Brianna Barclay tells part one of her pregnancy story. Brianna suffers from clinical OCD and an intense fear of medical procedures. During her pregnancy, she also dealt with hyperemesis, which ultimately caused her to lose 35-40 pounds before she delivered her baby.
“Severe Anxiety and Hyperemesis – Talk About a Tough Pregnancy: Part One” – with Brianna Barclay
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Nathan: Welcome to High Risk Birth Stories brought to you by the creators of the “Healthful Woman Podcast.” I’m your host, Dr. Nathan Fox. High Risk Birth Stories is a podcast designed to give you, the listener, a window into the life-changing experiences of pregnancy, fertility, and childbirth. All right. Brianna, welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for volunteering. How you doing?
Brianna: Thank you for having me. I am good. How are you?
Nathan: I’m wonderful. Thank you for asking. Now we were talking before and we were emailing before. And you said that you have listened to every single one of these podcasts.
Brianna: Yes. I have a baby who likes to be held to sleep and I’m perfectly content doing that. So I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts. I just came across this one and I listened to it. I listen to it every week, and then I marathoned what I hadn’t heard when I first started, when I first found it.
Nathan: Well, that’s awesome. I really appreciate it. How did you happen on it in the first place? Was it just like through a search, or like it was recommended by your whatever podcast thing provider?
Brianna: I had a pretty traumatic experience. And so even though it’s been like eight months, I’m still kind of working through that. And I thought maybe hearing other people’s stories that were similar might like help me or make me feel a little bit better. And so I just typed in, like I typed in postpartum preeclampsia, and then I typed in a couple different things and then it came up. And then I was like, oh, I really like this. So then I just started listening to all of them, even the ones that had nothing to do, obviously, with my situation, but.
Nathan: I feel so comfortable talking to you because you have my accent. You’re Midwest. It’s beautiful. So tell us where you’re calling from, or I’m calling you from, I guess.
Brianna: Southern Indiana. So I’m about 10 miles or maybe like 5 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky. So New Albany is where I’m from in very Southern Indiana. Very, very bottom.
Nathan: All right. Well, you’re still a Hoosier, so that’s good.
Nathan: Are you born and raised Indiana?
Brianna: Yes. I was born in the West, so I was born in Vegas. I spent like the first six years of my life there, and then my family’s from here, so we moved back to Indiana. But I finished all… I went to the same school all through school, like elementary through high school, and been here ever since I can remember, since I had memories.
Nathan: Yeah. So I’m from Chicago. So Illinois, so we’re neighboring states, but there’s a lot of overlap for people from both states, which is pretty cool. So thank you so much, A for listening, B for volunteering, and C for taking the time to talk today, to tell your own story. And this is the birth of Oliver from last year, from 2021.
Brianna: Yes. Yes. Feels like it was just yesterday, but yes.
Nathan: How is he doing? You said before that he was sleeping, which is great.
Brianna: Oh, actually he’s at my best friend’s house. She takes him. You know, with COVID we don’t really get to get out much. He gets a little bored. So she like will take him over to her house to hang out for a little bit so that he can… It’s really his only way to get out and see anything.
Nathan: So that’s his social life.
Brianna: And soyeah, that’s it. That’s literally his social life. So she took him for a couple hours today. He is asleep at her house though. She just let me know. So he is sleeping, just not here.
Nathan: Amazing. Well, you’re taking your free time to talk to me and talk to all of our listeners. So that is pretty cool. So tell us where you are, who you are. What’s your story coming into pregnancy?
Brianna: Yeah, so my husband and I started dating actually in high school. So we were 18. I was 18 and we’ve been together ever since. We’ve been together a really long time because we’re in our 30s now, early 30s. We kinda put off having kids for a while just because we wanted to make sure we were a little more financially stable, that type of thing, which is a little bit rare in this area especially. People tend to start really early having kids. And so once we made that decision, we weren’t… I wouldn’t say we were putting in a lot of effort to try. It was just more of like an I’m not trying type of thing. We weren’t really calculating cycles or anything like that at first, but then it took a little while, probably about a year or so. And so then we kinda started tracking a little more diligently, and once we started tracking, we pretty much got pregnant almost immediately.
Nathan: Wow. Cool. All right. Now, when you said that most people around you were having kids earlier, were like your friends or family members already with kids and you guys were like a little behind them, so to speak?
Brianna: Yeah, we definitely heard a lot of like, when are you guys gonna have babies? When do you guys plan on having kids? When are you gonna give me…? My mom was always like, where’s my grandkid and where is this and that? And you know, and we just waited until it felt right for us. And then, I mean, it was perfect timing. We just bought a house. We literally moved in the house and got pregnant the next month. So it was good timing.
Nathan: Good. And how was the beginning of pregnancy for you?
Brianna: It was really difficult. I have a like intense fear of medical procedures, doctors, health things, diagnosed like clinical OCD and it all revolves around medical things.
Nathan: How long has that been going on for, is that forever?
Brianna: Yes, since I was a kid. And so I hadn’t been to the doctor in a really long time, years. I mean, years. It had been like 18 years since I’d been to the dentist. I’m terrified of… Not so much now, a little bit better now. And so the anxiety, when I first found I was pregnant, as excited as we were, it was matched with like equal parts anxiety, because I was like, well, this isn’t a choice anymore. I have to go to the doctor, obviously, because this isn’t about me. Then I found out really early. I was probably only three weeks pregnant when I found out, if that. I hadn’t even had any symptoms yet or anything. I just kind of had a feeling. And then the minute I hit six weeks, I was intensely sick, like, throwing up all the time. Couldn’t keep anything down, like it was the craziest thing that I’ve ever been through and it didn’t get any better. I’m not sure if I pronounce it correctly, but hyperemesis gravidarum.
Nathan: Yeah. Hyperemesis means puking a lot.
Brianna: So I was really, really sick and I didn’t necessarily think it was that at first. I hadn’t even been to the doctor yet. They wouldn’t see me until I was at 10 weeks or so, 10 to 12 weeks. So I called and they tried to send me over some prescriptions, or they tried to give me like Unisom and vitamin B6 at first. They told me to try that, that did not work. And then they tried to, I think it’s Bonjesta is the other medication. But I didn’t have health insurance and so it was like $700 for the prescription. It was crazy.
Nathan: Well, Bonjesta is basically Unisom and B6. It’s just, they put them together into one pill, so it’s definitely not worth the $700.
Brianna: So I was like, I’m good. I’ll just be sick. You know, that’s the choice. Eventually, they did give me Phenergan, which helped. And then eventually I had to be put on Zofran because, by the time I was like 12 weeks pregnant, I was probably throwing up 30 times a day. So I was extremely sick. I had to leave my job, I couldn’t work, so I couldn’t go to work at all. I couldn’t leave the bed. I mean, it was the craziest. I mean, and everybody I talked to couldn’t believe it because it was just, it was so intense. I couldn’t do anything. I mean, the minute I woke up, I would get sick like until the minute I would go to bed.
Nathan: How much weight did you lose?
Brianna: First trimester, I probably lost like 15 pounds.
Brianna: I was just extremely… I just couldn’t believe it. It was not what I expected. I was so excited. And then I just said, when I was like five and a half weeks pregnant, I was like, I can’t believe I’m not sick. And then, you know, that came back to bite me.
Nathan: Did they think it was related to the anxiety? I mean, some people with anxiety are gonna vomit from it. And I mean, you could have hyperemesis with no anxiety whatsoever. Some of it is just, you know, purely physiologic in that sense. Did they have any sense of whether they were related or unrelated?
Brianna: They didn’t really say, but I am an anxious puker. I do throw up when I’m anxious, I’ve been known to, I mean, my whole life I’ve done that. And so I kind of thought it probably wasn’t making things better. And then by the time I got to my first appointment, I think I was 14 weeks pregnant at that point. We did the ultrasound. Everything was good with baby, even though I was freaking out of course because I hadn’t been to the doctor in probably like seven years. So that was my first doctor’s appointment period in like seven years. So everything was good. And I had mentioned that I was really sick. I don’t know that maybe I was as forward as I could have been or something because it didn’t seem like at first that anybody really thought it was anything other than just regular morning sickness. But they told me by, you know, 16 weeks at latest typically it would go away. But as time continued, it did not. I was sick. Spoiler, I threw up all the way until I was in labor, so.
Brianna: It never ended, I never got any better.
Nathan: Did the Zofran help?
Brianna: I’m not sure if it helped, but I was too scared to not take it because I was afraid it would be worse because I mean, it was just crazy. I mean, I’m sure obviously, you know, you deal with people that have that all the time. But it was, I mean, I couldn’t even look… My husband couldn’t even like make dinner. I couldn’t even look at the bag of frozen chicken. I couldn’t look at… We’d get ads in the mail for like KFC or McDonald’s and I would throw up looking at the pictures of the food. Like it was the most intense, awful, you know. And I actually never even went and got fluids or anything because I was too scared to really go to the hospital. So I’d call and like ask if I should, and then they would say, well, you can probably wait it out because I would make it sound a little less serious probably. In other words, don’t be like me. Take care of yourself.
Nathan: Message for everyone. Don’t be like me. I’m curious, I mean, literally how you survived. I mean, how much weight did you lose total? The whole pregnancy.
Brianna: So by the time I had Oliver, I had probably lost like 35, 40 pounds. I had no baby belly.
Nathan: Oh my God. How did you stay outta the hospital? Like most people have that, they’re in the hospital getting fluids and medications and sometimes even like nutrition through the intravenous. I mean, it’s crazy. I mean, that’s a really bad situation.
Brianna: It’s pure luck. We said it was just by, like, pure spite that I managed to not go because I was just so terrified of like going. And I would get weighed at the doctor’s appointments. And I think it’s because, you know, it’s not like I had the lowest BMI, so I don’t think they were super concerned because my numbers were still okay. Everything was still okay until I got like mid-pregnancy. And then that’s when like the blood pressure issue started coming up. And so, but yeah, I managed to… I don’t know, we’re all amazed all the time. Where we’re like, wow, can you believe I survived? I look at Oliver and I’m like, how are you here? I dunno how we managed this. We’re a team, buddy because we did it.
Nathan: And were you, were they checking to make sure that he was growing, like on the ultrasounds he was gaining weight?
Brianna: Yeah. He was big actually, he was really big. He was basically taking everything I guess he needed from the little bit I was getting. I mean, my teeth were like, they got really bad. And he was good. I mean, I have no idea how. I remember I was terrified all the time, but they just kept telling me, you know, baby will take what baby needs, baby looks good. Everything’s good. And I was like, okay. I mean, it’s crazy. The human body is insane. I just can’t believe it.
Nathan: Fetuses are like teenagers. They definitely take whatever they need and whatever they want from you.
Brianna: Yeah, he did.
Nathan: Without any remorse whatsoever. Was there any thought during the pregnancy, or even before the pregnancy, in getting treatment for the healthcare-related anxiety, whether with a medication you take every day, or maybe something like a low dose of Xanax or something to take before you go to the doctor’s office? Was that ever entertained?
Brianna: So no, because when you think of people with like hypochondria, you usually think of a person who goes to the doctor a lot. Like they can’t stop going because they think something’s wrong with them. They wanna just get test after test after test, but I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum where I have self-diagnosed myself with basically every disease there is. And I am the opposite in that I am too scared to go. I don’t wanna know. I don’t wanna find out. I don’t wanna know. I just, it’s really crazy. So I wouldn’t go, I was too scared to like get treatment, but thankfully I did have like an angel of an OB and she did end up putting me on medication. And I mean, I think that’s the only way that I made it through the, you know, rest of the pregnancy and stuff like that is I was able to be so open and honest with her. And she was so great about like consent. She never did anything that I wasn’t comfortable with. And she had told me, you know, I really think you need to try medication. So she did and it helped a lot.
Nathan: What kinda medication? What’d she put you on?
Brianna: So at first I had tried Lexapro. Didn’t like that. But I’m on buspirone now. And it’s, I mean, it’s helped a lot. We’ve added a couple other things at times. Like we tried Prozac, too. Didn’t really help. I actually just was there a couple days ago and she sent over a prescription for Wellbutrin also to add onto it, because I’m still kind of dealing with some like PMDD because why not add that in the mix. But yeah, it’s helped a lot. So if nothing else, this really horrifying crazy experience did get me somewhere with my mental health, which is really great. On top of getting Oliver. Obviously, he was the best part.
Nathan: You were functioning. Right. Because it doesn’t sound like it was an issue unless you had to go to a doctor or thought about going to a doctor. But yeah, that could obviously turn into some trouble if you can’t, you know, go to doctors or dentists. You know, because as you get older, you’re gonna need to. And so it’s something that can’t be avoided forever. You can get through a lot in your 20s.
Brianna: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. I functioned pretty well. I would have moments where it’d be a few months of like really intense anxiety where I’d like hear about a disease and I become obsessed with it and I would just convince myself I had it, but then it would pass. And so I’d be like, oh, I don’t need help. I got rid of it, I’m over it. But obviously, like you said, it wasn’t sustainable. I couldn’t have lived the rest of my life like that. And so it’s a lot better now, thank God.
Nathan: Just as a side note, what was the wildest disease you thought you had?
Brianna: Oh gosh, I was 100%… It’s always like some sort of cancer. But I remember when I was really little, I was convinced I had leukemia because I saw a Charlie Brown episode about a little girl who had leukemia. I was convinced. Like at eight years old I remember coming home and telling my mom I had leukemia and she was like, what in the… What? I’d be like, look at all these bruises on my legs. Like I have leukemia. And as I got older, it was pancreatic cancer, a brain tumor, stomach cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer. I mean, it’s been everything. It’s always cancer. I don’t know. I don’t even know anybody with cancer. So thankfully, you know, very lucky and blessed that I’ve never been sick. And so, but it’s just, it’s crazy. It’s crazy. The mind is a crazy place, I’m telling you.
Nathan: Yeah. I’ve got a friend who calls me periodically maybe once every two or three months. And she says, you know, I’m having this and this, asking for just some real simple medical advice, nothing too remarkable. And then always says, is this cancer? And I’m like, no, not cancer. She’s like, okay, fine. She’s like, all right, good, not cancer. We can deal with the rest. It’s interesting what you describe happens I would say to most medical students at some point or another during the first couple years of medical school because you’re just reading about all these diseases. And you’re like some disease you’ve never heard of you’re like, what are the symptoms? Tired, headaches, shoulder pain, back pain. You’re like, I’ve got all those. Holy crap, I’ve got that.
Brianna: I’ve been told that a lot. People are like, you have like the medical student issue, like, nursing students get that. And I’m like, I know. That was my first ever dream job is I wanted to be a doctor. And then as I got older, I was like, that’s probably not gonna happen, that’s probably not the best route for me to take.
Nathan: It does sound, like you said, you found an angel for a doctor who really could… Because I mean, what you’re describing is hard. I mean, it’s very hard when someone is super anxious to go to the doctor and is again, like you said, not a hypochondriac in the sense that you think everything’s bad and you wanna get tested or whatnot, but you have this sense. You know, hypochondriac means that you take symptoms that are sort of quote-unquote “normal” and you think you have a disease. So on the one sense you had it, but like you said, most hypochondriacs are really going to doctors, I need this test, I need a CAT scan, I need a blood test. And you’re the opposite, you’re avoiding. And it’s hard. I mean, that’s a very tough situation. It’s not your fault, but it’s hard to sort of navigate that. But she gave you sort of the space, but also the help and recommending medication. I think these are really, really good things. And she did help you get through that tough pregnancy.
Brianna: She literally, like, changed my life. I’ve never been more thankful for somebody. She’s amazing. Like she’s such a wonderful person. She was really patient with me. I was very apologetic. I mean I called the nurses line a lot because, like I said, I was really sick. And then especially when my blood pressure and stuff started to creep up towards the end, I would call because I would be obsessively taking my blood pressure at home, and she was always great. She never seemed annoyed with me or upset with me, which I was always so embarrassed because it’s… I always tell people, like, it seems like a lot when I tell you, but like imagine my brain, imagine how it feels for me. It’s the most intense feeling that you just feel like you’re never gonna be okay. You don’t feel okay. Nothing feels okay. You know? And she was just so great, too. I’m sure she probably… I don’t know how many patients she probably has like that. Every time I called, I was like, I know, it’s me. I know. I’m sorry. I know, I know. I’m probably the only person calling like this. But she never made me feel bad.
Nathan: But you were also legitimately really sick. I mean, when you’re throwing up to the point that you lose 35 pounds in pregnancy and you can’t drink. I mean, that’s real. I mean, whether it’s caused by just pregnancy or whether it’s caused or worsened by anxiety ultimately doesn’t make a difference. You are physically sick at the same time. So, in addition to just being afraid, you’re gonna have a ton of symptoms. I mean, you’re just gonna feel like crap the whole pregnancy, and that’s… Yeah. It’s hard.
Brianna: I did. I felt terrible.
Nathan: Ugh, you poor thing.
Brianna: Like all the blood vessels in my face were busted all the time. So my eye blood vessels in my face, it looked… I was always like, look, I’m glowing. I’m the most beautiful I’ve ever felt in my life just right now.
Nathan: Oh, my God. How’d your husband work through all this? I’m gonna say poor guy, but you know, obviously, you’re worse off. But you know, he’s living with you, trying to help you.
Brianna: I felt so bad because I was like, I put myself in your shoes and I imagine if I had to watch you be sick like this every day. Like obviously, it is worse for the person being sick, but I mean, I can’t imagine. He had to listen to me throw up constantly. He’d be in the bathroom, flushing the toilet for me so that I didn’t have to look at it.
Nathan: Holding your hair back.
Brianna: Yeah. Holding my hair, bringing me drinks. And then in the morning when I’d wake up, I’d have to throw up the minute I sat up, it didn’t matter. Crackers, juice, whatever, all those remedies didn’t matter. And so he would bring me something flavored to drink because, if I threw up, at least it wouldn’t taste like stomach acid. You know what I mean? Like nasty bile. So he’d bring me Gatorade or fruit punch or something just for me to chug real quick just to throw it up. So it was like little things like that. He was really trying to like make it less miserable.
Nathan: Just to flavor the vomit a little.
Brianna: Yeah. Just to make it, add a little something to it.
Nathan: Wow. Wow. So you’re obviously in a very rough pregnancy that is just, I mean it’s really bad. I mean, I do not wanna minimize that for our listeners. Like hyperemesis, the severe nausea and vomiting of pregnancy is a really, really miserable condition, as you can imagine. What else, how did it progress? Because you mentioned your blood pressure going up. So what happened there?
Brianna: Yeah. So when I first went into my first prenatal appointment, they did take my blood pressure and it was a little high. But I do have, like, classic whitecoat hypertension, obviously. I’m terrified of going to the doctor. It’s always been like that. Even when I’d go to urgent care for a cold, my blood pressure would be a little bit high. I think it was like 138 over 20. It wasn’t like, I mean it was high, but that’s not like crazy. They would take it every time I came in obviously, and it would always be high, a little bit high, but we never knew if it was because of my anxiety or if it was because, you know, something’s actually wrong. So, you know, I didn’t have any protein in my urine or anything at that time.
And then I probably got to be about, I’m not sure how far along I was. Probably 30 weeks, something like that. I went in for a regular appointment and my blood pressure was high. It was probably like 148, 149 over… I was probably more like 27 weeks or so, 26 weeks. And it was decently high and she was like, you know, maybe we should do the 24-hour urine. Maybe we should, you know, would you be interested in trying that and all that? And I’m like, sure, but again, like medical tests are terrifying to me. I mostly just don’t wanna know the results because I just assume something is terribly wrong. So it caused me a lot of anxiety. And so I ended up just not doing it at that point.
Nathan: And I can’t imagine you even had a lot of urine in 24 hours.
Nathan: If you’re that sick, you probably have like, you know, you need like a liter and you probably have like a cup full over the 24 hour period.
Brianna: Yeah. Whenever I’d go to like, you know, give them a sample every time I’d be like, it’s not much. And whenever I’d be able to go, I’d be like, guys, I was able to like fill it halfway. Like it was such a big deal to me.
Nathan: Yeah. Because you’re so dehydrated. Yeah.
Brianna: Yeah. Constantly. But she was really great. She didn’t pressure me into doing it because she said it wasn’t to like that threshold yet where she was super concerned. Same with the gestational diabetes test. Around that time I took it and I passed, but just barely. And they had suggested the three-hour test, you know, and I was like, I don’t think I can fast for three hours. Like I will be so sick. There’s no way, like I have to eat something, even if I’m gonna throw it up.
And she gave me the option to just test my blood sugars at home and just kinda skip that just so I wasn’t… Which I ended up not having it. That was, thank God, I needed a break. So around that time, they had sent me to like a maternal-fetal medicine doctor just because they weren’t able to get great pictures of Oliver at their office. I’m not really sure why they sent me, I’m gonna be 100% honest. I’ve looked into it. I’ve printed my medical records. I’ve had everything sent over. Not sure why they sent me to a maternal-fetal medicine doctor.
Nathan: Probably just because you were, I’m guessing because you were so sick.
Brianna: I think it was just something like that. They weren’t able, they were just worried I think. And so I went over there and when I would go to that doctor, my blood pressure was really high. He was also really concerned. And so that’s when she had me do… It was probably around 30 weeks, 30-ish weeks. They had me do the 24-hour urine and they also had me do, like, a blood panel.
Nathan: Yeah, sure.
Brianna: To see, I guess, like platelets and that type of thing. And so I did that and took that giant orange [inaudible 00:22:52] back in there and they said everything was good. She had called me because I gave them like a day before I started calling and panicking and asking if I had preeclampsia because I had read about it, duh, of course. And I was petrified, checking my feet to see if they were swollen and all this stuff. And they said, no, you know, right now everything looks good. You know, just monitor your blood pressure and such.
Nathan: Did you check it at home? Your blood pressure?
Brianna: Yes. I had a blood pressure cuff. Eventually they did tell me to stop because I was checking it like 20 times a day. And it was just going up because I was anxious and scared and, you know. But I was checking it like morning and night, and there were a couple times I got some really high readings, like 170s, you know, over 90s, 160s over 90s, 160s over 99. So I could call in and they would tell me to just like breathe basically, and then if it doesn’t go down to give them a call, of course. And so we kind of just did that for a while. We kind of just played that game of we’ll just keep an eye on it because my everything was looking okay. Oliver was looking okay. I wasn’t like super swollen or anything like that. And so she had told me at one point though, they probably wouldn’t let me go past like 37 weeks or something like that.
Nathan: You’re like whatever. Whenever. Get me out.
Brianna: Yeah. Literally, I was like, oh God. But I was also petrified of delivery, obviously. I’d never had an IV before. I had never been to the hospital before. Honestly, prior to being pregnant, I’d never had like an exam, like a vaginal exam, or anything like that before. And so I was terrified, terrified of that. But she was so great, patient, that I knew that I would be able to do it as long as she was there. And I’m fortunate that at the practice I went to, she delivered, she was my doctor, and also there was a guarantee she would be delivering my baby unless like she was outta town somehow. So I didn’t see any other doctors. I didn’t meet with any other doctors. She was my only caregiver, which was really great.
And so, but then I reached 36 weeks and I went to bed and woke up and I was like… Like a week before I had thought I’d lost like my mucus plug, I guess, is what it’s called. And I was like, well, that’s interesting. But I guess that doesn’t mean anything. I had mentioned it. She was like, it’s probably you know, you can lose that and get it back and you know, don’t worry about it. And I was like, all right. And I’d asked, will I know when I’m in labor? Will I know? Well, is this just something I’ll know? I’m so scared I’m not gonna know. And she’s like, you’re gonna know. You’ll know. Of course you’ll know.
And I’d been having like some back pain and stuff that week. But I just said, well, I guess I’ll know. I mean, they told me I’ll know. But when I woke up, I was 36 and 2 days, I think, and my water had broke. My water. So I woke up my husband and I was like, you know, it was like 2:00 AM. And I’m like, “Hey, I think my water broke.” And he’s so used to me being dramatic that he was like, “What makes you think that? What makes you think your water broke?” And I was like, well, it feels like I’m just peeing on myself and I can’t do anything about it. So I don’t really know what to do. And so I called the hospital, they told me, of course, come in. They were probably like, why’d you call? Yeah, duh, lady. Just come in.
And so I took a shower because I was like, I don’t want my hair to look bad. Of course, that was my thought. And we went in, and we got there and they tested the fluid. I was the only person on the whole labor and delivery floor. The only person there. Very quiet. It was just me and the nurses. They tested it and they were like, yes, your water definitely broke. And I was like, oh, well, I’m early. I was a little concerned because I knew that like 36 weeks is kind of early. Probably not like dangerously so, but I knew it was early. And then they tried to check and see how dilated I was and they could not do it because I couldn’t handle it. I might as well have been climbing up the wall. Like they could not check.
So then they just put me in a room. They were basically like, well, all right, we’ll just have to do what we can do. And from there it kind of just started the process. My doctor came in. I know that your water can only be broken, you know, up to 24 hours because of risk of infection or something like that. And so they decided to go ahead and put me on Pitocin because I wasn’t dilated. Eventually, she was able to check, my doctor, because we have like, you know, that trust, that bond that made me feel comfortable enough. She was like, I have to check at least once. I’m sorry. They started me on Pitocin, like low-dose Pitocin. And the contractions started. Pretty uncomfortable, but I thought it was like doable.
Nathan: Had they yet given you an IV?
Brianna: Yeah. I got an IV.
Nathan: So you were able to do that.
Brianna: Which weirdly wasn’t that bad. I’m not sure if it’s because I had had like so many blood tests by that point, and since they were checking me all the time for, you know, all the things that by the time they were ready to do the IV… And also by that point, I was like, oh my God, I’m so scared. Just do whatever you gotta do. I don’t care. I’m just like, just need to get this baby out of me.
Nathan: It was also probably the first time in 30 weeks you were properly hydrated. You know? Because they get the fluid in you. Did you get an epidural?
Brianna: I did. I knew I’d have to. I think some part of me was like, “I’m not gonna have to have an epidural, I can handle it.” No, I cannot handle it. So I’d asked for the epidural. I was probably only, I don’t even know how dilated I was, not that much.
Nathan: Doesn’t matter.
Brianna: But she was like, absolutely, yes. And also my blood pressure was getting high because I was freaking out and also had blood pressure issues. And so they did gimme the epidural. Wasn’t that bad. I don’t really… I’m gonna be honest, I feel like I blocked out so much because I was just terrified, but I remember it not being that bad. The lady was incredibly nice and incredibly patient and the nurses held me because I was so scared. I did get that, and then at that point, they were able to check me more frequently, like to see how dilated I was and all that.
They did keep losing the heart rate on the monitors, I think because I couldn’t get comfortable. And so they did have to do internal monitors at that point on Oliver’s head, which I was able to tolerate just because I had the epidural, I couldn’t feel anything. Things were progressing. She was coming in and checking on me all the time, which was really great. She was there the entire time. And I know that’s hard because I know she has patients, but she made time to do that. And so they keep checking, everything was good. Blood pressure was a little bit lower because, you know, the epidural. And so my water broke at like 2:00 AM on a… I had Oliver on a Thursday. I think it had broken at like 2:00 AM on Wednesday. And so it had started. They were, you know, checking in. They’re like, oh, we’re gonna have a baby soon.
And you know, this whole time, my biggest fear above all else is having surgery, of course. That’s like a terrifying thing for somebody who can’t even go to the doctor, you know, and so I’d asked my doctor a million times. I’m like, I don’t wanna have a C-section. She’s like, I don’t think you’re gonna have to have a C-section, you know, you’re gonna be fine. You’re not gonna have… She was so reassuring. But they kept coming to check me and coming to check me and they’d not mentioned a C-section yet or anything, but they had brought all the equipment in because they thought we were gonna be ready to deliver. I was nine centimeters dilated at that point. And they were like, it’s about go time. And I was like, I dunno how I’m gonna push this baby out. I’m exhausted. I haven’t had any food. I’m still throwing up the entire time I’m in labor.
And so she eventually came in around midnight that next night and was kinda like, so she checked me and she’s like, nothing’s changing. Like you’re not getting to that point that you need to get to. We can go a little longer or, you know, we might need to discuss C-section. And I lost it, of course, because I was terrified. It was like my biggest fear realized that, you know, this is how it’s gonna have to be. Oliver was just too far up. He wouldn’t move down anymore. He wasn’t quite ready to come out, I don’t think.
Nathan: And you were not similarly afraid of a vaginal birth?
Brianna: I was, but I think I just thought like, oh everybody does this, you know, I can do it. You know, in my brain I was like – although teenagers definitely should not be having babies – I was like, well you know teenagers do it. Like I’m an adult, I’m strong, I can. I don’t know. I was scared, but something about being cut open was more terrifying to me. And so I was like, well, can I just have a few minutes? She left. So I just lost it. I just went ahead and let it all out because I was very sad and scared and upset, cried a lot. I cried a lot in general. They were really patient. I don’t know if people cry a lot like that typically when they’re in labor, but I cried so much. And so we decided to go ahead and do it because it felt like… You know, I’d ask them, what would you do? You know, like if it were you, honestly, what would you do in this situation? I’d asked her. And she was like, I would just have the C-section, you know, because you might not progress anymore and you’re just laying here. And at that point it would be an emergency. Right now it’s not an emergency, you know, so maybe we should just… And I was like, okay. So we did it. I don’t really remember being prepped much. I remember them putting that little hat thing on me and then switching me into one of their gowns because I had brought my own like, birthing gown. I had big dreams about how it was gonna go. And so they wheeled me into the OR and I remember being put on the table. All I asked is that they didn’t strap my arms down because I was terrified. That was terrifying to me also.
Nathan: That is a real terrifying thing. A lot of people have that. Even without… Like people who don’t walk into pregnancy with any form of anxiety, that is a real freaky experience to lie down on a table and have someone strap your arms down while you’re awake.
Brianna: So scary.
Nathan: Yeah, yeah. No, I agree.
Brianna: So they didn’t do that. Luckily, the anesthesiologist, he was like the head of anesthesiology or whatever there. He said, yeah, he wouldn’t do it as long as I wasn’t like flailing. And I was like, I don’t have the energy to flail. Don’t worry. I’m not gonna flail.
Nathan: No flailing here, don’t worry.
Brianna: None. Yeah. They gave me that medicine. I was like, I have to take some sort of medicine, right? And they’re like, how do you know all this? It’s because I’ve researched C-sections from like 12 weeks pregnant because I was so scared of having one. So I’d started, you know, excessively researching. It’s in my nature. And so they gave me that medicine that like neutralizes the acid or something like that.
Nathan: The antacid, yeah.
Brianna: I threw it up immediately. The anesthesiologist was so sweet. He was just like holding a bucket by my head while I was just barfing on the table. They prepped me. And I remember them like trying to be very sweet and like, okay, we’re gonna lift your gown now. And I was like, modesty is gone. Just do what you have to do. Like, I just need this baby out. I’m freaking out. My husband came in and that made me feel a little bit better because he did make me laugh because they gave him, too, some olive scrubs and he like ripped through them, like his scrubs. He was like, I just tore through these like the Hulk, by the way. So that made me feel a little better. But they did have to give a lot, a lot of drugs. I’m not sure what all they gave me, but I don’t really remember. This anesthesiologist said that he’d never given a woman so many drugs and have her still talking during a C-section because I guess I kept saying, I can feel it. I can feel it. And so they kept having to give me more and more. And she said they were like one step away from putting me under because they couldn’t believe that I could still feel it.
I don’t know if I could. I don’t remember. But I do remember asking when they were gonna start, and she said they’ve already started. And so we didn’t know the gender before. I dunno if I said that. So she said, do you wanna tell her? We said we wanted her to tell us. And so, you know, she got him out and she said, “Happy birthday, Oliver.” And I mean, we were so excited. He was crying. He was good. He was big for 36 weeks. He was like almost seven pounds. Everything was good. He was good. Dennis, my husband, went with him to the, wherever they take the baby, I don’t know. And then she was stitching me up. But I guess while they do, you obviously know, a C-section, they check your other organs while they’re in there and I had a cyst on one of my ovaries, like a really big cyst. I don’t know exactly what kind it is. It’s the kind that has, like, hair and teeth.
Nathan: Oh, a dermoid.
Brianna: Yes. That kinda cyst.
Nathan: So they found it for the first time at your surgery?
Brianna: Found it. Yeah, yeah. And so I remember her… I guess she asked me, “Hey, I found the cyst. We’re gonna take it out while we’re in here. We’re gonna remove it.” Whatever. But I guess I just kept asking her, do I have cancer?
Nathan: Sure. Is it cancer?
Brianna: Like, while she’s doing it. I was like, is it cancer? Is it cancer? She’s like, no girl. It’s not. Like she was getting… She was like, it’s not, I promise it’s not, you’re fine. You’re not, it’s not.
Nathan: Right. You have a cyst with hair and teeth in it, which is weird, but it’s not cancer.
Brianna: Yeah, exactly.
Nathan: Yeah. Dermoids are weird cysts. For another podcast, but yeah.
Brianna: So she got rid of that. They sewed me up, took me to recovery. Don’t really remember it because I was apparently on a lot of, you know, things to make me relax. When I woke up baby was there. I was good. I asked again if I had cancer, she said no.
Nathan: Still no. Yeah.
Brianna: And so eventually they… Yes, she was like, I know you asked 10 times. And so eventually they moved me to recovery, like mother-baby unit. And once I got over there, you know, they had like, lactation consultants come in. All of that. It was all kind of a blur just because C-section is… I did not know how bad it was gonna hurt afterwards. I was in a lot of pain, but determined to like shower and do things. So I got up as soon as they would let me and I was doing all that. Babies sleep a lot I guess when they first come out because Oliver didn’t really do anything except sleep. So he wasn’t a problem. But on day two is when my blood pressures started to get pretty high. So they were getting in like the 180s.
Nathan: Right. This is, so this is before you went home, this is like Saturday or something like that.
Brianna: This is before I went home.
Nathan: Yeah, okay.
Brianna: Yeah. Because they keep you for three days after your C-section, I think, at this hospital. And I told them, I’m like, no, you know, it’s just my anxiety. It’s my anxiety. I’m telling you. It’s just my anxiety. My anxiety is what’s making it high. You know, don’t worry, it’s fine. I’m in a lot of pain, so you know. Which, I mean, I had such a wonderful experience with my doctor, but I can’t say I had the same experience with the hospital, unfortunately, which I can’t blame them. I don’t think they probably have a lot of patients who are like me where they’re just really terrified and deal with like, this intense anxiety.
Nathan: It’s very interesting though, that you said it in the same sentence. “It’s just my anxiety. Don’t worry.”
Brianna: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Nathan: It’s like no, no, no, don’t worry.
Brianna: Don’t worry about it. I’m just stressed.
Nathan: I’m worried. You don’t have to worry. I’m worried. That’s why it’s happening. It’s because I am worried. You don’t worry.
Brianna: They weren’t as like… Obviously, they’re like super busy. They have a ton of moms and babies. I don’t expect them to be like catering to my every need, but I don’t think they were as patient or understanding as my doctor. I kind of had to be handled with kid gloves, which is really not great because I’m an adult, but she kind of knew that, but they obviously did not.
Nathan: But you are outta the box. I mean, listen. You are who you are, but you’re out of the box. So they’re not sort of used to that. So yeah, it throws a wrench. It throws a wrench in their sort of day-to-day activities when they have someone who needs something different and doesn’t, you know, that’s just sort of the reality. And it’s gonna make it more difficult for them. And it’s gonna make your experience a little bit, you know, less satisfying in that sense because you can get the sense that maybe they’re frustrated or something like that. They trying, but it doesn’t mean it’s gonna be pleasant necessarily for you or for them. It’s hard. These are hard situations, obviously.
Brianna: We didn’t mesh well, which was fine. I was just ready to get outta there. I didn’t care. So my nurses would come and take my blood pressure, they’d leave and they go call the doctor. And they’d be like, let’s try her on this blood pressure pill. Put her on this blood pressure pill. See if it brings down the pressure, whatever. Not sure what they were giving me. I didn’t care. I just said, sure. Okay. Sounds good. Whatever you gotta do to get me outta here. And so they would do it. It would bring my blood pressure down sometimes, and then other times it wouldn’t work. And so they were testing my blood. I had bruises everywhere because they were doing a lot of blood tests and all this stuff. And the whole time I’m saying like, I don’t wanna be put on magnesium. Like I’m just so scared. I don’t wanna be put on mag drip because my sister-in-law had HELLP and she was put on a mag drip, and I just know that it’s terrible, terrible, terrible. And so I was like, I don’t wanna be put on it, please don’t put me on a mag drip. And she’s like, you know, we’re trying not to, we’re just taking your blood pressure. It’s fine. You know, you’re fine. Just calm down, breathe. Which doesn’t help. It doesn’t help at all when people tell me to calm down. And so eventually my doctor went outta town. I think it was whatever holiday is in May. Labor Day? Memorial Day?
Nathan: Memorial Day. Yeah.
Brianna: Memorial Day. It was that weekend. So she was outta town. And so there was another doctor on call who came by that morning and she came and checked my incision, everything looked good. And she was like, okay, well we’re gonna hopefully get you outta here. You know? And I’m like, great, sounds good. But then my blood pressure came up again that evening, that afternoon. This is where things get crazy. And so my blood pressure, I don’t know how high it was, but I know it wasn’t great. It was probably like 180, 190, I don’t know, really high. I didn’t have any headaches, seeing spots or anything like that, but my blood pressure was really high. I didn’t have any other symptoms other than the high blood pressure. And so this doctor didn’t know me. She didn’t know how I am. She didn’t, you know, probably hadn’t really read in my chart that detail because my doctor definitely had put in there that I’m terrified of everything. But she was like, okay. Well, she wasn’t actually there. They called and told her and she was like, okay, well we need to put her back in labor and delivery. Put her on a mag drip.
Well, the minute they told me that I absolutely lost it. I was all alone. My husband had just left to get food, you know, and I was losing it, holding my baby and just absolutely losing it because it was like another fear realized, you know what I mean? Like it was like, everything is going exactly the way I didn’t want it to go. I had to have a C-section I was sick the whole time and then I get the baby and now, you know, I have to have mag drip and I’m like, well do I have preeclampsia? And they’re like, they wouldn’t gimme an answer necessarily. I guess they didn’t really say, I don’t know if it was because it was a nurse, I’m sure they just wouldn’t tell me. And I was like, I need my husband here. Like we’re gonna have to wait. So my husband came in and they were like, you know, she has to be put on a mag drip and we basically said, we wanna see the doctor, you know, we wanna talk to the doctor. We don’t wanna just hear, we kinda, you know, it just would make me feel better talking to the doctor. And so we had to wait for her to come in from across town or wherever she was I’m not sure, we definitely didn’t mesh with this doctor like, we do with my doctor. She was a little more aggressive obviously, probably because she was worried because I had really high blood pressure so she was probably really concerned. I was just gonna like, stroke out any moment, but it ended up being like a little intense of a discussion.
My husband basically told her, no, we do not want you, like you are gonna have to leave. We’d like to see another doctor please or not. No, no, no, no, because it wasn’t, all I’m very like consent was a really big thing for me. And I just wanted somebody to be like, “Hey, this is what’s happening, what I suggest is this.” But it was more of a, you have to do this. This is what you have to do right now. And it just freaked me out to the point where I like absolutely like I had a nervous breakdown. And so in the end dramatic jump ahead. They made my husband leave. So my husband had to leave the hospital and so it’s just me and my newborn infant in the hospital and I’m terrified, I’m all alone. And so I ended up doing the mag drip anyway, even though nobody could really necessarily tell me if I had preeclampsia or not, nobody would tell me I just agreed to it.
It was awful. It was like having what I imagined, like, pneumonia would feel like, my blood pressure would not come down. It was still really high all night. It was intense. They made me turn the TV off. It was just crazy. They had to gimme a catheter without being numb, which was really intense. I was obviously not great about that. And so I had my best friend, the one who has my baby right now, came over to the hospital and stayed with me so that I wouldn’t be by myself. My pressures wouldn’t come down and still, nobody was necessarily telling me what was wrong with me. If I had preeclampsia, nobody was diagnosing me, which was to me just really frustrating because I just wanted to know if that’s what was wrong or if they were just scared of that was what was wrong.
In the end, they tried to keep me another night after that, that I kind of told them I wanted to leave against, you know, one way or the other I’m going to leave. I don’t wanna be here anymore because I’m dramatic like that. And they did get my blood pressures down. They did find the right combination of medication to get my blood pressure down. And after that, I got to go home. I went back to my doctor the next day. She’s the one who told me I had postpartum preeclampsia, finally, somebody told me and that she was really sorry about the experience she wishes she could have been there. It was really awful experience. But in the end, I mean I was healthy and good. I didn’t have to take a blood pressure pill after I left the hospital, my blood pressures went down pretty quickly, like maybe for a couple of days, but they pretty much went back to like the 130s over 90 range pretty quickly.
Nathan: That’s the baseline.
Brianna: And I was okay after that. My blood pressure now is great anytime I go. So I mean, it wasn’t like a long-lasting effect, but it was really intense there for a little while. But yeah, now I have an eight-month-old. It was a crazy wild experience.
Nathan: Thank you for listening to High Risk Birth Stories brought to you by the creators of the “Healthful Woman Podcast.” If you’re interested in telling your birth story on our podcast, please go to our partner website at www.heathfulwoman.com and click the link for sharing your story. You can also email us directly at email@example.com. If you liked today’s podcast, please be sure to check out our Healthful Woman Podcast as well, where I speak with the leaders in the field to help you learn more about women’s health, pregnancy, and wellness. Have a great day.
The information discussed in High Risk Birth Stories is intended for information and entertainment only and does not replace medical care from your physician. The stories and experiences discussed in our podcast are unique to each guest and are not intended to be representative of any standard of care or expected outcomes. As always, we encourage you to speak with your own doctor about specific diagnoses and treatment options for an effective treatment plan. Guests on High Risk Birth Stories have given their permission for us to share their personal health information.