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Posted by: Kathleen Eakins   |   5/8/2011   |   Arizona

My Story Child Birth to the Edge and On

I am a 38 year old mother of one, who barely survived child birth and now much live with a chronic illness that resulted from it. I just saw a segment on television regarding Every Mother Counts, and I was so moved by the experience that led to its creation; and not for the reason you might think. I wasn’t moved because I was surprised or horrified, but because it sounded like my story. My pregnancy was average, maybe a little rougher the typical but nothing out of the ordinary. I had gestational diabetes and morning sickness. I hated being pregnant not because I didn’t want my baby but because I didn’t feel like myself. So when it came time to deliver, I wasn’t surprised that it wasn’t a picture perfect labor. Labor was induced, because they were worried about the size of my son due to the diabetes, early on a Wednesday morning and twelve hours later, to the minute, my son entered the world. During those hours, I had an epidural that went wrong and didn’t work, followed by a second that did. I lost 3 + hours to pain, coming back to world with M*A*S*H playing on the television. And then at 5 pm, my beautiful son joined us. He was named for important people in our family, being named after my husband’s and my father, my grandfather, and a great-uncle who was like a grandfather to me. Keith~Raydon Clark Eakins was a perfect baby and I couldn’t ask for more. But within a few minutes after his arrival, I began to hemorrhage. I was given two shots to help control the bleeding, then was cleaned up and moved down to a recovery room. Unfortunately, my story doesn’t end there. Sometime after arriving downstairs, the shots’ nasty side effects paid a visit. I was stricken with diarrhea, dizziness, and nausea. I still had a catheter, IV, and was still being given drugs to contract my uterus. I was sick and frightened. I had seen my friends after delivery and knew something was wrong. My friends had been able to shower, eat, and hold their babies following birth. I couldn’t even sit up in bed. I remember crying myself to sleep that night. The next morning, the nurse brought my baby back to me from the nursery and was shocked that was frightened of having him with me. She left him in the room, ignoring my please to take him back to the nursery. I knew I couldn’t care for him. At this point, I still couldn’t care for myself let alone someone else. I was relieved when my husband showed up and was able to help. Sometime the next day, I got a roommate. She came into the room in a wheelchair, smiling and joking with the nurses. She got up a showered, ate a meal a friend brought her, and then took a walk around the hospital. I was still in bed, unable to get up for the IV and the cath. I remember holding my baby once, when someone put him in my arms and then removed him to bottle-feed him. I remember trying to breast feed, but it wasn’t working for me. My body didn’t have any milk, my son wouldn’t latch on, and it hurt to hold with all the wires and tubes. I cried myself to sleep again those nights.I do not remember what day I came home from the hospital. I can’t tell you how many days passed, or how long I was tied to the bed with the IV and cath. I can tell you that I was never checked for the heavy bleeding. As she handed me a page about a culture test she thought I had failed, the discharging nurse told me that I had passed the culture test upon delivery, and she didn’t know why I was still there. Please do ask me what the test was, because I do not remember. And as a happy family, my husband took my son and I home. The next several weeks are a blur. I slept a lot. We bottle fed my son. My mother came to help me take care of my son. I bled more than I thought I should, but when I called to ask the doctor about it, he said, “You haven’t had a period in 10 months. It’s going to be a heavy period. I will see you at your appointment.” I was clotting, which I had never done, and I remember asking my mother if that was normal. She didn’t know. She had been so sick after having me, and it was nearly 30 years before, so she didn’t remember. I loved my son, and I loved being a mom, but I didn’t feel right. At my son’s two week check up, I had an experience that I remember a clearly as if it happened yesterday. (Which is very surprising, since everything else during those weeks is unclear.) As I drove my son and myself to the doctors, I was so proud. It was the first outing I was doing alone. I found a parking spot and got out of the car. As I walked to the trunk, another car pulled in the spot opposite of me. I got the stroller out and got the car seat tucked into it. I took a deep breath and turned to start pushing up to the building when I looked up to the car across from me. The woman laughed and called out “you’d better get faster or your never going to make it.” In the time it took for me to do these little steps, she had gotten her newborn and toddler out of the car and into their strollers. She was already pushing towards the building as I was just locking my car. I felt my bubble of pride burst and I was fighting off tears as we pushed into the building. When I spoke to my mother later that night on the phone, she responded that every mother was different and I would find my pace. Keith got a clean bill of health from his doctor and I was so relieved. He was a happy, health baby. Little did I know then, how lucky we were, since I wasn’t so fortunate. I don’t remember what the date was that I was due to see my ob/gyn. I know it was during the week of May 6th though. Saturday, May 4th, I visited my mother, stepfather, stepbrother and family, who were visiting from out of state. I was weak and tired. I looked very pale in the pictures taken that day, but I didn’t think anything was unusual. I was still bleeding heavily. But again, I had been told that was normal since I hadn’t had a period for 10 months. Sunday, May 5th I went to church and visited with my father and family. My husband had kept our son home so I could have a day alone. My dad had taken me to a movie, as was usual pre-baby. After the movie, I used the restroom and was pleased to see that the bleeding had finally stopped. I was relieved and happy. I didn’t want to have to reschedule my ob/gyn appointment. As I met up with my dad in the lobby of the theater, I was overcome with dizziness. As I grabbed my father’s arm for support, I looked down and saw that my denim jumper was wet with blood, and my white socks and shoes were spotted with red. I fell to the floor fighting to stay alert. In a panic, I called my doctor who told me that I might have a big flow just before the end, and I wasn’t to worry. He told me to go home and clean up. If I was still bleeding in an hour to call him back. My father was non-too-happy, but he took me home. It took 15 minutes to make the 30-minute drive. I know that there was blood all over my dad’s car, but I can’t tell you home much. I can tell you that my shoes and socks had to be throw away and the jumper was soaked from waist to hem with blood. My husband met us in the driveway, just as I hit the black asphalt. I woke up to the sound of sirens, looking up through the grass into the worried eyes of my dad and husband. Looking back, I don’t know how those two men kept so calm. I took the ambulance to the hospital where they not only started an IV, but also began giving me blood. I had an internal ultrasound, and I remember the nurse having to remove a large clot before she could begin. When she asked how far along, I was. I told her I had already had my baby, and I remember a look of confusion cross her face. Sometime later, I was taken into emergency surgery for a DNC. I was given several bags of blood, and released from the hospital the following day. After we were home, safe and sound, my husband told me that the EMT told him that had he waited to call any longer, I wouldn’t have survived. I feel very lucky to be alive. Since that day, I haven’t ever felt right in my body. I’ve had near fainting episodes off and on over the years. My heart will race, and my blood pressure is either too high or too low. I saw two cardiologists and had an ablation, where they “killed” a nerve that was miss firing inside my heart. A couple of years passed. We moved from Southern California to Tucson, Arizona, where the symptoms came back worse than ever. I have been to too many doctors to could and none could explain my situation. They blamed my symptoms on dehydration, lack of exercise, laziness, and depression. As I grew worse, my symptoms increased. Weakness, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, dehydration, exhaustion, racing heart beats, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, and dizziness are just a few things I experience daily. Just last summer, I finally found a doctor who diagnosed me with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (aka POTS). It is a condition in the dysautonomia family. In simplest terms, it means my involuntary systems don’t function right and can’t push the blood around my body correctly. It can be brought on by many things’ puberty and traumatic events among them. I believe that it was the stress of childbirth followed by the loss of blood brought mine on. None of my doctors will support me in this theory and just say, it could be anything, but I know when it started and no one knows how much that single experience changed me. While I am overly in love with my son, and I would not change one single experience of bringing him into the world, I would never wish this on anyone. My son is a happy and healthy boy. He plays sports, struggles in school, has ADD, and lots of friends. He is an average 9-year-old boy. But I am not an average mother. I have annual ER visits; more doctors appointments that I should, so many specialists that I can’t keep them all straight. I don’t have the energy to play with him most days, and can barely manage to take him to his sports events. He is wonderfully helpful and at times, is a little man with how mature he is regarding my health. I love my son with all my heart, and I feel so badly that I can’t be the mother he deserves. That is why I am writing this. If my support for this cause helps one woman to have a better life, to give one child a mother that they deserve, then it’s worth it. I pray my story helps someone to know that life doesn’t have to difficult. Childbirth shouldn’t be traumatizing to a woman’s body to the point where she faces death. Delivery shouldn’t cause life long damage to a woman. I pray that my story helps someone, somewhere, to know that they are not alone.


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