After carrying and birthing two children, and having a plethora of different experiences with each, I thought nothing else could surprise me. I experienced everything from excessive swelling, early contractions coupled with a positive fetal fibronectin test, to pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy (that’s a mouthful and a whole other topic for a different day!). I was hoping that the third time would be a charm and things would go smoothly, but pregnancy is a finicky beast and had other plans.
It all started about two weeks ago when I experienced a sudden and overwhelming feeling that the room was moving. I recall having a typical day at home-tending to the kids, cleaning, driving from one child’s activity to the next. It was a relaxing afternoon as Liam and Emilia worked on an art project at the kitchen table, when Liam asked if I could grab him some scissors. I casually stood up from the table and grabbed some scissors off the counter, but on the way back I was caught off guard. The room was moving. I was weightless. And everything became fuzzy. I stopped, grabbed my head, and closed my eyes. And thankfully, when I opened them, the disorienting period passed. Although startling, I wrote this off as running on an empty stomach.
The rest of the week was very typical-more household chores, taking care of the littles, etc. And on Sunday, we went to a family party. I had just finished dinner and went to grab a slice of cake. But, as I went to sit down at the dining table, the same overwhelming feeling occurred again, and I could feel my body unintentionally falling forward into the table. If you have ever been on a boat in the ocean’s choppy waters, this is exactly what it felt like: oy.vey.
This time I became concerned as I had just eaten something and it came out of nowhere! Angry at my body, but still not convinced that this was a life-threatening matter, I called my doctor on Tuesday and he advised that I go to labor and delivery immediately. I was not expecting this response.
***Side note-I waited to call because we had a parent teacher conference on Monday, and it was it was a holiday. Liam was out of school and I wanted to spend time as a family. It didn’t help that the weather was sensational and irresistible in Illinois that day. BIG mistake on my part though, as my doctor was baffled as to why I didn’t come in when symptoms occurred. The only explanation I had was that I was trying to “mom” my way through it.***
We arrived to the hospital around 5:30pm Tuesday night and were sent to L&D triage for assessment. Fetal monitoring, blood pressure readings, rainbow panel blood draw, the works. As explained to us, our medical team was trying to rule out preeclampsia (a condition in pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure, sometimes with fluid retention and proteinuria). During triage, I surprisingly learned that I was also running a fever of 100.3 degrees; definitely not something that I expected! That coupled with a few Braxton Hicks and no resolution to the dizzy spells, we were moved to observation for the night.
That’s when things got scary for me, as I truly thought I would be sent home with a pat on the back and instructions to drink more water and lie down for a bit. The OB on call ordered an ultrasound to check for fetal growth and an EKG to check for underlying heart conditions.
Alex saw that I was beside myself with worry and sprung to action. He made overnight arrangements for our kids and Sadie, cleared his work schedule for the following 48 hours, and worked diligently to calm my nerves. All I kept thinking was, please…please let my baby be okay. As long as she is okay, I could deal with whatever came next.
Several hours later, we received the results of the ultrasound and EKG-both normal. A huge sigh of relief washed over me; our baby girl was okay. We weren’t out of the woods yet though, as our medical team continued to monitor my blood pressure. The waiting has to be the worst part of being in the hospital, especially when pregnant. Your body is no longer your own and you have no control over what it wants to do. And there’s no longer one life at stake.
With more waiting to go, but some positive news to lighten the mood, Alex almost forced me to eat something after refusing for the longest time. Fun fact-my husband has a strange affinity for hospital food. I guess six multi-night pre and postnatal stays in four years will do that to a guy. So, in his quirky, loving fashion, he put together a dining table for us to share and called it date night. I love this man’s ability to find the silver lining when I feel like my world is falling apart, no matter how big or small the situation.
After several more hours, the on call OB came in with more reassuring news that preeclampsia did not appear to be the cause of these episodes, and that my fever was coming down on its own without the aid of antibiotics. I was advised to try and get some rest and we could go home in the morning if my blood pressure remained stable.
For anyone who has ever had a hospital stay, “get some rest” is easier said than done. As baby girl and I moved through the night, the fetal and contraction monitors would fall off mark resulting in the prompt, hurried appearance of a diligent nurse every hour. At least the hubby was able to get some sleep.
In the morning, we were blessed with more positive news that my fever had broken completely, the contractions remained inconsistent, and my blood pressure remained stable. The OB on call advised us that these episodes could have been the result of a drop in blood pressure, how the baby is positioned, or simply the pressure of my growing womb on a blood vessel. Without being able to say for certain though, our medical team still felt that there was a possibility that the dizzy spells could be the result of heart palpitations or an underlying cardiac issue. *Sigh*. More follow ups and doctor appointments.
Leaving the hospital in one piece was a great feeling, but digesting the possibility of the episodes continuing to happen during the remainder of my pregnancy and the potential for a heart issue has been difficult. We are hopeful that these were isolated incidents and the remainder of my pregnancy will be uneventful.
Every pregnancy is different, even for the same mother. And as I learned, never dismiss new/unusual symptoms or try to stoically persevere through painful or disorienting experiences like this. I feel like a Metra commuter ad, but-“If you see (or feel) something, SAY SOMETHING”.
Here’s to 9 more (hopefully placid) weeks and counting for us.
And may all the pregnant mamas out there have a safe and blessed journey to motherhood!
Amanda Cifuentes Walchli