My Son’s Birth Story: Eclampsia
On to the actual birth part of my son’s story and the amazing ways God’s unseen plan saved me and my baby.
The week before my son’s birth I was helping wrap up a giant fundraiser for our local pregnancy resource center. I had spent many hours at the center that week and the staff and nurses saw me daily.
Each morning that week, I’d woken up with a faint headache. Not enough to slow me down, but enough to annoy me. I’d roll on some Young Living Stress Away and head out the door to work on the fundraiser.
Several of our employees at the farm had head colds and my husband came home with one so I assumed I was getting sick, too. Or had allergies. It was September and the pollen was crazy.
Thursday of that week I was working at the pregnancy center as usual and the nurse on staff that day noticed my face was puffy. Later, she told me she didn’t think my face was abnormally puffy. She said, “We’re all puffy when we are pregnant!” Having had five kids herself, she knew the par for the course and didn’t raise concern about my puffy face.
For lunch Thursday, I ran across the street to the grocery store and grabbed a grilled chicken wrap from the deli. Halfway through eating it, I looked down and noticed the lettuce in the wrap was nasty and wilted and old.
“Great,” I thought, “I’m going to make me and my baby sick from nasty lettuce.”
Thursday evening I was sick to my stomach but nothing too major. I just blamed it on the lettuce.
My husband and I went to bed as usual Thursday evening and I slept several hours. Around 1am I started tossing and turning and could not fall back asleep so I went to our guest bed and slept there for a bit.
I tossed and turned and my stomach felt even more sick so I moved to the recliner. I slept a little longer in the upright position.
Finally, around 3am I threw up. “Good,” I thought, “I can get this out of my system and start feeling better.”
When my husband got up at 4:30am for chores I told him I couldn’t go with him because I still felt awful.
This is the last memory I have. The next 48 hours are recounted as they’ve been told to me.
And then I Have No Memory
My husband got home an hour earlier than normal from the barn (which never happens! God’s timing!) and I was still sleeping on the couch. He snuck in quietly and said I didn’t stir at all. He made himself a cup of coffee and sat in his chair in the other room.
He said 10 minutes later he heard a thump – like I’d fallen – and called my name. I didn’t respond so he came to check on me and found me sprawled on the floor.
He called 911 then rolled me on my side and waited in agony.[Actually, I have no words for how my husband was while he waited with me. He must have been terrified but doesn’t speak much of that time.]
The first to arrive on the scene was a police officer. He came in and asked my husband my name. Then he shouted my name at me. My husband said this shout made my eyes stop rolling and I just glared at the officer with a ticked off look on my face.
Within 10 minutes the ambulance arrived.[God’s timing the second time! Because we live in such a rural area, it would have taken all the crew 10 minutes to get from their homes to the ambulance hall and then another 10 minutes to get to my house. However, that Friday morning they were all at the ambulance hall for training when my call came in!]
Because I didn’t want myself and everyone else to get stuck on a “due date” for my baby, I just told people I was due in November. I gave updates to my husband….but men. He couldn’t remember how many weeks pregnant I was!
I got to our rural Emergency Room and God’s timing was amazing again. Our hospital shut down their OB department several years ago because they couldn’t afford to keep it open in our rural area. Thankfully, one of the OB nurses got relocated to ER and she was on staff that morning!
My husband said the doctor on duty didn’t really know what to do with me. Thankfully, this OB/ER nurse recognized my condition and kicked into action. She got a magnesium IV going into me to prevent more seizures and gave me steroid shots to rush the development of my baby’s lungs in preparation for delivery.
Immediately they called in a helicopter to have me airlifted to a bigger hospital in Marshfield equipped with a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
This OB nurse asked my husband so many questions he didn’t know. He told her my midwife’s name and she said, “Oh! We worked together in OB for years! Can I call her and have her send your wife’s records down to Marshfield?”
In the meantime, one of my dear friends – an ER nurse – was scrubbing in to begin her shift. She saw me and said all she could do was pray. Again, God’s timing.
Because my husband and I are dairy farmers, we don’t have great insurance. We have better than great insurance – we have medical sharing with Samaritan Ministries. But it’s technically cash pay. We don’t want to abuse our medical sharing family but also, in the end, we are personally responsible for every medical bill.
After I was stabilized, my husband quizzed the doctor why he ordered a helicopter and not an ambulance to take me to Marshfield. An ambulance would be cheaper, and we’ve read about the abuses of calling in helicopters at the drop of a hat. The doctor explained that the ground personnel do not have the advanced training that my condition required.
The helicopter flew me to a town two hours away from our home. My husband went home, packed an overnight bag and drove down to Marshfield where I was being taken.
On the drive down, he called his parents and they headed down after him. He called my parents but only my step-dad was home because my mom was on her way to our town to set up for my baby shower planned for the next day – Saturday.
Yep. I had my baby the day before my shower!
My mom didn’t have a cell phone so someone got ahold of my cousin who was meeting my mom at the church to set up for my shower and relayed the message. They waited for my step-dad to get there and they headed down to the hospital.
My husband got to the hospital I was flown to and rushed into ER. They told him that my baby had just been delivered via c-section. He wasn’t scrubbed in so he gave his phone to a nurse who took it in and got a few photos of our baby before he was taken to NICU.
After my husband got scrubbed in, he sat by my head while the doctor stitched me back up. Looking through the pictures, I saw my head all wrapped up in towels while I was on the operating table. I asked him what that was about and he said I kept shivering and saying I was so cold.
My husband talked to the doctor afterwards about how I was when I arrived off the helicopter. The doctor said he explained to me that I was going into surgery to have my baby. Apparently I responded to him and everything! But I have no memory of it!
I have one faint memory of seeing the blue sheet.
They made my room a dark room. After several hours, my family and my husband’s family were allowed in to see me. They were told they could only whisper, only touch my hand and only stay for a minute.
The doctor’s goal was to minimize my stimulation to help lower my blood pressure and let my brain rest.
My Memories Kick in Again
Several times I woke up to my husband pumping me. Yep, you know his true love when your husband milks you like a cow.
I remember asking him how he knew how to pump me and he said the nurses showed him how. Apparently I slept through that part!
He said he pumped me every three hours. I don’t remember all of them, but I’ll take his word on it. Sometime the next morning – I don’t have memory of it – I was moved to the maternity ward.
Saturday afternoon the doctor said I was stable enough to go see my baby! Our baby! Our baby boy without a name. Because who picks a name six weeks out for a baby we don’t know the gender of!
I’ve gotta admit, my emotions were jumbled at the thought of seeing my son. Up to this point, all I had was brain fog, a catheter and a cut in my belly. No proof. No memory. No sign of a baby. No name.
The nurses moved me into a wheel chair and pushed me down the hall to the NICU. My husband and I had to scrub in for three minutes before entering the pod where our baby was.
I was wheeled beside my son’s incubator and saw this little human curled up inside with a mask over his eyes and an IV tube coming out of his head. The machines and beeping and lights and gloves and masks were terrifying. How fragile was my baby?!
This three-pound, 14-ounce baby was supposed to be in my safe, warm tummy for another six weeks. And there he was, born at God’s perfect time waiting for me to hold him.
And waiting for a name.
I wanted to hold him, but not in a motherly way. Just in a cute, snuggly baby way. I still had no connection to this child of mine. I was still trying to piece together -from everyone else’s stories – what had happened in the last 24 hours.
My strength had been sapped so the NICU nurse laid a pillow on my lap and set my baby in my arms resting on the pillow.
The nurses kept commenting how long my baby’s toes were. They looked down at my elephant sized, swollen feet too big to fit in the standard hospital-issued socks and laughed, “Well, we know he didn’t get his toes from his mother!”
And I began feeling like everything might be okay.
Terms like ‘blood glucose monitoring,’ ‘stop-breathing episodes,’ ‘cares’ and ‘bilirubin levels’ became common language for my husband and me the next 14 days.
But looking around the NICU pod with nine other babies, I realized how blessed we were to have a baby doing so well.
My Son’s Birth Story: Blood Pressure & Poop
Back in my hospital room, I began learning about eclampsia, blood clots and blood pressure meds. And pooping. It was very important that I let the nurses know when I’ve had my first poop.
And they were always listening to my intestines. Waiting for that poop.
…which finally came with the help of Mirilax.
Every three hours, nurses would come by to check my oxygen levels and blood pressure and peek at my incision. They’d scan my wrist band and dole out the scheduled medications.
Every time the nurses frowned.
My blood pressure was not coming down.
So they doubled the blood pressure med dose I was on.
And a few days later, they still frowned.
By Tuesday morning my blood pressure still was not acceptable to the doctor, so he put me on a super powerful blood pressure med. It made me feel awful.
On Saturday afternoon the nurses began helping me to the bathroom. They still insisted on being present when I moved around. But at least I was on my own two feet!
But oh, the pain! Worse than ripping a band aid off is trying to stretch yourself up straight into a standing position with a six-inch incision across your abdomen!
My husband went home Saturday night to help with some things at the farm, get clean clothes and a good night’s sleep. It was my first night alone. Setting my phone alarm to wake me to pump every three hours. Calling on the nurse button to have someone come get my few teaspoons of milk to take to my baby in NICU.
Sunday I was able to move around by myself. My husband had brought back some clothes for me and it felt wonderful to wear regular underwear again! We took a couple trips to NICU when our baby’s cares were so that I could feed him from his tiny bottle.
And family came to visit. It was a relaxing yet tiring day.
My Son’s Birth Story: My Fried Brain
Seizures can damage short term memory. I later learned that the magnesium IV I was given in our hometown ER to relax my brain and prevent further seizures also affects memory.
My brain was a blank slate from Friday morning to Saturday mid-morning.
Who gets a helicopter ride and can’t even remember it!!
Monday began the mental evaluations. One neuro-something-or-other came in and checked me over. Later another doctor came and gave me the usual “What month is it? What’s your birth date? I’m going to give you a series of numbers and ask for them later,” mental evaluation.
The second doctor came back again on Tuesday for further evaluation and gave his approval for my discharge.
With my improving mental clarity I was actually able to think and ask questions. So I began having longer chats with my OB. Terrified that he was going to ridicule me for seeing a midwife, I was hesitant to engage him.
But he was great. He praised my midwife for her wonderful records and said that my case came on so suddenly without strong signs that it could have happened under traditional care.
He urged me that further pregnancies were not at huge risk of pre-eclampsia and that I should take the precaution of weekly blood pressure checks and baby aspirin during any future pregnancies.
Upon discharge, my OB ordered several follow up appointments for blood pressure checks. I asked if that was all the appointments were for. He said, “Yep, we just want to monitor your blood pressure for a while.”
I explained that I was cash pay and that I had three nurses in my family plus my midwife and could I just have them check me?
To my surprise, he readily agreed and on my discharge papers wrote, “Follow up with MIL.” I loved it.
And speaking of cash pay…
The phone calls started rolling in. On Monday. To my hospital bed phone.
Apparently, the billing office gets right on you when you are cash pay. Insurance companies can drag things out for months because that’s just their bullying job. But, me – the one patient – is expected to pay up! Soon!
With a still fuzzy brain, I tried getting the billing people to understand that I didn’t have the cash today, but I was part of a medical sharing community and it would come soon. Give me time! I haven’t even been home to file the claim!
Mondays are crazy hectic on the farm so my husband didn’t come down at all. I spent most of the day doing kangaroo care with my son and resting. And pumping. Always pumping.
Tuesday the nurses were still messing with my blood pressure meds and trying to get me to a number of their approval.
Our son was going to be staying in NICU so I began filling out paperwork for the Ronald McDonald house. Thankfully it was right across the street!
Wednesday morning I finally got the okay from my doctor to be discharged. My blood pressure was still not under great control, but I was scheduled for a follow-up in five days anyways.
My husband came with more clothes for me and we packed up my little home from the past five days. I said goodbye to my commercial grade Medela pump and greeted my home, portable model waiting for me in the truck.
We headed home.
Without our baby.