After having a bad Christmas and travelling to Wangaratta and back in one day, I couldn’t cope and just had to come home. I was so sick. I would get my results on the 29th December to find out if I was pregnant. I had been off the pill since May, and a number of pregnancy tests later, still nothing.
I went back to the doctors and my doctor was on holidays so I saw the next available one. I was feeling very ordinary and sick, constant vomiting for the past month. I did have shingles in October so that’s what they kept saying I was sick from. My blood tests came back negative. My heart sank again. I was driving myself crazy because I believed that I was pregnant. The doctor told me I will have to go on fertility drugs as my blood tests showed high levels of testosterone. “I’m sending you for an ultra sound for poly-cystic ovaries syndrome.” Great. It hit me when I got home, I was on an all time low, I couldn’t stop crying and vomiting. I booked in for the ultra sound for the 3rd of January 2007.
I started vomiting so much that morning that I rang to see if I could get in to see my doctor. I got in before my appointment for my scan. He suggested to go get a pregnancy test before the scan and wrote up another form for pregnancy. That made me cry even more as I had probably brought over 15 of them in the last 3 months. The chemist ladies are going to think I have a problem. Got another test and quickly took it as we had our appointment at 2pm. I told my husband to check it as I didn’t want to be disheartened again. He came in and said “what if it has 1 dark line and half a faint line? Is that bad?” I just thought it was probably a faulty one. Not thinking any more about it, we went for our scan. During the scan the lady was explaining “now there’s the sack” (I thought right away “god, I have something seriously wrong!”) Then she said “we will check the gestation” and I said “WHAT?!?!” She said “didn’t you know that you’re pregnant?!” Um…NO. Well, we found out that I was 10 weeks along! It took me quit a while for it to sink in. By the 4th month the vomiting had stopped, and from the 4th to the 5th month, it was the best I had felt in years. Until I reached 21 weeks…and I got gastro. I got so sick that I drove myself to the hospital and was put on a drip for 5 hrs. I couldn’t even remember my husband’s phone number for the nurses to ring him. It wasn’t until I was released that I was able to use my phone for him to pick me up. It was the first time that I had felt so alone.
A few days later I had a bleed and rang the hospital. “Is this your first pregnancy? Well, don’t panic. Just pop down for a check up.” For 4 hours I sat in a room with an intern waiting for an obstetrician. Finally she arrived and I was checked. No blood pressure check. I was sent home as nothing was wrong. A few days later the same thing happened again when I was in the city. I rang the hospital and they said the same thing. “Is this your first baby?” It made me feel like I was dumb. She said “take it easy, it’s probably just the baby moving.” So I thought “well, they know what they’re saying,” and I took it easy for the rest of the day. I was having such bad heart burn and pains below my chest it was hard to sleep at night. Sally was giving me Bowen’s treatment which I found great. We had organised that she was going to be there for the birth.
I had taken on another job so was working 2 casual jobs to keep busy. There was a month there when I felt really good. The vomiting had stopped and I felt like I was pregnant for once. I had not put on much weight up until about 30 weeks when I had a midwife appointment. My blood pressure was high and they kept me in hospital for monitoring. After they gave us frozen sandwiches for tea and I had some bed rest I was released around 1am.
Then it hit. The vomiting started up again, day and night, heart burn all the time and I seemed to have grown out of my shoes. When I finished work at nights, I’d take my shoes off and my feet and hands were all swollen. I thought it was from being on my feet working too much. At 32 weeks we decided to go and buy new shoes on a Thursday night. We had to go to the midwife appointment first at the hospital. I had a male midwife and he was asking all these questions that I hadn’t been asked before. My blood pressure was high, my protein was +2, and I had swelling in my hands and feet. Next minute I knew I wasn’t leaving to go shopping. They had rang an ambulance to transfer me to a bigger hospital as I was now classed as a high risk patient. The thing I couldn’t work out was “what’s going on?” I just wanted a natural birth – with no drugs. I then realised I hadn’t even packed a bag for the hospital yet. I still couldn’t figure out why they wouldn’t let me go home to do that!! I had also been weighed and was shocked when they told me my weight. In a few weeks I had put on over 10kgs.
After waiting for over 4 hrs to be transferred I was on my way, for the first time, in an ambulance. Stuart had gone home to pack my bags (gosh and did he pack a bag, all the things that didn’t really fit anymore!) I was hospitalised for 5 days with blood tests and fetal monitoring and blood pressure tests all the time. Mum and Dad came down and visited everyday and I also had visits from Sally (Bowen’s therapist). I met some wonderful girls in there, but was so happy to be released on the Wednesday to go home for the weekend – as long as I came back on the Monday for more tests. I was to have complete bed rest. No work. I didn’t realise Stu had told my employers that I was not coming back ‘til after the baby was born. I was planning on working still. (It still hadn’t sunk in what was going on!!!) On the Monday it hit me again that I was not going home that day either. I waited for a bed and was back in hospital again. This time I was in there for 4 days and caught up with the same girls from last week. I was so glad to get out and go home again though. Stuart was there every day or evening. One thing I did like was choosing what to eat each meal without having to cook. And the food was good!
At 34 weeks I had put on over 25kgs in a very short time. The fluid was building up; I was finding it hard to stand on my feet. We were back to the hospital on the Monday again for more tests. This time my blood pressure was on the border and I was able to go home at 34.4 weeks, and boy was I so happy and relieved. I went to bed early that night. At midnight, I got up because I had a headache (if I only knew!!!!!) I had some pain relief and went back to bed. At 5am I woke to go to the bathroom and was so tired. I looked in the mirror and I couldn’t open one eye, it looked as though my face had swollen so much that I could hardly open my eye. Thinking I just needed more sleep I went back to bed. Stu said “are you ok?” and I said “I can’t see out of one eye”. His comment was “close them both and get some rest” (if we only knew!!!!!) It was just before 6am and I couldn’t find the bathroom. I was so confused and couldn’t see a thing. I was calling out to my husband and crying because I had no idea where I was. He came to get me from the lounge room and took me to the bathroom. The next thing I knew I was walking back to bed…and that was all I remembered.
I woke in the morning at 6am to the sound of Sharon crying and tapping the wall in the lounge room. I called out to her to find out what was going on and she said she was going to the toilet but couldn’t find it because she couldn’t see.
After helping her into the ensuite, I was wondering why when she came out the light was still on. Not thinking that she was unaware of the light, Sharon came back over to the bed and I was helping her get back in, but before long she was immovable and slid off the bed. This was the start of the first seizure. When she was on the floor I called 000. She was on her side with nothing near her head and I tried to make sure she couldn’t swallow her tongue. Unfortunately, she managed to bite down on it a couple of times. The ambulance arrived very quickly and they came in to check Sharon before putting her into a wheelchair then onto a stretcher outside the front door. All of this time Sharon’s breathing was sounding more and more like Darth Vader.
The ambulance drivers gave me 5 minutes to dress and organise things to go, so after quickly throwing some stuff together, it was time. Of course, the bags were packed in the car, but that was no help as I was going in the ambulance, so I dropped the keys to the neighbour and she brought them in later to the hospital.
We left in the ambulance and made it about a kilometre before Sharon had another seizure and was proving a handful for the ambo. They pulled over and called another ambulance so they could both look after Sharon and get another driver.
Then we were on our way to Monash hospital. Even with lights and sirens on, some fools just won’t get out of the way, even on a freeway at 6am. (Most drivers, however, are considerate and do the right thing.)
Once the ambulance arrived at Monash we were straight into emergency where Sharon was wheeled in and a team of doctors and nurses were all over the place asking questions, putting monitors on, etc. It was here that Sharon was eventually able to give a simple yes/no answer to something for the first time that morning, which was relieving because Sharon had had a third seizure as soon as she got into the emergency ward.
So we had three doctors in to examine Sharon. The decision they came up with was a caesarean at the first available chance. A theatre was to be available around 10am (it was around 7am at this time).
Upstairs we went to a birthing suite to wait. All the time waiting, there was at the very least 1 midwife in the room constantly checking everything. The doctors were in and out, but mentioned they had a bit longer to wait for theatre. In the meantime, during their checks they discovered Sharon was 3cm dilated, so they decided to try and induce her and hoped to not have to deliver via caesarean. This would have been around 10am (I am a bit vague on times. It was not really a huge concern). Finally, 4 hrs after the first seizure, Sharon was able to string together answers to their questions. However, where she was and why she was there, still seemed to confuse her.
The doctor was finally happy that she was starting to recover when Sharon answered these questions:
Who was the Prime Minister? John Howard.
Who is the next Prime Minister? Someone else!
Things slowed down a bit from there. The epidural was in place and the next check up showed no further dilating. So I rang Sharon’s friend Sally who is a Bowen’s therapist and was going to be there for the delivery and also tried in vain to reach Sharon’s parents. They rang back about 2 hrs later to say they were on their way from Wangaratta. When Sally made it in there, it was a bit of calm for both Sharon and myself. Later in the afternoon, at the next check-up, Sharon was fully dilated. It was nearly time. After not too long, it seemed about 10 minutes of pushing (if that) Eliza Faith was born via the help of vacuum, at 6:01pm
Sharon’s story continues
The first I was aware of what was happening was when I was sitting up on the hospital bed and they were telling me about the epidural. Confusion set in and I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I didn’t want any drugs with my pregnancy, why was my husband signing for an epidural? Thinking I was dreaming, off I went to sleep. I woke again later to hear Stuart and Sally discussing who was eating what for tea off my meal plate, and then off to sleep I went. Awoke again to see Mum walk into the room. I still had no idea what was going on. I heard Mum say “here it comes again”, and I looked at the monitor beside me and thought “gee, that’s going up”, and then I was gone again. I was in and out of it until I heard them say “now push!!!” “Hey, what? Push? What do you mean, I’m not due yet?” I remember seeing all these people in the room, 8 PEOPLE!!! What’s going on? This is not the plan!!!! Next I knew the baby was vacuumed out. I clearly remember the doctor saying “what have you got Sharon?” Well, a baby of course, but couldn’t see if it was a boy or girl cause his hand was in the way! I looked at Stuart and he was crying. All I could think of then was “gosh, I just gave birth what are you crying for?!?!”
To hold her was amazing. Her eyes wide open and so tiny. Stuart said “are we going to call her Eliza Faith like we said?” I still could not get my head around what was going on. Then she had to go – that was the hardest thing. Where was she going? Why couldn’t I have her in the room with me? For 2 days I stayed in the birthing room until I was able to be moved. The fluid was filling the bag as quick as they could change it. The nurses were amazing. They brought Eliza in on the day after she was born for a quick visit, and to explain the tube in her nose to be fed through.
I was transferred to a room by myself and when I was settled in the nurse came with a wheelchair to take me to see my daughter. I imagined a nursery like you see in any hospital. I did not expect to see Special Care Nursery and monitors and tubes…and the tears flowed – I could not stop them. It had all hit, this is what was going on. I was able to hold her for a short time and then had to go for a cat scan.
On the 3rd day I was told to ask for a nurse to take me to the nursery in a wheelchair and that I was not to walk. Being stubborn I walked there and back every few hours. The pain to walk was like walking on pins. I’d get back to the room and think “I should be down at the special care nursery” and back I’d go. The nurses finally stopped me at 3 in the morning. I found it hard to see all the other mums with their babies in their rooms, or in the nursery, chatting about their babies and feeding and bathing them together…
It was about a week and a half before I was able to bath Eliza, and I was so lost I ended up letting Stuart do it. He had been doing it every day, and changing nappies. I think I did my first nappy change on day 10. We were told to expect delays in Eliza’s learning and growth, and possibly some health issues. We were also told to keep her out of the cold air for 3 months and basically stay at home so she didn’t get any colds off people that could lead to infections.
I was released from hospital on day 12. I was going home. I was very excited to go home, but then it hit me. I’d be going home without Eliza. What a sad slow trip that was – to go home…with a breast pump. That breast pump was like my new best friend and boy I hated it.
Not long after, Eliza was transferred to a closer hospital. But even that was hard as they told me I was not able to drive for a few months. Every time we would leave the hospital, I’d just get home and they would be calling me back to settle her. She eneded up being carried around in a sling by the nurses because she wouldn’t stop crying.
When she was right to come home I had to stay in hospital again for 2 nights, with her, and she cried and cried, nappy after dirty nappy. Now I felt for the nurses! We got to bring her home 20 days after she was born, and what a slow trip that was, I wouldn’t let Stu drive fast at all. We wanted to cherish our time together for the first time.
Before the first week was over of having her home, I was up at midnight doing a feed and she had a seizure. I yelled to my husband to help and it was like he froze. I rang for an ambulance and we were taken to the hospital. We were able to bring her home in the morning and were so glad that that was the last seizure she had.
We had a nurse visit every few days from the hospital. The only way to settle her was doing kangaroo care (skin on skin). She slept on me most of the time. I went back to work 7 weeks later to feel real, to feel alive, and to be me again for a few hours. It took a few months to settle her (22 months for her to have her first sleep through the night). We found dairy was her big problem and now is on rice milk. I worked for 10 months and now I’m a stay at home Mum.
I found it so hard to write my story and could not face it at all; until I was sent the book from AAPEC (Australian action on pre eclampsia) that has just been released. Reading other peoples’ stories makes your realise you are not alone. I am now on the committee for AAPEC and want to help promote awareness for pre-eclampsia and Eclampsia. I am a survivor of severe Eclampsia and I’m very blessed to have my daughter, Eliza. The information and awareness is not there for women. The chance of me getting it again is 90%. Being hospitalized for most of the pregnancy and with the odds of a 10% survival rate, we are blessed with our one. Today, Eliza is now 2 ½ and weighs 10.2kgs and is very active. Besides some food allergies she is very healthy and has achieved every milestone earlier than what she should have. For me, it took over a year to get my sight back to normal, and fighting skin problems and other health issues…it’s been a long road and still going.
Recently, Mum and I organized a Chef’s Toolbox party which turned into a fundraiser for AAPEC and raised just over $900. From that, AAPEC have organized another fundraiser in Melbourne, and now I’m in charge of fundraisers for AAPEC and also I am Vice president.
So much has changed and there’s been a lot to come to terms with. I would like to thank my family for their support through all of this, and friends, neighbours, specialists (oh so many of them!!!), AAPEC, and especially Stuart. He has been through a lot and has been there for me every step of the way. The support and love from him has been amazing. And for Eliza – you are very special to us in more ways than one and bring joy to our lives every day. I’m doing this for you, Eliza, as I hope that by the time you reach the age to settle down, they will have more knowledge and awareness for when you have a child xxxx
For further information & support on pre-eclampsia please visit www.aapec.org.au