Yesterday (the 11th of May, 2019), as we celebrated my son’s 2nd birthday, I sat watching my children run around and explore… busy, adventurous and with a zest for life that, I must admit, I wish I had.
I sat there thinking about what their lives would have turned out to be; if I had died (I know this sounds depressing, but stay with me).
Two year’s ago on the 11th of May I was admitted to hospital ready for the birth of my son. An elective C-section, but that’s another day’s story. Just a few hours later, in what I can honestly say was the best birth experience I had ever had, this gorgeous chubby baby, with a head full of hair, was laid on my chest.
I’m always amazed at how your heart just explodes with a love so undeniable when you meet your child. This was our 5th child and I have no doubt that a parent’s heart just enlarges with every birth.
We spent 3 days in hospital figuring each other out, and happily waved goodbye to the nurses when we were on our way home.
On my first night at home my husband had a meeting, luckily my mother had flown over to the States to help out (we were living in Michigan at the time). She helped me put the 4 older ones to bed, and then I went upstairs to feed the baby.
I can’t recall exactly what happened, I do remember putting him down and laying my head back against the headboard. An hour later I woke with a start, I was in a haze, disorientated. Baby still fast asleep I staggered downstairs and told my mom I didn’t feel well.
She immediately told me to sit down and went to check on the baby. This is when I messaged my husband and told him that something wasn’t quite right.
In minutes he was flying through the front door and whisking me off to the hospital. I remember thinking how foolish this must all look. I’ve just had a baby, I’m probably just tired and overwhelmed. (We were moving back to South Africa in just 4 short weeks)
Nevertheless, I walked into the emergency room and explained what had happened. In the back of my mind I kept thinking about my baby, at home with my mom. What if he woke up? He would need to feed (even though I had expressed), all these thoughts swimming around in my head, whilst the nurse took my blood pressure…
And there it was… My BP was 173 / 113 – I had postpartum preeclampsia.
In seconds I was being plopped into a wheel chair and being rushed to another medical department. My husband trailing behind. Upstairs I was laid onto a bed, my husband stuck standing in a corner whilst 3 doctors barraged me with questions, poking and prodding away at my already sore body.
And that’s when I heard the doctor say. “Ma’am, you’re at risk of having a maternal stroke any minute”. I had no idea what was going on, I hadn’t made the connection between high blood pressure and the possibility of having a stroke. I was dizzy, queasy, living outside of myself for a moment.
We were taken to a room where I was asked to strip down, now, you can imagine 4 days postpartum, swollen belly, breasts leaking because I had not had an opportunity to express, mesh underwear needing to be changed, I surely looked a sight! Covered in a green gown I climbed onto the hospital bed. No-one had explained what was about to happen, we just sat there.
The doctor came back and informed us that I needed to have a magnesium drip administered. I would be in hospital for 3 days, I would be incredibly weak and I would not be allowed to be alone with my son. It was at this moment that I just broke down in tears (I’d been trying to stay relatively calm all this time). Huge, uncontrollable sobs wracked my body.
What the hell was going on? I didn’t have any BP issues when I was pregnant.
As they were administering the drip, my body began to burn, there was this heat sensation that ran through me, my body was on fire. The nurse didn’t have a chance to get the catheter in before I urinated all over myself, not a proud moment and I sobbed even harder at my embarrassment.
My husband had already left a few moments before this; to fetch our baby boy, pack their bags and prepare my mom (who had to watch the older kids and had no clue what was happening – they would simply wake up the next morning with mom, dad and baby not at home) for the next 3 days.
Once back at the hospital, my hubby made sure I got to see our baby boy before anything else happened. But the nurse told him that I was not allowed to hold him without being helped. Because I simply didn’t have the strength, and she was right. I could barely lift my arm to brush my teeth (imagine trying to breastfeed with zero strength). I wasn’t allowed to drink or eat anything for 3 days (bar ice chips). It was a blur of seeing my husband sleeping on a cot, hearing my child cry and not being able to get up, and not seeing my other children for almost a week (having just been in hospital to give birth).
In my emotional / drug induced state I didn’t fully understand what was going on. There were moments when I thought I was dying, trying to mentally prepare myself for the fact that I would never see my husband and children gain. I was suffering from extreme migraines (a side effect) and nothing they gave me would offer any relief, it got to the point where I was put on morphine. I’m sure this added to my delusional frame of mind. It was by far one of the most terrifying moments of my life. But 3 days later, I got to go home… again.
This moment changed the way I now view Mothers’ Day. It’s not about being told I am special, or being given gifts. For me I am reminded of the fact that I am still a mother, I am alive and I am here, present. That’s my Mothers’ Day gift. The reminder that I am fortunate enough to watch my children grow.