Unlike My First Pregnancy

June 06, 2024 By Brigitte Tibana

Unlike My First Pregnancy

I became pregnant unexpectedly when my first daughter was 9 months old, 2 under 2. I expected my pregnancy to be like that of my first, smooth, tranquil, and uneventful. When I was 27 weeks I began to notice swelling in my ankles. A few days later, I noticed how uncomfortable it was to make a fist with my hand. My hand was swollen. I decided to take my blood pressure and to my surprise, my blood pressure was over the 180 range. I headed over to labor and delivery, not knowing what was to come.

Once triaged, the room filled with nurses and doctors. I was diagnosed with preeclampsia with severe features. The baby was stable but my blood pressure wasn’t. I was being admitted until I had the baby, no later than 34 weeks if I was even able to make it that far along. I was started on magnesium sulfate and steroid shots for baby’s lungs.
A NICU doctor came over to talk to me. It was at that moment the realization hit that I was going to have a premature baby. The scariness , uncertainty and powerlessness overcame me.

I was moved to the antepartum unit, with around-the-clock monitoring. Blood was drawn multiple times a day, heparin injections, bruises, blood pressure cuffs, NST, pills, and IVs. At one point, I no longer had good veins for anymore IVs. It was awful, I felt like a lab rat, and I was terrified. I feared I was going to die. The mental toll It took to wait to see what was going to happen in every aspect of my life. I felt guilty because I wanted to make it 34 weeks, I wanted to have a healthy baby, but I also wanted to be home with my toddler.

I was in the antepartum unit until my preeclampsia turned into hellp syndrome. At that point, I had facial edema, was beginning to show signs of kidney failure, and my blood platelets were getting lowered. The risk of waiting and bleeding out was getting worse. At 29 weeks and 6 days, I was rushed into an emergency C-section.
I wasn’t able to meet, see or hear my baby as she was immediately rushed to the NICU weighing 2 lbs 5oz. It wasn’t until 24 hours later when I was cleared from the magnesium sulfate that I was finally able to meet her.

4 days after my C-section I was discharged home with blood pressure medication. A day after discharge I was readmitted back into the hospital with a blood pressure of 203/98. I stayed in the hospital for 3 additional days until a new blood pressure medication regime stabilized me. I continued on blood pressure medications until I was 5 months postpartum as well as seeing a Cardiologist.

Back home, it was as if I was living a double life. Home with a toddler as if I had never been pregnant. The feeling of wanting to divide myself in two. I commuted every day to the NICU and pumped breast milk around the clock. The NICU in itself is a traumatic, terrifying and lonely place. It took a whole month before I was able to do some skin-to-skin. My baby spent 87 days in the NICU, was discharged home with an NG feeding tube and had developed a bottle aversion. The guilt I feel sometimes at her rough start in life. The guilt of the medical trauma she had to endure.

I feel anger and sadness for having to have gone through that experience. I grieve the experience I should have had, I grieve the postpartum I should have had. It feels like preeclampsia robbed me of enjoying my last pregnancy and my newborn baby.

7 months later, my life is beginning to feel somewhat normal again. I am healthy, attending therapy, and dealing with the beautiful chaos of 2 under 2. After some intense feeding therapy, my baby is tube-free, healthy, thriving and growing.

I share my story because, like many others, I knew little to nothing about preeclampsia. I never thought something like this would happen to me. I am grateful to be healthy and have a healthy baby by my side. Nonetheless, It has been a traumatic experience that changed me. An experience no one should ever go through.