My husband and I fell pregnant with our first daughter on our honeymoon which we were both stoked about. My pregnancy progressed with no issue until around the 25week mark where I started noticing swelling in my hands and face. Mild at first but as we progressed it became more and more pronounced until I wasn’t looking like myself anymore. Around 30weeks, I started vomiting and was experiencing sharp pains in my upper right quadrant. I kept bringing it up with my obstetrician however was told that the last trimester of pregnancy isn’t always comfortable and it was probably reflux.
At 32 weeks we had a scan where we were told my baby was “on the small side”. Again I bought this up with my obstetrician who dismissed it stating she would be fine. Finally at 35weeks and 6days my husband attended the obs appointment with me where again we were told the pregnancy was progressing normally….despite my being in extreme pain and vomiting every day. We went home from the appointment and I cried and cried knowing I had at least another three weeks and feeling I wouldn’t make it. My husband had had enough at this point and took me to hospital to at least get some fluid into me (I wasn’t keeping water down at that stage).
When we presented at hospital, I was severely swollen, in excruciating pain and very upset. The nurse, then obs then anesthetist all tried to take blood but couldn’t get a line due to the severity of my swelling so finally a sonogram was used. Once the results were received everything kicked off, I was diagnosed with preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome and I was informed that my liver was breaking down, my kidneys were beginning to fail and my blood pressure was through the roof. I was informed later that my body was recognizing the placenta as foreign and therefore was trying to eject it, I was in organ rejection. Because of this, the placenta and therefore the baby had to come out immediately.
I was rushed into emergency caesarean where Willamina Anne was born at a mere 1.7kgs….the gestational size of a 31 week old. Mercifully she was breathing well but because of her low birth weight, was taken straight to the special care unit. I was taken straight through to Intensive Care where I was kept for 72hours. During this time, I was pinned to the bed with machines to coax the 20kgs of fluid from my body and treated with medication to kick start my vital organs. To say that it was a shock is an understatement (they even lost a patient next to me on the second night, all I could think of was “how did I end up here?!? I was just having a baby, people do this everyday!”).
Once discharged from ICU, I was taken back to the maternity wards. All my husband wanted was for Willa and I to be together so he took me straight down to meet her in the nursery. I felt strangely detached, like she wasn’t mine and unbelievably, that I didn’t want to be there. Looking back on it now, this reaction was self preservation, I was still very weak from what I had been through and the thought of caring for another was too much to handle. On the second night in the maternity ward, I had a massive panic attack. I felt like I had almost died!! I was hysterical. Luckily there was a great midwife on duty that night who spoke with me for what felt like hours to calm me down.
From there it was an incredibly rocky road, nothing like what I had been lead to believe. Physically, I slowly recovered as did Willa. I left hospital 9days after giving birth and Willa left 21days after. Bonding was difficult and almost forced. Everyone kept saying “isn’t it wonderful” and all I could think of was no. Breastfeeding was difficult due to the fact that no doubt my supply was low due to being sick and her being so little and not having the energy to feed properly.
Finally, after our pediatrician gave Willa the all clear at 4 months, and I promptly fell apart. I was diagnosed with PTSD and the relief was palpable. This is why I felt anxious, why I was finding bonding with my baby forced and why I couldn’t stop crying. Once I had a diagnosis, I threw myself into healing myself mentally. I sought help from professionals and surrounded myself with understanding people. I stopped breastfeeding as it was a terrible strain on both Willa and myself. From there things started to look up and gradually I bonded with my baby, healed myself emotionally, forgave myself for what my body had done and moved forward. It was an incredibly difficult process but now she is 2, both she and I are physically and mentally well and our bond is incredibly strong.
We have also just had our second little girl after a healthy pregnancy and planned caesarean and I have to say, whole process has been a very healing one. My body did what it “should have”, my (new) obstetrician supported my decision to have an elective caesarean (although a lot of people still had issue with it) and we are both healthy and bonding well. It couldn’t be more different from the first time.
So for anyone out there who is in the thick of it and thinking they won’t survive, you will. Being on this website is a great start. Get help, surround yourself with good supporting people and you will get back to feeling yourself again, promise.