It was an early spring morning, March 25, 2014, to be exact. My husband and I were running late, as usual, to my 8 month and two week checkup at the OB/GYN. To our surprise, the doctor was late, too. The three of us rode the elevator up to her office in uncomfortable silence. I knew I was her first patient, and we knew she was late as well.
We separated in the hallway as she entered her office through her entrance, and we went right in to the waiting room. The nurses were waiting for us, and told me to come right in to get weighed and leave a urine sample. Everything was pretty much routine, or so I thought. Two weeks earlier, at my last appointment my blood pressure was high, but it went back down in the 30 minutes that they made me lay down. Following that appointment I had the worst stomach pains, followed up by me not being able to keep any food down. My OB/GYN described it as a bacterial infection that would pass. But I felt like something was more serious. I described the pain as my placenta attacking me to my husband, along with some other dramatic descriptions. I assumed that the baby was pressed right up against my stomach as well, something that the internet told me was normal. After calling the doctor several times and going online I was convinced that it was my baby pushing up against my stomach. Other pregnant women seemed to have the same issue.
On this particular day, I was 35 weeks and ready to tell the doctor that I wanted to be on bed rest. I even prayed for her to put me on bed rest. I was in too much pain to continue going to work and driving. Never in a million years did I think the baby was going to come early. After checking my blood pressure, which was unusually high, and receiving the results of my urine tests, the doctor concluded that I had preeclampsia and hypertension brought on by the pregnancy. “Go straight to triage. We are having a baby today,” I remember her excitement and my shock.
How could I go straight to triage, I didn’t even have a bag packed. We just installed the car seat the week before. Heck, we were still taking our birthing classes! We were not ready for this. I tried to remain calm, not wanting to increase my heart rate any further. My husband was dressed for work, and so was I. We went straight home, a mere 15 minutes away from the doctor’s office so that we could pack bags. We made a couple of phone calls, to family and close friends, and then we were off to triage. We had to convince people not to come to the hospital, since we lived hours away from anyone. His parents live in another state.
I somehow kept calm and kept breathing. We did get past the breathing exercises in birth class, so that is what I did. I took those long deep breaths. We were able to do our hospital tour, so we knew where everything was located. We headed upstairs to triage, handed over the directions and paper work from the doctor, and I was hooked up to the monitors right away.
“You are having contractions, do you feel anything,” the nurse asked me. I felt nothing. “The baby is doing great. Do you know what you are having?”
“A boy,” I told the nurse.
“Oh great! He has a strong heartbeat. His heart rate is fine, but yours is not,” she said. A sense of panic and relief took over. My doctor arrived, looked at my heart rate, and said, “Just as I thought, we are having a baby today. Let’s get her prepped in the delivery room.”
I was wheeled upstairs in a wheel chair, and given a gown. How could this be happening? I just seen the baby on an ultrasound the week before, and now I was going to meet him in person? The doctor advised that since the baby was so small; they predicted 3 pounds.
Since I was not dilated and nowhere near ready to push, she said I should have an emergency C-section. She did not want to induce me and have me in labor for two days while waiting for my cervix and for the baby to come down. Although I planned on a natural, drug-free vaginal delivery, I had no choice. She told me because my blood pressure was so high, and the protein in my urine, I was at risk of having a seizure. I just agreed to have the C-section because I wanted my baby to be safe. They had my husband change in to scrubs and he had to cover his hair and wear a mask. I had to cover my hair too. They hooked up the entry point for the IV in my wrist because my other veins were so dehydrated, the nurse informed me. I was then taken in to the surgery room. Less than eight hours after my doctor’s appointment, I was ready for surgery.
They took my husband away to have him sign some papers, and I was left with nurses and the anesthesiologist for an epidural. I was shaking so hard because the delivery room was cold, but I was also afraid of the pain from the needle entering my spine. I turned to the monitors and saw my blood pressure number. It was so high that my shaking became more uncontrollable. The nurse told me not to move. Arch my back. She held my shoulders so I would stop flinching. After the painkiller was administered, I was advised to immediately lie down because I was about to go numb from my lower back on down. My husband returned to my side and after feeling some numb tugging below my stomach, a few minutes later, I heard my baby cry.
I really don’t remember much of what was going on. I know that the doctors and nurses held him up high over the curtain so I could see him. The anesthesiologist took my husband’s iPhone and took photos of the three of us. I kissed him on the cheek, but I didn’t cry. I really did not know what to feel, the whole day was such a whirlwind. The baby was then whisked off, and my husband left with him.
I remember throwing up some nasty drink they gave me before the surgery, and I had to wait while they stitched me back up. My only friend, the anesthesiologist stayed. He talked me through what they were doing, and gave me a bag for my barf. When it was all done, I was wheeled to a recovery area with other women who were recovering from the same surgical procedure. I was told that I needed to be able to wiggle my toes, move my feet and my legs before I could leave that area to see my baby. The drugs had to wear off, and it could take up to two hours for that to happen. I am pretty sure I passed out. My husband was by my side when I woke up. He said that our conversation was crazy because of the drugs. I had a magnesium drip in addition to the IV, so I really didn’t know what I was saying. I just remember him trying to help me move my limbs. I felt out of control. My mind was moving my legs and feet, but they were not really moving at all. Four hours passed by before I was finally able to move enough for them to take me to see my baby. It was after 10 p.m. by that time.
The baby was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). They told me that he was breathing on his own and that everything seemed okay, but the NICU was where a lot of preterm babies went. He weighed 3 pounds 7 ounces and was 15.2 inches long. I was so nervous and scared for him, but I knew that I had to be strong. I had to take care of myself in order to be strong for him. I was wheeled down to the NICU to see him. He was in an incubator, with all types of tubes on him, and breathing machine hooked up to him. He had an IV in his little arm, and there were wires everywhere. I could barely see him. It was difficult being separated from my baby after carrying him inside of me for 8 months. It was so hard not being able to see him or hold him. I still felt like he should have been inside of me.
I was on the sixth floor, and he was on the first floor in the NICU. I couldn’t even walk following my surgery, but I had an urge to go see my baby. After having to wait for someone to wheel me downstairs each time, I knew that I had to start walking. The night after my surgery, a wonderful nurse got me up and walking around. I walked around my room, into the bathroom, and then down the halls. I needed to gain strength for my baby. I wanted to see him and be close to him as much as possible. Unfortunately because of my high blood pressure, it was recommended that I stayed in bed as much as possible. The nurses and my doctor wanted me to rest. I just wanted to be close to him. My husband and I started waking up earlier, and getting ready even earlier to go down to see the baby so the nurses would not “catch” me. They started calling the NICU for me to come back up to take my blood pressure. We were caught!
I was discharged from the hospital six days after his birth, but I was not able to take my baby home. I was so sad and cried so hard that my incision and staples were hurting. I cried until I couldn’t breathe. My husband was packing up all the stuff in our car as we prepared to leave the hospital without our baby. My discharge nurse caught me in my room hunched over as I packed my luggage. She assured me that my baby would be fine, and that the same thing happened to her. She began to tell me her story, and how her baby remained in the NICU for over a month because he came when she was just 32 weeks pregnant. Her story made me feel better. I knew that I was not alone, but it was so hard to leave the hospital that day without my son. I hope that no mother ever has to feel that pain right after delivery.
In the weeks following my son’s birth he stayed in the NICU, and my husband and I went to visit him everyday. We were told that he had problems eating and feeding. Since he was a late premature baby, his brain was still developing, and he had not yet mastered the swallow, suck and breath skills needed when it came to eating. On top of that, he was so small. Of course he had to get back to his birth weight and show steady weight gain for them to allow us to take him home. We got his feeding schedule, which was every 3 hours, and we made sure we were there at 9 a.m., 12 p.m., 3 p.m., 6 p.m., and 9 p.m. When I was still in the hospital, I even went downstairs for the 12 a.m., 3 a.m., and 6 a.m. feedings. But it was much harder from our home to get up at those times, and drive to the hospital.
I cried every single day that he was in the NICU. I cried every single time we had to leave the hospital without him. Luckily, he was not in the NICU for anything serious. He had a feeding tube down his throat for his meals, if he couldn’t finish an entire bottle they gavaged the rest. He was only taking one ounce at the time. I felt so guilty. I blamed my self for not being able to keep him in full term. My whole pregnancy people kept telling me how small I was, and how I needed to gain more weight. I thought I was being healthy by gaining 25 pounds. I just knew that the rest of my weight would have come towards the end of my pregnancy, and he would have been healthier. I thought back on everything that I ate during my pregnancy and the things that I could have done differently. I didn’t want to be depressed. The only thing I wanted was my baby. My 30th birthday came and went, and he was still in the NICU.
Although I felt depressed and sad about the situation, the only thing that kept me going was breastfeeding him every time I went to visit. That connection that we made in the hospital helped me feel closer to him, even when I was at home. I was able to pump so much milk for him that the nurses said I had filled my area in the freezer for him. I wanted to make sure he ate, and that he only received my breast milk. I didn’t want him to get formula, and I knew that the nutrition I could provide for him was better than anything they could have given him. The nurses and my doctor were so surprised at how fast my milk came in. Three days was all it took. I was determined to get my baby out of there. And on April 12, he came home. He was just over 4 pounds, but I was ready, and my husband and I were so grateful for being able to deal with him in the NICU. We were not afraid to handle a tiny baby. And now, he is 7-weeks-old and weighs over 6 pounds. I have continued to nurse him, and he is doing great. Our lucky little Lukas.
Send us your birth story! Whether you had a home birth, hospital birth, 37-hour labor or emergency C-section, we’d love to read the tale of your little one’s grand entrance. Write up your birth story (click here for tips on getting started) and email it, along with a few photos, to email@example.com. We’ll share it on our Birth Day blog and may even print it in an upcoming issue!