Main Content

Home » Maternal Instinct

Maternal Instinct

Please excuse the interruption in the City Girl in the Suburbs Series for an important post that I wrote for a organization near and dear to my heart.  It is a personal post about a past health scare that I had experienced.  Looking back on the scare, I realized that there were many things that I would have done differently.  I hope that you find this post helpful and informative. I am a guest blogger for the Stork Fund at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.  The organization is dedicated to lending support to research and education for healthy moms, pregnancies and babies.

When it comes to your kids, do you react when they have a fever, a rash or just seem out of sorts?  Of course, you do! But when it comes to your own health, do you follow the same rules?  In the past, my answer to that question would have been absolutely NO! Either I didn’t have the time to deal with it while juggling two young babies or I just ignored that anything was wrong. Whether it was a cold or fever, I just kept on going. Making the time to go to the doctor was always such a hassle. Who was going to pick my kids up at school? How would they get to their activities? How long is this appointment going to take? Did I really want to drive to Boston and sit in the waiting room for an hour? Luckily for me, my ailments never turned out to be anything more than a cold or a fever, and I would get better on my own … that is until September 2007.

About four years ago, I suddenly began feeling out of sorts… with a pain in my chest area that wouldn’t go away. This went on for a couple of days, but I “self-diagnosed” myself as working out too hard. I thought that perhaps I had simply pulled a muscle in my chest. Looking back on that lame excuse, I can’t believe I tricked myself into believing I was fine. After two days of noticeable discomfort, the pain began to get stronger. I found myself feeling weaker and weaker and unable to finish a sentence sometimes without sitting down and catching my breath. Of course, I did not express the extent of the pain to my husband because I knew he would drag me to a hospital. The thought of sitting in a hospital waiting room for hours was less than appealing. And I had already convinced myself that it was from working out and carrying the kids around.

By Sunday (the third day), I could not get out of bed. I asked my husband to take the kids out for the day and I would try to get some rest. I think at that point my husband was ready to drag me to the hospital, but being the stubborn girl I am, I still refused. That night at 11 pm, I decided to call my doctor. I owe a big apology to my doctor for waking her up on a Sunday night. But at that point, I was a little scared and thought maybe I was having a heart attack. My chest pains were off the charts. My doctor asked me a bunch of questions and as soon as I said that I get out of breath when I talk even while my body is at rest, my doctor ordered me to the hospital immediately. Over the phone, she immediately diagnosed it as a blood clot.

I could tell from her voice that it was serious, but it didn’t have a serious name so it kind of threw me off. Well, let’s just say that my doctor saved my life over the phone. I am forever indebted to her and hold her in the highest regard. The fact that she could diagnose me over the phone like that was just amazing.

We rushed to the hospital and I underwent all sorts of tests. I was in extreme pain by that point. It didn’t take too long for the doctors to determine that I had a pulmonary embolism – a blood clot in the lungs. Pulmonary embolism sounded very serious and now the doctors had my attention. I distinctly remember the worry on my mom’s face as well as that of my sister. Even with having three young kids, my sister refused to leave the hospital… I could tell that she was really scared. They gave me a heparin injection to thin out my blood and break up the clots, but the pain was not disappearing. I was in the hospital for about five days because it took a long time to get the pain under control.

It is a very strange feeling to go from feeling like you are a perfectly healthy woman in good shape who eats pretty well to feeling as if you had a heart attack at the age of 32. I was on no medication, did not change up my routine in any fashion… I couldn’t think what caused this to happen… and then it dawned on me. I had been taking something new… I was on birth control. Every nurse and doctor that I spoke to agreed that it must have been caused by the birth control method I was using. I was shocked. I had taken birth control before without incident. Why now?

I hate to call myself naive, but clearly I did not fully understand some of the more severe side effects of birth control. I had been on it for so many years and definitely had different reactions to different pills, such as weight gain, emotional swings or nausea. But I did not realize that the different formulas of various [birth control] pills sometimes carried severe side effects for some individuals.

I have shared my story with family and friends that have daughters for a couple of reasons. One is that I wish I had known the right questions to ask. I wish that I was more of my own advocate.  And I wish that I taken the time to read the insert thoroughly and have a discussion about my questions and concerns with the doctor.  I wanted my friends to educate their daughters to do the proper research so that they never have to go through what I and my family did. So I am writing this post now. Make sure you have a heart to heart with your doctor and that you have a full understanding of what you are putting in your body, and possible complications that each medication may have.

Looking back, all the symptoms were there. My stubborness could have been the death of me. If it were one of my kids complaining about their chest, we would have been at the hospital in a nanosecond. I wrote this post as a reminder to all of us to trust our instincts. Additionally, your kids and family need and want you around, so take your health as seriously as you take your children’s.

When I came home from the hospital, I decided I needed to do some research about pulmonary embolism. I knew it was serious, but until I saw the stats, I did not realize how lucky I was to be alive. I also made a vow to take better care of myself so that I can live my life to the fullest with my husband and two kids.

It is important to know that there are many other causes and symptoms of blood clots. Please be sure to seek the advice of an experienced doctor if you are concerned about any health issue.

You can help the mission of healthy moms, healthy pregnancies and healthy babies with a financial contribution to The Stork Fund today. 100% of donations to The Stork Fund benefits Brigham and Women’s Hospital.