When I first saw her...
My whole life, I knew I was meant to be a mom and planned everything in advance. I was so excited and happy when I found out I was pregnant and finally taking the plunge into parenthood. My pregnancy was fine and I had no bad side effects, such as morning sickness. My favorite thing to do with my husband was imagine what our daughter would be like, what she would find interesting or what hobbies she would enjoy.
When I started my third trimester, I had the hint of a baby belly and I loved it. I couldn’t wait to be big and swollen and miserable. I know that sounds crazy, but I think pregnant women are beautiful and strong and I wanted to be that too.
That all changed at 29 weeks. I started the day normally, getting ready for work and excited that my husband and I were visiting Washington D.C. for a work trip the next day for the first time since we moved back home and planned to catch up with friends in the area. When I arrived at work, when greeting my colleagues, my words came out slurred. With no other symptoms, I kept working until I told my husband and he insisted I see a doctor, fearing I was having a stroke. I called my OB and she said it did not sound pregnancy related and to contact my primary care doctor. That afternoon, my primary doctor said I was fine but wanted to do a head scan to be sure. I wasn’t slurring as much, but I had a stitch in my side that wouldn’t quit.
So, I went from my doctors to the ER at Hillcrest, who told me that because I was past 20 weeks, they couldn’t see me and suggested I go up to L&D. My OB was at a different hospital so I drove there and went to the ER where they would see me. When they took my blood pressure at the ER, it was 205/150. I was admitted immediately and I called my husband to join me.
Hours later, the doctor finally told me that I had preeclampsia and I needed to be transferred to a different hospital because they didn’t have the facilities to support my baby if she had to be delivered. Everything was moving so fast, the nurses were hooking me up to different IVs and oxygen, I didn’t quite understand what was happening and that caused my blood pressure to rise further. My husband was scared and kept telling me to breathe but I couldn’t until a nurse told me that I needed to remain calm for my baby. I was transferred by ambulance to Hillcrest.
The drugs that I received at the first hospital finally kicked in and I was feeling much better. When my husband and I spoke with the doctors at Hillcrest, they were kind and helped keep me calm. My parents joined us and were asking questions and trying to understand what was going on. I thought I just had a blood pressure scare and it was under control again. I asked the doctor if I would be fine to go to D.C. tomorrow and her reply was “Honey, you aren’t leaving this bed until your daughter is born.” At 11 PM, I made my husband call my boss and tell him we were not going to be make it.
The doctor came in and told me that I had HELLP syndrome and my daughter had to come out now. I worked to keep calm, for my husband, for my parents, for my daughter. But on the inside, I was watching my dreams of having the big belly and traditional labor go up in smoke. As I was rolled away to get prepped for surgery, my mother held my hand and told me that everything would be fine.
My blood squeamish husband joined me for the delivery. At 29 weeks + 1 day, our daughter was born weighing 2 lbs 13 oz. I was immobile and sluggish but I heard her cry strong and loud. The first moment I saw her, they wheeled her past me in a clear box and all I saw was a blob. It was nothing like I imagined my first interaction would be with my daughter. Shortly after, my husband told me he was not doing well and when I looked over, he was pale as a sheet. We called for a nurse and he promptly passed out and had to be picked up and wheeled out.
When I was moved to recovery, my husband and parents were there telling me how beautiful she was. They were able to see her briefly and snap quick photos when the doctors were moving her to the NICU. I was laying there, unable to move my lower half, when the doctor came and said they could come to NICU to see her. I told my family to go, see her, be there for her, and make sure everything was okay.
I was on magnesium for 24 hours post-surgery and very slowly gaining feeling back into my legs, so I was bed-locked for those 24 hours. My husband split time between my room and her NICU room, trying to keep me updated on what’s going on. I tried calling her NICU nurse myself, but found out that our bracelets didn’t match. They gave us old handwritten style bracelets and we needed the barcoded ones. I was never so scared in my life. I was denied access to my child. Thankfully, the NICU nurses figured it out and quickly came to my room and gave me the right bracelet.
My husband set up the Nicview camera, which was my lifeline. I was watching it constantly. I was counting down the hours until I could go see her, barely sleeping or eating. When the 24 hours were up, the first thing I wanted to do was go see her. Thankfully, the nurse helped me clean up a bit before I tried standing. I hadn’t used my legs in 36 hours and had a major surgery. I didn’t expect to be so weak. I lost my breath going from the bed to the wheelchair. But I made it.
My husband wheeled me down to the NICU and I felt nervous. I wasn’t sure how I would feel when I finally saw her in person. It was safe watching her from the video, I kept a distance from all the chaos.
When I first saw her, I cried. I sobbed. I felt so guilty. I did everything I was supposed to do for a healthy pregnancy but I still failed. My body failed her. Because of me, she was exposed to the world way too soon. I saw her tiny, frail body and was afraid to touch her. The nurse encouraged me to reach in and touch her hand. When I did, her little fingers gripped my finger. It was if she was comforting me. Telling me that she’s a fighter and everything will work out.
I wanted to be strong and beautiful as I see other mothers, but now I know that my strength and beauty is shown through my daughter. Over a year later, she continues to remind me of that.