Wednesday, February 8, 2012

It ain't no Cabbage Patch: Part 1

My two healthy children have wiped my memory nearly clean of the absolute train wreck that was their two separate births.

Both little darlings were born entirely too soon--by all standards. Lily was born at 29 weeks, 5 days. Chloe, at 31 weeks. Both were cheated out of ten weeks in the womb--ten cozy, cuddling weeks to grow big, develop strong lungs and you know, finish the whole gestational process like God intended.

Whenever I mention that I had two premmature births, inevidently, someone comments:

"They were just in a really big hurry to be born."


"Wow, so you just went into early labor. Lucky you! The last few weeks of pregnancy sucked."

or, my all-time favorite:

"How adorable! I loved preemie Cabbage Patch Kids!"

Let me tell you. Preemie-hood ain't no Cabbage Patch. And I would have sold a kidney to experience the last 10 weeks of pregnancy. And my babies, my babies were in no hurry to be born. I never went into labor, never even had a Braxton Hicks nor did I make it to a birthing class. There were no embarrassing scenes during which my water broke at the grocery store: my doctor broke my water during my emergency c-section, while I was hooked up an IV of magnesium sulfate and a blood pressure cuff squeezed my arm every bleeping minute to make sure I was not about to stroke-out or something.

I had preeclampsia, twice.

2 lbs 14 ounces. Lily was prepped for the ventilator seconds after birth.
And it nearly killed me. It nearly killed my daughters before they even had a chance to see my face. Preeclampsia has killed all future hopes at a large family--if we do decide to expand our family, we will adopt.

I like to consider myself a unique individual--but preeclampsia is not even remotely uncommon (about 5-8% of pregnancies are afflicted and if you ask a room full of mothers--my bet is one of them had PE). Preeclampsia is the leading cause of maternal and infant death globally (deaths are in the realm of hundreds of thousands). It can be mild or severe or anything in between. No one knows what causes it. And there is only one cure.

End the pregnancy. Deliver the baby.

Twice, I started my pregnancies in fantastic health. With Lily, I had just finished a year of running and had completed a half-marathon. With Chloe, I was an active yogini--teaching, training and practicing daily. When I began my first pregnancy, I did not have any of the traditional risk factors: no family history, no high blood pressure or diabetes and not one auto-immune disorder in sight.

But, somewhere between 28 weeks and 29 weeks, something went awry. I was swelling--what I thought was normal pregnancy swelling was not--I gained 50-60 pounds of water weight. I woke up the morning that Lily was born, March 13, 2006 and was nearly blind in one eye. It was fluid build up. At my OBGYN, my blood pressure was slightly elevated. Then a simple urine test revealed my kidneys were spilling protein.

A swollen face. Not my best.
Dr. Levine, who I do credit with saving my life and my child's, told me: Pack your bag. Get to the hospital. You will have a baby by the end of week.

There was no hesitation in his voice. Mike and I drove home. And for the first time in my life, I thought I was going to die.

My check-in blood pressure at the hospital was something like 190/100 and then a few minutes later skyrocketed to 210/100. Dr. Levine called and told me my c-section was scheduled for 10 p.m. It was 8 p.m.  I woke up that morning and suffered through a two-hour long conference call. I ate lunch at Baja Fresh. I had a long phone call with my best friend in Maryland.  I wrote text for a brochure about the prevention of blindness, while my own eyesight was in jeopardy.

I ignored all the alarms bells my body gave me.  I was young. I was healthy. I was invincible.

"It ain't no Cabbage Patch" is the first of a series of articles on preeclampsia, a life-threatening disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Preeclampsia and related disorders such as HELLP syndrome and eclampsia are most often characterized by a rapid rise in blood pressure that can lead to seizure, stroke, multiple organ failure and death of the mother and/or baby. 
Join me and my team LilCoCo at the May  12  Promise Walk to the benefit the Preeclampsia Foundation in Challenge Grove Park in Cherry Hill, NJ. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry that you endured such a traumatic experience during such a poignant moment for mom and baby. I hope many others read your story and become educated.
    Mary Ellen
    Founder, James's Project