Editor’s note: We believe that all birth stories and all birth experiences matter. This post is part of an ongoing series of birth stories submitted by readers and fellow bloggers, featuring a diverse range of women and their birth experiences. This week I’m honoured to share Rachelle’s birth story from a sudden diagnosis of HELLP syndrome (Hemolysis, Elevated Liver enzymes, and Low Platelet count) to a premature birth at 28 weeks and NICU stay. If you would like to share your own birth story, please visit this post to learn how. ~Olivia
On December 10, 2015, my boyfriend and I found out we were expecting our first child!!! Through the whole pregnancy I only had minimum symptoms, besides ending up with a ton of swelling, so I thought I would be one of the few who gets an “easy ride” pregnancy. About a month before I had my son, I started noticing a pinching pain in my upper right side. I never would have dreamed it was an early signs for what was to come.
On May 16, 2016 I started to get really concerned about the amount of swelling I was having. I was swollen in my face, neck, arms and from the knees down. My blood pressure had never been high before or during pregnancy. I called my OB to ask about swelling and they told me to wait to come in until my appointment in 4 days, unless it got worse. When I got home from work, the pain in my back was so bad I went straight to bed. On Tuesday, the 17th, I went to work, still in pain from my back and when I got home I also had a headache. I checked my blood pressure and for the first time it was slightly elevated. I took a couple of Tylenol and went to bed.
On Wednesday I went to work and just did not feel right. I got the nurse staff at my job to check me out right away. My blood pressure was 156/102, I had pitting edema in my feet and ankles, and my back was still killing me. I was sent home and went to my OB. My blood pressure was still elevated, but not as high. I didn’t have any protein in my urine and the pain in my back was a ‘pinched nerve’. They wanted to send me for 24-hour observation at the hospital. I went to my house less than 5 minutes away to pack an overnight bag and went to the hospital. By the time they checked me in and got me in a room, they checked all my levels again to find I now had protein in my urine. My back was still hurting, but it kept getting brushed off.
The next morning I was diagnosed with mild pre-eclampsia and taken out of work with intentions of being seen twice a week with goals of trying to make it to 28 weeks, then 32, 34, 36, 38 and finally 40. I was currently 27 weeks and had 4 days left to make it to 28. At the time it didn’t seem like it would be such a big deal to get to the first goal. The next day, Friday, May 20th, I woke up with extreme upper back pain that was radiating into my chest and making it almost impossible to breathe. After taking a shower and some Tylenol I got the pain to ease off enough to go back to sleep and make it to my doctor’s appointment later that morning. I mentioned the back pain again and was told it was still just a pinched nerve. I went home and kept trying to get some relief with Tylenol and a heating pad. Around 6:00 pm my back/chest pain was so severe I thought I was having a heart attack…I’m 25 years old.
I went to the ER and was once again admitted. They gave me pain meds through IV along with Flexeril. I felt better, but still knew something wasn’t right. On Saturday, May 21, I felt better, but I actually wasn’t. My blood pressure was still high, the swelling was getting worse, my protein levels were elevating, and the back pain was coming and going. My doctor came in and said they were transporting me to a bigger hospital about an hour and a half away that was equipped with a NICU.
They started me on magnesium, gave me steroid shots for our son’s lungs and sent me on my way. Once I arrived one of the NICU doctors came to speak with us about the same gestational goals, but also what to expect if we delivered. All day Saturday and Sunday I felt much better thinking they might send me home and I would just continue to be on bed rest.
On Monday I woke up with severe back pain again. I could not get any relief no matter how I sat, laid, stood or knelt. They ran tests, took x-rays, monitored baby closely and still had no answers. I couldn’t breathe the pain was so severe. They kept me on magnesium in fear of me having a stroke, pumped me full of morphine, Flexeril, oxycodone and Ativan. Nothing was helping and my blood pressure was spiking. Turned out I was quickly developing HELLP and my liver was ready to rupture which is what was causing all the pain. They needed to deliver fast!
After giving me another IV (through ultrasound this time due to being so swollen) in case they needed to sedate me, they took me back for an emergency c-section. At 9:29 pm, on May 23, 2016, our beautiful little miracle baby was born. A 1 lb 15.8 oz breathing baby boy! We had done it. He had a long road ahead, but everything was fine considering he was born at 28 weeks exactly.
We ended up in the NICU for 48 days, but our son thrived. Julian overcame hurdles like they were nothing and quickly became my hero. Here he is at 5 months and 6 days weighing in at least 12 pounds! Besides having a double hernia removed, he is a picture of health and our lives could not be more complete!