Preeclampsia Birth Story: Welcoming Aeris to the Family

She’s finally here! After 3 amazing boys, 2 miscarriages, and years of trying, we have a beautiful baby girl. Aeris Aurora June was born March 13, 2015 at a perfectly healthy 7.9 lbs, 20 inches. As much as I love to just brag about my gorgeous children, I do try to make my birth announcements helpful to people who don’t know me and don’t care that some lady on some website had a baby, and Aeris’s birth, and the preeclampsia that forced it to happen, is indeed a story worth sharing, because everything about it was atypical and stumped my doctors.

preclampsia birth stories
5 days old

 

Preeclampsia without high blood pressure?

My pregnancy was full of not-so-fun symptoms, but one was new. I had “generalized edema” aka full body swelling. Swelling during pregnancy is fairly common in the lower extremities, but when seen in the upper body, particularly the face, it can be a warning sign of preeclampsia. I had swelling from head to toe starting around 6 months that progressively became worse. Its onset was not rapid like most preeclampsia warning sign lists state, and it was not accompanied by high blood pressure. I had no other symptoms of preeclampsia, so the general consensus was it was just, one of those things. I just needed to drink more water—and I did. I drank water by the gallon, and it did not go away. Around 36 weeks I developed itching and a rash on my abdomen, which I later discovered was PUPP, another symptom of high blood pressure—yet I still had flawless blood pressure. I took some dandelion root and things seemed to be improving on the rash front at least.

Then at my 39 week prenatal check suddenly the protein levels in my urine skyrocketed. My midwife got a +3 on the dip stick and ordered a 24-hour lab. My protein levels were 1,728. To put that in perspective, anything above 300 is diagnosable as preeclampsia, so my levels were almost six times even the high normal level. I still did not have high blood pressure, headache, or visual disturbances. Protein levels that high were a sign my kidneys and liver were struggling though, and the only answer was immediate induction. Thank the gods my levels randomly spiked at 39 weeks when induction was a very safe option. Preeclampsia is one of the leading causes of neonatal death, because the only way to cure preeclampsia, which can be fatal for both mother and child, is to deliver, no matter how far along you are.

Inducing at 39 weeks

I’ve actually been induced with three of four of my kids now, and the natural labor was scheduled for induction but came before we got there. However, my first three children were overdue, making this my first pre-due date induction. I opted for cervidil as it had worked well for me in the past. It worked again, kind of. I went in for induction at 8:30, had cervidil placed at 9:30, and started contracting around 11. Unfortunately, those contractions were too frequent and heavy. The cervidil was removed around midnight, and things might have proceeded as planned, except…

Magnesium Sulfate, I fucking hate you.

Being classified as having extreme preeclampsia despite having no high blood pressure, I was still at risk for seizures during and after my labor. Apparently, what they give to prevent this is a nasty little substance called magnesium sulfate. Ironically, magnesium sulfate is also used to delay preterm labor. That’s right, they induced me, got labor going to a painful point, then gave me a drug that stops labor, and it worked. My labor stopped, and I went to sleep. The next at 8 am I was started on Pitocin, something I’d had a very painful relationship with during my first labor. I delivered at 10:31 am. They didn’t even have time to break down the hospital bed. Why such a fast labor?

Well, magnesium sulfate makes many women sick especially if you mix it with high dose Pitocin. It turns out the fastest way to deliver a baby is to vomit through your entire freaking labor. What else does magnesium sulfate have to offer? It sort of feels like someone has injected lava into your veins somehow. You feel feverish and cold at the same time, a bit dizzy, and oh yeah! It also causes your uterus not to contract after labor. I got to feel the awesome sensation of having blood clots pushed from my body (it felt sort of like worms sloshing out) and then had to be given even more medication to stop my bleeding so I didn’t bleed out to boot, but you know, it was worth it, because she is just…perfect.

The after math

I was very happy I avoided a csection even if my labor was highly medicated. Over the next 48 hours the tubes and monitors were slowly removed one by one. I felt much better just having the Pitocin pulled, but 24 hours later when they took out my IV magnesium drip I was ecstatic—for about 6 hours. Then I felt like I’d been hit by a mac truck driven by an obese elephant. My entire body hurt, and not like normal I-just-had-a-baby hurt (I’d had 3 already remember). I assume that must have been magnesium’s parting gift. To add to my misery I got the dTap shot after my labor to protect my new Liebling from pertussis and had my first ever vaccine reaction adding injection site pain, rash, and alternating fever/chills to my recovery. We still have no idea why I developed severe preeclampsia without high blood pressure during a fourth pregnancy with the same father and no risk factors whatsoever, but it happened.

A Not-So Picture Perfect Baby Bump

I’m currently pregnant with my fourth child. I see these maternity photos of these perfect baby bumps all pristine and perfectly round, and then I look down at my own belly. It’s stretch marked. You can see the fine lines of soft-blue veins showing through my pale skin. There’s bulges at my sides where once there were not. It’s sort of bullet shaped with some dimples where I suppose, a baby body is not. It’s the sort of tummy you never take photos of with bare skin. It is not picture perfect, but you know, I think it is a better representation of what a baby bump really looks like, so I’m going to take that picture anyway. I’m going to show it, unaltered with filters or lighting, because no matter how many stretch marks it has, how misshapen it is, or how many veins you can see, it’s still a price I had to pay for motherhood—and I pay it with pride.

almost 31 weeks with baby 4
almost 31 weeks with baby 4

almost 31 weeks with baby 4

I remember my first labor. All I could smell was oranges, and not the fresh let’s-have-some-juice scent of oranges. No, the I’m trying-to-cover-a-smell-with-generic-orange fragrance that medical offices and hospitals seem to just love that makes me want to vomit scent of oranges. The room was muggy and overly hot, and the nurse kept telling me I couldn’t open the window, as if opening a window was somehow going to endanger my coming baby that was taking forever to come—god, it seems like babies always take forever to come. Everything was set alive in a perfect scene of discomfort as the fluorescent lights hummed to the beep, beep, beep of the monitor the nurse also never shut off even though I wasn’t hooked up to it. I would have measured the time by those beeps if the contractions weren’t less ignorable.

Why was it, I wondered, people thought this was beautiful? How is sweat, blood, pain, and occasionally poop all in a nice sterile orange-scented room beautiful? Those are the sorts of things you notice when you’re in pre-labor. When you’re still pretty sure labor doesn’t hurt so bad and can think coherently about petty things and contradictions. It’s when the true labor starts that you see the animal hiding inside the “evolved” human. You see the way pain makes you stupid, vulgar, and loud– desperate and maybe even just a bit dangerous until it peaks, and something fantastic happens.

The world stops for you. The buzzing stops. The pain stops. The smells stop. The room isn’t so hot, and maybe not even really there. It’s just you and this slimy screaming child that you created—and it’s beautiful. Beautiful isn’t even a sufficient word to describe it, but it’ll have to do, because that’s the only word we have. It’s in that little bubble of ejected reality where nothing else but you and your baby exist that a bond is born. A second entity to carry a new mother though the all-night fits, spit-covered shoulders, and scream-induced migraines that accompany the miracle that is life. And once the rest of the universe comes raining back in suddenly it’s all so much less important. You catch yourself wondering if the pain, waiting, and annoyance are somehow critical to the creation of what you’ve just experienced. The way to be a tree a seed has to rip itself apart, break open, and face the harshness of the world outside to survive or die, a mother has to pay the price of life, watch her body stretch and reshape before breaking open her emotional center to love a child only the way a parent can.

It’s a price I pay with pride.

Labor Induction: What is It Like and How Is It Done?

One in five births in the United States is now begun by labor induction. With the increase in induced labors, inductions are now among the common fears a woman faces during her pregnancy. This makes the question, “what is a labor induction like?” a common one. As a mother of four children, I understand this fear and uncertainty all too well. With my first baby, I was induced with pitocin, with my second I went into labor naturally, and with my third and fourth I was induced using cervidil. This article will attempt to address the common questions a mother has in regards to an induced labor including first hand experience with induced labors.labor induction

What is a labor induction and how is it done?

A labor induction is a process by which contractions are forced to occur through medication or other techniques with the goal of starting the labor process. There are several methods of inducing a labor that are in common use today including:

Sweeping or stripping of the membranes to separate the amniotic sac from the uterine wall. This procedure is typically done at your doctors office. Your doctor simply uses his/her finger to separate the membranes.

Dilation of the cervix using synthetic prostaglandins or using a water injected balloon to force dilation triggering the proper hormones naturally. Hormones may be applied to your cervix during an office visit to induce cervical dilation, or a special balloon like tool may be inserted into your cervix and then filled with water placing pressure on the cervix which may trigger the release of cervix ripening hormones. The most common method of this type is cervidil.-Intravenous oxytocin (a hormone that triggers contractions.) This procedure will be done at a hospital using an IV drip. This method is commonly called pitocin induction.

Manual break of the bag of waters. This is also done at the hospital, your doctor will use a small hook to puncture your bag of waters.

In almost all cases, labor induction is successful and labor begins. With membrane stripping or cervical dilation techniques labor may take a few days to begin. If your bag of waters is broken, you must deliver within 24 hours.

Why would my labor be induced?

Your labor may be induced or your doctor may suggest induction if:

-You are past your due date (usually by at least a week or two)
-Your baby appears to be becoming to large
-Your bag of waters has broken, but your labor has not begun
-Your placenta is performing poorly or has separated from the uterine wall
-Your amniotic fluid is too low
-You have high blood pressure pregnancy or some other medical conditions that warrants need
-You’ve had a previous full-term still born birth

This is not an all inclusive list, these are however the most common reasons for labor inductions. Keep in mind, in many cases induction is your choice and may not always be necessary, such as if your baby is overdue but there are no health concerns.

What is being induced like?

I personally had my membranes stripped in my second labor, cervidil in my third, and in my first I had my bag of waters popped and was given pitocin in an IV drip.

The membrane stripping induction method was painless and done during a cervical check in my 41st week of pregnancy. It hurt no more than a dilation check. I went into labor naturally when my water broke a week later. This labor was long and quite painful.

In my first labor, I was 2 weeks over due as well and did not begin labor naturally. My amniotic fluid was low so they chose to attempt to induce. First, they broke my water. This was on par with a PAP smear in feeling and done in a similar way except the device is passed through the cervix and used to puncture the amniotic sac. I felt a light pinch and then the warm feeling of very little water in my case due to the low fluid levels. It was not painful, though a bit uncomfortable. Unfortunately, this form of induction failed to progress labor quickly enough so I was given a pitocin IV.

For a few hours, I felt nothing but anticipation and boredom, well and a very uncomfortable IV in my hand. Then the contractions began heavy and fast within 15 minutes, I was fully dilated and doubled over in pain. This is a common issue with pitocin labor induction, it triggers contractions that are too strong, and too fast the result was fetal distress, which resulted in an episiotomy.

Of all my labors, the cervidil labor induction was the fastest and least painful. Cervidil is most commonly given in a tampon-like or “card” application which is inserted near or in the cervix. This is not painful and again feels a lot like a PAP smear. In my case, my labor began rather quickly, but cervidil is not effective for everyone. In my opinion, for me, it shortened the dilation phase of my labor significantly. I was, however, already a week over due with a 10 lb baby.

None of the methods were painful or even complicated, however the contractions from the pitocin were far more painful than those I experienced in my other labors. There are a number of natural ways to induce labor that you can try to avoid medical induction as well.