HELLP Syndrome Ruined My Birth Plan

by Nikki
Originally Published: 

My birth story is not beautiful, warm and fuzzy, or humorous in any way. But I choose to share my story to raise awareness about a rare but oh-so-serious pregnancy complication, and to remind you to not take yourself so seriously. Here we go…

You can start rolling your eyes now; my pregnancy was a dream. I blissfully waddled through eight months of long naps on Saturdays, a husband who let me rest to my heart’s content (although he did refuse to rub my feet once. He will never live that one down), tons of ice cream, uneventful doctor appointments with the same questions over and over, a normal amount of weight gain… blah, blah, blah.

I started feeling a little sick around 35 weeks. It lasted the whole week while my husband was out of town on a business trip. He called me on his way home and I dramatically begged for Ginger Ale and saltines. I nibbled on food here and there for a week, but couldn’t keep anything substantial down. Eventually it got bad enough that I decided to call my doctor.

Fast forward a few days…Shit just got real. My doctor is pacing back and forth in the hospital, demanding an OR while she gently tells me I have mere hours to live if this baby doesn’t come out NOW. I don’t remember much of this, as I was fading in and out of consciousness. I would have to go under general anesthesia for an emergency C-section, and my husband could not be in the room with me as our first child came into this world. So wait. You mean to tell me I can’t be awake to experience this life changing moment AND my hubs can’t be there to hear our little guy scream for the first time? Get out of town. Can I get my money back on that labor and delivery class I took??

I woke up in intensive care with machines beeping, tubes everywhere, and not a clue that I had baby somewhere other than in my belly. My husband slept on a chair next to my bed for days, did skin to skin with our little guy, made sure he was fed, and fielded millions of calls and texts from worried family members. They were allowed to visit for a very short time, so it was now his job to corral them way from my bed to save them from the grim sight of my intense medical needs and my hair that hadn’t been washed in days.

The baby, you ask? He was in pretty good shape for being a month early, but developed pneumonia and had to spend a week in the NICU. Now he’s a happy, healthy, rosy-cheeked, teething five month old.

As for momma, the recovery continues. The cause of all the chaos was something called HELLP Syndrome, with a side of kidney and liver failure (the organs throwing in the towel doesn’t happen in all cases). Most people have never heard of it because it’s one of those chapters in the way back of the book under “serious complications” that every pregnant woman chooses not to read. Why would you subject yourself to that misery? Reading about how me AND my baby could die?? Pass. Unfortunately, it does happen and nobody chooses to talk about it.

Eventually I broke out of the ICU and got to hang in my own room for 8 more days. I wanted to punch the nurse when she said to me, “Did you know there’s a patio outside?” This was after day 6 of breathing hospital air in the SUMMER. I live in Minnesota people. Every second of summer counts.

Sure, I didn’t have a great birth experience. I don’t remember holding my son for the first time. I didn’t have the opportunity to feed him his first meal, or be the first person to snuggle him. I couldn’t reach for him in the middle of the night because that damn surgery left me all but crippled.

But do you know what I DO have? I have a healthy baby. I have an extremely dedicated and supportive partner (who, by the way, is forgiven for not rubbing my feet). I have a doctor who hugs me when she walks in the room and asks me to bring pictures of my son. I have an amazing body that is recovering pretty well from a shitty card it was dealt. And that little 6 lb fighter that proved to us he is tough as nails? He has his mommy.

Moms-to-be: Don’t get your heart set on that “birth plan”. Instead, be prepared to throw it out the window and roll with the punches of this wonderful experience we like to call motherhood. At the end of the day, you are somebody’s mommy; regardless of how your child came into this world.

Related baby: Leaving My Heart in the NICU

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