As you get older, it’s a little challenging to remember everything. Passwords, birthdays, grocery lists all get a little grainy after 35. Some things, however, are etched so deep in your mind, you can remember it as if it happened yesterday.
Yesterday, my son celebrated his 9th birthday, and I am proud to say that I still remember every detail (within reason) about his eventful, entrance into the world. I can attest, and I’m sure other moms can relate, that the bond between a mother and child is special. We have a bond. And, although he’s not my only child, our bond is unique.
It all started on a summer, Saturday afternoon. I was 35 weeks pregnant, lounging around the house eating watermelon and McDonald’s brownie sundae. I started feeling these little spasms around my belly. They weren’t strong, but they were noticeable enough for me to call the Dr. Now, at 35 weeks, you are really anxious to get the show on the road. You have one month left of being pregnant so any little bump or hiccup you feel means “go time” to you. I just casually packed a bag, and waited for the Dr. to call me back. Dr. called and said go to the hospital to get checked out just to be safe. At this point, I feel fine as far as a contraction, but I did feel a little off. Get to the hospital and check-in, no sign of contractions anywhere. Great. Back home we go. Wrong. While I didn’t feel any contractions, my blood pressure had checked in dangerously high. I remember the nurse saying they wanted to make sure I wasn’t spilling protein my urine, blah blah. My pregnancy to this point had been totally uneventful, outside of the first trimester morning sickness from hell. I did gain a bunch of weight within the last few weeks. My face, hands, and feet were puffy, but I was almost 9 months pregnant. I was not worried at all. So they wanted me to do some urine tests to make sure no protein was spilling into my kidney. It still wasn’t registering what exactly was going on with me. The test would take 24 hours, and they would determine the next steps from there. That night, I was admitted to the High Risk pregnancy unit.
Sunday rolls around, and I’m twiddling my thumbs waiting for an update. They swarm my room at some point that day saying my blood pressure was still too high, and we needed to discuss inducing labor. The baby was 35 weeks, and they felt viable enough to be delivered early. They were starting to give me pain meds to bring down the blood pressure, and set Monday as the day everything would start. This was going on 24 hours for me with no food. I wasn’t feeling any baby pain, but I did have these headaches that would come and go.
Monday is here. I’m starting to get a little irritated. I’m hungry, bored, bed-ridden, and these headaches are annoying. They gave me something that was supposed to do something, and it didn’t work. 48 hours now with no food. I’m getting checked every few hours, and I’m still not sure what is going on. Monday night, they confirmed I had preeclampsia, and that it was imperative for my health to deliver this baby asap.
Preeclampsia (toxema) or pre-e is a serious condition some pregnant woman develop after 20 weeks. Doctors are not sure what causes it, but it causes your blood pressure to go through the roof. It comes on suddenly, and sudden swelling in feet/hands/face are a symptom.
My blood pressure was so high, they were afraid I would have seizures or a stroke. Monday night everything starts getting grainy. I remember being on all types of medicine (a painkiller, meds for the blood pressure, and the dreaded Pitocin to engage labor). I remember having an epidural. Not just one shot in the back, and everything is fine. I had something in my back connected to a box that continuously made me numb from the waist down. I was pretty much in la la land.
Finally, Tuesday morning is here. After a night of being drugged up, I should be dilated and ready to get this show on the road. That was the plan the doctors and I had. My family was growing anxious, and I had a room full of guests. And, I am extremely doped up. I didn’t feel a thing. Around 2pm, I started noticing that my baby wasn’t as active. When you’re pregnant, you can push against the side of your belly, and most times baby moves. Well, I was pushing, and he wasn’t budging. So, the dr comes in to check my dilation. I’m extremely drugged, but I managed to tell her that the baby wasn’t moving. She’s like he’s prob just tired. And I told her again, no this is different, I usually can push on my stomach, and he moves out the way, but he’s not moving. (sidenote: It’s crazy how much I could remember being in such of fog, and still being able to relay important information.) So she checks the printout of his heartrate, and steps off. A swarm of doctors come in and say we have to get this baby out now, his heart rate has slowed down, and your blood pressure isn’t getting better. Let’s get to the OR.
Tuesday afternoon at around 3 something, my son was born via emergency C-section. I don’t remember seeing him over the curtain. They cleaned him up and whisked him off the NICU. The medicine they gave me to treat my blood pressure had taken a toll on him, and they needed to get settled. After I had him, I felt terrible. I was so drugged up, my whole body was hot with a splitting headache. I remember staying in this triage looking room, like something out of MASH for hours begging the nurse for a regular room and to see my baby.
At some point, Wednesday, I make it to a somewhat regular room. I’m still being monitored because my blood pressure is still high which means I’m still drugged up, and I still haven’t eaten. This is day 4 of no food, and almost 24 hours without seeing or holding my newborn baby. I was so out of it, I remember praying to God .. please let me feel well enough to see my baby. My family and friends were there but I was still so foggy, I barely remember. I wanted to off those meds. I saw photos of my baby, and descriptions of how much hair he had, but I wanted to see him for myself. Pretty sure I cried most of the day.
Thursday and we have a glimmer of hope. My pressure is down enough so that I can have liquids. Absolutely nothing with salt, of course. And, I got moved to a regular room on the baby floor. Now, if anyone has ever had a C-Section, the key to healing is getting out of bed as soon as you can. The longer you sit, the stiffer you feel, and the more intense the pain is. Well I was bed-ridden for almost 48 hours after I delivered, so yeah imagine the pain. I got to the room, and I immediately asked to go to the nursery. My baby was still in the NICU. The blood pressure medicine was finally out of his system, but his lungs still needed some help.
If you have never been in an NICU before, let’s just say it’s not for the weak hearted. Babies of all sizes are in incubators, under lights, with endless tubes and monitors, and beeping noises. Seeing my baby in this plastic case was one of the toughest things in life. I had 2 arm holes to put my arm through to touch him. He was small like a newborn, and his skin was saggy, with a head full of hair. He had tubes in his nose and mouth, and on his hands and feet. I’m not sure what I was expecting to see, but that made me feel so helpless. I started balling. A very nice NICU nurse took him out the bin, and placed him in my arms, wires and all. I had so many emotions going through me. Here I was with this new life in my arms, we went through the trenches together. At any point, this whole event could have went in a different direction, but here we were together, finally. Once I stopped crying, the nurse told me to talk to him. He was sleeping in my arms. Not sure what to say, I said hello. Lol. I was a new mom, with no manual, okay. Just random phrases of “hello”, “hello little boy” “little baby”, and he started opening his eyes. One at a time, until he finally was looking at me.
It was at that moment, I knew what motherhood was about. I knew that my job was going to be to love him and protect him, and his job was to trust that I would. It was in that moment, everything became clear. I carried this child, I knew when he was in distress inside of me, and when we locked eyes, it was as if he knew I was mommy.
A soon-to-be mom always wonders “how will I love this child I never even met?”
You can’t even explain it, it just happens, and when it does, you know. True Love in its purest form.
9 years later, and I still remember it like it was yesterday. Happy Birthday, baby.
For more information about preeclampsia, please visit the Preeclampsia Foundation