The Physical and Mental Toll Of Preeclampsia

February 22, 2023 By Noelle Thuillier

The Physical and Mental Toll Of Preeclampsia

This story has taken me five years to write. Until now, my experience felt too hard and too big to express in simple words, and I was afraid I wouldn't do myself, my daughter, and our experience justice. I am glad to be here now- in a space where I am ready to share our story.

I became pregnant with my daughter in 2017, just three months after my first pregnancy that ended in miscarriage. Things went pretty well for the first five months. However, the week of Thanksgiving, that changed. I had some minor spotting, and in general, my body just felt "off." Most noticeably, I started seeing black spots in my vision and had a terrible headache. I contacted my doctor, and she instructed me to go to labor and delivery.

When I was admitted, my blood pressure was 160/110. To their surprise, they were able to get my blood pressure under control through medication and were comfortable sending me home with strict instructions to take my blood pressure three times a day. The next seven weeks were are series of weekly check-ups, ultrasounds, and stress tests.

Then, one morning in early January, I took my blood pressure, and it was 165/111. I had a check-up scheduled that day, which confirmed what I already knew. After a blood pressure check and testing my urine for protein, my doctor informed me that I had preeclampsia and that I would need to go directly to the hospital. At the hospital, my headache escalated, and it was decided that I would have an emergency c-section.

The c-section was performed, and my baby girl came out weighing 4lbs 7 ounces at 4:15 p.m. I was not able to hold her since she needed immediate care in the NICU. She needed a feeding tube, breathing assistance, and treatment for jaundice. As I lay in the recovery room, I remember feeling relieved and hopeful that the scary part was over. Little did I know I was wrong.

The next ten days were hell. A doctor explained to me that while delivery is the only "cure" for preeclampsia, some women "get worse before they get better." Unfortunately, I was in the latter group. My blood pressure, which was taken every 15 minutes for my entire hospital stay, was through the roof and extremely hard to control with medication. The separation from my daughter was the worst. I was too sick to go to her, and she was too sick to come to me. It hurt my soul in the deepest way, and I still feel the impact of this loss.

Eventually, everything escalated to the point where I woke up in the middle of the night to alarms going off. I looked at the machine, and my blood pressure was 230/160. I screamed for my husband. I knew I was dying. As the nurses and doctors rushed in, I began to slip away. I woke up four hours later with my husband holding my hand and crying. They weren't sure what had happened, but when I stepped on the scale that morning, I had lost 29 pounds of fluid overnight. They concluded that I lost too much fluid from my body too quickly, which caused this episode. Slowly, my blood pressure started to stabilize.

On the 11th day, I was discharged, and my husband wheeled me down the hallway toward the NICU. This was the happiest moment of my life. I spent the next month sleeping on the couch next to my daughter while she grew and developed the eating and breathing skills she needed to go home. I can't emphasize enough how much my experience with preeclampsia affected me. I live with the physical ramifications of high blood pressure, vision damage, and the effects on my cardiovascular system and brain. But even more so, the mental toll it took on me to recover was tremendous. I can confidently say that the only reason I am alive today is that I found relief and care through a therapist and EDMR therapy to help me process what I went through. Today, I am happily raising my daughter, and I thank God every day for that privilege. I am eternally grateful that my care team listened to me and gave me the best possible care- something I hope becomes available in the future for