How do I even begin?! I’ve been staring at this blank screen for almost an hour trying to figure out how to start and there are just no words for the crazy ride we went on the weeks leading up to meeting our sweet little Maggie Grace.
And I’m warning you now, this post is going to be a beast, lots of TMI, and very photo heavy towards the end but I just never want to forget anything, so here we go….
It all started at an appointment when I was around 34 weeks pregnant. My midwife made a small comment that my blood pressure was slowly creeping up and we just needed to keep an eye on it. At my appointment the following week she made another comment and things got a little more serious. Without wanting to freak me out too much she explained that historically I have really great blood pressure and over the last few months my blood pressure has been consistently, slowly rising.
I learned A LOT through the coming weeks regarding blood pressure in pregnancy and here’s the short version. High blood pressure (when either number is 140/90 or higher more than twice at least 4 hours apart) just in pregnancy after 20 weeks is gestational hypertension. Gestational hypertension can lead to pre-eclampsia. If you’re diagnosed with gestational hypertension they recommend you be induced at 37 weeks because at that point you’re just sitting around waiting for pre-eclampsia to rear it’s ugly head. Pre-eclampsia can come on quickly, within a few hours, and can be really scary.
Here are the 4 symptoms I got used to asking myself and answering to doctors and nurses 100s of times over the next few weeks:
- Do I have a headache that doesn’t go away?
- Any upper abdominal pain on the right hand side?
- Any visual disturbances? — I hated watching for this symptom…I mean what the heck does that even mean?! Spots. Flashes of light. Blurred vision.
- Is there sudden swelling in your face?
Okay, so with that little background we started watching for symptoms and hoping I could deep breathe my blood pressure down at every doctor’s appointment hoping to wait for baby to come on her own time. There isn’t a whole lot to do but my midwife recommended a low sodium diet, rest, and low-stress. Not easy to do when you’re just told your baby is probably going to be coming 3 weeks earlier than originally planned. For this Type A planner, that was tough. I had a to-do list to finish and projects I wanted to get done and they’re telling me I need to sit around and pray my blood pressure stays down? Tough!
Starting around 36 weeks they had me take my blood pressure at home twice a day and call any time my blood pressure was high. Half way through 36 weeks I was put on bedrest so that we could make it to 37 weeks when baby is considered full term and I could safely be induced without needing to switch to a high-risk doctor.
It was a really scary, emotional time. Don’t do what my husband did and google pre-eclampsia. I knew my midwives were on top of things and clearly were just taking precautions to avoid any trouble. Looking back I am so appreciative they gave me info and helped us feel informed so that we knew what was coming and why they did the things they did.
At 37 weeks 1 day I had another high reading and when I called to let the office know I may have had a minor meltdown on the phone with the advice nurse.
The stress of questioning every single head twinge or stomach pain as I wondered if my baby was slowly dying was getting to me. I was scared to go to sleep afraid that I wouldn’t wake up and my husband would wake up to a dead wife. This was my reality. No matter how much I knew we were doing our best to be proactive I was still terrified out of my mind. That day I did a lot of sitting around and crying.
That night I had another high reading and when I called to report it to the midwife on call she told me to head to the hospital immediately for some tests. After a few phone calls to make sure the toddler was covered at home we rushed off to the hospital at 11:00 pm for monitoring.
Three hours later they sent us home with a high blood pressure that was lowering below 140/90 and labs that looked great! The doctor in triage told us that we could stay for 4 hours and wait to have another high blood pressure reading (over 140/90) and then be forced to be induced, or go home for the night and head back to the doctor’s the next afternoon for another blood pressure check.
We opted for the second option.
As I sat in the waiting room, my mom and sisters sent me happy pictures to encourage my blood pressure down. Think beaches, sunsets, smiling newborns, Christmas trees…anything that would calm me and hopefully get the blood pressure down. I was feeling good.
At the office I go to for prenatal care there is a group of 8 midwives and one of those 8 are guaranteed to be delivering your baby. That afternoon I saw a midwife I had only seen one other time early on in the pregnancy but I felt instantly comfortable with her. My blood pressure was high but right below the 140/90 mark so she wasn’t forced to induce us then. We talked through all the options and went over what induction looked like.
We agreed to start taking my blood pressure three times a day at home and calling with every high reading or any symptoms. Janelle (the midwife) also encouraged me to start doing anything I could to naturally induce myself before we were forced to be induced. This post came in really handy as I worked on encouraging baby to come. She said we didn’t need to worry about over exerting myself anymore since we were just waiting for one more high bp reading. She encouraged modified exercise of low squats, sitting on the fitness ball, and lunges with one foot on the stair.
I knew that if we could just make it through the next 24 hours though then things would be great. It was the day before Thanksgiving and my sister and her family were headed up from California to visit for the long weekend. I really didn’t want to be stuck in a hospital having a baby while all the family was having fun hanging out together.
Thanksgiving day came and I was feeling good. By that afternoon, I knew I had overdone it though when I looked down at my swollen feet. I thought everything would be okay though. After dinner I went to clean up Clara’s high chair and out of the corner of my eye I saw a bunch of fruit flies and started swatting at them. Then I realized no one else around the table seemed concerned they were everywhere. And in a matter of seconds my whole life flipped upside down. Panic set in and I realized that could be what that stupid “visual disturbances” symptom was that I was always supposed to be watching for. I looked around the room and was seeing black spots and no flies.
I went to the couch. Sat for a few minutes and then took my blood pressure. 126/93
Not great, but not terrible.
I knew my sister was on her way over and she’s going through nursing school and is a Med Aide so I asked her to bring a bp cuff since the electric ones aren’t always the most accurate. 146/89
Although I didn’t want to have a baby on Thanksgiving I knew I had to call.
After talking with the midwife on call we said our goodbye to sweet Clara girl, loaded our bags in the car for the second time that week, and headed for the hospital. One last picture before we headed out the door.
Just like three days earlier, all the tests came back normal, blood pressure was right below 140/90 when we got to the hospital and they were ready to send us home. At that point I just wanted the baby out. It was emotionally exhausting waiting on pins and needles being told pre-eclampsia is coming and it’s just a waiting game for when it shows up.
I was tired, scared, and ready to hold my baby in my arms.
Eventually the midwife on call (who I had seen a few times throughout my pregnancy) pulled up a chair and we talked. She explained that although we were getting the high readings at home, all the readings at the doctor’s office were right below 140/90 and although all the trends showed my blood pressure was rising, they didn’t medically have a reason to induce yet so insurance would fight paying for the induction until they had that second high blood pressure reading documented. She explained that baby girl looked great and that although she was considered full term it is best for her to stay cooking as long as possible.
After talking it over with Justin, I asked Mary (the midwife) if it would be okay to not take my blood pressure at home and instead just watch for the signs and symptoms. She agreed that if I came into the office for blood pressure checks the following day and a few extra times each week that would be fine. Taking my blood pressure at home was just too stressful and exhausting.
We had a plan that I felt good about and I was excited to head back home to snuggle my toddler and watch the Gilmore Girls revival that came out the next day and wait for baby to come on her own time.
Friday morning I woke up feeling great. After our talk with Mary the night before I was ready to just be content with this baby and know that God had his hand in everything. I wasn’t going to live in fear and was ready to let this baby keep cooking for a few more weeks. Besides, then it gave me time to finish my to-do list!
Around 11 o’clock that morning I jetted off to the doctor’s office to just get a quick blood pressure check while Justin stayed home with the napping toddler. I figured quick in and out and I’d be headed back home to watch Gilmore Girls for the next 6 hours on the couch with my sister.
But of course things don’t go as planned…