I was diagnosed with HELLP at exactly 34 weeks. I had never heard of HELLP and needed it explained to me a few times (both before AND after my son was born), I think it took me 2 or 3 days postpartum to fully grasp how scary the situation really was."
"29 weeks: I started having regular (2-3 minutes apart) contractions (They didn't hurt, it was just Braxton hicks contractions-but since they were so close together it still worried my doc) and had to go to the hospital to receive a shot to stop them 3 different times--I don't think that is a sign of HELLP but it informs part of my thought process when my son was born.
33 weeks and 2 days: I was at work when I suddenly had sparkles in my vision that kept getting stronger until I couldn't see. At first I thought maybe I moved my head to fast and didn't realize it or maybe I was light headed. I sat down frozen unsure what to do. It passed after about a minute and a half. When I could see clearly I went to my boss' office and told her what happened. I called my OBGYN and she said I should go to urgent care. My friend came to pick me up (we were worried I would have another vision episode and be unable to see while driving!) and went straight there. The doctor was awful. He took some blood (but seemed to do it with an eye roll like it was a huge waste of his time). He concluded that I had a pregnancy migraine. It was no big deal. And I should just go home and take a nap. I would be fine.
33 weeks and 6 days: I saw my doctor for my regular check up. I had felt fine since my sparkle vision episode, but she wanted to draw blood just in case. I left the office feeling fine at about 5 pm.
Same day at about 9pm: I started to realize I was having Braxton Hicks contractions about 5 minutes apart.
11pm: I felt like I was getting really bad hunger pains. I tried to eat (I really thought it was bad hunger pains). The hunger pains didn't go away. So I ate again. Still there. I was trying to get ready for bed when I noticed the contractions were about 3 minutes apart now. I was tired and all I wanted to do was go to sleep, thinking the pains would be gone by morning. I tried to relax and go to sleep, but the pain in my stomach was getting too awful to sleep.
1am: Got out of bed, my contractions were 2 1/2 minutes apart at this point. I called my doctor's office. The on call doctor told me to go in and get checked out.
1:30am: I drove myself to the hospital (my son's father and I were not living together) because I didn't want to wake anyone up. When I was driving to the hospital I started to cry because the pain in my stomach hurt so much.
2am: I was checked in to the hospital and hooked up to a few monitors. The nurse concluded my blood pressure was way too high, but it was because I was in pain and "if I just calmed myself, it would go down." It did not. But she insisted I try to rest and turned on the hospital calming station (to this day when I hear/see one of those stations I get super anxious and annoyed). I was hooked up to a blood pressure machine that went on every ten minutes... how was I suppose to relax or get any sleep?? I couldn't.
34 weeks, 7am: A new nurse came in (she was wonderful!) and told me the doctor wanted to draw blood just to see if there was anything going on. About an hour later she came in and held my hand while she told me that I had to have my baby that day. I remember being confused and told her she was wrong. I was only 34 weeks, there is no way I need to have my baby, she must be confused. She went on to explain to me that I had HELLP Syndrome (and no matter how many times she told me what it meant I still don't think I fully understood for a few days). I had never heard of this, didn't see anything about it in any of my books, no friends I knew had something so strange sounding, nothing in any magazines or websites I frequently read. Nothing. They must be confused. That's what I kept telling myself.
7:30: The nurse explained to me that the day before at my doctor's appointment my platelet count had been at 180. The test they had just taken had come back at 110. Dropping so drastically overnight was not normal. My blood pressure and my stomach pain (liver pain) were due to HELLP.
8am: I finally called my son's father and told him he needed to get the day off of work because I was at the hospital and needed to have our son that day.
8:30am: I called my Mom. She was (almost) mad at me for not calling her when I went to the hospital even though it was the middle of the night, and she was in Minnesota (I was in California) and couldn't have done anything but sit up the rest of the night worried about me. Besides, when I went to the hospital I never in a million years thought I was going there to have my baby. I didn't even bring a bag! I didn't have one packed!
9am: They ran a few more tests, did an ultrasound, and attempted to dilate me because I really, really didn't want a C-section. But over and over again they told me that I would most likely end up with one.
10am: I started to panic over ridiculous things. I didn't have a name picked out, I didn't have a crib, a car seat, hadn't picked out baby bedding, I didn't finish a couple of the books I wanted to read. I can't have my baby today. I have too much to finish!
I dozed off and on for a few hours, at one point I woke up really hot and having drooled all over my son's father's hand (for some reason that memory sticks out!). I know they gave my a few different medications to make sure my son's lungs were developed, and a few other things... I was tired and a large portion of my afternoon is a haze in my memory.
One memory I do have is of me telling my son's father that if I died and our son lived (at that point they told me they thought he would be just fine--but I had a chance of dying) that I wanted him to go live with my brother and his wife. My son's father and I dated for 4 years, but I knew the minute I found out that I was pregnant that I would be a single mother. He wasn't ready for a kid and didn't want to be a father. I knew that and knew it wouldn't be changing any time soon. He made an effort to "be there for me" throughout my pregnancy, but still freaked out at the mention of an actual child. When I told him this I remember him telling me that he could do it. I was already emotional, and I was upset with him. He made it quite clear during my pregnancy that he wouldn't be involved in our son's life more than he had to. Yet, if I were to die... then he'd step up and be a Dad? I was angry. I told him No. That I wanted our son to live with my family. That's where my memory of that conversation ends. I have no idea if he finally agreed, and I've never wanted to ask him.
5:30pm: They came back with more blood test results (they had been taking them every hour). My platelets were down to 60. She told me if they dropped to 50 I would need a transfusion. They couldn't wait any longer, I had to have a C-section. I was scared. I really didn't want a C-section. The nurse and my OB came in to talk to me about how serious this was, that I was running out of time, etc... I was still wanting to wait. I didn't want a C-section.
6pm: An anesthesiologist came in to my room to talk to me. She had had three patients in her career with HELLP Syndrome. Two lived, one died. The one who died had waited it out. She wanted to dilate and have her baby vaginally. She did deliver her baby, but she died a few days later. I know there is more to it than waiting. But what hit me with her story was that someone died. At the time (I know better now) just hearing those words that someone who had the same condition as me died because of it was enough to click everything in to place. This was serious. I could die. My son could die or possibly have serious conditions because of being a preemie. I was immediately prepped for surgery and wheeled to the OR.
7:31pm: My son was born. They cleaned him up, showed him to me, then whisked him away to the NICU, I didn't get to hold him. I only got to see him for a moment before he was gone. That first image is still burned into my brain. I wouldn't see him for 12 hours after that one tiny glimpse."
I have short flashes of memory from that night. My parents were in my room talking to Alex (my son's Dad) about how to get to my apartment. I woke up and tried to give different directions (the fast way vs the easy way that Alex was explaining). They had moved on to a different topic but I woke up and finished giving my directions several times. At some point one of my best friends had come to the hospital and brought me a bag she packed for me (I had called her earlier that day with a small list of things). I remember feeling very itchy when I got the feelings bad in my legs and they gave me Benadryl--which made me even drowsier. I woke up at about 4am and they had me pump for a little while. And I remember them saying they had been drawing blood and monitoring if my platelets went back up--slowly they were.
7:30am (morning after birth): I was finally wheeled down to the NICU to hold my baby for the first time. My son was hooked up to a breathing machine, had a feeding tube, and various other devices for monitoring. I held him and I cried. He was 12 hours old and this was the first time I held him. I have since had friends who had babies, and my nieces who I held earlier in their life than my own son. I held him for a while, and finally they said I needed to go back and rest. They were still worried about me. At that point I felt very emotionally drained. I'd barely slept in the past 36 hours and all I wanted to do was snuggle my baby and cry."
"After that I was pumping every few hours (and told I had a lot of milk for a new mom), having my blood drawn, and being wheeled back and forth from my room to the NICU.
On day 2 when I was allowed to walk to the NICU I was finally feeling like I was getting back to normal. I was spending most of my day with my son, getting to hold him, wash him, change him etc. But he was still using the feeding tube and I was pumping my milk for me.
I was discharged from the hospital Sunday afternoon (he was born Wednesday night). The night before I left I remember crying because they told me I was leaving the next day. I cried because I was scared to leave without him. To not be down the hall from him every second. I didn't know if I could do it.
I did it. And I cried. I cried a lot. My parents were still in town, and they really helped me. They drove me back and forth from the hospital to my house all day long. I spent most of my days at the NICU, but was constantly reminded that I still had to take care of myself. They insisted I rest, make sure to eat enough, etc. It was hard because all I wanted to do was sit there with my son.
After a few days they started giving him bottles (with my pumped milk) and after a little over a week we were finally able to breast feed. I had heard so much about nipple confusion that I worried. I didn't need to. My kid latched on the first try and breast fed like a champ until he was 11 months old. "
When I left the hospital and was home without my baby, that was probably one of the roughest periods of my whole experience. Not being scared about my health, but going home and not bringing him with me. When you have a newborn you feel like they should be with you constantly, never out of your sight.
On the plus side, I was able to sleep through the night. What new mom gets to do that? At first, I woke up crying-wishing my son was with me, feeling like he should be. After 2 nights my doctor gave me something to help me sleep and I was able to sleep through the night. Waking up, feeling refreshed and ready to go back to the hospital to spend the day with my son.
After we left the hospital, the next year was filled with checkups, calculating milestones with his "adjusted" age (which I didn't need to do for long--he kept up with his birthday well), and a few special doctors (like an eye doctor for babies) just to make sure everything was OK (it was)."
"My son is now 5 1/2, about to start kindergarten, plays hockey, baseball and is an energetic, smart, funny, amazing kid. After his first year check up his doctor told me you'd never have known he was a preemie. He was thriving right from the start.
I had the world's easiest pregnancy from the start; never had morning sickness, none of the embarrassing pregnancy symptoms (gas, hemorrhoids, etc), I did gain 40 pounds-but most of it was belly and boobs, and I wasn't tired or moody. I laugh now that my super easy pregnancy more than made up for it with the last day!
Part of me is scared about every having another baby. I'm worried if it happens again it will be earlier and worse. I don't think this will stop me from every having another baby when the time is right, but it is a thought in the back of my mind."
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