Tag Archives: preeclampsia

Glory, Glory

9 Jul

It has been two+ months of a feeling of completeness that I cannot put into words.

I am reminded every day now of a sentiment that a good friend shared with me about having her son. She said that she and her husband could not remember what they used to do from day to day before their son came about. When she said this to me, it had been a few months since losing Demilade and I too, could not remember what life was like before my heart was torn into pieces.

I recently read a blog post by another grieving mother where a quote seemed to capture how I had been feeling over the last two years. The quote from the book, You are the Mother of all Mothers by Angela Miller, says that it takes invincible strength to mother a child you can no longer hold, see, touch or hear. 

I see you walking this path of life you’ve been given, where every breath and step apart from your child is a physical, emotional, and spiritual battleground. A fight for your own survival. A fight to quiet the insidious lies.

Upon reading this, I felt like someone out there truly understood what it feels like to live without one’s child. Whenever a parent speaks of their living child, I wonder if they look at me and consider that my own, although not present, is always on my mind. I read this quote and offered words of encouragement to the mother, the blogger who had just lost her newborn. I wanted to say more. Not only that it gets better and the pain is not so haunting after some time but, that eventually she would find the courage to be present in the life that keeps on going around her. I wanted to tell her that eventually she will get the courage to try again. I tried again.

At the time I was reading the blog, I was about seven months pregnant with my second child and son. While I could offer words of encouragement to someone else, I couldn’t readily share where I was in the healing process because it was very hard to be sure of what the future held. If there is one thing I have learned from Demilade’s loss, it is that nothing is promised from one day to the next. It is important to live in the present. I just had to hope for the best.

I cannot say its been easy because it is experience that has taught me this lesson. For 10 months I prayed for peace of mind and God granted me just that. It is an overwhelming task to be pregnant and aware of the many outcomes (even for someone who hasn’t walked in my shoes) and, to actively work on keeping a healthy balance between being overjoyed and being grounded in one’s reality. I can not begin to explain how important it was for me to be at peace during this time. I shut out all outside noise and tried not to let all of the knowledge I had gathered about preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome, since suffering from it, bother me. Many people experience loss, some are unfortunate parents like me who lose children. It is not a club anyone wants to be a part of.

I now understand why in many African cultures (and many others) a pregnancy is treated as though it is invisible until the baby arrives. I don’t agree but I understand. When one’s life has been transformed by this kind of loss, there are a few lessons we grasp very quickly. One prominent lesson is that very few truly understand your grief and most would rather not have to talk about/acknowledge your dead child. For most people, my still born child was just that, still born and then the next day everyone’s life moved along. People say their sorry and expect you to carry on with life the way it was before your unfortunate life event. For us, for the grieving parents, it is a pain we have to learn to live with every day of our lives. It never goes away. Except with the less than handful of people who may be in tune enough to check on our wellbeing or oblige us by speaking about our son by his name every so often, it is a lonely journey. For this reason, my husband and I decided that this pregnancy would be a personal journey for us and we embraced the custom of our motherland. The anxiety, fear and doubt we felt and then quieted away with prayer, could only be understood by ourselves.

Now here we are. Two months after the birth of my handsome warrior. We did not know what to hope for while I was pregnant. We just hoped for the baby to be healthy. I went through this pregnancy with nearly no alarms and delivered him (after over 48 hours of labor) without any incident. He is healthy and much more than I could have ever hoped for. Akinlabi is a joy to behold and a daily reminder of God’s miraculous work in our lives.

Everyday I look at him, grateful for his life and with a heart full of joy. Everyday I wonder what I was doing before he came along. His face makes my heart smile and, for the second time, I get to experience unconditional love. Whatever I was doing before heartbreak and all, I don’t miss it!

 

A Moment with us, Forever in our Hearts

13 Mar

It’s been a long time since I’ve written. It is on purpose. Life goes on and we have to live in the present  and hope in the future in order to really grow positively.

My sister was pregnant with her first and I thought long and hard about whether or not I’d write anything during that time. After a few months of pondering, I decided I would stay away from blogging for a while.

My sister and I are twins. She’s my best friend. The kind that knows and feels my pain and vice versa. It comes naturally. I couldn’t take the chance of causing her anguish or sadness at this important time in her life because of what I was still going through, so I decided to live in the moment. With her. And the new joy we were all anticipating.

I cannot lie. I was nervous. We are identical twins after all but, thank the good Lord all went well.

Over the passed nine months, I’m thankful for hope restored. My sister and my adorably handsome nephew give me hope.

There is still not one day that goes by that I don’t think of my Demilade. It is amazing that I carried the boy for eight months and only got to glance at his face for a few hours and yet, I can never go a day without thinking of him. If he was born breathing, he would be turning two years old today. It’s hard to imagine but I had already pictured him at different stages while he was still in my tummy. Those images don’t go away from your mind, but the sadness that usually accompanied them does wane.

Now my husband and I tease about how my genes were overruled. I guess my sister and I have weak genes. It’s not fair! :). I sometimes find myself chuckling about his flat feet and wide finger nail beds. I don’t know how he’d have ended up looking but I am so grateful for a visual.

As I remember my boy on the day I laid eyes on him, I am grateful for strength, new life and healing.

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May is Preeclampsia Awareness Month!

1 May

May if Preeclampsia Awareness Month

Know the Symptoms

If you experience any of the following symptoms during your pregnancy or after delivery, call your doctor or midwife right away. Having symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have preeclampsia, but they are cause for concern and require immediate medical evaluation.

-Swelling of the hands and face, especially around the eyes (swelling of the feet is more common in late pregnancy and probably not a sign of preeclampsia)

-Weight gain of more than five pounds in a week

-Headache that won’t go away, even after taking medication such as acetaminophen

-Changes in vision like seeing spots or flashing lights; partial or total loss of eyesight

-Nausea or throwing up, especially suddenly, after mid pregnancy (not the morning sickness that many women experience in early pregnancy)

-Upper right belly pain, sometimes mistaken for indigestion or the flu

-Difficulty breathing, gasping, or panting

It’s also important to know that some women with preeclampsia have NO symptoms or they “just don’t feel right.” If you have a sense that something’s wrong, even without symptoms, trust yourself and contact your healthcare provider immediately.

http://www.preeclampsia.org/en/PreAM

It is not witchcraft!

30 Aug

If you’ve read the About page on this blog, then you know that I am African. My son’s name should help to demonstrate just how much of a connection I have with home. This open acknowledgement and awareness that I have about who I am and where I come from doesn’t always allow the decisions I make comfortable to contend with. I have to consider my family, both immediate and extended. How do my decisions affect others’ views of me and my family? Really, I’d be ok if the backlash was only toward me but, in most cases its not. Every Mugala or DaCosta out there might be looked at differently all because of my decision. It’s a heavy load and one that is sometimes hard to juxtapose between two very different worlds.

Luckily, I was raised in the Western world and therefore, a product of two distinct cultures. I have the liberty to take from each one the best practices and customs. Some actions that are not understood by my own or other Africans can just be chucked up to my Americanness. I’m fine with that.

I am sure sharing something so personal on such a public forum is one of those things that has left some of my family scratching their heads. But it’s not just for me, it’s for you.

The decision to start this blog weighed on my mind for a few months before I finally decided to get on with it. The main impetus being how many women from my own community I could reach and make aware of this thing called Preeclampsia. I have heard so many stories from women in this community about their hypertensive problems during pregnancy that I am convinced (like many other illnesses) we are disproportionately more affected than our counterparts belonging to other races. Of course, there can be many explanations (social economic status, access, education and awareness, racism, etc.) for this but without any references; it is hard to say for sure.

I work in public health so this seems like a natural course of events for me. Something happened; I wasn’t aware; now that I know; I want to share and make others aware. When one is aware, she can make better decisions about her health.

I find it stunting that African women do not share such vital information as what could happen to complicate a pregnancy and, in some cases may result in death. We are raised to keep matters of the family to ourselves and not call attention to ourselves by highlighting our misfortunes. But what about when these misfortunes could mean a cousin, sister or another family, doesn’t have to suffer your same fate. What do I gain by keeping the cause of the loss of my son to myself?

It isn’t witchcraft. I know there are many who probably think this but, it isn’t. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. At least I think I’m a good person. The tens of thousands I have read about since losing my son, they couldn’t all have been bad people could they? The unthinkable happened to them too. And you know what? They aren’t all African, so can we stop with the taboo over sharing vital information?

No matter which of your enemies you don’t let see you pregnant or see you happy, it is no indication that your pregnancy will not end in tragedy. Far more likely, is the fact that in spite of your enemy seeing you happy, good things still continue to happen to you. So live your life without fearing the ill intentions of another human being. They are just human! The best thing you can do for yourself is be as aware as possible and take your health and the health of your unborn child into your own hands because doctors are not foolproof.

We are doing a much bigger disservice to our daughters, nieces, cousins, etc., when we shield them for these lifesaving experiences which should help shape their futures as pregnant women and then mothers. After all, we are always supposed to learn from our experiences. What good is the lesson if you cannot/will not pass it on?

We are in the year 2013. There has been much advancement in medicine and still some being researched now. We do not have to suffer from the same infirmities our sisters suffered 100 years ago. We should be building upon all these experiences and lessons so that our daughters know how to respond. So they don’t suffer the same traumatic experiences.

I cannot just be silent. I must share. My experience touches on a wide range of subjects related to pregnancy and postpartum that I know we African women don’t and won’t talk about but, someone has to start. It is for the good of our community.

 

If you have questions about what preeclampsia is, visit the Preeclampsia Foundation for more information.

Not Again!

14 Jul

I have been sleeping OK for the last couple of weeks. I no longer wake up in fear and panic over small things three or four times per night. I can finally say I’m getting uninterrupted sleep (even if its only 4-6 hours).

It has become normal for me to not fall asleep until after midnight and if I don’t force myself, I can be wide awake way into the early morning hours. The inconvenience to my daily routine is noticeable. I can hardly leave my home for work by 8:30 am. This is not sustainable. Something has to give.

I woke up at 4:00 am this morning for no particular reason. Heart racing, head pounding and an uneasiness that I can not explain but, it keeps me up. Wide awake. Its been a few weeks since this kind of episode and after falling asleep early at midnight, I looked forward to sleeping straight through to 6:30 am or 7:00 am.

Immediately, I ask when it will end. When will I go back to my 8-hour- per night sleep pattern? There are few things that frustrate me and not being able to sleep is at the top of this list.

One thing is for sure, I have come a long way from March 13th, 2013 when my world was shaken and changed forever but, I am gradually working on becoming “normal” again.

Aftermath…

3 Jul

I don’t know how celebrities do it. All that unnecessary cosmetic surgery. I mean what kind of a person gets cut up voluntarily? I suppose that could speak to a different kind of strength or maybe I’m just being over dramatic, since it was neither desired nor a personal choice for me to get a Cesarean Section surgery.

I have a bikini cut, as I am told. When I get back in shape, everything should look normal again. What about feel normal??? No one ever tells us how it feels to have a scar that you not only see but feel. How is one supposed to feel about something permanent like the scarring from a C-section that  is not planned? The hardness of the area for a few months and you trying to reconcile why you feel so disfigured. It is not a part of you are; who you were rather and, now you have to get used to it or go mad.

After being given Magnesium to prevent any seizures resulting from the severe Preeclampsia  I had just been diagnosed with, I was wheeled away into the OR knowing I was going to be awake during the C-section surgery. However, I did not expect to have a panic attack in the middle of the operation upon I realizing  that I could not feel or move my legs and remembering that I would not be able to do so for another 2-4 hours (as told by the anesthesiologist). No one tells you this. That its not some quick surgery that doesn’t mess with your psyche. Maybe I was the first to react this way. Maybe its because my mind did not have the luxury of focusing on the crying baby that would normally result in this kind of procedure. Maybe my claustrophobia kicked in. Who knows?! I just know it is an awful feeling to be wide awake and aware that you are being cut open and there’s no running away and nothing you can do to speed up the process or simply wiggle your toes.

The trauma didn’t end in the operating room. When I was released to go home a few days later and had to clean the wound on my own, I realized my body was no longer the same. This wasn’t a matter of losing the 35 pounds I put on. I can always exercise the fat away.  This was much more. The scar had hardened along my bikini line and apparently this is how it will remain for the rest of my life. It is a bit softer now and I am more at peace with it always being there but, there are days when the feel of it triggers emotions I cannot control.

I have questioned myself on several occasions. Is it vain of me to feel this way about my physical appearance? I was dealing with too many other things psychologically, physically and emotionally and yet I had time to think about this scar. Beyond the physical damage, it is a constant reminder of what I don’t have in the end and causes me much anger.   If I had my consolation prize, the scars and mental anguish so far would  be well worth it. I am certain these feelings would not be as pronounced as they are now, if at all.

 

I Hate Odd Numbers!

1 Jul

Wow! Talk about not being in control of one’s own life. I learned the hard way. A rude awakening, if you will. I am not in control of anything that happens in my life.

The bible scriptures say that no man knows the day nor the hour of his death. Its funny because we also really don’t know for sure when we will enter this world either. I’ve never thought of this until now. Technically, Demilade came into and left this world at the same time. I don’t know when he actually passed.

Before 9:11 am on March 13, 2013, I expected him to make his debut on a nice even numbered day of the week, Sunday. He was to make his first appearance on an even numbered date, the 28th of the fourth month of the year. Everything seemed to be in order according to the way I had imagined the tiny details.  However, God has his own plans for us and sometimes they do not align with our own.

Its such a minor detail but, to me it underscores the strong dislike I have for odd numbered anything. I got married in 2011 and both of us being African guaranteed some back and forth regarding the wedding date. I had a conniption at the suggestion that my wedding day should occur in a month other than June or August (guaranteed pleasant weather and only two even numbered months of the summer). I mean,  wasn’t it bad enough we were getting married in an odd numbered year (although, I comforted myself by adding all the individual numbers: 2+1+1=4. Voila!). Its crazy, I know, but I really do not like anything odd!  I think there is a term for this where one’s mood is affected/determined by numbers or colors. For me, when I can control when an important event happens, I would prefer it to fall on an even date of an even day of the week.

You can imagine how unlucky I felt on March 13, 2013. No adding of any numbers would make me see this as anything but bad. Of course, time and meditation on God’s word will change this perspective. My life was spared on March 13th. It is spared on every odd numbered day that I continue to see a new day. I can never not like March 13th again. Even though it was the worst day of my life, it is also the most meaningful in my life.

I don’t know why I had to lose my child after carrying him for 33 weeks and 3 days. I don’t know why I developed Preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome. And I don’t know why none of the doctors who saw me did not diagnose me and get me help, even with glaring symptoms. I will likely never know but, I have learned a valuable lesson: there is only so much we can plan and prepare for and the rest is up to God.

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