I have written this account for all of the mothers-to-be out there. If you have any of the symptoms that I felt in the run up to my labour, please please PLEASE get it properly checked out. Pre-eclampsia is very dangerous for you and your baby. It is not something which you want to ignore. I am pregnant again and hopefully this time round, I won’t develop Pre-eclampsia, but at least I now know what to look out for. So here goes…
I was a few days away from my due date when I suddenly developed fat fingers, a bloated face and sudden severe headaches (which lasted for only a few minutes at a time but made me double over, gripping my head with pain). I went to see the mid-wife for my normal regular check-up and mentioned my symptoms. My mid-wife, quite a flippant young woman, took my blood pressure, told me that it was slightly higher than my usual ‘normal’ reading and then smiled, waving it all off as ‘normal late pregnancy symptoms’. Being new to the whole pregnancy club, I trusted her judgement and went home feeling content that everything was ok.
It was six days past my due date when I suddenly felt my first contraction. I had been to the hospital that day to have a membrane sweep to help bring on labour and it had obviously worked a treat. It was 6pm on the 9th of December. My husband was working late at the office and so I was alone with just my big, fat, ginger cat, Wally, for company. Wally had been acting very strange all evening, never leaving my side and insisting on curling up on my lap even though this was totally out of character for him. So when I felt the first contraction (which felt like a bad period pain), I knew that this was it (they do say that animals just ‘know’ don’t they!).
I knew from attending NCT (National Child Trust) classes that I had a long way to go before I had to make the drive to the hospital, so I made myself dinner, got my bag together and called my husband, telling him to finish up and come home. My husband arrived home about an hour later feeling a mixture of excitement and anxiety. By then my contractions were a lot stronger and happening every 2-3 minutes. We phoned the hospital and let them know that we would be in that night. However, if there was one thing that I had learnt in my NCT classes, it was to wait until the contractions were at the point where sitting in the car was nearly impossible before going to the hospital, otherwise you probably wouldn’t be dilated enough and they would just send you home again – there was no way I was making two trips to the hospital that night! We waited until 10pm. By then I was on the floor, clinging to the arm chair and rocking back and forth in pain every minute! I knew it was time now.
We got to the hospital and the first thing they did was to put me in a delivery room, check how dilated I was (4cm – no going home again for me! Yes!) and check my blood pressure. It was way too high. They attached a strap to my belly to monitor the baby’s heart beat and my contractions – I was now classed as ‘high-risk’ and was to be monitored every half an hour. I am not sure how long passed but my contractions got a hell of a lot stronger. The pain would come over me like a wave, gripping my stomach and lower back, running down my legs, slowly getting stronger, making me feel physically sick before slowly fading away and giving me a tiny minute to relax a little. By then I was begging for some pain relief! I had told myself before the labour that I would be one of those rock-hard mums who would go through the whole experience with nothing but fresh air. However, I didn’t imagine labour being quite so painful and so Pethidine (a pain relief injection) sounded pretty wonderful. It wasn’t. A few moments after it was administered I felt drunk – but nasty drunk. The kind of drunk where you’ve had one too many and just want to go home. I couldn’t stop being sick and the pain wasn’t that much less then it was before. Then came in the consultant who took my blood pressure and warned me that it had got far too high. I was advised to have an epidural which should bring it back down. I really didn’t want an epidural. An epidural is a small tube which is inserted into your spine, administering a drug which totally numbs you from the waist down. The thought of not feeling the pain any longer was good, but it would mean that I would be immobile and wouldn’t be able to feel the urge to push when the time came. Also, the tiny risk of permanent paralysis that it posed scared the life out of me. However, right then mine and the baby’s health was more important so I rolled over and let them inject me in the spine (which I must say, didn’t hurt – nothing hurt compared to the contractions I was feeling. They could have stabbed me in the back with a screw driver and I probably wouldn’t have flinched!).
A few hours passed and unfortunately my blood pressure continued to slowly rise. My contractions were also beginning to weaken. I was 8cm dilated (you need to be 10cm in order to push), my blood pressure was dangerously high and my body was beginning to tire. It was then that my memory of the following events becomes blurred. I remember looking around and seeing flickering lights where ever I looked. Then, I lost sight in one of my eyes. I called out to the midwife that I couldn’t see and she dropped her papers and ran out of the room. I remember hearing an alarm go off and seeing a whole group of midwives and doctors come rushing into the room. They surrounded me, injecting me in every arm, connecting me to drips. At one point I heard them suggest connecting me to an IV from my foot as they couldn’t find a spare vein quick enough. Thank goodness, they found one! I now know that my blood pressure was so high that I had temporarily lost sight in my eye – a warning sign that a fit or stroke was imminent if nothing was done to get it right down. It is called ‘severe pre eclampsia’.
I have absolutely no idea how long all of this went on for. According to my husband, I was totally out of it, barely able to speak or keep my eyes open. I had been in labour for around 20 hours. My blood pressure was stabilised and I was then offered an emergency c-section. I was just able to scribble my name on the consent form (although I don’t remember doing this) and they took me into theatre straight away. My memory becomes quite clear again here – I’m not sure if this was the drugs, adrenaline or excitement of finally seeing my baby! They put a huge curtain up across my chest so I couldn’t see the procedure and I patiently waited until everything was ready to go. My husband looked like a surgeon, all dressed up in his gown, hat and white shoes. He stood by my side and stroked my hair as we waited in anticipation. I felt some tugging and then I heard it – the sound I had been desperate to hear for months – the high pitched cry of my baby boy. He was fine – a healthy 8 pound 9 ounces, born at 3.15pm on the 10th December 2009.
I had to stay in hospital for 5 days. For the first 2 days I was in isolation, not able to see any visitors (even my mum and dad!) and my blood pressure was taken every 15 minutes! It was very lonely in there, I was in pain from the c-section and so couldn’t even get up to tend to my son. However, my husband was amazing and the midwives very supportive. Five days later I went home – sore, tired, but so relieved that it was all over and my son and I were ok.
For more information on Pre-eclampsia, please visit… www.nhs.uk/conditions/pre-eclampsia/Pages/Introduction.aspx