There are a few things no one tells you about pregnancy. One of them is that pregnancy is not always rainbows and butterflies. I have told my story about pre-eclampsia many times, but this will be the first time I am writing about it.
It was a Tuesday morning and I was about 30 weeks pregnant. I started seeing things differently, literally. My vision was getting weaker. At this point of my pregnancy, I was quite overweight. I was teasingly told it could just be my oversized hamster cheeks pushing up against my eyes.
Then came what I perceived to be anxiety attacks. I had trouble sleeping as my heart would beat rapidly. I took my blood pressure and found that I had stage 2 hypertension. However this came and went away, so I dismissed it as nothing serious.
Finally on a Friday, four days after it all began, I thought, this can’t be right. So I told my husband and then made an appointment to see my gynaecologist. As the next day was a Saturday, my gynae was away. Thus we had to look for another suitable doctor.
The big shocker
On Saturday I dragged my cankles off to a gynaecologist we found in Subang. He checked me and then said “Well, you have two options. You can either go to Hospital ‘XX’ to admit yourself, or go to your usual Hospital and admit yourself there. Either way you need to be admitted to the hospital today.”
He then explained that I had pre-eclampsia, a condition that can occur in pregnant women there is a problem with the placenta. The mother can develop high blood pressure, protein in her urine and fluid retention and swelling. Although most cases are mild, some can be serious and life-threatening for the mother and baby.
By then, I had lost sight in my right eye and the vision in my left eye was almost gone too. My blood pressure had skyrocketed so much it was going to affect my brain. I needed to be put on bed rest immediately.
My husband rushed me to our usual hospital with a letter in hand. When we got to the ER the nurses took me straight to a bed. That day, at 31 weeks pregnant, I was told I may have to have an early labour.
The next few days were a blur…
By 7pm that night, I was already in the High Dependency Unit (HDU) with tubes and needles everywhere. I was not allowed to move from the bed unless told otherwise. That’s how serious my pre-eclampsia was.
I was hooked up to a blood pressure machine which automatically checked my blood pressure every 15 minutes. A cardiotocograph (CTG) machine monitored my baby’s heartbeat. Meanwhile I was injected with the most painful jab I’ve ever had in my life. It contained a steroid to help my baby’s lung develop faster.
I went to sleep that night only to be woken up at 6 am by the nurses and doctor. They told me I had to undergo an emergency Caesarean section as my baby’s and my heartbeat were getting weaker. This is one of the risks of pre-eclampsia.
They explained everything to my husband and got him to sign some papers. By 9 am I was being wheeled in to the operation theatre (OT) and at 9.41 am my beautiful baby boy was born. Only I did not see it happen.
My birth story is a story my husband can tell in detail, but I can’t. They had to put me to sleep so as not to stress my body further. I woke up only after being wheeled out of the OT and was sent back to the HDU. Then the countdown to see my son began.
When things didn’t get better
We were told that once the baby was out, my vitals would improve but unfortunately, they didn’t. My blood pressure remained the same but now my oxygen level dipped.
The nurses came to fix an oxygen mask on me and more needles were inserted. I was so drugged up at that point, I hardly remember what was going on or who came to visit. Apparently, I lay on that bed for 5 days.
My family took turns to visit me when allowed, and I noticed their faces didn’t look all too great. I still had not seen my baby.
On Day 5, the nurses woke me up. They told me that if all went well I would be transferred to the normal ward and I could see my son. I was so ecstatic I was literally counting the hours. Finally, around 4 pm, I was wheeled to the normal room.
Seeing my baby for the first time
It was surreal. Feelings of guilt, feelings sadness, and feelings of joy all assailed me. There he was, a tiny baby, weighing all of 1.65 kg in that big old incubator. I was also told that I couldn’t breastfeed my son for a while as I was still under heavy medication.
As I was feeling weak and tired the first few days, I only managed to visit him a few times a day to talk to him and just look at him. The feelings of guilt never went away. There was the guilt of not spending enough time with him, not being able to feed him, and the guilt of having to give birth to him early.
The worst feeling was when I was discharged with a truckload of medication, but my baby had to continue his stay in the hospital.
That was 5 years ago. That is my story of pre-eclampsia.
Today, many people can’t believe that my son was born a preemie, eight to nine weeks early. His height is now within the top 10% percentile and he is as healthy as can be. We’ve definitely gone miles beyond the days of checking his heart beat every half an hour. Now we are too tired to run after him because the boy just can’t sit still. But you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.
By Diana Annuar
Dee (Diana Annuar) is a stay-at-home mom to a 5-year-old energiser bunny. Her days now consist of picking up toys, negotiating screen time and singing along to Teen Titans Go for the billionth time.