I can’t see a white light, but I know I am about to die.
It’s Friday night. I am lying in a hospital bed in the intensive care unit after giving birth to my twins, at 35 weeks and 3 days. My blood pressure is 240 over 120, and my whole body is shaking. I have lost control of my muscles, and I can’t speak when the doctor asks me if I can hear him. Three other doctors rush into the room and stick a second IV in my other arm. I am now being pumped with drugs in a desperate attempt to reduce my blood pressure, which is out of control. I can’t see a white light, but I know I am about to die.
Rewind eight months. My husband and I were trying to get pregnant. We had a beautiful 1 ½-year-old daughter, and we wanted her to have a brother or sister. I took a pregnancy test, and it was positive. We did 10 more (as you do), and when we finally had our first scan, the technician said: “Congratulations are due,” and then added, “How many congratulations would you like?”
We both replied almost in unison: “One!”
“Well, it’s two as far as I can tell,” he said.
I burst into manic laughter, and my husband just stood there in total shock. After a few moments of silence, he said very matter of factly, “I need to get a second job.”
I won’t bore you with details of the pregnancy, but let’s just say that having twins inside you is no piece of cake. I was massive at week 12, I had morning (afternoon and evening) sickness till week 26, and I could not for the life of me find two names I liked!
But the big blow came when I went in for a routine checkup at 28 weeks. I was running late for the appointment, so when I finally sat down and had my blood pressure taken, I was not surprised it measured high. The nurse asked me to wait for a few minutes so she could check again. Annoyed and thinking she was just being fussy, I agreed and waited to be called back in.
The second time she measured, it was even worse. She looked at me, and I could see she was worried. “Is your eyesight blurry?” she asked. You immediately know it’s not a great sign when someone asks you that. She made a phone call, and I was asked to give a urine sample. After the results came back, I heard the word “preeclampsia” for the very first time.
If you don’t know what preeclampsia is, it basically means that your inner organs might fail, and your blood pressure is so high it can even cause a stroke. In short, it’s a life-threatening condition (for mother and baby) that sometimes occurs during pregnancy.
I was admitted to the hospital that same day and spent the next two months there. Each day, experts came into my room and told me how I was most likely going to deliver in the next 24 hours. Of course, at 28 weeks, this was not what I wanted to hear. I knew that if that did happen the twins who were tiny at that point would need an immense amount of care and have to spend the first few months of their lives in the NICU.
Being a big believer in mind over matter, I decided to focus my whole being on positive thoughts. I asked lovely ladies on social media groups to share only good stories with me. I read a lot about the condition because I wanted to understand what my body was doing and to understand my options.
I drank a lot of water, reassuring myself that it was cleansing my body—a theory I made up and which was not based on any facts. I thought of my babies and how they were growing inside me, and I visualized myself lasting till week 35. That was the goal I set for myself. I knew that if I made it to 35 weeks the babies would be fine.
All this time, my eldest daughter Ella, who had just turned 2, was at home without her mother. This was the hardest part. I could take being in a hospital forever knowing that I was doing it for my unborn babies. I could stand the horrid food, the boredom, the fear, the lack of privacy, the constant noise, the daily blood tests, the medication, the whole shebang! The one thing that totally broke me was being away from Ella. In my lowest moments, I found myself wishing the babies would just come already so I could get back to her.
But against the odds, and I do mean that, I somehow lasted for nearly two months. During this time, I met so many brave ladies. It’s actually amazing to see how strong women are. I see new moms squeezing their breasts so hard, till they nearly bleed, just to get a few drops of milk they can give to their premature babies down in intensive care. And moms to babies who are smaller than mine were going to be were keeping positive and sitting by their babies while holding their tiny, tiny hands. I met so many incredible people during this time and heard many inspiring stories, and although this was by far the hardest challenge I had ever experienced, it was also one of the most eye-opening and strength-building experiences that would change me forever.
And so, at 35 weeks, I said to the doctors, “That’s it. Get them out.” My C-section was booked, and I was so excited to finally meet them!
When I first saw the twins, I started to cry. They were so small. I did not expect them to be so tiny, especially after all the hard work I put into carrying them for as long as possible. Dani weighed exactly 4 lbs. 6 oz., and Arielle was not even that. At 4 lbs. 3 oz., she was honestly the ugliest baby I had ever seen, but I loved her with all my heart. I loved them both, and I was so relieved the ordeal is over.
That night as I lay in intensive care, I woke up to a feeling something was not right. I called the nurse and asked her to check my blood pressure. The machine confirmed that my blood pressure was already alarmingly high, but what was more concerning was that it was racing higher by the minute. My husband who was asleep on a hospital chair by my bed, woke up, and was surprised by all the commotion in our room.
Within minutes, I was surrounded by doctors and a lot of noise. I knew exactly what was happening because I had read about it. I was about to enter the world of eclampsia, which is a condition in which one or more convulsions occur, often followed by coma and sometimes death. Just then, the shakes started. I had d lost control. My whole body was jumping on the bed, and I was scared. I thought to myself: This is it.
Looking at my husband, I could tell he had no clue what was going on, and that is when I began to really panic. I mean, how the hell was I going to leave my three girls with this guy who couldn’t even tell I was about to die?!
So I decided not to.
I closed my eyes and imagined I was on the beach drinking a cocktail. I had a piña colada, followed by a margarita, and it was lush. I could hear the doctor ask, “Are you OK? Can you hear me?” but at that point, I was in Paris eating lovely cheeses I had missed eating during my pregnancy. My body was still shaking and more drugs were being pumped into my veins, but now I was at home with my girls. I could see them all so clearly. Their faces, their eyes, their hair, I could smell them, and I knew that everything was going to be OK. I found myself smiling, and at that point, I figured the whole room must have thought I had lost my mind.
The doctor kept pressing the blood pressure machine’s button every few seconds, and it seemed like no one in the room was breathing—except me of course. I was having a great time snowboarding in white powder screaming “woo hoo!” at the top of my lungs.
Just then my blood pressure started coming down. My body settled, and I opened my eyes. I was not dead.
All I could think of was how lucky and blessed I was to have so many dedicated people around me. This included my darling husband who looked like shit right then, as he finally realized how close he was to losing me and having to raise three kids all by himself.
It was the longest night of my life, and although the worst was seemingly behind me, I knew that the real challenge had yet to come. A few days later, I was allowed to go home with my babies, and life in the fast lane of parenthood (to three kids) began.
From that point on, I decided that humor shall be my secret weapon and positive thinking my shield.