We were so excited to welcome our little girl into the world. It was everything that me and my husband had dreamt of. At 12 weeks after routine blood tests, we were informed that my hormone Papa-A was lower than expected, and I needed further growth scans during my pregnancy to check on our baby, but this was nothing to worry about.
My pregnancy was difficult with Sciatica, Severe SPD which meant I had to change my job role and carpale tunnel towards my end of my pregnancy, but nothing rang any alarm bells. At 35 weeks, I noticed my legs looks very puffy and as the days went by, no shoes fitted anymore, not even flip flops.
I went to my GP, who checked my blood pressure, which was a little high for me, but not alarming. My protein level was 1 and the midwife in the surgery explained it was just edema. The next day I had a walk though of the hospital and stayed behind to get checked over at MAU as I knew there was something else other than just edema going on. Little did I know that this small act would end up saving my life.
I was assessed at MAU and after all of the checks, they diagnosed me with Pre-eclampsia. They said, ‘I won’t be leaving the hospital until I have my baby’. This is not what we had planned. The consultant told me that my Papa-A hormone being low was a contributing factor to the pre-eclampsia, but I had never been informed of this information before. Why not?
After 6 days in hospital, on all the medication I could consume to keep my blood pressure below 140/90 I had a sweep. Nothing was happening. I was kept on the ward with my blood pressure managed, even though at times it was 160/110 with medication to ensure my daughter grew as much as possible. At 37+1 gestational weeks, and 6 days in hospital, I was finally induced.
All was going great! My contractions were coming and going as expected, I felt like I was doing exactly what my body was meant too. However, as the day went on, something changed. My contractions were getting stronger, but never seemed to fade away. Towards the evening I was feeling a pain I had never felt before. I felt like I needed to push this pain away, but nothing was happening. Eventually it just got too much, and I asked for my husband to find a midwife to examine me. Surely, I must be in active labour now?
I was examined and was 1 cm dilated. The Midwife gave me pethidine and resumed to her duties. Around 10 minutes later, It felt like my waters had broken, I was so happy… until I looked on the floor and a pool of blood started to form, thick and fast. I told my husband to run and get someone. I was suffering a Placenta Abruption.
He came back, and I will never forget the look of worry on the midwife’s face. She told me to get on the bed and that she was going to push the buzzer. The pethidine meant that I was lucid and helped me in those moments to feel relaxed from the sharpness of our reality. I’ve never seen my husband so scared and upset. He was watching his newlywed bride fight for her life and his unborn daughters.
I was rushed to theatre, and an emergency c-section was performed under general anaesthetic. My husband was by my side, talking to me all the time, keeping me awake and hearing the cries of our baby girl… alive and healthy.
The obstetric consultants had trouble stopping the bleeding but manage to save my life and my daughters. Our daughter, Penelope was born on 11th February 2020 11:18 pm and weighed 5lbs and 15 lbs. She was not the baby I was expecting. Upon her delivery, she was grunting and was taken to the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) with suspected sepsis, but the results of this were negative. I got to hold my little bundle for a few precious minutes, and then she was gone. I was told by the consultant that ‘If I had not been in hospital, I would have died at home’.
In recovery, my family were all there to greet me with relief and sadness all over there faces. I was so looking forward to my breastfeeding journey, but the trauma of pre-eclampsia took that away from me. My milk never came in and my body found it hard to recover. After leaving the hospital, my husband suffered PTSD from what he saw, and we are still on a journey together now working through out thoughts and feelings about our situation. 6 weeks after Penelope was born, we were in Lockdown, with no support, no mental wellbeing help and not knowing who to turn too. I would question myself constantly thinking ‘what we went through was bad, right?’ not knowing if it was all a dream or I was making it all up.
At 6 months post-partum, I suffered a womb infection which was due to my c-section be quick and lifesaving. Our saving grace was that Penelope was the best baby. She slept well and did everything to heal us and move on from our trauma as much as possible. We decided to try for another baby just after Penelope’s 1st birthday.
My second pregnancy was easy. I felt great but know from the off that I wanted a planned C-Section. I wasn’t aware, but this decision would later save my life… again. Everything was going to plan. In the last 10 days before my due date, I started getting twinges around my previous c-section scar, but they came and went.
The day of my planned c-section, all was well. We were in the theatre ready to welcome our second baby girl… until one of the obstetric consultants said, ‘oh no, we should be able to see her’. I was suffering from a uterine rupture because of my previous emergency C-Section scar, due to suffering from pre-eclampsia. The anaesthetist behind me just kept saying ‘You’re so lucky, you could have been on the street!’. I had no idea what he meant until I did my own research.
My husband spoke with the consultant and said ‘look, how bad is this?’. She replied ‘I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen this. I would advise you not to have anymore children after this’. Phoebe was born, healthy in the morning 3 weeks before Christmas in 2021, and weighted 7lbs and 5 oz.
Being told you should stop your family where it is, is very different from deciding yourself. Over the past 3 years, both myself and my husband have sought therapy in various different forms to find a safe space to speak about what we went through in a way in which others can understand. However, the reality is that it’s a lonely space. We are in the top 1% of bad things that can happy which people, parents and parents to be can’t comprehend how hard it was, has been and what life is like post pre-eclampsia if they aren’t in that category. I can easily scare people with our story, make people feel sorry for me and make others feel guilty for have an ‘easy’ birth. This is never the intention. We are in a good place to speak about our journey honestly and openly. All we want to do is educate.
So, 3 years on. A nearly 3-year-old, a 1 year old and a healthy mum and dad. We are a working mental progress, but we are working together and helping others learn more about this disease.