At just 21 years old, I was about to celebrate my one year wedding anniversary, I was in my last year of college, and I had just found out that I was carrying a baby girl. I was ecstatic with the news of our little one and was in such a joyful place in life.
When you find out that you are pregnant, they run you through a slew of tests, just to make sure the mother and baby are healthy; One of those tests is a blood test. When my blood test came back it showed an extremely low number of platelets (these are what causes your blood to clot).
I was told that it was just a gestational anomaly and that after I delivered the baby, everything would go back to normal. Aurora was born the following September on a rare Iowa night that you could see the Aurora Borealis.
Months passed after her delivery and test after test showed no improvement in my platelet count. I was told that I could have lupus or various forms of cancer. The next few months were a blur as I went through numerous tests and and tried countless medications. Nothing worked, my platelets stayed low or even dropped.
One of the medications they had me on was Prednisone. I had been on a heavy dose for about 6 months and ended up being hospitalized for 3 days. The medication had eaten through the lining of my stomach and I was bleeding into my stomach. The internal bleeding took a while to stop and I was given multiple blood transfusions to keep up with the blood loss. They immediately tapered me off of the Prednisone and gave me two options.
I could either have a Splenectomy or start a form of chemotherapy. Both options were frightening and something I didn't think a newly married 21 year old with an infant should have to think about. The doctors were unsure if either would work or how long they would work if by some miracle they did. The interesting thing about ITP is that "I" stands for idiopathic. Idiopathic means that the cause is unknown and they have no idea why something is happening to your body.
Since it is an idiopathic disease, they could not tell me with complete certainty that these next options would work. I wasn't about to let someone take one of my organs out if it didn't need to be removed, especially since it would leave me without a spleen which filters the infections out of your body. Meaning if I had it removed, I would be more likely to catch infectious diseases. The next option was the chemotherapy and we were told that we would have to wait several years to have more children as it could cause severe birth defects. I wasn't too keen on that option either as I wanted to have a big family. We sought out several other opinions from other doctors and were still left with the same options.
Then the summer after Aurora was born, we found out we were pregnant with our second baby girl. Since I was pregnant and still had low platelets, the doctors wanted me back on Prednisone to try again and see if it would work since my hormones had changed. This time with a lower dosage to avoid more internal bleeding. If you have no experience with Prednisone, let me tell you, it's nasty stuff. It causes you to gain weight, causes mood swings, and makes you jittery. I constantly felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster with energy to run a marathon non-stop. Everyday I woke up with new aches and pains, or light headed.
As we approached the due date, we were relieved thinking that I would soon be able to stop this harsh medication again. In an effort to control the delivery process and the bleeding that comes with delivery, the doctors decided to preform an induction at 38 weeks. Ryan and I entered the delivery room with confidence as we were told everything was under control. That was a mistake.
After hours of labor, our healthy little Ember was finally born. I held her for about 5 minutes and handed her off to the doctors. Something didn't feel right, but I couldn't put into words what I was feeling. My mind felt fuzzy, I was dripping with sweat, my face felt like it was on fire, but my body was shivering forcefully. The nurse was pushing on my stomach as they do after a delivery to check the location of your uterus, and the pain was unbearable. I had just delivered a baby without medication and the pain I felt when the nurse pushed on my stomach was infinitely more excruciating. Two hours went by of her preforming this mandatory procedure and each time the pain grew worse.
Finally, my husband spoke up and asked for a doctor to come in as he knew something was wrong. Before the doctor could get to our room, I started shivering so forcefully that I felt like I was having a seizure. I have to admit, the next few minutes felt like hours and I don't remember much besides the excruciating pain that was radiating from my stomach. I remember nurses and doctors rushing around in our room, I remember throwing up in the hallway of the delivery wing as I was being wheeled to the emergency surgery department. I remember doctors talking, but I don't remember any of the words that were said. I remember screaming and praying for the pain to stop. Then there was darkness.
I don't know how much time passed, but the next thing I remember is opening my eyes and seeing Ryan in hospital scrubs standing above me, I could feel his hand holding mine. I had no idea what had just happened, I could tell I was in a surgery room, but at the time I couldn't remember anything that happened before the darkness. I couldn't even remember that I had just had a baby.
I wish I could tell you that I remember seeing my child for the first time. I wish I could tell you that I remember snuggling her for the first time. I wish I could tell you that I was able to nurse her and bond with her during her first moments on earth, but I can't. Her first moments on this earth were filled with chaos, sickness, and fear.
I was told later in the day that I was rushed into surgery to stop some bleeding and had lost more than half of my blood supply. The surgery required me to have an extended stay in the hospital to be monitored. I was on a constant dose of morphine to relieve the pain from the delivery, the bleeding, and the surgery, and I wasn't allowed to walk. When I was finally cleared to walk, I felt as if my back was caving in on itself. Every step was painful and I feared I would suddenly crumble to the floor.
When I was eventually released from the hospital, I was sent home with a handful of pain medication and a "good luck, call us if it gets worse". It could get worse?! I couldn't walk, stand, or sit without pain. My body was a wreck. I feared holding my child thinking I would weaken due to the immense pain and drop her. I had no idea how I would get through the next few minutes, how I would be able to care for her in the middle of the night, or even care for myself with all of this pain. The only answer I ever received from the doctors was "stay on top of the pain medication, but don't take too much".
I was in pain and not getting better. I was searching for help, but not getting any answers. I was trying to care for a baby without the ability to simply walk. I had no idea what the rest of my life was going to look like if something didn't change.
To be continued...
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