During the month of May, we’re talking about maternal health and the staggering amount of women who die from complications of pregnancy or child birth. We want you to know how you can help.
But we also want you to know that these complications don’t just happen in Third World countries. They can happen anywhere, and the women who lose their lives – or almost do – in the effort to bring children into this world are not to blame.
This is Cecily’s story:
It took nearly two years of trying and some extremely talented doctors to get me pregnant. Thanks to a medication my mother-in-law took during her pregnancy, we needed hard core medical intervention for actual fertilization to happen. But when it did happen, we were doubly blessed: twins! Both boys! I was going to be the mother of sons.
Even though we were expecting twins, we pursued a natural birth plan. We sought high and low to find midwives that would treat twin pregnancies. Unfortunately, I nearly immediately developed a minor complication: pregnancy induced hypertension.
Soon, sadly, that minor complication turned into a major complication: at nearly six months pregnant, I developed full blown preeclampsia. In a very fast and tragic series of events, one twin died, I nearly died, and the pregnancy had to be terminated, ending the life of my surviving son. Two days after being admitted to the hospital, I went home with an empty uterus and a broken heart.
We waited nearly a year to try again. With an embryo frozen from that first IVF cycle we tried again, this time pregnant with just one baby. We saw a high risk obstetrician, we monitored the hell out of the pregnancy, and everything was fine until my 34th week. On the day of my daughter’s birth, I woke up in a pool of blood, stood up and gushed like a horror movie. I passed blood clots the size of softballs before we managed to get it together and get me to the hospital. Turned out my placenta had abrupted, leaving barely 30% of it attached and providing oxygen to my daughter. Placental abruption is one of the leading causes of Cerebral Palsey, but we were very, very lucky. My daughter was born 100% healthy and fine.
A real life miracle after a tragic loss.
During that dark year between pregnancies, I was awash in shame and guilt along with my grief. If only I’d seen a high risk doctor; after all, I was 36 and pregnant with twins. Then there is the issue of my weight: if only I’d been thin, it wouldn’t have happened (never mind that I found out later that weight has little bearing on preeclampsia). If I’d eaten healthier, done more, been better, something, anything, maybe my sons would be alive.
But now, six years later, I know that the death of my sons was not my fault.
Pregnancy complications happen. I’m a rare bird; only 5% of pregnancies suffer from preeclampsia and almost none of those appear as early as mine did. Placental abruption happens in less than 1% of pregnancies. For me to have had BOTH of these complications puts me into a high risk pool of maybe 100 other women. But it still wasn’t my fault.
Know this: even though I lost my boys, I’m lucky. I live in a major city in the United States. I had excellent health insurance. I had a brilliant and kind doctor.
I survived. Many women who get preeclampsia don’t.
When I suffered my placental abruption, I not only survived and my daughter survived, but I kept my uterus.
And none of it was my fault. I’m a healthy woman that just happened to have some crazy ass pregnancies. And if you suffered from complications as well, hey – it’s not your fault either.
Complications happen. They suck, and it hurts, but they happen.
If you have questions about preeclampsia, The Preeclampsia Foundation is an excellent resource with articles, supportive forums, and great information.