Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I need a new Birth Plan… HELLP!

A new mother once described her birth experience using the words ‘wonderful’ and ‘euphoric’ but since then I’ve often heard even gushier adjectives. 

Never has it been described as ‘I felt like a big tote bag in which several people were simultaneously rummaging for their lost car keys at the bottom’.  Or was that just mine?

Welcome to the emergency C section.

As reproductively challenged as one could be for no good reason, I was miraculously having what my obstetrician described as “a dream pregnancy”.  He made that comment on the Tuesday of my 37th week.  By Sunday I was having tubes threaded into my veins (STAT) and destined to be in hospital for the next nine days, almost half that time served in intensive care.

I’d wanted drugs on a Sunday and the only place you should ask for serious pain killing drugs on a Sunday, when you're heavily preggers, is at your maternity hospital of choice.

The nurse knocking off her shift, on hearing my complaints about the tightness and pain around my rib cage, shoved her handbag and coat away again and took me to the loos with a little jar.  She didn’t look pleased that my wee looked like Guinness, as it had for a couple of days. She took my blood pressure and looked even less pleased.

But she kept smiling as she told me I looked a bit dehydrated and I should have some fluids while I waited for the doctor, and in went those tubes before you could say “s’ok I can still drink.”

She was prepping me for theatre and loath to excite or frighten me with that news, considering my blood pressure was apparently 180 over 100, she kept the whole thing very low key.  Ducking out of the room to call my obstetrician and anaesthetist, who arrived with the speed of the armed forces at DEFCON 3, everyone was keeping it nice.

Within 45 minutes I was in OR with my scrubbed up, bewildered and not-a-little-suspicious husband, about to have my baby girl rapidly pulled out of her packaging.

Ouch much? After being zapped in the nether regions by what felt like 240 volts, twice, I was told that was just the epidural finding its way home. Let me tell you being zapped in your nether regions is seriously un-fun at any voltage, but without time to ponder that state I quickly became a big numb carry-all.

That is to say there was no feeling apart from the lingering memory of the recent genital torture (one which stays with you a surprisingly long time), and a not so gentle pushing, shoving and general rummaging below the belt.  Very strange indeed.
Fortunately when my baby was put into my arms I hardly noticed all the vulgar slurping- hoovering and espresso machine sounds coming from down there, that unseen place on the other side of the curtain. Hardly.

I did however notice my baby, unlike babies born in the movies, was all gooey like a channel swimmer covered in copious amounts of lard. I was told she needed to wear this for a day to keep warm.  And what pray tell is wrong with a nice clean bunny rug?

Anyway, we were over the moon as new parents are, little Lucie had a good sticky-beak at all the surgical staff; the way they were buzzing around and her undivided attention to them, I thought she’d get her first whiplash.

But we were only in the Maternity ward overnight when Dr Ric called and said something about moving me to the ‘special care’ unit, “nothing to worry about, just there are more nurses on staff to keep an eye on my blood pressure” because it was still ‘a bit’ high. I bought the story, my husband did not. Dr Ric said another doctor would come to see me and explain the details.

The details where this: I had a life threatening complication of pre-eclampsia – OK he didn’t tell me that in so many words (we wikipedia’d it after), what he did tell me was that I had HELLP syndrome; that my blood wasn’t clotting well, and with very high blood pressure that wasn’t a good thing considering I’d just been sliced and diced. (I’m paraphrasing here of course – no self respecting doctor would EVER say sliced and diced –not to your face anyway).

The pain that I’d come in with and had been trying to alleviate with ‘Deep Heat” was actually my liver swelling, a problem solved by the removal of my little lodger. Apparently the placenta and the rest of my body just weren’t getting along very well.

Christmas day in the Intensive Care Unit was less than festive but a vast improvement on my first couple of days, and Christmas lunch was surprisingly good. Tiny Lucie was doing fine and behaving herself so well she was allowed to stay with me and enjoy many hours of staring at the twinkling Christmas lights decorating the walls in between the scary looking equipment.

When I first got to ICU they performed a procedure called a Magnesium Protocol, which made the Epidural seem like a relaxing Thai massage. It felt like I was being cooked in a microwave oven from the inside-out with my blood boiling in my veins.

To add humiliation to injury; my first trip to the bathroom in my blood spattered backless gown was assisted by a Calvin Klein model in his twenties – they dredged up another young cutie for my second trip and after that I just tried to hold on till the nurse would let me shower.

I got my own back on them when I removed the pulse thingy from my finger to eat lunch – of course the monitor told them my heart had stopped and the SWAT team arrived before I could pick up my fork.
Eventually we were back in the maternity ward and cruising along and even having visitors. The nurses called me the “Deep Heat” girl since I’d come to hospital asking if I could use it safely and been given an epidural and baby instead.

Dr Ric marched in during one visit to tell me; “Now the panic is over I can tell you, you had me very worried for a while there,” and my visitors, a couple we know from the dog park, nearly fell out of their plastic chairs. Famous last words Doc…

As it happened the night before my intended release, having knocked over a bottle of water and leapt out of bed to catch it, (as you do) minutes later I had a blood geyser. I’d burst some stitching or an artery somewhere and the damned water bottle had landed on the floor right side up anyway.

Didn’t want water all over the hospital carpet-what an idiot! So back into the OR for this little OCBer. With my seriously impaired clotting ability and turbo charged blood pressure, it was like a scene straight out of M.A.S.H by the time I was wheeled back into the theatre. In all, I’d spilled a litre of blood. But not one drop of water – good girl!

The best thing about this little episode was the pethidine, also known as laughing gas, and did I laugh! Amongst all the blood and gore of being stitched back up again, apparently I tried to do stand up comedy (laying down) until Dr Ric told the anaesthetist he'd better shut it off, the kill-joy.

But as they say; all’s well that ends well. Not only have we all recovered with no ill effects and we have a delightful little girl in our lives. We are very blessed, and in no small way will forever be in the debt of the following people:

Dr Ric Porter (obstetrician extraordinaire and very fine stand up comedian himself) and Dr Ian Love (best bedside manner on the planet),

The lovely Nurses and staff at Mater Hospital Maternity and ICU Units,

And of course the wonderful, Lily Liu without whose needles and magical herbs I wouldn’t have taken this journey in the first place.
And finally for anyone reading this who is up the duff: If at any stage you feel pain around your torso like you’re wearing an incredibly tight bra – especially if you’re not wearing one at all; if your wee looks like Guinness; and your legs are so swollen they look like they’ve been put on upside down and your thighs are bulging out of the tops of your shoes: 

- Call your obstetrician or your maternity hospital STAT.

For more reading on Pre-Eclampsia and HELLP Syndrome try these links:

"Honey? have you seen my ankles? I cant find them anywhere..?"


  1. This weeks yarn on HELLP syndrome, which was to be my Halloween scary story (but it’s a bit late now) is dedicated to my lovely friend and ex-neighbour, whose birth experience I suspect was not especially euphoric for her.
    I’m finally going to add to my channelling Martha section with info on some helpful aromatherapy oils. Still waiting on those sock-puppets, I know, but I’ve been a bit distracted. You see we lost Dora (as in the Explorer) last week and after she turned up behind the toilet, having spent several days there, I’ve been trying to make it up to her (and Lucie) with a new wardrobe.

    We also lost our fourth gold-fish! poor Piggy, he had a wonderful personality. But seriously at this mortality rate I’m considering sculpting a fake out of carrot and fixing it behind the aquatic plant with a toothpick. Sheesh, dont I have enough to do without being on regular body disposal detail?

  2. OH MY GAWD. I have to say that is possibly one of the most horrific and honest birth stories I've read. A big hug first of all. And a few tear also. You are an amazing mumma - and not just for all that you've been through! My three were quite uneventful births really, just the usual stitches down yonder. Emily :)

    1. Thanks Emily, its fun to laugh about it now- I told my GP that pre-eclampsia was the most effective diet I'd been on (I dropped 28kilos the 10 days after birth) She said "THAT is NOT funny"
      I laughed. :0) glad u had 3 good births - My friends would tell you I'm such a drama queen I couldnt possibly have given birth without one at least :0)
      Take care & thanks for reading & the hugs

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  4. This is an old post (I know it's dated 2011) but thanks for sharing your birth story. Looking at Lucie on other posts, I didn't realize she's that cute.