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HELLP SYNDROME • BIRTH TRAUMA

I was scrolling through photos and videos on my husbands phone on our drive down south this summer and came across some photos and videos from the days after Kellan and Elijah were born. I always forget how sick I looked (was) when the boys were born. I also still have a very hard time realizing just how ill I really was.

It wasn’t until I watched an episode of #greysanatomy where a seemingly healthy mother went into labour and aside from an elevated heart rate didn’t seem to have anything wrong with her. She ended up dying in the show and although it was “just a show” it was the first time in over a year that it hit me just how insane and scary having HELLP Syndrome really was. 

At 5am on February 12, 2017 at exactly 33 weeks gestation with our identical IVF MoDi Twins I woke up needing to pee. This was of course a very normal thing in my pregnancy with two little beings bouncing around my insides. I went to the washroom and noticed a slight greenish tinge on the toilet paper (sorry for the over share). When I stood up I realized there was fluid running down my legs and pooling on the floor. Somehow I remained calm, and gathered a few items and put some mascara on before waking my husband by saying “Derek, don’t freak out but I think my water broke” of course he freaked out, jumped out of bed and started trying to make sense of what was going on in a sleepy adrenaline rushed state. 

We made it to the hospital by 6:30am where Derek rushed me up to the Maternity Ward on the second floor in a wheelchair. We were met with nervous eyes from the nurses who were on the family day long weekend skeleton crew, and who were not prepared to deliver 33 week twins (I believe it’s not common for our hospital to deliver any babies under 36 weeks). I was dilating quickly and was pushing by noon. My blood pressure was normal which we later realized was in all actuality very high as I function at a resting blood pressure of 90/60. Things were not progressing after an hour and a half of pushing baby A (Kellan) so the decision was made to have an emergency C Section. At 2:16 pm and 2:17 pm respectively, Kellan and Elijah were earth-side and being cared for by the amazing doctors and nurses at the Dawson Creek Hospital. 

**Side note: the winds were over 100km an hour on this day, the power went out 16 times while I was there and they had to pull doctors in from the ER and in on a triple OT shift to assist with the delivery as each baby required a doctor as well a one for me, anesthesiologist, a ton of nurses and some other medical professionals that where there that I don’t even remember. They were nervous to send me down to the OR as they didn’t want me being stuck in the elevator had the power gone out while I was in it. **

The babies and I were taken from the hospital in two ambulances to the tarmac at the Dawson Creek Airport and were then flown to Prince George to be admitted to the NICU and Maternity Wards. 

I barely remember the delivery or really anything up to about a week after the boys were born. All I wanted/ needed to do was sleep, sleep and sleep. I had no want to go and see the boys. It felt like such a chore that I had to amp myself up for. This was dreadful. I had dreamt of becoming a mother and fought to become a mother for so long, and I finally had what I had longed for and wanted nothing to do with it. I felt like postpartum depression had hit me smack dab in the middle of my face and wasn’t planning on going anywhere. Sure there were definitely some baby blues but after continued testing from the specialist in the Maternity Ward (chest x rays, uterus, kidney and liver ultrasounds, blood work after blood work and so on) I was diagnosed with HELLP Syndrome. (See description below- essentially a severe form of preeclampsia causing high rates of maternal death stemming from liver and kidneys shutting down). My high blood pressure and elevated white blood cell counts are what initially got the doctors to do more testing (thank goodness). There wasn’t much to do except wait for my white blood cell count to improve, and to continue doing blood work every 6 hours for 3 days. I was only able to take one extra strength Tylenol in the am and one in the pm for pain management post Csection as my body could not properly process what was being put in. I bruised easily and even areas that I had bumped earlier in the month that didn’t bruise ended up bruising all of a sudden. I barely ate, lost too much weight and looked gaunt, white as a ghost and had extremely swollen uncomfortable feet that barely fit into my loose fitting sandals. Derek and his Aunty Nikki had to go and buy me sandals to wear around. The first day I wandered around in a hospital gown, mesh undies with the ever so lovely massive extra long pad that the hospital provides, and my slippers, carrying my “piss purse” (catheter). I wandered in a daze back and forth from maternity to the NICU like this. Derek and Nikki arrived later that day and Derek recalls being extremely worried when he saw me. 

The next few days I wore Derek’s too big for me clothes (sweats and t shirts still no bra) and had to be coaxed into having a shower. Still no ambition or excitement to see the boys. I felt guilty and angry. I had to be given at least an hour to get up go to the washroom and feel emotionally prepared enough to walk approx 100 ft to the NICU. Derek would ask if I wanted to feed or hold the boys and I’d say I was too tired (I truly was) and lay on the small bed curled up in the fetal position in our NICU room. 

Derek had to head back home to work a shift while the boys and I were at the hospital and I remember having an absolute mental breakdown bawling and shaking in his arms begging him not to go, and telling him that I wanted to leave without the boys. Even as I type this a year and a half later it brings terrible emotions in the pit of my stomach that I hope I never have to endure again. 

I was so fortunate to have many wonderful nurses both in the NICU helping with the boys and in the Maternity Ward caring for me. When Derek left, although I was devastated and would burst out crying at any given moment, it was good for me to be alone. I needed to feel like I was the only one there who could give parental love to the boys, and it forced me to step up and learn the things Derek had taken care of for the first week (diaper changes, prepping and feeding bottles, hooking the boys back up to their monitors and giving them baths). 

Slowly but surely I started to feel more like myself and was able to go home after only 15 days total in the NICU (6 in the Maternity ward) with our amazing little men. 

In the months after the boys were born, I felt like I had things figured. I had a system, we came home with K and E on a 4 hr feeding schedule which was amazing! They slept well and were thriving. 

At 8 months postpartum I had a mental breakdown. It was as this point that I realized I had been suffering from Postpartum Depression and Birth Trauma. I made the decision to start a low dose antidepressant and felt it helped almost instantly. I have a medical condition and I take medication. Once I was able to remove myself from the stigma of mental illness it was clear to me that it was that simple. I was sick, and I needed help. Although medication is not for everyone, it works for me and I am thankful yet again that science helped me conceive my children and that it is helping me to enjoy being a month with the help of an SSRI (selective serotonin reputake inhibitor).

Shortly after starting meds and feeling better, I decided to create a Journey Tree Bracelet that supports Mood Disorders (past and present). It was quickly become one of the best selling bracelets I offer, and I am so glad that so many other individuals are willing to wear their bracelets and start the conversation about mental illness. 

The boys are now a year and a half old, are busy, healthy and amazing little humans that I couldn’t not possibly love more than I do. We look forward to one day adding to our family with another FET (frozen embryo transfer) and I am thankful that my first birth experience has prepared me for what may possibly occur again.  My goal is to be able to use Bloom Family Wellness Collective and their amazing staff of Midwives and Doulas for any future pregnancies. Their knowledge and assistance in answering any questions I have so far has been extremely helpful and has put my worried mind at ease. Knowing I may possibly have the opportunity to deliver via VBAC (Vaginal birth after Cesarean) with he help of a Midwife in a hospital setting with an OBGYN as a backup makes me very happy. I won’t ever set a specific “birth plan” but am happy that I know better now what my options are and have had an experience that has allowed me to be able to better help and support others. 

Thank you for reading!

Please feel free to comment below, or email alicia@journeytree.ca should you have any questions or comments about this post.

Your continued support on my journey means the world to me! It truly takes a village to raise not only our children but  mothers and fathers as well! 

 Xoxo 

Alicia

Owner and Creator of Journwh Tree

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