By Madison Lee, author of Pregnancy After Preeclampsia
Eight years ago I almost lost my life giving birth to my daughter. Preeclampsia could’ve destroyed a family. I kissed my newborn as they whisked her out of my arms and into the NICU. It felt like a dream, or maybe more like a nightmare. My husband ran down the hallway, following the tiny bassinet that carried her lifeless body, and I pleaded with the nurses to let me out of bed. The room was spinning, and the cloudy vision that filled my eyes was haunting. I had zero control over what was going to happen to my daughter. I knew I may have held her for the last time and that she was trying to survive in this world without the comfort of her mom. I hated my body for betraying me; for letting me hover so close to death over those 36 hours. I hated the doctor who was sewing my vagina shut, and would've kicked him if I only had the strength to lift my foot from the stirrup. Preeclampsia stole everything from me, and I don’t think I’ll ever forgive it for that.
It took me five years to even entertain the idea of another pregnancy. I sold my daughter’s clothes and toys as fast as she outgrew them. I tried to convince my husband to get a vasectomy because I was certain I would never want to go through it all over again. But, I was wrong. In 2014 I became pregnant with our second child, and was overjoyed. However, the fear of pregnancy was debilitating. I knew I needed to do things differently this time. I was the driver of the truck, and no one else was going to steer the wheel.
During my first pregnancy, I found out three main things that I feel determined the success of my second pregnancy.
Number one: In my opinion, this is the most important one: BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE. If you don’t think you will have the strength, or if you will be incapacitated any time during the pregnancy/delivery, be sure to elect someone that you are positive will speak up for your wishes. I had no voice during my first pregnancy. I allowed doctors and nurses to make decisions for me based on their own agendas, and I knew I didn’t want this to happen again. Even if I felt things were wrong, I never questioned them, and I’m still kicking myself for that. YOU are the leader of your pregnancy, and YOU should be the one making decisions. Now, I am not advising you not to consult with a doctor or trained midwife, but make sure that they are doing what’s in yours – and your baby’s – best interest; not just theirs.
Number two: KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR SYMPTOMS. After someone goes through preeclampsia, they know what the symptoms are: High blood pressure, protein in urine, blurred vision, severe headache, etc. But most of us wait until our next doctor visit to find out our levels. During my second pregnancy, I decided to take charge and check my levels at home. I bought a blood pressure monitor and ordered urine protein strips online. I checked both of my levels daily and more often if I felt a little “off.” At the very least, it helped limit my stress about preeclampsia sneaking up on me without notice. I would advise any person dealing with a preeclamptic pregnancy, or a pregnancy after preeclampsia, to purchase these two essentials.
Number three: ENJOY BEING PREGNANT. I know for a fact, that I missed out on this one. During my first pregnancy, I was so afraid of what was going to happen, that I forgot to enjoy the here and now. As a first-time-mom, I think we speed forward to the baby, and never realize how precious the nine months of pregnancy really are. Pregnancy is a beautiful gift that, unfortunately, not all are given the opportunity to experience. It’s to be cherished and remembered, but most of all -- enjoyed. Stop prepping the nursery and reading books about baby’s first year. Stop talking to other mom’s about the terrible twos, and private schools that they will attend when they are five years old. Stop hoping your body will “bounce back” immediately after giving birth. Enjoy the now. Enjoy the fact that there is a miracle growing inside of your uterus. Embrace the incredible feat that it is to nourish the life of another human being. You are amazing. Enjoy it.
My second pregnancy still had many twists and turns, but in the end it was preeclampsia free. I hope that my advice can help you if you decide to pursue a second pregnancy. Please be sure to meet with a specialist to determine your risks of preeclampsia before making a decision. Best of luck to all of those who decide to take the leap, and I’m sorry to those who have lost a child due to preeclampsia – my heart aches for you. My hope is that in the future, we can find out ways to prevent this life-threatening complication and it will no longer be an epidemic among pregnant women. But, for now, we can only help each other by sharing our stories and offering support. I hope that my story can help someone else, the way that so many other stories have helped me.
About Madison Lee
Madison is a 32-year-old mother of two from Pennsylvania. She began writing about five years ago, and Pregnancy After Preeclampsia is her first published book. She lives in the countryside with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys hiking in the woods, gardening, and anything that has to do with the outdoors. After her first pregnancy almost took her life, she decided to try and help mothers battling preeclampsia by sharing her story. Here’s what she has to say:
“I wrote Pregnancy After Preeclampsia a year and a half after delivering my daughter. I longed to read a book like this for many years while recovering, but could never find one. Before getting pregnant, I searched blogs and testimonials of women who had successful and healthy pregnancies after preeclampsia. I knew that there had to be more women out there that had the same fears as me, and I hope that this book can help someone find the strength to try again. I believe it will appeal to all mothers, not just those who have struggled with a complicated or life threatening pregnancy. It’s a raw and uncut birth story like no other, and it has hit the ground running.”
Madison has included a small excerpt from her book for your enjoyment:
I close my eyes and drift off again, welcoming the chance to rest. I could sleep for hours if these people would leave me alone. After what seems like five minutes, an incredible amount of pressure overtakes my abdomen. As a contraction builds, I bear down to push.
"Is she pushing?" Shawn asks from across the room.
"I think so," Lena responds as she rushes to grab my leg and hold it up. "You’re feeling the pressure now?" she asks.
I nod my head. "I need to get in a different position," I explain.
Before anyone answers, I shift onto all fours. The numbness in my leg has disappeared and once again I will be delivering without the aid of an epidural.
I rip cords off my arms and throw them. The nurse struggles to get them reattached before alarms on the machines sound.
"I'm so sorry," I tell her. "I'm just so sorry. These are in my way. I have to push."
Her face fills with worry. "But, Dr. Paul isn't here yet," she whines.
"Well, you better call him," Mom demands. "Because this baby is coming. I'll catch it if I have to."