver the baby. At 29 weeks, that was not a good option, so instead, the baby and I were going to need to be constantly monitored. This meant, I was going to be on bed rest in the hospital until the baby came. Of course, all these health problems also meant that I was not going to be able to make it to 39 or 40 weeks and that the new goal was to try to make it to 34 weeks before they would take the baby.
I am now 30 weeks and 2 days and they seem to have finally discovered a drug combination that is holding my blood pressure steady without leaving me unable to function. My doctor is optimistic that I will make it to 34 weeks, but my condition is unpredictable and could change at anytime, so each day I keep this baby in is another small victory. My blood pressure is down enough that I only have to be monitored every four hours instead of every hour. The baby is monitored 2-3 times a day for about an hour and I have a weekly ultra sound. I am still confined to bed with the exception of being allowed to get up to use the bathroom and take a daily shower. My boys are at home with their dad and my mom. I get to see them on the weekends and we Skype nightly. Aside from trying to keep sane while laying in bed the next several weeks, I am in the process of coming to terms with the fact that my baby will be born a preemie and spent time in the NICU. I do feel like putting my story out there for others to read and hearing about other people’s similar experiences is helping me to cope and mentally prepare for many of the possibilities and realities of the weeks to come.