Friday, June 08, 2007

The days following the birth

I remember very little about seeing my boys the next few days after their birth as I got sicker and sicker from my liver not functioning. They had to pull a few strings to allow the boys into intensive care. When they brought them to me, I asked for Baby A first, since I hadn't seen him. I took a few moments with him, then they handed me Baby B. H asked me who would be who, namewise. I felt Baby A was Zach and Baby B was Alex. H said he had come to the same conclusion on his own. Then I remember the lactation consultant coming in and helping me try to breastfeed. That's when I thought I was out of the woods and just getting better. Luckily, as I got sicker and they began putting me on medications that would affect my breastmilk, I denied the lactation consultant's attempts to have me still pump and get my milk to come in (they were planning to just throw it out until I was "better"). "Better" was not coming as soon as it would have in a "normal" case of HELLP syndrome or Fatty Liver (I showed symptoms of both issues), and had I needed to be pumped on a regular basis in addition to the constant battery of tests they started running on me plus the excruciating pain I was in from my fluid filled abdomen and body--well, I just can't imagine it.

I continued to turn a darker and darker shade of yellow as the jaundice intensified. The whites of my eyes turned yellow. Friday morning, the left side of my face became paralyzed. I went for an immediate MRI to rule out a stroke. No stroke, it was Bell's Palsy. I had no idea--I did not look in a mirror until a week later. Had no idea about how my face now drooped, that I was so yellow, that even my face was swelled up like a balloon. As I filled with fluid, I was trapped in my body. The pressure from my abdomen swelling up to my chest was horrible. I could barely breathe.

H says I saw the babies every day until they went home on Sunday, Mother's Day. I only remember seeing them on day two. I have no recollection of Mother's Day at all. None. My mom says that was one of my very worst days of all, when the fluid that built up in my abdomen was so much that I began throwing it up and they had to puncture my side to allow some of it to drain. Three and a half liters were taken out. Although the liquid was removed, new liquid continued to fill in as the liver still was not processing it. I had a bag similar to my urine bag coming out of my side to allow the liquid to continue to drain. But it didn't drain faster than it continued to fill.

I was given morphine for the pain. I didn't want it. The sickenly sweet smell filled my nose and stayed with me. I had the most twisted, horrifying nightmares, and I began hearing things and making no sense when I was on it. Even though I didn't want to take it, I had to use it when they moved me from stretcher to stretcher for the constant MRIs, CAT scans and other X-rays. Every bump and jostle my body felt was horrible. I was a water balloon about to pop. When my bowels began working again, I had to have nurses position bed pans under me because I couldn't get out of bed. In addition to my abdomen being filled with fluid, it was filled with trapped gas that was making the pressure worse and needed to come out. This was next to impossible to get out without me being able to stand up and move some. The nurses and physical therapy worked with me to get me up a few times. I was given more morphine after I'd get back into bed. The pain and exertion was just too much. My mind wouldn't quiet. The inside of my mouth felt like pins and needles. I couldn't drink enough, and needed to be brought more liquids all the time. The nurses would bring tall cups with straws that I couldn't suck from due to the paralysis. I spent my time struggling to drink, go to the bathroom, and sleep in between constant doctor visits, blood draws, and tests. When people visited me I freaked out if they got too close or were too loud. My head couldn't take it. I had panic attacks.

My parents would tell me about the babies and I had a hard time listening. H brought me cards and I wouldn't be able to look at them. My focus was on my next breathe.

(Quick update about the present...I still am on a long road to recovery. I cannot care for the babies right now, other than to do occassional feedings and diaper changes. My condition is extremely rare, so for those of you with questions about HELLP, know that I am by far a worst, worst case scenario. I have been told not to have any more pregnancies because my risk of this happening again is high. But for someone who has a "normal" case of HELLP, I think a second pregnancy means you just get monitored more closely.)


Jacquie said...

Wow is all I can say. I have never even heard of this stuff happening! It seems like stuff out of the movies, do you ever feel like that living it as you are?

You are a trooper.

I hope your healing process continues so you can enjoy your babies.

Jen said...

Emmie, oh my God, what you have been through... my heart breaks for you right now. I have been reading your blog for the longest time and what I am reading is taking me back to my own pregnancy where I developed preeclampsia and had an emergency c-section at 36 weeks. Luckily I recovered quickly but 3 years later I still hold so much pain from the emotional and physical trauma. And I must add that I know my situation was not even close to what you have been through, not even close.

I don't want to make any assumptions here but I can imagine you are probably going to deal with some pretty serious PTSD in the coming months and there is a place where the support for women who have been through this is amazing. The Preeclampsia Foundation (which includes the HELLP condition) has an incredible group of survivors, women who know just what you are going through, and I urge you to visit there and gain support; these women have been through the horrific pain and emotional trauma of HELLP. Some of their babies made it, some of them didn't, but all of them are such inspirational survivors. They can understand you in a way your (very well meaning) family and friends just can't. This is the link for the HELLP syndrome survivors forum:

My thoughts are with you right now, and my prayers as well.

Hopeful Mother said...

I am in utter shock reading your account of the birth and post-birth stay in the hospital.

I am so glad that you are able to update us - and on the road to recovery. What an incredibly scary and painful time this has been for you - when it should have been simply a joyous one.

Hoping that every day gets just a little better for you, so you can enjoy Zach and Alex!

Melissa said...

My goodness Emmie. I had no idea things were this bad for you. I'm glad you have family close by to help with the boys, and with you as well.

Hugs and prayers.

GLouise said...

Oh, Emmie- how horrible. I feel so awful reading about how sick you were. I am praying for your continued recovery and healing.

On a lighter note, your story will top just about any other woman who might claim "I almost died in L&D." Not that you wanted to be able to top the bragging ;-(

I am just so glad that you are OK. What a frightening time!

I am curious- how have your parents and in-laws been during this time? I hope that everyone has been supportive and helpful!!

Sunny said...

WOW! You continue to amaze me!

Jamie said...

I am so sorry that you had to go through all of this. I am sure your road to recovery will be a long one but I hope that you will recover fully and that the babies will be a constant reminder of your amazing strength. I can't imagine how difficult all of this must have been on you, and on your family. It sounds like some positives came (your mom's care and love) from this horrific situation.

I wondered what the recommendation would be for further pregnancies and I have to say that in a way I am glad that you will not put yourself through all of this again. I am sure there will be mourning of not being able to have more children but I hope that the miracle of the boys will see you through it.