I was on the verge of having postpartum depression and developing an anxiety disorder. On the last day of me being in the hospital, I overheard one of the nurses tell my father that I was most likely going to develop postpartum depression and anxiety. I wasn’t suppose to hear her say it because they were outside my hospital room and were whispering. But I somehow read her lips and heard her words and I immediately was rushed by an unexplainable feeling. I was determined that I was not going to have depression and I was not going to let anxiety rule my world. I won.
Anxiety “can cause such distress that it interferes with your ability to lead a normal life. worry and fear are constant and overwhelming, and can be disabling.”(via.webMD.com)
What is Pre-eclampsia, Eclampsia and Hellp syndrome?
What is Pre-eclampsia
according to the preeclampsia.org website is a condition that only pregnant women can develop and it is diagnosed by the elevation of the expectant mother’s blood pressure, this usually happens after the 20th week of pregnancy. The doctors will usually closely monitor the mom and give her blood pressure medication to stabilize it. They will also perform stress level test on the baby, check to see if the baby is growing among other things. If they find that is best to delivery the baby sooner than expected they will, even if the baby is premature. This is done to save the mother and baby’s lives. The only way to cure pre-eclampsia is to delivery the baby. In some cases the baby does not survive due to being premature and other health factors involved.
What is eclampsia?
I was one of the rare pregnant women who developed post-partum eclampsia without any traces of having pre-eclampsia. Eclampsia according to the preeclampsia.org website is ” a very serious complication of preeclampsia characterized by one or more seizures during pregnancy or in the post-partum period”.
What is Hellp syndrome?
I also developed hellp syndrome which is “one of the most severe forms of preeclampsia and occurs in 5-12% of preeclamptic patients, It can lead to substantial injury to the mother’s liver, a breakdown of her red blood cells and lowered platelet count” (via preeclampsia.org). This all happened in 2013 with my second pregnancy after giving birth full term to my beautiful and healthy twins.
Disturbing fact: “Ten million women develop preeclampsia each year around the world. Worldwide about 76,000 pregnant women die each year from preeclampsia and related hypertensive disorders. And, the number of babies who die from these disorders is thought to be on the order of 500,000 per annum” (preeclampsia.org)
Imagine having a perfect pregnancy and birth to then be hit with the unknown. To be hit with this traumatic event just days after giving birth?
My story with postpartum HELLP SYNDROME and ECLAMPSIA
I didn’t know what was going on, the doctors and nurses didn’t know what was going on either. They did a lot of tests on me because my blood pressure was going up but not enough to diagnose me with pre-eclampsia. I was having elevated liver enzyme, my blood platelets were getting lower and lower after each test and my kidneys were not functioning as a normal kidney should. I was scheduled for a kidney biopsy and the doctors were pretty sure I was going to get dialysis. I was TERRIFIED! I just gave birth to my twins and all of this was happening to me at once, I had my 3 year old daughter and beautiful newborn twins that needed me, what was going on with me? I asked the doctors crying.
The day of the biopsy I had the first of two seizures and ended in the ICU for 5 days and out of those 5 days I was in a medically induced coma for two. The doctors diagnosed me with post-partum eclampsia and Hellp syndrome. I miraculously survived. I stayed in the hospital for a little over two weeks. I was terrified filled with anxiety of everything that happened to me, I didn’t show it though. I wanted to be strong, I wanted to fool myself into thinking I was going to get through this. I wanted my kids to have a healthy, happy, fun, funny mom like I was to my 3 year old and wanted to be for my twins. Those days at the hospital were filled with tests after tests, I’m talking about blood test and urine test every single day and multiple times a day. My blood pressure was taken every hour, I was giving an anti-blood clot shot that was more painful than anything in this world. I was taking 5 different medication, 4 to lower my blood pressure and 1 anticonvulsant.
Dealing with anxiety is horrible, it can control your life if you let it and at times I let it control me. Once I was home, my anxiety levels really kicked in, I was sick, you can see it in my face and my body language. I went home with the same medication I was taking in the hospital. I had to take each medication twice a day, I felt dizzy all day and had to check my blood pressure every two hours. Can you imagine? There were times when I couldn’t sleep, I didn’t want to go out and all I did was stay in my bedroom. I wanted to be a normal mother taking care of her newborn but I couldn’t. I wanted to be healthy again.
I cried and asked God why did he choose me to fight this battle? I felt extremely sad when I would hear about pregnant women giving birth and nothing bad happening to them. Yes, very selfish of me but I was not in a good place. I didn’t want to see or hear anything that had to do with someone being pregnant or giving birth because I couldn’t be happy for them. My beautiful and healthy twin pregnancy went into shatters after giving birth, I couldn’t’ think about my pregnancy without thinking about my traumatic post-partum experience. It scar me in a negative way and you know what I had to stop it. I am so blessed that I didn’t take medication for anxiety or post-partum depression. I am so blessed that I snapped out of my funk and realized that I am here, I am alive and I have my kids to live for.
Experiencing a traumatic and life changing pregnancy, birth or post-partum period due to pre-eclampsia, eclampsia and hellp is sadly very common. It’s very hard being on the verge of dying, it’s very hard to have to see your baby in the NICU fighting for his/her life, it’s even harder to have to loose your baby due to these conditions. It can easily cause any women to develop anxiety and post-partum depression. We need to find a cure!
That’s why I am sharing with you 8 ways to overcome anxiety after pre-eclampsia, eclampsia and hellp syndrome because it helped me tremendously and I know it can help you too. It is possible not to have anxiety, It is possible to say ” I am stronger than what I think I am”. You are strong, you are a fighter and you are a survivor!
8 ways to overcome anxiety after Pre-eclampsia, Eclampsia and Hellp syndrome
1.Think about the positive
Always think about the positive and you will feel so much better. Having to go through the traumatic event of pre-eclampsia, eclampsia and hellp syndrome is daunting and scary. Do not start thinking about the negative, which is on the line of ” I could have died”, you will only trigger the anxiety. Think about the positive side of it, hey! You survived, you fought for your life, your baby survived, you have a sweet miracle that is your child. If your baby left this earth to be an angel, then know that you will always have him/her in your heart. Know that it was in God’s plan to have your baby as one of his angels. There are so many positive and so little negatives. Yes, the negative may sometimes come creeping into our thoughts but don’t let it. You have so much to be thankful for. You are alive, you are here with your kids, you get to enjoy your babies. I sometimes would struggle with this but one thing that I can assure you was that, every time I would think about the positive it would bring a smile to my face and would give me a sense of ease.
Quick note: To all of the moms who’s baby left to be an angel, I am extremely sorry for your loss and I know this can be very hard for you; to think positive when your baby is not with you. I do think that if you focus on the positive and not the negative it will help you heal and feel a little better than if you only think about the negative.
Staying busy helped a lot with my anxiety. It helped me not to focus on what I went through but to focus on what I was doing at that moment. Staying busy for me meant to cook, play with my kids, watch a television show and read the bible. I also, started this blog because I wanted to have a hobby that I could focus on. I wanted something to look forward to everyday and that would make me happy. I would also do the laundry, clean the house and take pictures of my kids all day. Little things like that will automatically shift your focus from thinking about your traumatic experience to thinking about fun and happy things in your life. You know what I would do when I knew my anxiety was starting to creep in again, I would take one of the twins from their crib and would carry him/her. By the way they would be sleeping, but for some reason, I felt like they would save me from getting an anxiety attack and they did.
Quick note: Staying busy can mean a number of things, do what makes you happy whether is going to the park with your kids, watching a movie with your hubby or just simply reading a book. Staying busy helps your brain from focusing on the past to focusing on the present, don’t look back and stay focused on the present and future. It is only going to get better from here.
3.Quickly shift focus
There will be times where out of nowhere you start thinking about your traumatic labor and birth experience. You start to think about what the doctors could have done better, what you could have done to prevent what happened to you. Quickly shift your focus to something else, think about your baby’s chubby cheeks, think about a funny joke someone told you at the hospital. Do or think about something completely different that will help you forget about your negative thoughts. I would automatically start thinking about the first time that I saw my twins, about the first time my then 3 year old daughter saw her baby brother and sister. It would make me forget about the worst days and just remember the good ones. With anxiety you have to hold it by the horn and not let it get to you. I fought with my anxiety and I fought with it hard.
Quick note: It’s the little things that you do that will help you overcome anxiety. The mind can play a lot of tricks on you and it’s on you to not let it get to you. You have to fight, you have to want, you have to be determine to not let anxiety take control of you and your life.
4.This too shall pass
Say it with me ” This too shall pass” and it will, take it from someone who did not let anxiety rule her life or break her down. Even on my worst days in the hospital or at home, my mentality stayed the same. I always knew that this obstacle, this trial in my life was going to pass and I was going to be happy and feel like my old self again. I knew God was with me and I knew he was going to completely heal me. You know what made me overcome anxiety? Knowing that everything that I was going through was going to pass. It may seem like it will take forever or that it has taken long enough, know that this too shall pass. Know that you will not feel what you are feeling forever, know that you will get up and feel like your old self again. The unknown, the hurt, the pain, the questioning, the doubts, the fear will pass.
Quick note: Knowing and telling yourself that what you are going through will not last forever will help you overcome your anxieties. Why? well, you have something good, positive to look forward to, just that thought that you will feel good again, the hopes that your doctors will reduce the number of medications that you are taking will have you in better spirits. You will overcome anxiety, you will be back to your old self because “This too shall pass”.
5.Surround yourself with family and friends
What would we do without our family and friends? My family was and still are my rock. My hubby, parents and my two sisters were incredibility helpful, optimistic and just what I needed to get through to each day. They were my sunshine and were always willing to stay up all night with me, get up in the middle of the night to check my blood pressure and to make sure I took my medications. Without them, I don’t know where I would be right now. My grandmothers, aunts, uncles and cousins were amazing as well, taking care of me, bringing me food and cooking and cleaning for me. It was the support that I needed to have to make it through the day. Always surround yourself with the people that you love the most, even if it’s just you, your hubby and baby. They will make you fight and help you be the mommy and wife that you can be. Family and friends will always make you feel good, happy and loved and during these hard times, it’s all we need.
Quick note: Even if your family is far away, talking to them on the phone can make a difference in how you feel that day. Overcoming anxiety does not have to be hard, it takes time yes, but it’s not impossible. My three children inspired and motivated me to fight this battle hard and I did for them.
6.Talk about it
You know how people say “talk about, it will make you feel better” Guess what? They’re right. You need to talk about your fears, your worries, your anxiety. It will help you not have everything bottled up inside which will only make your anxiety worst. I would always talk to my family about my experience and just focused on the positive aspect of it. Like, the fact that I survived, the fact that my entire family from New York, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Italy, Michigan, Florida were all praying for me to get better. I would talk about the first time that I saw my twins after coming out of the ICU. Always stick to talking about the positive until you are ready to relive and talk about your experience.
Quick note: You can speak to your doctor about your worries and concerns. You can talk with who ever you feel most comfortable with because this will help you in the long run. Talking will help you overcome your anxieties, it did with me.
7.Join a support group
It’s funny how you go through such a traumatic experience in your life and think that nobody else has gone through it. I thought I was the only mom who experienced and was diagnose with eclampsia and hellp syndrome and because of this I felt alone. I then started researching and noticed that a lot of other moms experienced the same things that I did. All of a sudden I was not alone, I could relate to another mom and I felt my anxiety going away. I joined a Facebook group of awesome, strong, inspiring and determined moms who have experienced and were diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, eclampsia and hellp syndrome. We all share our experiences, loss, our children’s milestones, pregnancy update , give each other advice and words of encouragement and so much more. The Facebook group’s name is Preeclampsia survivors, check it out!
Quick note: By joining these types of groups you will feel like you are not alone, like you can talk about your feelings and they will actually understand what you are feeling and going through. It’s great to also read forums about preeclampsia, eclampsia and hellp syndrome and read what other moms are saying. You are not alone on this journey.
Praying has honestly got me through the bad and has giving me hope. I prayed everyday to get better, to feel like myself again, for my doctors to take me off all of the medication that I was taking. I felt like God was listening to me, I felt connected to him and I knew my purpose. I would go to church with my sisters and grandmother to thank him for all of his blessings. To thank him for saving me and giving me a chance to be a mother again. I was so grateful and still am. Every time I pray, I feel better and my anxiety goes away.
Okay mamas, I really hope that following these 8 ways to overcome anxiety can help you in any way. It honestly helped me a lot and it worked for me. I know what you are going through and all I can say is that time is your friend. You will not feel great right away, I will only be lying to you. It will take time to feel like your old self again, it will take time to laugh again, it will take time to accept what you went through. I am here with you and for you.
I am so happy to say that it has been 3 years now and I do not have anxiety. My goal was not to be on anxiety or depression medication because I was already taking other medications. I fought hard, and I did it. I won the battle and I know you can too!
P.S: just incase you were wondering, I am not taking any of the 5 medications that I left the hospital with. My blood pressure went back to normal after 3 months of taking the medications and I have no liver or kidney issues, everything went back to normal and I am healthy :). I am extremely blessed and couldn’t be happier.
For more information please visit the preeclampsia.org website.