Thursday, July 7, 2011

Asking for Help

Angela of Keep Em Cookin is guest posting today about a subject that hits close to home. The dreaded "P" word, Preeclampsia.

Thank you Angela for sharing this.

"But I Hate to Ask for Help!"

By Angela Davids

Nearly every woman I know says she despises asking for help. I believe it! I was the same way, until not reaching out to my husband and my family nearly cost me my life.

To put it plainly, I had a very challenging second pregnancy. Yet, with 15 weeks of bed rest, multiple medications and several trips to Labor & Delivery for monitoring, my son arrived safely at 39 weeks and 3 days gestation. He was perfect!

But I was in the worst shape of my life.

Immediately after delivery, I was in agonizing pain, could barely think, and couldn't put my thoughts together enough to speak. Over the next couple of days, I grew worse. I couldn't walk, and I could only hold my son if someone handed him to me because I was so weak. I couldn't shower. I couldn't empty my bladder. A catheter was placed, and I cried to the nurse that I wasn't ready to leave the hospital. She patted my leg and assured me I could get through this.

And then they sent me home.

When my daughter was born almost three years earlier, we arrived home and immediately went for a walk around the block to show her off. Something wasn't right this time around. Once home, I cried in agony as I slowly climbed the stairs to our bedroom so I could lie down. Maybe that would help? Maybe I just needed to rest?

My sister called to see how soon she could come over. I told her not to come. My mom had been watching my daughter for the three days I was at the hospital. I told her to stay home and get some rest. I'm not sure why I kept them away. Maybe deep down I knew something was really wrong and I didn't want them to worry?

It took all the strength I had to get from my bed, to the wall, to the bathroom so that I could attempt to empty my catheter bag, but I couldn't bring myself to call to my husband and ask for help. Was I afraid of being judged? Of being dependent? Of failing? I'm a strong person, raised by a supportive family. Why was it impossible for me to say such a simple word?  Help.

Each day was worse than the one before: headache, sudden swelling in my legs, extreme weakness, dangerously high blood pressure. I called the hospital each day to describe my symptoms, but each doctor I talked to didn't seem concerned. Call us if it gets worse, they'd say. And I would.

On my fifth day home, I called one of my best friends, a nurse, and left her a garbled message. I decided it was time for me to go downstairs. I sat at the kitchen table, telling my husband I was now having chest pain. He looked at me and said, Your nose is bleeding! He called both his sister and mine to come over right away. My husband put me in the car and drove me back to Labor & Delivery immediately.

The doctors suspected preeclampsia, which is treated with magnesium sulfate intravenously to prevent seizure and stroke. It's a horrible drug, with unbearable side effects for some, but it works. A few hours later when they tested my blood, they realized that the magnesium sulfate wasn't leaving my body through my urine. It was trapped in my body because I was in kidney failure.

The pain was unreal, and the thought of it still frightens me. Every moment was a struggle. The monitors signaled alarm every time I shut my eyes because if I didn't force myself to breathe, I stopped breathing. My sister was amazing, telling me, "Stay awake, Ang. You can get through this," in between her running to the bathroom to throw up because she was so sick with worry.

Meanwhile, my husband and my mom were at home with our newborn son and our two and a half year old daughter, trying to maintain some kind of normalcy there. After a week in the hospital, a blood transfusion, and constant IV medications, I was able to return home to my son. I was still very weak, but at least I was home.

And now that I was home, I was angry. Angry at the nurse who didn't listen when I said I wasn't ready to leave. Angry at the doctors I called each day after delivery to describe my worsening symptoms. Mostly though, I was angry at myself. It took a near tragedy to realize that asking for help wouldn't have made me less of a person. In fact, it could have let someone else be more of a person.

I can see now that I'm being selfish when a friend or a family member wants to offer me a hand and I refuse. Sure, I can still be stubborn or a bit too independent at times, but I'm learning that recognizing that you need help is a sign of wisdom, not weakness.

Let someone in your life give you the gift of help, and watch what happens.

Angela Davids is the founder of Keep Em Cookin, an educational organization that provides current information on preventing preterm birth and offers an online pregnancy bed rest support group.
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1 comment:

Jenn Carney said...

I read this yesterday and started thinking about it again today. Postpartum preeclampsia is such a huge problem. The conventional wisdom is that delivery is the cure. Unfortunately, sometimes it's only the start. I developed HELLP syndrome and eclampsia before my son was born - but I hear so many stories like this, too. I'm glad you asked for help finally - and I'm also very glad that you are providing so much support to women on bedrest.