I was 23 when I found out I was pregnant. It was unplanned, so I was a bit nervous. It was my first pregnancy and I was young and didn’t know what to expect. At my first doctor appointment, I was told that my blood pressure was high and to return the following day to have it checked. Upon returning the next day, I was told that my care was being referred to a specialist an hour away because the doctor didn’t think I was going to keep the baby very long. It was heartbreaking to think that the child I was carrying had no chance of ever seeing the world.
The specialist had other ideas. With baby-safe medication, my blood pressure was under control and I was assured that things looked good, and that I would be monitored closely with biweekly appointments to make sure things stayed good. And for the most part the pregnancy went pretty well, despite blood pressure issues and the later diagnosis of gestational diabetes. I felt good, and my sweet little baby was growing and developing right on track.
Then on June 13th, 2011, we had an unexpected surprise. I had a regularly scheduled doctor appointment and after spending the morning at work, my mother picked me up and we set off for the doctor. I am quite fortunate to have a wonderful mother that went with me to all my prenatal appointments and supported me and loved me unconditionally through everything.
I felt good and looked good. The sonogram showed a perfect little baby. But my blood pressure was once again out of control. And then the nurse came back with results from the urine test: protein levels in the thousands. At that point my doctor turned and left the room. And when he came back, he told me I wouldn’t be leaving the hospital until I had a baby. I had preeclampsia.
I was taken upstairs to labor and delivery and they explained the game plan. The goal was to keep me in the hospital on full bed rest for ten days before delivering the baby. My body had other plans, though.
I was given magnesium to prevent seizures and my bed rails were padded in the event that I had a seizure anyway. The blood pressure cuff was set to go off every 15 minutes, and the alarm was subsequently going off every 15 minutes to alert the nurse that my blood pressure was still climbing. And every hour my sweet little baby had to be relocated on the monitors. Needless to say, I had my own nurse.
I wasn’t allowed to lay on my back as it was not conducive to the blood pressure, and due to the magnesium, I was overheated and very sick to my stomach. I had the thermostat set on 60, cold wet cloths over my face and around my neck, and my aunt had purchased a fan that I kept going on high and I was still hot. I bargained for two days to get ice chips. In two days’ time I had gained between 20 and 30 pounds in water weight as my kidneys were in the process of shutting down.
Tuesday came and the doctor decided that we couldn’t wait and I was given a low dose of pitocin to begin inducing labor.
Wednesday morning, June 15th, my doctor came in and upon looking at me and seeing how swollen I was with water weight and that my blood pressure had settled in the upper 200’s and wasn’t budging, it was decided that I wouldn’t live through a natural birth. I was immediately prepped for an emergency c-section. I never did undergo any kind of labor.
Four or five nurses tried to get a second IV started and failed, so they brought in the flight team paramedics and to my dismay, they also failed. There were eight or ten IV bags all dripping into the one port. And at this point I didn’t care what they did to me. I remember feeling very weak and barely being able to hold the pen to sign the paperwork for the c-section. It was very uncertain if they’d be able to get the spinal so I could remain awake for the surgery, and so my mom would be able to stay with me. Luckily, the anesthesiologist was successful on the first try, and my mom was there to take pictures and video of my son’s first cries.
At 32 weeks gestation, Gabriel was born weighing 3 pounds 13 ounces. He was born screaming and it was the best sound I have ever heard.
My mom went with me to recovery to make sure I was doing alright and then I sent her to the NICU to check on my son. Because I had been so sick, I wasn’t allowed to see my baby until he was over 24 hours old. It was all very surreal to me until I had a chance to actually see him with my own eyes. My mom showed me the pictures and I knew I had a baby, but without him there with me, it just didn’t feel real.
I spent a total of seven days in the hospital and my little one was there for a month and a half. When I was released, I left on five blood pressure pills a day. With my little one, we only had one minor setback with an NEC scare that cleared itself up with a week of antibiotics. During the week I was there, my mother never once left my side.
My beautiful boy was born healthy. He was on the cpap for just over a day and the oxygen for about a week. At 20 months old, he still has a scar on the septum of his little nose, but if that’s the only scar left behind from our NICU journey, then I can most definitely live with that. I am so lucky to be alive to raise my healthy, thriving, wonderful, intelligent, outstandingly perfect NICU graduate.
We are truly blessed.