I'm a small-town Minnesota dietitian and triathlete.
I help endurance athletes reach their performance and body composition goals through a flexible eating style.
I’ve been going back and forth for months about whether to share my pregnancy/birth story with the world. I always thought it was a little weird to share as it’s so personal and can easily become a too-much-information situation.
That being said, I had a very scary and unexpected situation giving birth to my little boy and I wish I had been more educated about the signals my body had been sending me for months and as I’d have been more of an advocate for myself in my prenatal care. So I feel the need to share this story with hopes that it may help another. Most people’s birth stories are fairly lengthy, and mine is no exception so I’m breaking this up into two parts. Here we go with part 1:
If you’ve been reading my blog or following me on Instagram you know that I dealt with infertility and went through in vitro fertilization in order to get pregnant. I had six weeks of nausea and normal feeling like shit in the first trimester, and as I shifted into the 2nd trimester I felt really good. I was running and swimming a few days a week as I was determined to exercise as much as I could throughout my pregnancy. I hit the 21-week mark right before Christmas and I had been noticing that after my runs I would have quite a bit of pain throughout my midsection and hips and made the sad (but easy) decision to stop running as my body wasn’t handling it well. I continued swimming once a week as I had been told by many women that swimming was the most wonderful activity especially as they got into the late stages of their pregnancy, and I was walking most days of the week. As the weeks ticked away I found that gradually my body wasn’t handling activity well. I would get belly cramping from walking on the treadmill for more than 30 minutes. At 30 weeks, I couldn’t stand for too long as I had cramping and pain and needed to sit down.
At this point in the 3rd trimester most days I just didn’t feel well. I had low energy, insane heartburn and just felt crappy even though I couldn’t really explain what about me didn’t feel well. At the time I just thought this was normal. I had never been pregnant before, and I had heard so many different viewpoints. Some women said they felt like crap most of the pregnancy, and others said the 3rd trimester it’s normal to feel uncomfortable. Every day my husband would leave for work with me sitting on the couch and arrive home from work with me still sitting on the couch (I work from home) and I’d report that I just didn’t feel good. I was sounding like quite the broken record.
Hindsight is 20/20 and if I could go back in time I would have been more vocal in my prenatal midwife appointments about how I felt. My midwife viewed me as one of her healthiest clients, and I probably was in terms of a healthy lifestyle and I don’t know if that skewed our views on how I felt. When I was in the moment I viewed what I was physically experiencing as just a normal pregnancy.
At 34 weeks, I woke up one morning and found my body had swelled up like a balloon with water retention. I had some serious cankles, I couldn’t wear my rings. I had to sleep upright as my ears would plug up with fluid if I laid flat for too long. If I took really deep breaths I could feel a little pressure in my chest from edema around my lungs. This was perplexing to me and my midwife, but everything else about me physically was looking fine so we just continued on.
A couple days short of 36 weeks this is when shit started to hit the fan. I was feeling the usual crap-tastic, and decided to head to bed early to relax with a book before going to sleep. As I was sitting in bed reading a book I was having pain at the top of my baby belly right below my sternum. The pain would come and go, but I noticed that over time it was becoming more intense. It got to the point that my spidy-sense was telling me that I probably should get checked out. So I called the triage nurse hotline and shared what was happening and they recommended I come in to get examined.
We arrive at the hospital and it’s 8pm, they take my blood pressure and it’s high. My blood pressure throughout the entire pregnancy has been in the 100-110/60-70, so quite low. On arrival to hospital it’s around 150/80, they defined that reading as gestational hypertension, and protocol is to monitor me for 4 hours and make sure that my blood pressure returns back to a normal reading. AND to top it all off, that strange upper belly pain I was experiencing was contractions. It was so weird because I felt no pain or contractions anywhere south of the belly button, so not the typical contractions you’d expect.
During the 4 hour monitoring, they did a urine analysis, blood work and all other testing they felt they needed to try and figure out what was going on. Things were looking normal, no protein in the urine (sign of preeclampsia), nothing really stuck out. At 2am I was sent home as I passed the blood pressure protocol and the upper belly pain had subsided, so the hubby and I went to bed as we were zonked. I woke up a couple hours later with the upper belly pain back in full force so ended up going back to triage. Lo and behold my blood pressure was even higher and the contractions were coming steadily. At 7am it was shift change and the new OB attending on staff got updated on my situation and walked in to tell me, “you’re in labor and you’re gonna have this baby within the next 24 hours.” Wellll, shittttttt. I’m one day shy of 36 weeks and being told I’m gonna have this baby was not the greatest news, but I’m at one of the top hospitals in the U.S. so I knew I was in good hands and trusted them.
The OB attending ordered for me to get a dose of betamethasone to help speed up baby’s lung development, and the most amazing morphine-cocktail shot. She wanted me to go home and get some rest since I had been up all night and once that morphine wore off and I was in active labor to come back in to have the baby. She said that I’d likely be back that evening. The hubby and I once again head home, we picked up breakfast real quick on the way, I inhaled the food and immediately passed out as I was exhausted and that morphine was kicking in so I was feeling pretty damn amazing.
I wake up a few hours later and let me tell you… I felt like a million bucks. I hadn’t felt that good in months. As the day went on, I continue to feel great and have zero contractions and pain. By 4 pm, the OB doc from the morning calls me to check in and she’s surprised to discover that the contractions have stopped and I felt amazing. So change of plans, she orders for me to have the 2nd and final dose of the betamethasone the following morning at my already pre-scheduled 36-week prenatal appointment, and she scheduled an induction in a weeks time when I hit 37 weeks pregnant.
At the prenatal appointment, the midwife and I talked through the events of the week and the plans for the induction the following week. My blood pressure was 120/80, not my usual low BP, but still a normal reading.
Alright, so my prenatal appointment was on a Friday morning and by Saturday evening I could feel the storm-brewing again physically as I was starting to feel my usual crappy pregnant self. The power had gone out at our house right around dinner time, so the hubby and I had what I dubbed was our “last meal” together at a local restaurant just the two of us as I had a feeling I was gonna end up in the hospital again soon. And I was right.
At 3 am on Sunday, I woke up with the upper belly contractions. Since I knew that I was back in labor and was going to just let things progress I got up and took a nice relaxing shower…. blow-dried and curled my hair (cause I might as well look nice walking into labor and delivery)… Took a little nap and then at 6 am I woke up the hubby and said I was back in labor and we should button up some projects around the house, get the final items in our hospital bags packed and be ready to go. My routine every Sunday is to vacuum the house so I figured I may as well accomplish that chose while waiting for this labor to move along. Wellll, I vacuum half of the house and noticed I was starting to have some blurred vision and the start of a headache. I knew immediately that my blood pressure was back up, as in baby class they said that blurry visions and headaches were a sign of preeclampsia, and that I needed to get to the hospital ASAP. I called the triage desk and gave them a heads up I was coming in, and we packed up the car with all our bags and the baby car seat as I had a strong feeling the docs weren’t going to let me go home this time.
I get to triage and my blood pressure is in the range of 190/110. Yikes. Not good. That is effin’ high, and I earned my ticket to being admitted to the hospital to be induced. The high blood pressure earned me a high-risk pregnancy rating and the baby needed to get out of that risky environment sooner rather than later. Since I was 36 weeks and 3 days and going to be delivering a (technically) pre-term baby there were all sorts of discussions about what possible outcomes can happen, such as the baby could have breathing issues, swallowing/feeding issues, etc. etc. They talked about how the neonatal team would be in the room when the baby arrived and so on and so forth. Yep, got it. Let’s do this.
If you’re still with me on this novel of a blog post, I’m taking a breather and will continue the rest of this crazy-ass birth story in part two.