You know those women who get pregnant on the first try, look fabulous and gush about how much they love being pregnant, then brag about how the baby just popped right out?
I AM NOT ONE OF THEM.
My mother keeps telling me that our family produces great children, we're just not very good at making them. She's right. I'm now the proud mother of two beautiful boys, who in my oh-so-humble opinion are perfect in every way. However, getting to this point was not easy.
Beau was born seven weeks premature, after my water broke in the middle of the night, eight weeks before my due date. Getting through the five weeks he spent in Neonatal Intensive Care was one of the greatest challenges I've ever faced.
Fast forward three years and as we expected our second child, my husband Joe and I were immediately overcome with fear. Would the same thing happen? Would my water break later, or God forbid, even earlier in my pregnancy? Would the end result be another happy, healthy child or a baby that faces a lifetime of medical and emotional problems?
Given my medical history and a few bouts of early contractions, my doctors put me on bedrest. Then one afternoon at my weekly appointment, all hell broke loose... AGAIN. Just shy of 36 weeks, my blood pressure skyrocketed.
I was rushed to the hospital, where tests showed I had extreme preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome. You've likely heard of preeclampsia, but probably not HELLP, named after its characteristics:
H (hemolysis, which is the breaking down of red blood cells)
EL (elevated liver enzymes)
LP (low platelet count)
The mortality rate of HELLP is reported as high as 25%. The most common reasons mothers become critically ill or die are liver rupture or stroke. It's scary as all HELL.
Doctors treated me with a cocktail of IVs, including magnesium, for about 72 hours. Incredibly, mother nature kicked in and instead of needing an emergency cesarean section, I went into labor and was briefly taken off the drugs to deliver Baby Brooks, our 5 pound bundle of joy.
They immediately drugged me back up and the following 24 hours were the most miserable of my life. I was so swollen I was unrecognizable, I vomited non-stop, couldn't see, couldn't move and could barely speak. At one point, I asked the doctor in a strained whisper, if I was going to die. He paused for what seemed like an eternity, then said they're doing everything they can to treat me.
That wasn't the answer I was looking for.
Seven weeks later, my blood pressure is still elevated to the point that it requires medication and I'm still not in the clear. Both preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome can reoccur for months after giving birth.
So, I'm not one of those perfect women. In fact, when it comes to having kids, I suck.
But I'm counting my blessings anyway.
I have two handsome, healthy boys and thanks to my incredible doctors, I'm still alive and here to see them grow. As I write this article and glance at Brooks' sweet sleeping face, I realize that at the end of the day... through all the obstacles... I truly have a lot to be thankful for.