Ethan Viljoen | 23 August 2013 | 8lbs 2 oz (3.7 kg) | 51 cm | South Africa

My birth story

It is definitely true that giving birth is never what you expect it to be.

My husband and I wanted a honeymoon baby. We tried, and tried, got tired of trying and then tried again.

We were blessed with a pregnancy exactly a year later. I always dreamed of being this beautiful radiant pregnant person that glows from the inside out. Unfortunately my experience was exactly the opposite of what I hoped for it to be.

I was sick from the get-go. Morning sickness turned into all-day sickness and I was not eating much. My Doctor assured me that it was normal to feel that way and that I would be feeling better after 12 weeks. It never got better. By 34 weeks I was basically unable to walk without help and sleeping was a luxury. I had trouble getting up. I found it difficult to sit, stand or lie down. My hands, legs and feet were swollen to the point where I could not wear any shoes other that flip-flops. I was eventually diagnosed with HELLP syndrome at 38 weeks. My blood pressure was sky high, and there was protein in my urine.

Ethan was born shortly after the diagnosis. He weighed 3.7kg.

I always wanted to give birth to my baby naturally but due to the condition I was forced to have a caesarean.

When I saw Ethan I was overwhelmed with so many emotions. I did not look at anything else but his face.

My husband took photos of everything inside the room. He just wanted us to take home the right baby. He had been worried about a baby swap ever since I told him I was pregnant LOL!! I only looked at them later on. I was shocked to see that the umbilical cord was as thin as a thread of wool. I never even realized that my life as well as my unborn baby’s life was in danger as the condition was never explained to me.

HELLP syndrome is a life threatening pregnancy complication. It is very similar to pre-eclampsia. Even though these conditions usually occur in the later stages of pregnancy, there are signs throughout pregnancy that Doctors have to monitor.

Doctor Louis Weinstein named HELLP syndrome in 1982.

H (haemolysis, which is the breaking down of red blood cells)

EL (elevated liver enzymes)

LP (low platelet count)

Signs of HELLP Syndrome include

*Headaches

*Vomiting

*Bleeding

*Swelling

Everything could have turned out so differently and makes me more aware of how blessed I am to be alive and to be the mother of the most beautiful two and a half year old boy in the world. He makes every day worth living and I could not imagine being alive without him.

I am now 16 weeks pregnant with my second baby and the pregnancy is a breeze. My Doctor has assured me that HELLP syndrome almost always only occurs in your first pregnancy.

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