May 14, 2020 By Erin Backeberg
I became pregnant with my first child in late July 2017. Everything about this pregnancy seemed normal, healthy, and routine. I didn’t have morning sickness, or gain excess weight. I passed the gestational diabetes test and was measuring on track. I did have my fair share of annoyances: crazy heartburn, trouble sleeping, hormonal acne, terrible upper rib pain on the left side. But everything looked, felt, and seemed like a normal pregnancy. Until it wasn’t.
On my due date, May 3, 2018, I felt horrible. I figured that’s how every soon-to-be mom felt right before giving birth. I knew I had my 40 week appointment at 5:00, so I sat on the couch and tried to make myself comfortable. In the waiting room at the hospital, the nurse came out, took one look at me and rushed me up to the Birth Center. They hooked me up and I was having 2 minute long contractions, 5 minutes apart. They told me I was staying to have a baby! I feel silly that I had no idea I was in labor. The contractions didn’t feel like what I expected “contractions” to feel like.
Now in my birthing suite, I took a bath, bounced on a medicine ball, walked around, and puked… Some time passed and as I’m laying in bed the midwife comes in and tells me my blood work came back with some weird news. My blood platelet count was extremely low, which meant no epidural. I was shocked. I didn’t even know this was a thing!? An epidural had been my birth plan all along. This had to be a joke. Two nurses, a midwife and a doctor all tried to feel my cervix and couldn’t, so morphine was out too. I tried to play it cool but I was freaking out. Later they came in and asked me how long it had been since I last peed. I had no idea. Three catheters in and out later I was starting to get a little worried. This was not going like I thought it would. But does it ever?
I remember the doctor coming in late that night and saying, “Erin you have HELLP syndrome. It’s very serious and you need to have the baby. Your blood pressure is high. Your liver and kidneys are shutting down. You’re going to have an emergency c-section.” At the moment, I was honestly a little relieved because that meant I didn’t have to push out a baby unmedicated. Ha!
After what felt like hours (didn’t emergency mean super fast?!) the doctor came back in and said as a team they decided they weren’t comfortable doing my surgery at the hospital. I live in a fairly rural area and the small hospital was afraid they wouldn’t have the blood needed if there were complications. The doctor had only ever seen HELLP syndrome one other time, during his residency. So, they shipped me down to Madison, WI in an ambulance, around 3:00 AM, during a thunderstorm. My wonderful midwife rode down with me, as my husband had to follow behind in our vehicle with our bags. I still cannot imagine him making that drive alone.
Once we arrived at the hospital, I was sent into a new room and our parents met us there. My husband had called them on the way down. I was sent into surgery and I truly believed this would be the end to all of the issues, but it was only the beginning.
Our son, Easton, was born at 6:20 AM on May 4, 2018. He weighed 9 pounds, 14 ounces and was 22 inches long. After the c-section, I had severe hemorrhaging. I ended up needing three full blood transfusions and platelet counts. I aspirated into my lungs. I did not react well to the anesthesia and fought them taking the intubation tube out terribly. I was in the ICU for two days and sadly don’t even remember meeting my son for the first time. Easton was in the NICU having issues related to regulating his blood sugars.
After 4 days in the hospital, the three of us were sent home. We are now all happy and healthy. When I think about Easton’s arrival into the world, I am so incredibly grateful for the team of doctors, midwives, and nurses that advocated for our family and for me. I don’t think we would be here if they hadn’t.
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