‘You might want to think about having only one child.’ I knew the risks. The OB kept tapping my face, screaming, ‘Get the doctor, hurry!’: Woman with HELLP syndrome says, ‘I’m happy with the choices I made’

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“During a lunch conversation one day, my 17-year-old son said to me, ‘Why did you have three kids? Weren’t you concerned it was so dangerous?’ It was the first time he or any of my kids had ever really questioned me about it.

When I delivered my oldest child, I was deathly ill with HELLP syndrome. My platelets had dropped to 23,000 and my liver and kidneys were shutting down. As the doctor came in, he said, ‘Looks like we are having a baby today.’ At this point, it was almost two months too early. I knew enough to know it would be a difficult delivery with no epidural allowed because my blood wouldn’t properly clot. I had to have magnesium sulfate so I wouldn’t seize during labor. Magnesium sulfate is a tough drug to deal with. Your body runs hot and cold and you feel like vomiting constantly. My husband was excited to meet his son early, but I knew there would be complications.

It was anything but a dream birth. The labor was long and painful, and the magnesium sulfate had rendered me pretty helpless. I couldn’t even hold onto anything because of that drug. Very early in the morning, around 2 a.m., our son was delivered. He cried and was immediately whisked to the NICU. He couldn’t breathe or eat on his own. My blood pressure was so high, I wasn’t even able to hold him or see him again for 24 hours after he was born. Things went downhill from there.

My husband called his family to say, ‘Mom and baby are okay.’ What he didn’t know was when he stepped out of the room, my blood pressure dropped to a dangerous level. All I wanted to do was sleep. The OB nurse kept tapping my face saying, ‘No, don’t sleep,’ and screaming, ‘Get the doctor! Get the doctor, hurry!’ A doctor was pulled out of another birth to give me a shot of epinephrine right as my husband walked back in. When I looked at my husband and saw his expression, I realized I had probably almost made him a widow.

When I was wheeled to NICU the next day (I wasn’t allowed to walk because my blood pressure was still dangerous), I was finally able to lay eyes on him. I wasn’t allowed to hold him, though, because he couldn’t hold his body temperature. He stayed in NICU for quite a few weeks as he had many different tubes — some for feeding, some to monitor his pulse and oxygen. I was also still staying at the hospital, as my body hadn’t recovered yet and they couldn’t get my blood pressure regulated.

Many weeks later, my husband and I were able to take our son, our firstborn, Jack, home. The doctor said to me upon discharge, ‘You might want to think about having only one child.’

Fast forward a few years later, we had settled into a routine. I knew the odds were low for me having HELLP syndrome again. I found the best doctors I could, who would monitor me before and after pregnancy. We were nervous but ready to go forth and have our precious baby girl. At this point, I had peace. I had a lot of faith and peace during this pregnancy.

I got to feeling bad 5 weeks before my daughter’s due date and thought I should go get checked. It was my worst nightmare all over again. They admitted me 5 weeks early. My daughter was going to be born. My husband never left my side throughout her birth and recovery.

I was again stuck because my blood pressure was again dangerous. My daughter had been whisked away to the nursery for hours, possibly because she was born early or she could have had a collapsed lung. I finally said, ‘Where’s my daughter?’ The nurse on call had training what to do for babies when their lungs collapse and immediately went to work on our daughter. She got the doctor, who happened to be one of the best and most well-trained surgeons in the state to do the chest tube surgery on our daughter. As I was aware of what was going on, I had peace this entire time. It may be my faith, but I knew I couldn’t fall apart. They whisked her to the University of South Carolina, one of the best NICUs in the state.

Again, we had to leave our baby at the NICU as we went home. We brought our three-year-old, Jack, to see her and the first thing he said through the window was, ‘I love her.’ After many weeks of going back and forth, we got to take this precious girl home and be a family.

Three years later, I got pregnant with our youngest. I had maternal-fetal medicine doctors, as well as weekly appointments. I would be lying if I said I was at peace this time. This time, I knew the risks. I didn’t want to leave behind a 3-year-old, 6-year-old, and their dad. I cried a lot because I was so worried. My husband took two weeks off to take care of us because I was also violently ill with morning sickness. It wasn’t an easy road, but I also knew every life is important and our youngest son was very important. I did get admitted for labor early, but it was the easiest labor and there were no complications with him. My platelets were low but not as bad as before. It was the first time my husband and I had experienced almost normal childbirth. I was even able to have visitors afterward and allowed to walk around. It was so different and wonderful.

Now, what I said to my oldest son at lunch when he asked was this: ‘My choices may look different than other people’s choices but I believe lives are important. Look what we got in return. Not everyone would make the same choices I did, but, Jack, your lives were all equally valuable to me.’

I don’t know if others would make the same choices I did. It wasn’t an easy road. It was scary and hard at times. My husband and I often look back to when we were first dating when we said we wanted three kids. We will be forever thankful for our three. My choices are not everyone’s but I’m happy with the choices I made.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Tammy Wartell. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more stories like this:

‘This is it! I’m not going to make it. He’s going be raising our baby alone.’ I said goodbye to husband for the very last time.’: Mom survives preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome, delivers micropreemie who defies odds, ‘She is a sassy fighter’

‘We have to deliver this baby immediately.’ Everything went black.’: Single mom goes unconscious during birth, wakes up to ask, ‘Who is this baby?,’ after life-threatening HELLP syndrome diagnosis

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