First off, for all you mothers that are (like I was) laying in a hospital bed hooked up to Magnesium Sulfate, missing your baby, and terrified of what is going to happen next, googling this illness you know nothing about, I want you to know that you WILL be ok. This will pass and life will be normal again.
As I mentioned in Tucker’s Birth Story, I was diagnosed with Postpartum Preeclampsia 4 days after giving birth. I wanted to write about this for two reasons. First, there is not enough awareness about what this is and what the symptoms/signs are. If it’s not treated the outcomes could be very grim so it is important that women know what to look for. Second, when I needed to know that what I was going through was only temporary, I couldn’t find the reassurance I needed out there. Having Preeclampsia postpartum is very rare, so personal stories are hard to find. Here is mine…
I came home from the hospital with Tucker on Friday feeling really great. With my first pregnancy I had Preeclampsia and we discovered it at about 37 weeks. This time I went through my pregnancy with no signs and I was so relieved. My healing process was going great so far. On the following Sunday I was particularly active. I took Tucker and Lucy on a long walk, where I ended up carrying her on my hip most of the time – you guys know how that is. Then, I took Lucy to the playground where we played on the slides and merry-go-round. My mom arrived that afternoon at about 2:00. I had been having a pretty bad headache all day and felt pretty foggy, but just chalked it up to lack of sleep and the heat outside. I kept taking my 800mg Ibuprofen that was prescribed through out the day. I guess I kept mentioning my headache enough that eventually at around 11:00pm my mom said “you’ve been taking ibuprofen all day and if that is not helping with your headache, there might be more going on.” So per her suggestion, I took my blood pressure with a cuff we have at home and it read something like 160/100. I called the OBGYN on-call and she directed me to come into the hospital. I was not worried yet. I assumed they were just going to give me a blood pressure pill and send me home.
Matt stayed home with the kids and Mom drove me to the emergency room. They were expecting us and immediately checked me in. At this point I believe my blood pressure was around 180/110. A nurse came in and was very tight lipped. She turned off all the lights in the room, inserted and IV, and started taking some blood for analysis. At this point the staff knew what was going on, but I had no idea. I assume they weren’t telling me too much so that I wouldn’t get nervous and increase my blood pressure even more. The doctor finally came in and informed me that they were treating me for postpartum Preeclampsia, which I didn’t even know existed. They had checked my reflexes earlier, which were REALLY responsive. I thought that was a good thing, but apparently that meant I was in danger of seizing. The high blood pressure was really a symptom of the Eclampsia, which is seizing. I was in total shock.
The doctor also told me they had to hook me up to Magnesium Sulfate through my IV for at least 24 hours and that I would “not feel great” while on it, so they would need to put in a catheter. I didn’t understand. How bad was I going to feel if I can’t even walk to the bathroom. Well, I soon found out that you don’t just “not feel great” on Magnesium Sulfate, you feel absolutely terrible in pretty much every way imaginable. It is supposed to numb your neurological system so that you can’t seize. I think if I would have known how bad it was going to feel and that it was 100% normal ahead of time, I would have handled it better. For anyone that is going through it, just know you will feel terrible. It will be impossible to move very much at all and your vision is going to get really blurry. This is all totally normal and is a sign that the medicine is working. It will be terrible, but it will literally save your life.
I stayed on the medication for the 24 hours and by the end was begging them take me off of it. It’s so strange to think that this medicine is helping you when it makes you feel so terrible. Your mind goes to the absolute worst. I was terrified about not ever being able to come home and be with Tuck and Lucy and leaving Matt to take care of them on his own. With a lot of help from my sweet husband, I continued to use my breast pump while in the hospital. Every time I pumped, I thought how sad it would be if I didn’t make it out of this and my family still had to give this milk to Tucker after I was gone. I know that probably sounds so crazy (it does to me now). There are just so many emotions running through you because you are not only scared and exhausted, but you are also full of postpartum hormones. Just know that this is OK, you will go home, and things will be normal again.
So that is how they treat postpartum Preeclampsia, It’s a total mind freak because what is helping you makes you feel like things are getting worse. I also think it’s important to talk about life after you get home. I really struggled with this. I constantly had thoughts of…is this going to come back, will I have a seizure, will I have a stroke. It was terrifying. I was nervous to even hold Tucker in case I had a seizure and dropped him. I was terrified to go to sleep in case I had a stroke in the night and just never woke up. If I felt a slight headache or saw any swelling in my hands or feet, I would melt down. It was just an awful time and honestly the only thing that helped was time. Every night I would go to sleep and wake up the next morning feeling a little less scared. My blood pressure remained high until this week actually (6 weeks postpartum).
If you have feelings like I did it’s really tough and no one around you totally gets it. I think everyone that loves you just wants to think “you were treated, you are all better, and everything will be fine” because they don’t want to imagine the worst. And honestly, they are probably 100% correct, but it’s natural to have some lingering fears. Again, just know they will go away and it will be a faint memory soon enough.
If I could take away one positive from this situation it is that it made me more appreciative of everything. I was so thankful to be home with Lucy, Tucker, and Matt that nothing phased me. I didn’t mind being up at all hours of the night, Lucy throwing a temper tantrum over something silly, Tucker wanting to be held all the time…it all was now put into perspective. I think I have been a better mom since going through this and that is a huge blessing.
I hope this is helpful for someone. I actually go in for my 6 week check up today. I feel confident and like my old self again. If anyone has any questions or just needs someone to share with, please write in the comments. Also, I am no expert on this, so check out the Preeclampsia Foundation’s website for more information.