My 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.
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.
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!
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