As I have mentioned in previous posts, the last few weeks of pregnancy were not fun for me. I was wildly uncomfortable and full of anxious nerves. Each day seemed to last a week and I felt like I was trapped in my own body with symptoms getting more uncomfortable by the day. And to my poor husband, I apologize. I know I was not pleasant to be around.
Around week 36 of my pregnancy, I started having what I called “vision spells,” where out of nowhere I would start seeing stars or “auras” and lose almost all vision in one eye and only be able to see out of my peripheral in the other. It would last about 20-30 minutes and then dissipate. The first time it happened, we were at the Olive Garden—leave me alone, I had a craving for breadsticks—and I couldn’t read the menu. I was trying not to freak out and cause a scene amongst the crowd enjoying their unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks, but I was truly frightened.
Visual disturbances are a symptom of preeclampsia—a serious pregnancy complication that affects roughly 5% of pregnancies, that is often characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine, that if left untreated can lead to very serious and even fatal complications to both mom and baby. Other symptoms of preeclampsia include swelling, headache, nausea and shortness of breath, which to be honest are all symptoms of a normal pregnancy too, so don’t freak out mamas. When I saw my doctor for my 36-week checkup, I talked to her about the scary visual disturbance that had happened, and just as I began to talk about it, it happened again. Right there in her office… I mean, that never happens! (You know… Like when you’re driving around for months with a check engine light on, but as you pull into the dealership it turns off?) I started crying—the usual at that point in pregnancy—but honestly, I was really freaked out. I mean, I was having temporary bouts of blindness, that’s scary AF.
I did not have high blood pressure or protein in my urine to indicate preeclampsia, so they sent me to the lab to see if there was anything else going on with my bloodwork that could make sense of the vision spells I was having. The bloodwork showed that my blood platelets were low. They weren’t low enough to worry at that point, but they wanted to check again in a few days to monitor. Blood platelets are what helps blood in the body clot, which is very important during childbirth, because, well, there is so. much. blood. during childbirth. I had bloodwork done 2 more times before my 37-week appointment and continued to have the visual disturbances off and on every day or so. I had also stopped driving at that point because the visual issues happened randomly and without warning.
On the morning of my 37-week checkup, I still had no typical signs of preeclampsia (high BP + protein in urine) but my doctor ordered a rush panel as my platelets had continued to drop over that week, and she wanted to test one more time. She explained to me that she would call as soon as the panels came back, but if my blood platelets had dropped again, it would be cause for induction.
Now, as much as I did not want to be pregnant anymore, this was frightening. Pregnancy is considered full term at 37 weeks, but I did not see this one coming. I was sure I’d be an overdue mama. I called my husband at work and told him what had transpired at the appointment, but told him not to worry, and that I was pretty sure if I were to get induced, it would probably be scheduled for later in the week. When the doctor called a few hours later, she informed me that she didn’t like what she was seeing, that my platelets had continued to drop, and now my liver levels were elevated as well. She then said she felt it was time to end the pregnancy.
The phrase “end the pregnancy” hit me like a ton of bricks, well, it was more like I ran into a brick wall and got slapped into reality real quick.
With a shaky voice, I asked, “Okay, when?”
Her response, “Now. I’ve already sent your charts over and spoken to the doctor on call. They’re waiting for you. You’ll be induced tonight. You’re in good hands.”
Even though she delivered that news calmly and in the most reassuring way, it left me trembling.
She explained that although I don’t have the typical symptoms of preeclampsia, sometimes it presents itself in strange ways. She classified it as “atypical preeclampsia” which is typical of me to get a rare pregnancy complication and then make it even more rare by not even getting the standard, run-of-the mill preeclampsia.
Suddenly, I wasn’t allowed to whine about being uncomfortable and pregnant anymore. My placenta previa-turned low-lying placenta seemed like the most minor of issues, even though just a month or so prior it had me very worried. If I would have known this would have transpired the night before, I might have laid off the theatrics of sobbing for an hour after I realized I had lost a button to my duvet cover. (Pregnancy hormones and nerves will really make ya loco, y’all). But I felt guilty. Like I had somehow willed the universe into giving me a scary complication so that I could have the baby sooner, and now we were both at risk. It was a real “be careful what you wish for” moment for me.
I had now been slapped with a scary diagnosis and it was go-time, I didn’t have too much time to think about it honestly. I called my husband and let him know he needed to get home ASAP. Luckily, we had packed our hospital bags two weeks prior so we were ready to go, but we hadn’t put the car seat in yet as it had been snowing non-stop. He rushed home, and with the help of YouTube got the car seat installed, grabbed our bags and we headed to the hospital. We began calling and texting friends and family to let them know what was going on and shortly after we arrived, we were admitted. To be honest, even though I was shaking violently, I was oddly calm. I knew I had a job to do, and that the best treatment for preeclampsia was delivery of the baby. I knew we were in good hands and we were going to meet our little boy soon. This wasn’t at all how I had expected things to go, but pregnancy is weird like that. It was very surreal that what had started as a routine 37-week prenatal appointment landed me in the hospital, but there we were.
As I got changed into what would be the backless gown I’d wear for the next three days, I couldn’t help but notice my husband pacing around the room. We were going to be parents soon. This was it. This was how our story started and how my pregnancy ended. No dramatic water breaking in public, rush to the hospital story. No middle of the night “I think I’m in labor” moment. My labor would be started artificially, here in this room, by a doctor I was about to get to know very well.
I watched the monitor that was tracking the baby’s heartbeat as I waited for the doctor to come and begin the induction. I listened to the beeping of the machine and looked away winching as the nurse placed the IV in my arm. My phone buzzed with text after text, call after call from family and friends sending their “you got this” messages and well wishes. When the doctor walked in with a full cart of medical devices, I knew this would be the moment that started it all, my life was about to change forever.