The morning after his surgery, I woke up crying and puking simultaneously. What to Expect says vomiting in the third trimester is normal. (Well, I think it did. In retrospect, I was kind of out of it.)
On Tuesday, I called in sick from work. I felt spacey. Anxiety, I thought. Only five days previously, I’d been to my 32 week check-up, and everything was fine.
On Thursday, I went to therapy. What a dreary session. Talking about everything that had gone wrong and what might happen next had upset my stomach. I couldn’t eat anything, which was odd because at that point in my pregnancy, I ate like a 15 year old boy.
My husband was home by that time, lying in our room with a pain patch.
I slept in the back bedroom, so I wouldn’t disturb him. I missed our previous life. Happy in our own bed, in our own place. My mom was visiting us. She knew I needed her.
“Mom, will you stay with me tonight?” I asked. I didn’t want to be alone. I fell asleep and woke up around midnight. Mom was dozing at my feet.
“I don’t feel well,” I told her. I googled my doctor’s name, but couldn’t find his phone number.
I went to the bathroom, held my upper abdomen, and thought, “This pregnancy feels toxic.”
I gingerly lowered myself into bed, and that’s the last thing I remember.
They tell me I had a grand mal seizure caused by a sudden spike in blood pressure. It’s called eclampsia and is quite rare these days. When she noticed me convulsing, my mom ran downstairs to wake up the house and call an ambulance. When she came back, I was covered in blood. I had nearly bitten off my tongue.
(Months later, all you Downton Abbey fans will know that Lady Sybil died in childbirth from eclampsia. Who knew I was so chic and cutting edge? Most women have pre-eclampsia. I did not. I’ve told my story to several doctors, and they all say it was a weird presentation. No one could have predicted it. Yeah, we’re special.)
Anyway, we live a block from the hospital. It was the shortest ambulance ride in the history of our town. Within an hour, my husband was in scrubs, in a wheelchair situated at the foot of my unconscious body, while my doctor performed a C-section to save my and my daughter’s lives, pausing only to sew up my tongue so I wouldn’t choke on the blood.
My husband told me that little Kella—her name Irish for “warrior”—emerged from behind the surgical screens, cried and kicked the doctor before they whisked her to the NICU.
“Feisty little thing,” they all said approvingly. “She’s going to be fine.”
It would be a few days before they could say the same about me.
I remember waking up in a dark room, with a morphine drip and a nurse asked if I knew where I was. I must have said no.
“You are in the hospital. You had a seizure two days ago. You had a C-section. Your daughter is fine. She is in the NICU.”
The piece of my brain that was still functioning was like, “WHAT? OH MY GOD!!!!!”
But all I could muster was a moan, and I soon fell back to sleep.
I must have slept for days. I’d wake up from time to time and see my mom asleep in the recliner at night. My father-in-law sat there in the morning, and my mother-in-law took the afternoon shift. My husband sat with me, too, but I don’t remember it.
He told me later that I woke on one occasion, and he asked me if I was in pain. I looked him in the eyes and said, “Yes, I have blood coming out of my vagina,” or “Yeth, I haff bwood comin out o my vadyina.” Alarmed, he called the nurse.
That story makes me laugh.
For a time, my family worried that something terrible had happened to my brain. I wasn’t making any sense. I was barely responsive and when I tried to communicate, they couldn’t understand a word I was saying. The doctors assured them that I was on heavy duty meds, and my tongue injury had caused my sudden speech impediment.
Five days and a glorious shower later, I was me again. Well, a fragile, frightened me, but off all the anti-seizure drugs that had made me a shell of my former self.
And I was pissed! My doctor walked in my room and said, “Boy am I glad to see you again!”
He must have sensed by my dramatic scowl that I was feeling sorry for myself. I had missed my daughter’s birth. She was in the NICU, and would be for at least another month. My husband and I were both in wheelchairs at the moment. He was still unemployed and in terrible pain, and there was still that “curious tumor” to diagnose.
“Look,” my doc said, “You have every right to be mad about all this, but you should know, it might not seem so, but you are a lucky woman. 10% of women in your situation never wake up again. Things were very touch and go for you for a time. You are lucky to be alive, and your daughter won’t be in the NICU forever. She is going to be fine.”
I hadn’t realized how close to death I’d come. It must have been the post-partum hormones, but I suddenly felt euphoric.
“My God, WE WERE ALL ALIVE!!” I wanted to rejoice.
Funny how emotions are. Mine were everywhere.