what to expect when you’re not really expecting severe pre-eclampsia

today has been the first really boring day in the hospital. monday was a whirlwind of meeting doctors, social workers, financial consultants, etc. they had me on magnesium & a catheter for the entire day so i wasn’t allowed to get up. i was hooked up to a fetal monitor 24 hours a day, having blood drawn every few hours…i honestly barely even remember the details, even though it was just a few days ago. they did let me eat dinner, but i don’t remember what i ate.

the constant monitoring doesn’t stop at night. monday into tuesday, someone was coming in every few hours to take my blood pressure & top off my magnesium IV. every time they lost the baby on the monitor (due to the baby or i shifting positions), someone had to come it to adjust the belts & sensors. they give me a sleeping pill (at my discretion–i can refuse it if i want, but i love sleeping pills so i’m happy to take them), but there are still a lot of interruptions. the night nurse told me i was free to order breakfast, so when 6:30am rolled around, i did.

the head perinatal nurse came in an hour or two later to walk me through the day. a lab tech had come in a few hours earlier & drawn more blood to look again at my platelet levels & liver enzymes. she said my platelets were good but liver enzymes were even more elevated, which was very concerning. i had only had my second steroid shot (to mature baby’s lungs) the night before, so she said they would try to hold off on delivery until at least 24 hours after that second shot, but that the likelihood of me still being pregnant by the end of the week was slim indeed. just as i was trying to digest that concept, a doctor that i have dubbed “doctor hysterical” ran in hollering about my liver enzyme levels.

“we NEED to get this baby out,” he said.

“shouldn’t we wait until 24 hours after the steroid?” asked the nurse. “she only has about fifteen hours to go.”

“i really don’t think we have time for that,” he said. “someone else is on deck for surgery at noon, but i’m scheduling her for 2pm.” he turned to me & said, “i’m ordering a second round of bloodwork to look at your liver again but i’ll bet anything they’re even higher now, & if they are, or if there’s no change, we’re taking the baby at 2pm. ordinarily i wouldn’t want to deliver at only 32 weeks, but we can’t risk you getting any sicker.”

so. yeah. i was kind of so shocked that i couldn’t even react. i called jared & our doula, both of whom showed up at around 11:30am. the lab tech came in shortly thereafter to take blood. the NICU sent down a representative to walk me through the ins & outs of what to expect as far as having a baby up there & how 32-week-old preemies do. our doula helped guide us through what to expect from an emergency cesarean & facilitated a conversation with our delivery nurse, which was really helpful. they put me back on magensium to control my blood pressure & prevent a brain bleed in the baby during the birth. they laid a bunch of other lines for the anesthesia & everything.

& then the lab results came back. my liver enzyme levels had actually DROPPED a tiny bit since 6am. it was a totally unexpected result, & they canceled the surgery, took me off the magnesium, etc. i can’t even explain how i felt. on the one hand, i was enormously relieved. a baby born at 32 weeks will generally do all right, but we were looking at about a month in the NICU. if we can scrape by to 34 weeks, the time the baby will be in the NICU will drop exponentially. on the other hand, i just kind of wanted to get the whole thing over with & begin the recovery process.

our doula left–she looked exhausted. she didn’t say anything about what her week had been like, but she looked like she might have been at a birth the night before. jared stayed with me while i came off the magnesium, until my headache got bad enough that i encouraged him to leave. the first time i was on mag, they kept me on it for nearly 24 hours, & i was sick for another 24 hours after they took me off–vomiting & everything. it wasn’t quite that severe the second time, maybe because i had experience with it, or because i was only on it for about four hours this time, but i still had a headache to beat the band.

the next day (yesterday), i started experiencing chest pain. that can be a sign of pulmonary edema, fluid retention in the lungs…basically, just a bunch of bad stuff related to pre-eclampsia that is really bad news. they did a bedside chest x-ray which came back clear. they did a bedside EKG which also showed no abnormalities. a bedside echocardiogram indicated that my heart is in perfect health. no one could figure out what was wrong so they started giving me heartburn medicine to see if that would fix the problem, even though i told them it didn’t feel like heartburn. i am not ruling out the possibility of it being an anxiety symptom though. i mean, look at the situation i’m in. who wouldn;t be anxious?

jared visited for a good chunk of the day, even though i just slept a lot because i was worn out from all the heart/lung tests. shortly after he left, they took me off the constant fetal monitoring for the first time in almost 72 hours. that gave me a lot more mobility–i can now get up to wash my face or whatever without needing the nurses to come in to readjust the monitor afterward. i still have to do an hour of fetal monitoring every four hours, but that’s so much easier than being on the belts 24 hours a day.

my labs are still bad–protein over 1000, elevated liver enzymes. they have started referring to my situation as “severe pre-eclampsia,” but they really want the baby to bake a little longer. & although my labwork looks bad, it is stable. it’s not getting better, but it hasn’t gotten worse in the last few days either, & i am relatively asymptomatic as far as non-magnesium-induced headaches, swelling, & vision changes go. things could go south at any moment, & they would send me an emergency cesarean, & there’s pretty much no chance they will let me leave the hospital before i have the baby, even if i am stable for weeks. i also don’t know if i will be permitted a trial of labor or if i will be sent for surgery. they are really concerned that labor could tip me over into seizures or a stroke, given my poor lab numbers. but for now, we’re trying to keep the baby in for as long as i can handle it, & today has been a good day. i feel better, physically, than i have since before i was admitted, i was able to tour the NICU & see some babies, & they are talking about reducing labwork to every other day. they also told me that they have a pet policy & jared can bring charlotte in to visit me! i smell the hit buddy movie of 2013!

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

4 thoughts on “what to expect when you’re not really expecting severe pre-eclampsia

  1. I am so sorry that you’ve had to go through all of this. Thanks for continuing to share your experiences. I hope you continue to be stable, and are able to keep baby X in the womb for as long as possible.

  2. I haven’t got any wise words or useful advice, but I’m thinking of you and hoping that you and Baby Narwhal get to rest as comfortably as possible for as long as possible. I’m really impressed by your writing and your sense of humour, when I know that what you’re dealing with right now must be very difficult. All best.

  3. Wow, I haven’t been to your website in a few months & was expecting everything to be going smoothly – certainly not this! I’m amazed that you’re still writing about your experiences though it all. I’ve never commented here before, but I just want you to know that I’m sending the best possible thoughts to you, Jared, and Baby Narwhal. Hoping that you can keep the baby on the inside for as long as possible & that you all have as good an experience as possible when he/she is on the outside.

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