I Had HELLP Syndrome And It Nearly Destroyed My Birth Experience

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.

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, which he’ll never live 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, and shit got real.

All I remember as I faded in and out of consciousness in the hospital was my doctor pacing back and forth, demanding an OR while she gently told me I’d have mere hours to live if this baby didn’t come out now. 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 a 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 away 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).

As for the baby? 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 very 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. And I couldn’t reach for him in the middle of the night, because that damn surgery left me all but immobile.

Nora Carol Photography/Getty

But do you know what I DO have?

I have a healthy baby.

An extremely dedicated and supportive partner (who, by the way, is forgiven for not rubbing my feet).

A doctor who hugs me when she walks in the room and asks me to bring pictures of my son.

An amazing body that is recovering pretty well from the shitty card it was dealt.

And that little 6-pound 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.

We are Scary Mommies, millions of unique women, united by motherhood. We are scary, and we are proud. But Scary Mommies are more than “just” mothers; we are partners (and ex-partners,) daughters, sisters, friends… and we need a space to talk about things other than the kids. So check out our Scary Mommy It’s Personal Facebook page. And if your kids are out of diapers and daycare, our Scary Mommy Tweens & Teens Facebook pageis here to help parents survive the tween and teen years (aka, the scariest of them all.)

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