I never expected one day I would become a mother, especially six years after my divorce. I felt good about my physical health, even though it was later in life for me to conceive. From the start I was labeled a “geriatric pregnancy” which is anyone over the age of thirty-five. I knew at thirty-eight I wasn’t a spring chicken, but I had never considered myself to be geriatric. The doctors stressed more about potential health concerns for women in my age group, and requested that I do more testing to ensure a healthy baby. Everything came back normal, and I was feeling pretty good about the health of us both.
My pregnancy was fairly good other than a concerning amount of swelling that occurred the entire third trimester. My legs and feet became so swollen I couldn’t fit into any of my shoes, and I felt at times embarrassed by their close resemblance to Shrek’s. I continued to go to all of my regular appointments, and they never found anything alarming about the consistent swelling. I tried compression tights to reduce some of the swelling, that over time became very painful but nothing seemed to help. I figured this is just a part of the process, and once my baby came it will all go back to normal.
During the third trimester I also experienced a lot of what I would call Pre-partum depression. I had no prior experience with infants growing up, all the kids I babysat were potty trained. I was no longer with the father for good reason, and had no immediate family to turn to for support. My hormones were all over the place, and I was an emotional wreck. This was a very difficult time for me, and I spent many hours crying it out. Fortunately I have been blessed with amazing friends that felt like family, and I continued to do the things that brought me joy and kept me grounded. I hired a doula for additional support, and created a birth plan to fit my needs and prepare me the best I could for her arrival.
The Big day
The day I went into labor, my body decided back labor was a good idea. I had worried that this could be a possibility, and I heard horror stories about this type of labor. I was able to go twelve hours before I decided to give in and have an epidural. The relief was immediate, and I was relieved to have a much needed break before I had to push.
When I did deliver Dusk after two hours of pushing, I felt panicked when she was not the right color. She had the cord around her neck and needed oxygen, in addition to passing meconium in the womb during delivery. She had to be taken to NICU right away for further testing, and oxygen support. I was overcome with joy and panic as my baby girl was taken away from me to be given medical care.
Then I was told I was diagnosed with preeclampsia and that I needed to be given magnesium immediately. During my delivery my blood pressure had become 170/120, and I was at risk for a stroke, seizure or even death. The effects of that infusion were horrible, I was so sick that I had a hard time communicating. My heart was hurting from not being with my baby, and I just wanted so badly to leave that bed. Five hours later I was cleared to see her, and wheel chaired up to NICU. Holding my baby in my arms was overwhelming, the love that came over me was like nothing i had ever felt before.
I spent three extra days in the hospital as my blood pressure continued to stay very high even with treatment. Dusk was cleared after the results of her tests continued to improve, and was able to stay with me the last night we were admitted.
I was relieved to be back home, and just trying to find a new normal. I had only slept a total of five hours in the past three days I was in the hospital. I felt beyond rundown, but so grateful we were home and safe. I had a intuitive feeling I should check my blood pressure, since I was given no meds when i was cleared from the hospital. Having no previous symptoms it concerned me that something could happen, and I would not be prepared and alone.
My blood pressure was back up to 160/110 and I had no idea other than the reading from the monitor. I got back in with my gyno right away and was given strong meds to lower it quickly. Long story short, my bp did not get better and I had the option of taking four pills a day, or being admitted back into the hospital. I had never suffered from high bp, or needed to take any prescription drugs before.
I was also nursing and so worried that these meds were bad for me and my baby. However I had no other options, and had to act fast and do what they advised. I ended up being on four bp pills a day for six weeks, in addition to a no salt diet and caffeine diet. I drank a lot of beet juice, hawthorn and hibiscus teas to lower my blood pressure in a natural way.
During my pregnancy the discussion of preeclampsia never came up, and I had no idea what it was until I was diagnosed. I was one of the lucky ones, even though it persisted for way longer then what is normal. If I had not been so healthy prior my story could have ended up very differently. It did send me into some postpartum depression, as I was not prepared to be facing this while being a newly single mother. I felt so connected to my daughter, the strong fear that something was going to happen to me was overwhelming.
Nothing can prepare you for the exhaustion and sleep deprivation of caring for a newborn. Running on empty, and trying to stay hydrated to produce enough milk was harder than any physical feat I have ever done.
After her two month check-up I had to include formula into her diet, she wasn’t gaining enough weight. I felt like a failure, that somehow I was less then other mothers that didn’t have this issue. I’m not sure if the bp meds were to blame, or my consistent stress. In addition to her being tongue tied, that made breast feeding very painful.
She received the minor surgery, and I stayed the course. I had to accept that it was okay to do both, even though that wasn’t my plan. I incorporated brewers yeast, and milk thistle into my diet to support lactation. Breastfeeding has been such a beautiful gift, and I’m grateful for however long I can produce for her.
I could never claim to have all the answers, as I can only share my experiences. I am still in the thick of it, and learning new things all the time. I do suggest to accept help when others offer, as a new mother needs to maintain that self-care and balance. Take naps and sit baths whenever you get the opportunity. And journal, this time is precious and it will go fast. You and your child can look back at this time together through your words, and it that is incredibly special.