When I woke up on Sunday, October 10th, I was really not feeling great (just 12 hours after taking 3rd trimester pictures). It wasn't so much that I was nauseous, but my shoulder was KILLING ME. I played softball growing up, and the only thing I could compare it to was the soreness and pain that you feel after pitching a complete tournament weekend. I complained quite a bit that morning, but just assumed that when you are 36 weeks pregnant, everything hurts. We got dressed and loaded Tucker up and went to my parents house and then to church. Tucker always spends the day at my parents house on Sundays. He looks forward to Sunday morning all week. I didn't want him to miss his play day just because I was feeling bad. After church, the teens were having a lunch fundraiser, so we ate lunch at church and even though we usually hang out at my parents all day, we decided to go home to finish getting everything ready. I wanted to be prepared in case we had to make another hospital run. The church was having a special group coming to sing that night, so I told my dad we would be back after we got things organized. When we got home, we got everything ready to go to the hospital. The car seat had been installed at the police department the week before (actually the day we went to triage for my "gushing" incident), the bags were packed and loaded in the car, the camera was charged and ready to go. Bottles were washed and dried, little baby clothes were hung, diapers were in the caddy ready for use. We were officially ready to have a baby.
As the day went on, my shoulder was hurting more and more. By the time we were supposed to leave to go back to church, I was really just not up to it. I called my dad and told him I was feeling worse and was just going to stay home and attempt to relax. Tanner made dinner and put on a movie (Sherlock Holmes). We lounged around and actually watched an entire movie together - a rarity in our house, I am usually all over the place. By this time I am really hurting and now the pain that was in my shoulder was also up my neck and my head was pounding. Tanner put a heating pad on my shoulder/neck area and tried to massage it out, I laid on the floor trying to stretch. Nothing was helping.
This is where things go a little hazy. I have bits and flashes of memory, but most of this is what Tanner told me after I recovered.
We went to bed early that night. A few weeks earlier, Tanner and my brother in law pulled a recliner into the bedroom for me to sleep in - I could not lay down flat and breathe - little man was quite heavy on my lungs! But I still could not find anyway to get comfortable this particular night. Around 11:00 pm Tanner ran a bath and I soaked for a while. It helped some, but I was still in a lot of pain. He called a nurse friend of mine and she suggested taking some Pepto in case I had heartburn (which I had some of late in pregnancy). I took the medicine and told Tanner to get some sleep - I would just read my book (Shopaholic and Baby) until I could fall asleep. Well, Tanner drifted off for about 30 minutes and at some point I had moved into the living room on the couch trying to get comfortable. It didn't work. Around midnight Tanner woke up looking for me and found me in the middle of the living room floor on all fours struggling to get a deep breath. He rushed over to me and helped me up while calling my nurse friend. She said it definately sounds like I am in labor and we needed to get to the hospital.
The ride to the hospital was crazy. I have two memories of this ride - one where Tanner is trying to get me to breathe and one where he is running a red light. He told me later that he was going 80 in Betton. People who know where Betton is, know that is a big no no! I was in the most pain I have ever experienced. Luckily, we made it to the hospital alive and without getting pulled over (I am pretty sure they would have let us go!). Tanner was much more composed this time. He calmly called my dad/mom and my sister/brother in law. He told them what was going on and that we would call as soon as we knew something. (I had made it VERY clear that I wanted just those people in the room with me before delivery and that during delivery I would need Tanner, mom, and sister.) I have a few memories from going into triage - I know I had on one of Tanner's shirts and sweats and that I leaned over the desk and said I am 36 weeks pregnant and I don't know what's wrong. Clearly the desk staff believed me, because I was rushed straight back and a nurse was waiting on us. They did the standard procedure of checking my blood pressure and hooking me up to the monitors.
The nurse checks my blood pressure very calmly and then a look of fear is instantly on her face. She asks Tanner if I have had high blood pressure before and we both quickly say no - never. She then takes my blood pressure on both arms about 5 times. Then she brings another nurse in the room and they quickly insert an IV. I am not sure what Tanner was told, but the next thing I know, I am in L&D hooked up to the monitors with a nurse at my side. My blood pressure was around 170/110. All I wanted was ice (the hospital has amazing ice). I have no idea how many cups of ice I ate, but it was a lot. I was not in the room long before Dr. P came in to explain what was happening. She is an amazing doctor who I will forever admire for diagnosing me quickly and taking steps to protect me and our baby - without terrifying us.
I was told I had HELLP Syndrome.
HELLP syndrome is a life-threatening obstetric complication usually considered to be a variant of pre-eclampsia. Both conditions usually occur during the later stages of pregnancy, or sometimes after childbirth.
HELLP is an abbreviation of the main findings:
Treatment The only effective treatment is prompt delivery of the baby.
I had never heard of this before, and at the time was not aware (or capable of understanding) what it actually is or the dangers. I had no earlier signs (except leg swelling - but what pregnant person doesn't have that?) and no inclination that I would get so sick so fast. Dr. P immediately hooked my IV up to Magnesium Sulfate. This was to prevent seizures and eclampsia. The nurse and Dr. P explained that this medicine would make me feel like I was "hit by a truck", complete with flu-like symptoms and that I would get VERY hot. She explained that the only way to save my life and start the reverse process on the HELLP was to deliver the baby. She explained that my body was attacking the placenta and it had to be removed before I got worse. Thankfully, our baby was living happily and was under no distress. She mentioned that I might be able to be induced, but a c-section would be probable. Neither one of these sounded good to me since I wanted no medical interference, but I guess when you are hooked up to Mag, that dream is sort of shot.
Clearly NO idea what's happening - Still smiling!
As soon as she mentioned getting the baby out, Tanner was on the phone and with lightening speed my mom and sister were at my side - at 5:00 in the morning (not to mention that my sister - who is a teacher - had already rushed to her classroom to get it ready for a substitute). Tanner failed to mention that the room might be freezing since the Mag was making me beyond hot, so my poor cold natured sister was acting like she was naked in the North Pole waters. Everything is hazy, but I know my dad was there at some point, but left to tie up some loose ends since we thought I would be induced and it would be a long process. My brother in law came and sat with Tanner - he is very hot natured so he was in heaven with the room being 40 degrees. Someone put a movie on, my sister had great fun taking pictures of my behind when I would waddle in to the bathroom, my mom was organizing the L&D room.
Dr. D (my regular OB) came in around 7:00 am and I will never forget the look on his face. My dreams (along with his) of a natural delivery (the baby was in perfect position and I was just stubborn enough to make it without drugs) were gone. He explained that he had met with Dr. P and after monitoring my condition further, I would not be able to make it any other way than a c-section. He talked with me for a while, then went on to his rounds - promising to be there at delivery. After he left, a nurse came in and took some blood to test my levels. The results came back to show that my liver enzymes were way up and my blood platelets were already down to 95. Well, just for future reference - my shoulder/neck was hurting so bad because that was actually my liver failing. Who knew that is where it would hurt.
Around 10:00 am Dr. F, who was now on call - relieving Dr. P, came in to go over my options. I had met with him several times at the OB office and was very comfortable and confident with his knowledge. I know he had to give me both options, but he made it very clear which I should go with. Option 1 - have a c-section and safely deliver the baby. He explained that since I was 36 weeks, that our baby might need to be in NICU for a little while to finish developing. Option 2 - he could induce me, I would have a long, painful labor that would probably still end in a c-section since my organs were failing and I would be too weak. Also, by that point my blood platelets will have dropped so low that I might bleed out on the table.
Clearly we went with Option 1. So, with my approval he got things rolling for a c-section. Within minutes I was speaking with all sorts of people - apparently they were waiting at the door. The anesthesiologist came in to explain the epidural - she pulled my file and laughed as she said..."So, you want a natural childbirth?" I couldn't help but laugh at that point. Here I am, hooked up to Mag for like 6 hours now and about to get a Duramorph spinal epidural. I guess I was also a little more relaxed because I wasn't all there - it was like I was just living in slow motion and couldn't control or understand anything. My mom quickly got my dad on the phone and said he needed to rush to the hospital because plans had changed and I would be going in any minute to deliver. He was there in record time. I knew I could not get through this time in my life without those 5 people there with me. I had an amazing nurse - who stayed by me all day - that helped me get ready for my c-section. She apparently even put a little cap over my hair (which was not looking as good as originally planned). I say apparently because by this point I am really out of it and had no idea what was happening - luckily I have an amazing family who documented it all with pictures. I have pictures with everyone before leaving for surgery - my last shots being pregnant.
There was some concern - which is why everyone was moving SO quickly - with my blood platelet count. Medical people do not like to do anything - especially an epidural - if your count is below 100. I was already at 95 and dropping fast. They were worried about the effectiveness of the epidural and also about how much blood I would lose on the table. If the epidural did not work they would have to put me out - something I knew I did not want. I wanted to see, hear, and be present at the birth of my baby. Next thing I know I am on the table getting the epidural (everyone was quite excited when it worked), then I am laying on the table, then asking where Tanner is, then Tanner is there. Spotty - I know. I remember the most random things from surgery - Dr. D commenting on how I have "rock hard abs". How can you have these alleged rock hard abs 36 weeks pregnant? Dr. F and a nurse talking about how tan my belly is. Realizing (a little late) we have no camera - something I am still upset about, but I know we were a little distracted. Then, the best moment of my life - I heard his cry.
5 pounds 14.7 ounces
Monday, October 11th at 11:04 am
Born at 36 weeks and 5 days
Born at 36 weeks and 5 days
The nurses held him up to my face so I could get in all the love I could before he was taken to be worked on and cleaned up. Tanner was able to cut the cord - a moment that meant so much to him. Then, like we had discussed before, Tanner left with him (after making sure I was okay). He was ran to NICU 3 - Fisher was a premie in respiratory distress. Tanner was able to be with him for a little while, but was asked to leave to check on me when it was time to get down to business with Fisher. Meanwhile, I am still on the table being stitched up. Again with remembering the random moments - Dr. D had just sold his boat. Dr. F was going on a quail shoot. My anesthesiologist's daughter was having boyfriend troubles. I was apparently very engaged in this conversation.
Somehow, I ended up in the recovery room - with my amazing nurse. This is when it gets worse. I started throwing up (luckily the nurse had given me a barf bag). Can you imagine throwing up right after your stomach was completely cut open? I was horribly sick from the HELLP, the medicine, losing double the blood, and from just having my first surgery. Trying to lighten the mood - amazing nurse asked me if I had eaten green beans for dinner. : ) Shortly after, Tanner arrives in the recovery room and is holding my hand. He is telling me how amazing our little boy is and how great I am doing when I decide it's a great time to start throwing up again. The pain was out of control. When I finally pulled myself together, I am wheeled back into the L&D room. They told me I would be spending the night in L&D so I could be monitored more closely. With HELLP syndrome, it actually gets worse before it can get better - even after delivering the baby.
When I get back in L&D I am in and out of consciousness. No clue what is happening. Apparently, anyone can get back into L&D so I had some visitors. I don't really remember who was there, but I was told some people came. All I knew or cared about was that I had my family. My hubby, mom/dad, sister/brother in law. I knew Fisher was in NICU, but the seriousness of that had not sunk in yet. Dr. F and Dr. D came in with some nurses and explained my situation a little more to my family. It was a lot more serious than was let on before I went in for delivery (thank goodness we didn't know how bad it was before the c-section). They prepared us for the possibility that I would require a blood transfusion. My family had a small glimpse of what was happening to me. Tanner was hit hard by the inability to help me.
Then, Pediatrician Dr. P comes in from NICU to explain what is happening with Fisher. (I am still out of it at this point and was just laying there asleep/passed out, so Tanner was left to deal with everything - thank God for a supportive family) Fisher was born premature and was in respiratory distress - his lungs were not fully developed and the HELLP came on so suddenly that there was no time to inject steroids. From the original evaluation, he was in very bad shape. Dr. P thought he might also require a blood transfusion and would be in NICU for weeks on end. Needless to say, when Dr. P left, Tanner had a breakdown. I can't imagine his situation - sitting there holding your wife's hand after just finding out she has a life threatening illness that will get worse before getting better, and then hearing that your son is in critical condition.
Somehow - peace that passes all understanding - we made it through the evening and night. I did feel quite bad and threw up several more times. Once Fisher was stabilized, Tanner went to visit quite a bit. While in NICU, in addition to the parents, only 4 people are allowed to be on the security list to visit him. We allowed this to be the 4 grandparents - only 2 were allowed in a one time. The nurses had to come in every few hours to give me more medicine and to help my uterus contract back down. If you have not had this done - they basically punch you in the gut and spin. Horrible.
Our perfectly beautiful baby boy
This is all I really remember from that day - Fisher's birthday. I have no idea what is going on and I have no idea what is ahead to deal with. Looking back, I understand (not feel, but know) that not knowing was a blessing. I could not have handled the grief or the gravity of the situation at that particular time.