How I Almost Lost My Life To Preeclampsia: My Birth Story

Sunday, May 12, 2019

*Sigh*

It's taken me five months to write this and honestly if it wasn't Mother's Day, i'm not sure I would be writing it now.



But when I started reflecting on being a mom and what that means to me, the first thing I thought about was the day I became one and how it was nothing I ever imagined it would be. How scared I was and how in the days after I wasn't even sure I would make it home to be with my daughter...let alone make it to my first Mother's Day.

I'm writing this for moms-to-be so you always remember to advocate for yourselves throughout your pregnancy and birth and for moms who have gone through this, to know you are not alone.

So, here we go...my birth story.


I wish I had beautiful photos from my birth. 

Me, laying in bed anxiously waiting for the arrival of my little bean, photos of me pushing, heartwarming photos of the first moment I held my baby and adorable photos of my family, moments after the birth in awe of what we created.



But I have none of that, what I do have is a random collection of 5 or 6 photos from awkward angles of the baby laying on my chest (me hardly in the photo) as I try to remain calm, ensure that i'm not seeing spots and that I don't have a headache. I have a few hundred photos of blood pressure readings, as well as photos of my overly swollen legs and multiple photo comparisons of my face (checking to see if swelling is getting worse).

one of the 1,000 times i checked my face swelling

Why you ask? 
Because I had preeclampsia and the only thing that mattered more than getting my baby delivered were my symptoms and if they were progressing and how fast, because the results could be fatal.

...but I feel like i'm getting ahead of myself, let me start where this makes sense about 2 months before my emergency delivery.


TWO MONTHS PRE-DELIVERY


I'm a perfectionist at heart (a lazy one) but a perfectionist none the less and this baby was no different. I tried to read up on everything I could, make myself aware of the risks and dangers, what the symptoms were, pick the best doctors, make every appointment, take every test. I looked into home births, natural births, doulas, obsessed over the classes I needed to take and picking the right ones. 

I DID ALL THE THINGS. 

Especially with all the reports of maternal and fetal mortality rates and how preeclampsia was running rapid in the black community. I wanted to be protected, but more than anything I was scared  


But around September or October after already having a few emergency visits for monitoring, I started feeling more than scared, I started feeling uneasy and unheard. The doctor that I was seeing, who I had told my largest fear was having preeclampsia didn't seem to be listening to me. 

Discussing symptoms or answering questions seemed to constantly be put off, I was feeling unprepared, not confident and dismissed.  

In one appointment when discussing symptoms the doctor, instead of addressing what I mentioned questioned my mental health + anxiety and suggested I see a therapist for what she felt was an irrational fear of preeclampsia. An mentioned I was probably "going to give my self preeclampsia".

That was the final straw at 20 some odd weeks I complained to the hospital, fired my OBGYN, received the head of the department as my new doctor and started getting serious about getting a doula.


THREE WEEKS TO MY EMERGENCY DELIVERY


It took me a lot to bounce back from that, for those of you that suffer from anxiety or any mental health issue you know how unsettling it can be to have a plan or a routine change. 

Also how frustrating it is when people (especially medical professionals) push you concerns off on your anxiety or condition. I tried to settle in with my new doctor but I found it hard to trust her completely because of what had just happened. 

Over the next few weeks she gained my trust by tending to my every need, test request, email and all. I also settled on a doula. 

Leah...was probably a god sent.

I cant for the life of me even remember how we got connected but we did. 

Leah is the owner of Sweet Bee Services, she is a black (praise dance) full spectrum doula out Baltimore Maryland. We had an initial convo and I immediately felt safe and safe with her. She felt like a familiar friend and put me at ease. 

She is caring, knowledgeable, informative and a calm spirit. She not only cares about your health, but the babies and the well being of the couple. Papa Bean and had a virtual meeting with her and she helped us prepare a birth plan and covered numerous intervention options in case things were to go left. 

I finally started feeling better.

And then it happened.


MY BIRTH STORY


36 Week Appointment (26 days prior to my due date)

Papa bean and I went into my final ultrasound early on November 30th, things were looking great. The baby was head down and growing on track. 

Later that day, we were off to my 36 week appointment. Things were run of the mill, waiting for the doctor, urine sample and blood pressure monitored.

150's over 90's they took it again, 150's over 90's...one more time 150's over 90's still. Then they checked my urine, protein. They checked my weight, up 11 lbs in a week. 

My doctor came in and told me I was going to the hospital, that I had preeclampsia and that I wasn't leaving the hospital without a baby. She told me they would do everything they could to get me to 37 weeks but if my condition worsened there was nothing they could do but deliver.

My mind started racing, the nursery was not ready, we were supposed to take our birthing class that weekend, we had not taken any safety classes, i didn't have my hospital bag, this was too early and of course...my life and my child's life was in danger.

The one thing I didn't want to happen was happening...what did I do wrong?

Unfortunately the truth is I didn't do anything wrong, doctors still have not nailed down what causes preeclampsia, how to stop it from happening and to this day the only "cure" is delivery.

If you are pregnant PLEASE watch out for these warning signs:

-High blood pressure
-Protine in your urine
-Sudden weight gain
- Swelling (abnormal amounts in your face, around your eyes and in your hands
-Overactive reflexes
-Abdominal and back pain
-Headaches
-Vision changes

You can also find more information on the Preeclampsia Foundation website



I was devastated, I thought I had been through enough. 


Loosing 15 lbs at the start of pregnancy because I was so sick I could barely eat for months, having to give myself shots everyday because I had a history of blood clots....did this have to happen?!

The next few days was a waiting game that consisted of checking my blood pressure every 4-6 hours, checking my vision, monitoring for brain function changes etc.  I continued to swell and I barely moved because my bp would spike when I did and of course the baby was constantly being monitored.

I was miserable, I repeatedly asked to start the process but it was held off until I was 37 weeks.

After almost 6 days of waiting, the time had come. My labor was helped to be inducted with a foley bulb since I was still dead set on natural birth. After one failed attempt at getting it in by idiot med students, a REAL doctor got it set.

DO NOT GO TO A HOSPITAL THAT DOES TEACHING TO HAVE A BABY!

I laid for hours for it to work its magic....well into the next day i was only 6 cm. I was weak, I had not eaten (i couldn't in case they needed to do surgery), I was tired, I was over everything. 

They kept pushing me to use meds to soften my cervix, I kept denying. Specifically Misoprostol aka Cytotec. Which I had been given previously when I had an abortion (yea...ill write about that one day) 6 years prior...I wanted nothing to do with it. Hours pressed on. 

All the while Leah my doula was still by my side virtually-- checking in, letting me know my options, giving me the real meaning behind all they were saying and preparing me for things if they went south.


The doctors finally came in and suggested an Epidural and Pitocin citing that if things did not progress and my condition worsened a c section may be my only option. I agreed to the Pitocin and refused the Epidural knowing that it would increase my likelihood of slowing my labor, prevent me to labor in different positions and increase my risk of a c-section.

 A few short hours later my water was broken and I was in full blown labor. 

I told the doctors, they didn't believe me until they checked and could see the head. No one was ready alarms were sounded to get as much help in the room as possible for me and the baby. They had to ensure my blood pressure didn't get to a dangerous level and the baby made it out safely.

20 minuets (I assume) later Savannah was born, I labored and delivered in my hospital bed facing the wall on my knees with my arms draped across the head of the bed that was set up right.




Things after that was a blur.

I was stitched up, the baby was checked and the next thing you knew I was with her in the recovery wing. Doctors and nurses would come in and give us loads of information about the baby, about my blood pressure condition and about going home with a new born. I was still bleeding, still out of it, still tired, still not myself and my blood pressure was still uncontrolled. 

But with 3 rounds of blood pressure meds and a prescription in hand and the assurance that I was ok, we went home 2 days later.




4 DAYS POST DELIVERY


As I sat in the living room with my 4 day old, my boyfriend, my mom and sister eating dinner I started feeling hot, confused and dizzy...I knew I was about to pass out. 

I told them to take the baby and to call 911 as I took my blood pressure it was 170's over 100's.

Back to the hospital I went.

My blood pressure meds were not working and although I had delivered my baby I still had pre eclampsia progressing to eclampsia and they were worried about HELLP Syndrome. 

My labs were not right, I was still swollen, my blood pressure still out of control. They put a catheter in, put me on anti seizure meds and started testing other blood pressure medicine, things had to change and quick.

I couldn't get out of bed, could barely feed Savannah, the meds they had me on made it impossible for me to walk.


I thought I was dying...I saw papa bean holding Savannah preparing for the worst.

My doctors were honest about everything and the severity of my situation and did everything they could to keep me safe. 

4 days later thanks to the amazing work of a BLACK FEMALE doctor my condition was improving, I was on the RIGHT meds and I was ready to go home.

Alive.


5 MONTHS POST DELIVERY


Things have not been all rainbows and butterflies since then but I am still here, I still get to hold my daughter every day and I survived something that many black women and women in general do not.

I get to be here to tell you my story, in hopes that future mothers out there feel empowered enough to speak up when something does not feel right, or a doctor makes you uncomfortable. I want women of color to know the importance of hiring a doula like Leah of Sweet Bee Services so they will have someone knowledgeable about our struggles by their side to ensure things are not missed and can help them navigate the medical talk and bullshit.



I'm sharing my story so black mothers make it home to their children.

I often still wonder what would have happened had I never changed doctors, had Leah never came into my life, had I not gotten a black female doctor when I went to the hospital the second time.

It's horrifying.

For those that want to know, I was on blood pressure meds 3 times a day for 3 months and my blood pressure is now controlled.

Please ladies, share this with your friends. Advocate for yourself and remain informed.

If this can happen to someone as regular as me and as famous as Beyonce it can happen to anyone.

Until Next Time,
XO Deanna

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