My pandemic pregnancy: ‘Sure enough, I have (a brain aneurysm)’

Baby Hughston (Provided by Julianne C.)

Author’s note: This is not MY personal story, per se, (despite the “my pandemic pregnancy” headline), but a story told by our readers, week by week. Today’s is shared by Julianne.

You might have heard that being pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or delivering right about now is strange, in this age of coronavirus. But how? In what ways? We’re going to tell you. To contribute your own experience, scroll all the way down to the bottom of this article and tap the link.

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In an effort to be proactive about her health, last summer, Julianne C. scheduled a test. She had no idea where it would lead: Namely, to two life-changing discoveries.

It all started with the (not-so-pleasant) idea of a brain aneurysm. Julianne hoped she didn’t have one, but she was well-aware that they run in her family, so at some point, she thought it’d be best to check on the situation.

She scheduled a routine scan -- just to be smart; just so she’d know.

And then she got her answer.

“Sure enough, I have one,” Julianne said.

What are the odds?

She wasn’t even experiencing any out-of-the-ordinary symptoms. And then, there it was: Life-altering news. A brain aneurysm meant she’d have to undergo brain surgery.

Several months later, in December 2019, she went to her doctor’s office for a pre-op exam. And that’s when she learned a second major piece of information: She was pregnant.

Julianne opted to postpone the surgery in order to keep her baby.

Baby Hughston (Provided by Julianne C.)

She felt excited. Julianne has another child, a daughter who’s now 11, and she was elated to be expanding her family.

And then COVID-19 started spreading across the globe.

Julianne, like any other pregnant woman, was considered high-risk. In a way, she fell into that category twice -- once because she was carrying a child, and again because of where she stood with the aneurysm. But she didn’t lose sleep over the coronavirus situation, she said in so many words. She couldn’t. She had too many other things going on.

And besides, Julianne, who lives in Alberta, Canada, said it basically felt like everything around her shut down when COVID arrived, so she was able to “hide out” pretty easily for a large part of her pregnancy.

“I wasn’t working because of COVID,” Julianne said. “And then we chose to hide out until things were safer.”

Because of the aneurysm, Julianne said, she was never even presented with the option for a vaginal delivery, so she knew her birth would result in a C-section at some point.

Then in June, a headache set in -- and it lasted four days.

When Julianne’s obstetrician learned what was happening, she sent Julianne to Calgary for a CT scan, and that’s when doctors found a bleed in her brain. From there, it was a whirlwind.

An emergency C-section followed.

Fortunately, her due date wasn’t too far off.

Julianne’s baby -- a little boy, who she named Hughston -- arrived about 4 weeks early, but he was a healthy size: 6 pounds, 11 ounces. All was well.

What a relief.

It seemed that the pressure from the pregnancy had caused the brain bleed, Julianne said the doctors told her.

After delivering Hughston, she had an MRI done with contrast, which is a procedure in which doctors will inject a dye intravenously -- and the contrast medium enhances the image quality and allows the radiologist more accuracy and confidence in a diagnosis.

But by that time, Julianne’s brain bleed had stopped, so the doctors are saying they don’t have any firm answers on what exactly happened.

Baby Hughston and his father (Provided by Julianne C.)

It was a strange time, but the couple felt grateful to have their healthy son.

Despite all the medical concerns involved, Julianne’s boyfriend, Hughston’s father, was allowed at the hospital with her, but not overnight.

The rule was, one person could be present in addition to the mother, but you couldn’t swap out support people (meaning, you couldn’t opt to have your mom or sister present, and then send that person home and let a husband or significant other step in).

Julianne, for her part, sounded very matter-of-fact, unrattled and even-keeled and understanding about the COVID-related restrictions.

If anything, she said, perhaps the most disappointed person was her daughter, who really wanted to be there for the birth.

“She’s an awesome big sister -- so much help,” said Julianne, fast-forwarding to current day. “And (Hughston’s) only got eyes for her.”

Julianne's two children (Provided by Julianne C.)

Now, once again, Julianne is waiting on surgery, so the aneurysm can be a thing of the past.

In the meantime, she’s trying to stay as safe and COVID-free. If she were to contract coronavirus, the operation would be postponed, again.

“It will feel good to get on with my life,” Julianne said.

At last check, she was awaiting an appointment with her neurosurgeon to confirm the new surgery date. She’s anticipating a pretty major operation. Recovery time could take three or four months.

It will be “pretty invasive, because they go through the skull. They have to clip the aneurysm so it doesn’t rupture in the future,” Julianne explained.

She’s preparing to experience tiredness, confusion, and possibly some complicated emotions, coming out of brain surgery. It might feel hard to wrap her head around everything. On top of that, she’ll come home to a baby who’s still an infant.

It sounds like a lot, all at once. But Julianne sounded optimistic, given her circumstances and all she’s overcome.

She mentioned crutching on her mother, daughter and boyfriend. She has family in the area -- relatives who have been pretty concerned throughout this past year of her life, but as Julianne put it, “It’s all worked out.”

More than anything, she said, she hopes telling her story will urge others to get a scan if brain aneurysms also run in their families -- or be proactive about any similar health issue.

She even got a happy, healthy baby out of the deal.

Hughston is now 4 months old.

Were you, or are you, pregnant during the pandemic? (Or TTC?) If you're open to sharing your story -- as a guest contributor or just in speaking with a journalist -- click or tap here to see what we're looking for and to fill out our form. Thank you for considering!

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