Mediocre Mom’s Plea For Better Maternal Health (Part One)
One year ago I almost died. Some people may wonder whether this is an exaggeration, but they have not felt death. Your body senses that something is terribly wrong and your mind instinctively knows something is happening. You begin to mourn your own loss, and wonder how it will affect those that love you most.
My story began on May 23, 2015, after the birth of my third son. I had not felt well the entire pregnancy, and despite repeated attempts to flag these issues with my OB, I had been rebuked. My son came early, after three previous attempts to escape, by c-section. Despite promises from my OB that I would feel better after delivery, I did not. I was still short of breath and nauseous. Despite these symptoms, I was released from the hospital four days later with my son.
As the week wore on, I continued to feel lousy. By the following Sunday night, my husband caught me sobbing in our older son’s bedroom before bath-time. Between sobs I told him that I just didn’t feel well. In an attempt to help, he took the newborn downstairs to the guest room for the night, so I could get some rest.
I laid in our bed trying to sleep that night, staring out the window for the longest time. It was at this point that I knew I was dying. Everything ached. I felt nauseous and sick. I could barely move. I still felt like I couldn’t breathe. I still don’t know why I didn’t insist that my husband take me to the emergency room right then. I think I felt bad after already having to go on three prior occasions while pregnant and after spending four days in the hospital for the birth. I figured if I could just make it to my OB appointment the next day, I would be alright. I began to have crazy thoughts and for a few minutes I wondered if it was just anxiety. I continued to look out the window. I have never been very religious, and for the first time I wondered if there actually was a god. I wondered if I should try to talking to him, or if he would know that I was just doing it as a last-minute Hail Mary. I wondered if there was truly nothing after death. Would I feel anything? Would I know I was dead? Would I be alone? Would my husband and kids be alright? I did not want them to be sad. I continued to wonder, tears streaming down my face for what seemed like hours. Before midnight, I finally fell asleep.
I was awoken at two in the morning by our cat, Ernie, who was incessantly meowing in my face. This is something he had never done before, and has never done since. Groggy and dizzy, I awoke in a haze, and I stumbled to the bathroom where I proceeded to throw up numerous times. I felt a little better and sat on the cold floor for another couple of hours. Early in the morning I became nauseous again, and began having diarrhea. I felt absolutely horrible.
After the older kids had been taken to school by friends, my husband took me to the OB’s office. I tried to explain my symptoms to the nurse; she brushed me off and was more giddy over the fact that I had lost all of my pregnancy weight (In a week!). She told me I could tell the OB. When he came in I tried again to explain all of my symptoms. He too appeared ready to brush me off, but then paused at my shortness of breath complaint and decided to send me to the ER to make sure I did not have a pulmonary embolism. He stated haughtily that he was 98% sure I was fine, but to have it checked out.
I had my husband drop me off at the emergency room, and told him to call my parents. I again re-iterated my symptoms to the intake nurse. My blood pressure was high, which I explained was uncharacteristic for me (I usually have the blood pressure of a zombie). They did a CT scan but saw nothing. They got ready to release me, when my nurse re-took my pressure and became concerned that it was rising. She flagged an ER doctor, and I heard whispers of “pre-eclampsia”. They called my OB, who apparently just told them I was “stressed” and had them send me home.
My husband picked me up, and we arrived home. I felt no better than I had the day before. My father (a retired OB himself) was now there, and he googled post-partum preeclampsia and handed the computer over to me. I had just about every symptom. He then re-took my blood pressure with a cuff he had brought, and it was still rising. He also did a reflex check and noted that I had hyperreflexia. (This is an involuntary response of the nervous system. It is also a precursor to seizures). At this point he called my OB, and told him that he was sending me right back to the emergency room. A different ER doctor was there, and he concurred with my father, admitting me and putting me on a magnesium sulfate drip to prevent seizures. I ended up being in the hospital another four days.
It took me a long time to get better. I was physically better within a few weeks, and even my blood pressure normalized within a month, but my mental health took a big hit. For months later, I suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome. I also had post-partum anxiety and depression. I did not want to return to work, but I did not want to be with my baby either. I really just wanted to be alone. I tried to share a little bit with my husband, but I felt so guilty already putting him through so much that I tried as hard as I could to just be normal again. It really wasn’t until eight months later, after taking an anti-anxiety medication, that I began to start feeling like myself.
The last few months have been so much better. I stopped obsessing about death. (Prior to the medication, I was almost paralyzed with fear about doing certain things, because I was convinced I was going to die). Last week, however, was my son’s first birthday, and this week one year ago I was re-hospitalized. Even with the medication, I still feel anxious this week. I also realized that there is a part of me that is never going to feel the same.
As I stated in an earlier article, part of the reason I started this blog was because I wanted to make a difference. While I like my current job, I don’t feel like it makes much of an impact on a day-to-day basis. I want to do something that helps people, particularly women and moms. I think a good place to start is with the state of our maternal health care in this country. It needs a giant overhaul. I would like to get the word out there, and to hear other stories. Maybe if enough of us speak up, we can do something. I have some initial ideas, so please read the next chapter in this series. Until then, enjoy life. You never know when it is going to end.
I am mediocre mom!
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