I am not meant to be pregnant. For some, it seems to be a calling. I am not one of those people.
The first time I got pregnant, I ended up having a miscarriage and D&C at 10 weeks. For several reasons we had to wait a few months before trying again.
The second time I got pregnant, it should’ve been really exciting, but with the previous situation, we were scared! We were afraid to be excited in case something happened. We were so desperate to see/hear the heartbeat, then get past 10 weeks (where things went wrong the first time). I couldn’t feel the baby move for the longest time, so I was constantly worried that something happened (it turned out that I just had an anterior placenta, which was blocking those precious kicks). I was terrified the heart would stop beating, so every time we got to hear it at an appointment, it was a tremendous relief. My doctor would always say “I’ll tell you if you need to worry, and right now you have nothing to worry about.” Until the 24 week appointment.
At 24 weeks, my blood pressure started getting really high. I didn’t have any symptoms, aside from headaches. But, migraines are normal to me, and I had them all through my pregnancy, so they didn’t worry me. My doctor told me that the situation was serious. I ended up spending the night in the hospital, seeing a high-risk doctor twice per week, getting what seemed to be a million blood tests, and taking multiple medications. My high-risk doctor was amazing, and I actually enjoyed my appointments because I would get to talk to him (and hear the baby!). He also had a great way of explaining things in a non-scary way.
When I asked him where I stood with everything after my first appointment with him, he said, “If there’s a ladder, and at the bottom is skinning your knee, and at the top is jumping off a bridge, you’re about half way up that ladder. You’re not going to go any lower, but we’re going to do our best to keep you where you are.” He was hopeful that he could help me get to 37 weeks, but said I would very likely develop preeclampsia and said once that happens, the baby would likely be delivered in 7-10 days.
I continued to feel completely fine, despite my skyrocketing bp. I switched doctors when I was pregnant the first time, so my doctors only had the blood pressure information from those appointments (which was already high at 10 weeks). They thought I had chronic hypertension since my baseline blood pressure was high, and that could explain why I wasn’t having any symptoms associated with gestational hypertension.
Clearly gestational hypertension and preeclampsia are both a big deal, but everything seemed surreal. I don’t really know why. Maybe I thought that since it was a condition that I had, not the baby, that I could control things and get to 37 weeks. Wrong. I guess it was time for me to learn that I can’t control everything and that sometimes you just have to ride the wave.
Knowing that there was a chance that I’d be having my baby early, we ordered all of her furniture, I called the insurance company to ask some questions, etc. I was doing all the things I should’ve been doing to prepare for an early arrival, but I still somehow never believed that was going to happen.
I had to take my blood pressure at least three times a day. No matter which medications I took (or how many adjustments the doctor made to my medications), my blood pressure did not cooperate. One Saturday, my friend and I attended a pregnancy fair that I was looking forward to. My high-risk doctor was there and I asked him about my blood pressure, which was even higher than normal. He told me that if it got that high again that I needed to head straight to the hospital.
That night my blood pressure got to 176/110 or so, and I ended up heading to the hospital. This time I thought that I would be going for a day or so and then coming home again – maybe on bed rest. I was half right. I did end up getting admitted into the hospital, but this time I didn’t get to go home the next day.
I spent the night in one hospital, they said I had preeclampsia. They told me I was headed to MUSC, and that my baby would be delivered that day… at 27 weeks and 3 days. Holy cow. We were terrified.
Before getting transported, they started a 24-hour magnesium in the IV. Yuck. I totally understand why I needed it – it helps protect the baby’s brain and help prevent the mom from seizures – but it was miserable. I also received a steroid shot, which helps the baby’s lungs. Lungs are one of the last things to mature in pregnancy, and underdeveloped lungs are one of the biggest risks to a premature baby.
At MUSC, I was taken to Labor and Delivery. The team wanted to keep me stable so they could give me another steroid shot, and then wait 24 hours to do everything they could to give the baby’s lungs as much help as possible. It didn’t look like they’d be able to wait that long, so a doctor from the NICU came down to prepare us for an early delivery. The doctor gave us the 24-27 week pamphlet. Ugh, this was happening.
Until it wasn’t! One of the L&D doctors came in and said “We were able to stabilize you. We’re sending you to Antepartum.” She also told us she couldn’t believe it, and that when I arrived, she never imagined that I would end up in Antepartum.
While in Antepartum, I met a new team of high-risk doctors. Because it’s a teaching hospital, there were tons of people to visit each day. The doctors and nurses were amazing. The doctor was optimistic, and like my original high-risk doctor, he thought I could make it to 37 weeks. He actually told me that I would be able to go home that Thursday! While hospitalized, I got blood pressure checks and lab work done regularly.
The next day, the doctor came back and said my lab work was going up, but that he was still confident that I could get to 37 weeks. He said I would likely be able to go home on Saturday. The following day he said my lab work continued to rise and that I probably wasn’t going to be able to go home, but that they could still hopefully “buy me a few weeks.” The next morning, he came in and said “your lab work is getting worse. We’re sending you back to Labor and Delivery.” They started another magnesium drip and wheeled me down the hall a short time later.
Round 2 in L&D was different. This time I was getting induced, and the baby was definitely coming. The doctors told me they thought I could deliver vaginally, and explained the benefits. I received the first dose of Cytotec, and waited. Another NICU doctor came down to talk to us and prepare us.
The magnesium was making me crazy. I had double vision, it made me dizzy. It was just awful. You can’t eat OR drink on magnesium either, and I just wanted a water! I was still getting regular blood work and blood pressure checks. The doctor checked me and decided I needed another dose of Cytotec. My husband and my friend hung out with me and we waited some more.
A few hours later, the doctor came back and said that my blood work was getting out of control and that I needed a c-section. I asked when and he said, “They’re cleaning the room now.” Holy cow.
In the operating room, the spinal wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t bad either. The anesthesiologist was fantastic. His name was Kevin, and he was with me from the time I arrived in the OR until the time I was wheeled out.
I wasn’t nervous about the c-section at all. I remember hearing the doctors (another fabulous team of people!) talk about the procedure during the c-section, and even joking around with them several times. At one point the doctor said “great news, we were able to do the transverse incision. You will be able to try a vaginal delivery for your next baby.” I said “Next baby!?! You’re taking a 28-weeker out of me now. She’s it!”
As soon as my baby was out, she cried, opened her eyes, and pooped (woot woot!). My husband was able to go see her and take pics while the NICU room worked to get her ready to go upstairs.
After delivery, I needed another 24-hour magnesium drip, so I had to stay in my bed. I felt pretty good and didn’t feel much pain. I was ready to get out of bed, get rid of the catheter, and see my baby! The NICU staff brought the baby by my room before taking her upstairs, but because of the magnesium, I definitely wasn’t with it. Thank goodness I recorded the visit on my phone. I’ve watched it a million times since.
My husband and parents got to see her the day after she was born, and I was totally jealous! I couldn’t be more excited to meet my baby the next day! She was tiny, beautiful and feisty. I wanted to sit there and stare at her for days. But, I was getting discharged, and that meant leaving. the. hospital. without. my. baby. I was devastated.
Everyone always posts those pictures leaving the hospital, in the wheelchair, baby in their lap and big smiles on everyones faces. That was not me. I was a hot mess. I was in the wheelchair, with tears streaming down my face, and I was holding a fruit basket. Don’t get me wrong, the fruit basket was lovely, but I couldn’t believe I was leaving the hospital with produce and not a human.
My life over the next 12 weeks was filled with fear, guilt and gratitude. I couldn’t ever get over the fact that I had a baby who didn’t live with me. Her address was the hospital address, mine was our home address.
I felt so guilty that she had to make her debut early because I had preeclampsia. She was perfectly happy, developing exactly as she should have, and then preeclampsia ruined that for her. She developed a serious lung condition a few days after she was born, and it made me so mad that if she were still growing in me that she wouldn’t have had to go through that and wouldn’t have needed to be on a ventilator. But, the medical team reminded me regularly that it had nothing to do with me. I knew it wasn’t my fault, but that didn’t make me feel any less guilty. In fact, one of my favorite pictures of her made me the most sad. It’s a picture from the delivery room, right before they put the feeding tube down. I look at it and think, “You have no idea what your next few weeks are going to be like.” Thankfully her lung condition resolved and she’s now totally healthy.
Simultaneously, I couldn’t believe that I was lucky enough to have a baby, a survivor, and have the MOST AMAZING group of doctors and nurses the world could ask for. Those people aren’t just medical professionals, they are counselors, friends, basically the best people on Earth, and they were taking care of my baby while she gestated outside of the womb. Our baby got come home on her due date!! That was beyond exciting.
Preeclampsia sucks. The NICU experience is terrifying. Still, I couldn’t be more thankful for everyone we met along the way. I am also beyond grateful that my little girl is perfect.