As I write this, I’m sitting in a cold uncomfortable emergency room chair with my feet propped up on my daughter Eva’s bed. We are waiting for a doctor and wondering if it’s another case of strep maybe? Tomorrow is her birthday, but my normally chatty, vibrant 6 year old is laying quietly watching her Disney channel app. I am holding back tears remembering my experience exactly 7 years ago to the day. The day my husband drove me to the emergency room after I told him “Something doesn’t feel right.” I couldn’t explain what that “something” was, but he didn’t pry. I had a history of Preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome and feared losing our precious baby girl like I’d almost lost our oldest, Ky Christine at 28 weeks. So off we went in the middle of the night. It was a quiet drive, both of not wanting to talk about the worst case scenario.
After getting some samples and checking me for symptoms of preeclampsia or anything else that could come up abnormal, my “paranoia” was hastily dismissed by a nurse who told me the words I’ll never forget: “Stop creating issues that don’t exist. Follow up with your doctor tomorrow.”
I remember the deep feeling of shame that came with her harsh statement. My husband was shocked and annoyed by her insensitivity but I wondered: was I really just being paranoid? Should I have shrugged off the feeling of unease that had suddenly come over me? Had my dangerous history of Preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome (that’s for another post) clouded my judgement and made me worry about something that was in fact non-existent? I was once again assured that everything checked out “just fine” and sent home.
The next day, during my follow-up doctors visit, my questions were answered in the most traumatic way. Shortly after I had provided another urine sample, my doctor came into the room, dread and concern unsuccessfully masked by the half smile on her face though I understood the smile was meant to relieve any sense of panic. It didn’t work. I knew what was coming. “This baby is coming today. Right now. Get to the hospital. You’ve got severe Preeclampsia.” That horrible word had reared its ugly head and come back – unfortunately I wasn’t surprised. Later that evening, Eva was delivered by emergency c-section at exactly 32 weeks gestation. My “created issue” had been horrifyingly real.
From what I’ve gathered, the experience I had with Eva is more common than I ever realized. While most mothers I’ve connected with have amazing stories to share about their wonderful experience with medical staff, I’ve noticed some expectant mothers are frequently told to calm down – never, ever tell a pregnant woman to calm down by the way- or to not overthink things. I get it. The internet has turned plenty of us into googling fanatics and there’s an abundance of scary information (some misleading – some accurate) out there. It’s bound to strike up fears that many of us can’t shake off after reading article after article of worst case scenarios that most likely won’t play out for us. But then there are some of us who kept ourselves well informed or simply felt something wasn’t right and recognized the red flags that were being frantically waved at us. Those red flags can mean the difference between life and death to mothers and their unborn babies.
I don’t know what would have happened if my husband hadn’t convinced me to go get checked out. My next prenatal checkup was a week away and had I not gone to the hospital that night, I would have likely convinced myself to wait until then. One day. I went from “just fine” to “get to the hospital now” in just one day. If I had waited would Eva be here today? Would I be here today? There had been no room for error in my case.
It’s because of these unknowns that I feel obligated to remind expectant mothers that when it comes to your health and that of your unborn baby – TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. To me, there is no such thing as crying wolf when a mother feels her or her baby’s health or life is at risk. Pregnancy comes with so many symptoms that present themselves as being “normal pregnancy symptoms” that many women are left undiagnosed with serious health conditions. If you feel something is wrong, speak up. If your concerns are brushed aside or you are made to feel like your feelings are not valid, find another doctor who can empathize with you better.
Lastly, I would like to say that I would never dare to speak negatively about the medical community. I owe my life to the amazing doctors and nurses that tended to me during all theee of my pregnancies. I am grateful for theses amazing healthcare professionals. However, while they are trained experts in their field, they are unable to replace that sort of sixth sense women have when it comes to listening to signals from our own bodies. Trust what you’re feeling and know the signs and symptoms of disorders like preeclampsia. It could save your life.
(Sidenote: Eva was diagnosed with walking pneumonia during this hospital visit. Once again, intuition kicked in in the nick of time and she recovered…just fine.)
You can connect with me on instagram @stephwaldon / @thewaldonkids
Information on Preeclampsia can be found at www.preeclampsia.org (The opinions expressed in this article are my own and I am not affiliated with the organization in any way.)