I should’ve stayed at the hospital.
I know that for a fact and think of it often even though it’s been almost two years. My blood pressure was higher than when they admitted me and suggested that they induce at 37 weeks and a day. That was two days prior. One day after my beautiful son was born. I should’ve stayed at the hospital. The thought rang in my head, and the tears rolled down my face on the way back to the hospital that Saturday evening.
I couldn’t stop them, and I couldn’t stop feeling guilty—one of my first decisions as a mother, and I blew it.
My son was born the previous Wednesday evening. Because of a horrible post-birth experience with my hospital, I opted to leave late Thursday night. That morning, I couldn’t understand why the swelling in my feet was increasing instead of decreasing. I still couldn’t get my son’s name rings, my push present, off my fingers from my maternity shoot a week prior. I knew that high blood pressure made you swell, but could my blood pressure still be going up?
My father rushed to the local Duane Reade to buy an over-the-counter blood pressure cuff. The numbers I saw on the monitor were something I’d only heard of before. After some discussion, my parents and I decided the best option would be for me to go back to the hospital. My mom would stay with my newborn son and my dad would ride with me since I was still pretty weak and exhausted. I packed my pump, a charger just in case, a change of panties, again just in case, and all my important documents.
I cried the whole ride there.
I should’ve stayed at the hospital. The thought rang in my head, and the tears rolled down my face on the way back to the hospital that Saturday evening. I couldn’t stop them, and I couldn’t stop feeling guilty—one of my first decisions as a mother, and I blew it.
I couldn’t even speak when my very best friend, a seasoned mother, called to assure me I was doing the right thing. “You can’t take care of your son if you’re not here,” she said. I knew she was right, and I was nodding but I wanted to be back home with my newborn more than anything. He was just 72 hours old, and I was leaving him to be cared for by someone else.
When we arrived at the hospital, my blood pressure had gone up another 20 points. The intake nurse called up to maternity, and I was escorted to that floor. Since the high blood pressure was likely a side effect of pregnancy, the maternity ward would be the best place for my case to be handled. My nurses from days prior came to say hello and ask about my son. It didn’t take long for a doctor or resident, I can’t remember which, to come and tell my father that I would need to stay.
I had postpartum preeclampsia, a rare condition that occurs when you have high blood pressure and excess protein in your urine soon after childbirth. I’d need to be on a magnesium drip for the next two days. The magnesium would cause confusion, dizziness, and double vision, so I’d also need a catheter. I couldn’t eat, and to avoid blood clots, they fitted me with air pumps for my legs. I pumped as much milk as I could for my dad to take home—I was thankful that I’d had the foresight to order a can of formula to have on hand in case of an emergency.
Because my hospital’s recommendation was not to pump for at least two weeks to allow the baby to get used to latching on the nipple, I hadn’t begun pumping and storing milk. As they moved me to a permanent room and got me all hooked up, tears rolled down my face. Family and friends called, and I just cried and cried as I watched my parents care for my son on my living room camera. The next two days passed by in a haze of confusion, tears, constant longing for a snack, pumping, bad TV, and no sleep. Once they took me off the magnesium drip, they had me eat and made sure I was clear-headed enough to leave. I was prescribed blood pressure medicine to take once a day.
I’m not a homebody, but on that day, I was never happier to be on my way home.
It took about six months for my postpartum preeclampsia to go away with only one trip back to the maternity ward. That time my stay was only one day, where they determined that my medicine was no longer working and switched me to something else.
Postpartum preeclampsia was not even on my radar as a new mom. I’m a person that devours information when I’m in new territory, and I never found this information when preparing for childbirth and motherhood. I hope to bring light to this issue so that other mothers can be more aware than I was—no one wants to lose that precious time with their new babies.
Here’s how you can advocate for yourself post-childbirth:
1. Adhere to your hospital’s guidelines
No matter how anxious you are to go home, there is a reason there is a suggested time of stay post-delivery. After giving birth, you’re weak, and your body is recovering in many ways. For me, I gave birth without having eaten for 28 hours. I was extremely drained from lack of sleep, the exhaustion of giving birth, and I was hungry. Yes, you’ve just become a mother to a vulnerable little person that you are responsible for, but you also need to be cared for. The medical staff does this every day—allow them to do their job and take care of both your newborn and you.
2. Trust your instincts
I knew I shouldn’t have left the hospital that evening. I had a nagging feeling, the staff was concerned about my blood pressure, and I wasn’t accounting for the toll that giving birth takes on your body. Women are made for this process, but we are still human and need recovery time. Know your body enough to know when something is not right and don’t try to “tough it out.”
3. Give it time
No one is expecting you to get it all right off the bat. In fact, the only one who probably expects that is you, and it’s not realistic. Motherhood is a learning process, and it requires a lot of helping hands. You’ve built a network of doctors, hospital staff, family, friends, and others who are willing to jump in and take care of you and your new baby. They’re not judging you; they just want to support you. Let them be there for you.