After years of trying to get pregnant, our dream finally came true. God had finally answered our heart wrenching prayers for a baby. Getting pregnant had been the hard part-being pregnant was a breeze in comparison. That is, until everything went wrong.
Because we had conceived with the help of IVF, I was already a paranoid pregnant lady. Even though I followed all of the recommendations, I still feared a miscarriage, a physical deformity, or a genetic anomaly. I had thought of most potential complications, and every little ting or pain alarmed my fragile state of mind. Knowing too much as a physician didn’t help. I reminded myself that it was normal to be overly concerned considering all that we had been through. It wasn’t like getting pregnant was a walk in the park for us. All forces of nature had conspired against us for years. Now that we had finally gotten a positive pregnancy test, I was a little leery that it was too good to be true. But, as months passed and our baby continued to be a perfect patient, the hypochondriac in me started to lessen. I resolved that I was going to have a happy and healthy baby.
Around 26 weeks of pregnancy, I suffered the worst headache of my life. My husband and I had recently moved states, and I had just established care with a new OB/GYN. I didn’t want to be the annoying patient who called about every little complaint, but when loads of Tylenol and sleep just didn’t cut it, I began to worry. Knowing that headaches can be linked with pregnancy induced hypertension and preeclampsia, I quickly checked my blood pressure. It was normal, but the pain in my head was not. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I asked my husband to call the doctor.
The physician on call recommended that I come into the hospital for blood work, to monitor the baby, and to get me something stronger for the headache. I couldn’t have agreed more. Thankfully, my blood pressure and blood work were fine, the baby was active, and the Percocet took the edge off.
After that episode, pregnancy life returned to normal. My follow-up blood pressures were fine. I hadn’t had another headache, and my only real complaint was the swelling in my feet. By swelling, I mean absolutely NO shoes fit my feet. I questioned, joked, and complained about my elephant feet, but I just assumed that it was part of the beauty of getting pregnant.
Since we had just moved to a new state without any family nearby, I knew that I needed to establish a support system before the baby arrived. This gave me the bright idea to join a Mom’s group while still only 32 weeks pregnant-I like to think outside of the box sometimes! I loved my “Real Mom’s” group from the moment that I met them. They applauded my assertiveness in joining the group while pregnant and welcomed me wholeheartedly. They didn’t, however, welcome my swollen feet! Instead, they insisted that I prop them up and have someone take a look at them. I reassured them all that I had a doctor’s appointment later that day, and that I didn’t have preeclampsia. It was simply swelling from pregnancy. I had noticed just the night before, however, that my glasses seemed a little tighter on my face, and my rings were even tighter than usual. I voiced my concern to my husband but then brushed it off as paranoia.
At my 32-week prenatal visit, my blood pressure checked out fine. The Ob/GYN examined my belly and listen to the baby’s heartbeat. After measuring my belly, she recommended that we get a quick ultrasound of the baby since I hadn’t grown much since the last visit.
I waddled off to ultrasound, my feet aching with each step. The ultrasound confirmed that my baby’s growth had decreased to the 10th percentile from the 40th. Something was making her very unhappy inside of me. When I returned to the exam room, my doctor asked for a urine sample (which being pregnant I was easily able to give.) She reexamined my feet and decided to confirm my “normal” blood pressure. On recheck, my pressure wasn’t just a little high; it was stroke worthy! My urine dip screamed protein. And, when my doctor asked if I had been seeing any floaters, I dumbly responded that I had been having a weird, spotty kind of dizziness for months, but it seemed to be positional. Duh! Floaters! Wow, sometimes being a physician really doesn’t prepare you to be a good patient.
Within minutes I was loaded into a wheel chair and whisked to the OB floor for overnight observation. I voiced my concern that my mom was coming from Michigan to pick me up and take me back for a wedding shower. My Ob politely but firmly replied, “Emma, you aren’t going anywhere. First we have to make sure that you and the baby are safe.” By the time I made it to the OB floor, my blood pressure was sky-high, my head was pounding, and I was starting to get very scared. The nurse poked and re-poked me to start the IVs for the blood pressure medications and the dreaded magnesium. In what seemed like minutes, I had developed sudden and severe onset preeclampsia.
I called my mom to let her know the change of events. Knowing nothing about preeclampsia, she asked, “Emma, is this serious?” That’s when I broke down sobbing. Yes, it was serious. I was getting sicker by the minute, and I knew that my baby needed to be delivered soon…TOO SOON.
For more about preeclampsia head to The Preeclampsia Foundation or March of Dimes. Both have their annual walks all across the country in May and June. Sign up to raise awareness and support women who have had pregnancy complications, and help prevent complications for others.