Our Preemie Journey: Delivery Day…8 Weeks Early!

young pregnant woman sitting on the windowMy mind was fuzzy, my vision blurry, and my body on fire from the magnesium! I felt like I was going to burst like a water balloon from even the tiniest poke. I could barely move my fingers due to the swelling, and I was scared. I was terrified for my unborn child and for myself. Preeclampsia had taken over. It didn’t care that I was just shy of 32 weeks pregnant. It didn’t care about what I had already gone through just to get pregnant! It was mocking my plans for a perfect delivery. I asked myself, “Who attacks a mother and her innocent unborn child? How could a disease be so sadistic…so ruthless?”

I waited for Dave to arrive for what seemed like hours. I was alone, alone with my unborn baby…uncertain of what was going to happen next…uncertain if my child would survive…uncertain if my body would fail me…uncertain of what the future held. A sense of relief washed over me when Dave walked into my hospital room. He hadn’t realized the severity of the situation until he saw me. I was barely recognizable from even the night before. Dave had raced from work, stopping at the house to take the dog out and to throw some overnight clothes together. Little did he realize that our overnight bag would need to get us through the next nine weeks.Fetus 7 Month In The Womb. Visible Head And Arms

The next several hours were filled with ultrasounds from Maternal Fetal Medicine, discussions with the neonatologist (NICU doctor), and constant blood pressure checks and rechecks. I was reassured that 32-week old babies can do very well. They can still have major complications including bleeding in the brain, respiratory distress syndrome, vision problems, and much more; but according to my Ob/Gyn, making it to 32 weeks was a great accomplishment. It didn’t feel like an accomplishment. It felt like a failure. My body was failing my baby and me. Once again, my best efforts could do nothing to change the situation.

Because our baby’s lungs hadn’t gotten the chance to fully develop, I was stabbed with the first of two steroid shots to speed up the process. A plan had been put in place. We were going to wait for my 24-hour urine protein to come back, and we were going to try to get both steroid shots in before delivery (these had to be spaced out by 24 hours).

I was a little nervous about a C-section, but I was willing to do whatever it took to keep my baby safe. Because my blood pressure was so incredibly high, an attempt at a vaginal delivery was out of the question. Starting an induction would be too hard on the baby and on my already stressed body.

The minute that my 24-hour urine protein results arrived the conservative timetable was thrown out the window. I was loaded into a wheelchair and told that the C-section was happening NOW! My urine protein was the highest that my Ob/Gyn had ever seen. The baby was starting to have some dips in her heart rate, and we couldn’t wait any longer. Delivery was the only “cure” for preeclampsia. My leg was stabbed too early with the second steroid shot in a last ditch effort to give our baby’s lungs every chance to mature. The magnesium and blood pressure medications continued to run into my veins, in an attempt to prevent me from having a seizure or stroke.

As the nurse wheeled me down the hallway, I pleaded desperately with God. He had answered my heart’s longing for a child. I had watched my belly grow with awe, wonder and gratitude. This baby was my answered prayer. He had to protect her! If not, then why had he given her to me in the first place? I loved this little being that I had never met more than my mind could comprehend. He couldn’t take her from me now…not after we had made it this far.

The spinal was more unpleasant than I had imagined. For some reason the idea of a huge needle poking into the nerve track in my back freaked me out more than just a little. I wasn’t worried about having my belly cut open with a scalpel, but a giant needle wasn’t my idea of fun. I hunched, I hugged the pillow, and I hunched some more. After three attempts, the needle was finally in the correct position. I was transferred to the operating table, and prepped for surgery. I had assisted in numerous emergency C-sections during residency. I had reassured many panicked mothers that everything would be “just fine”. Now I was the panicked mother, and I found that my own advice fell flat.

I remember the tugging and pulling during the c-section, and that the spinal was just as unpleasant as patients have described. My blood pressure dropped fairly rapidly at one point, causing me to vomit.

My C-section!

The C-section felt like an eternity. Just as they were pulling the baby out of my belly, my blood pressure dropped precipitously from the anesthesia, and I began to vomit. I vaguely remember the attending physician showing my baby to me before she was whisked to the resuscitation table. Her skin was dusky. She wasn’t crying! Was she breathing? I couldn’t see. What was happening? And, then I heard her. I heard her first cry. It was a small cry, but it was fierce. She was a fighter. She was in the lightweight division at 3 pounds 2 ounces, but she was a fighter!

My baby was born at 3 lb. 2 oz. She was whisked away to be resuscitated.

Ayla in the Delivery Room being Resuscitated

Before I could catch another glimpse of my precious baby, she was rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with her daddy close behind. I felt physically sick, helpless, and alone. I was her mother, but I had yet to hold my baby. I wanted to be at her side, but I could barely keep my eyes open. I wanted Dave at my side, but I knew that he needed to be with our baby. My mind was heavy, clouded by painkillers, anesthetics, and magnesium. As the last stitch was placed in my belly, I drifted off. When I awoke to a soaring blood pressure and splitting headache, I realized that I was in a fight for my life. Preeclampsia was still my master, and it wasn’t finished with me yet. Delivery had only made it more determined to destroy me, but I was a fighter too!

From The Mom in Me, MD

6 thoughts on “Our Preemie Journey: Delivery Day…8 Weeks Early!

  1. Wow, what a journey and what an eloquent way to describe the raw emotions of your delivery day. I have such a similiar story from the infertility, to a miracle pregnancy, to pre-eclampsia to the last ditch steroid injections to the magnesium to the c-section of a beautiful daughter delivered at 31 weeks 5 days…It was one of the scariest journeys of my life yet I know it made my husband and I cherish being parents that much more. Today, my daughter, Ava who is 5, leaves little evidence of a her preemie days. She’s a spitfire of a kid who loves crossing monkey bars and all things girl! Like Ayla, Ava was a fighter from the beginning and seems to continue that fighting spirit–I know it will carry her far in life! God is good!

    • Karen!!! Thank you so much for sharing your story! It brings tears to my eyes to hear about your daughter and how well she is doing! Looking at my daughter now, you would never know that she was a preemie either! I agree that we were definitely blessed! (okay, I used a few too many exclamation points:) !!!!

  2. thank you for sharing. This sounds like my second birth (my first was premature labour at 26 weeks) my 2nd resulted in pre-eclampsia at 31 weeks. Felt like days before my hubby made it to the hospital (only an hour really). I ended up being put totally under after I felt them cutting me so it was not until the next day I finally got to see my baby. He is healthy 5 year old now. Once again thanks for sharing your story

  3. I was very fortunate with my pre-eclampsia – my blood pressure started rising from 24 weeks (1st drug), to 25+2 weeks (2nd drug) to 25+3 when it started spiraling happily upwards during an appointment with an obstetrician in a hospital. That was also when I started the 3rd drug, initially via IV to get it down to a safer high level again, and also the start of my two week hospital stay with daily monitoring. I had 4 out of the 5 classic symptoms (high blood pressure, headache, bloating and proteinuria – the last one only became apparent the day I was admitted, the others I’d had for several days prior). I totally failed to put any of the symptoms together, instead writing them off as being due to the stress of what had become a complicated pregnancy. If I hadn’t been in the obstetrician’s office I almost certainly would have experienced the classical 5th symptom of visual disturbance along with some of the other ones – and quite possibly had a stroke or gone into labour or started having seizures. My son was born at 27+3 weighing 1lb 0.68oz (472g for the metrically-inclined). On the positive side I did have lots of time to get the steroid injections! I had four all up, two per week. After his exciting arrival and an even more rollercoaster NICU stay my son came home aged 17.5 months – he’s now a happy, healthy and climbing-on-all-the-furniture nearly 3 year old.

    I have to admit I was pretty happy that his placenta was cut up for research and then burned though.

    • Hi Alison,
      Thanks you so much for sharing your story! I can’t imagine delivering at 27 weeks! What a long and difficult journey for you! It is wonderful to hear how healthy and happy your son is now!

      Sincerely,
      Emma

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