My name is Nicole, and I am the mother of 3 children – ages 13, 9 and 7. I have experienced pre-eclampsia with all of my pregnancies. This is one of my stories.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I was 20 years old, going to college full time and working nights and weekends at a bookstore. I was completely clueless, as most first-time moms are. When I started getting headaches, I chalked it up to dehydration or not getting enough decent sleep. When my feet started swelling, I figured it was because I did a lot of standing at work. I spent half my life throwing up or having terrible heartburn. I wasn’t finding pregnancy to be the happy glowy time that every other mother-to-be seemed to portray it as. At my last doctor visit, they had sent home a giant orange jug for me to pee in over 24 hours. I mean, pee, in my parents fridge? Nobody tells you this stuff beforehand.
One night, six weeks before my due date, I started getting stomach cramps. I woke my mother and off to the hospital we went. I couldn’t fit my feet into my sneakers, so I wore flip-flops through the partly snowy parking lot into the mother baby unit. When we arrived, my vitals were taken. My recollection of actual numbers at this point is sketchy, because it’s been 13 years.. but I know my blood pressure made the nurse take pause. She asked me a few more questions and then asked me to lay on my side so she could take it again in a little bit. When she returned and had taken my numbers again, she told me to stay put. Suddenly, I was being admitted. Wait, what? My baby wasn’t due for another six weeks!
When I got to my room, I was hooked up to a magnesium sulfate drip. They told me I had something called pre-eclampsia, which I hadn’t even heard of. Hopefully the drugs would slow everything down and I’d be able to keep baby in the oven until closer to my due date.
My memory at this point is a little hazy. I spent most of the morning watching nurses check charts, with an automatic blood pressure cuff filling and pinching my arm. A fetal monitor was strapped to my belly and the woosh woosh woosh of baby’s heartbeat filled the room. My contractions had not stopped or even slowed. At some point, my headache started getting worse. As I turned to my mother to ask her to get a nurse, and I was hit with the most blinding pain through my head – I cannot even describe it with words. I remember screaming for my mother as the world went black around me.
When I was coherent again, I had about a million people in the room. A NICU team was standing by and I was told it was time to push. What?! My mother looked terrified and I could hear my father and boyfriend out in the hallway.
At 2:25pm, my daughter silently came into the world. She was 5 lbs, 6 oz and 18″ long. A decent size for a preemie. The NICU team worked furiously for a few moments while the world seemed to stop moving around me. Even as a new mom, I knew she was supposed to cry. I willed her to cry. Finally, she did – a weak catlike mew, but a cry. And then – they whisked her off to the NICU.
I wasn’t allowed out of bed because of the effects of the magnesium sulfate, but after I was all settled I badgered the nurses enough that they took my entire bed up to the NICU. I couldn’t hold my daughter, but I could see her in her isolette – a mass of wires and tubes. A respirator, a feeding tube, and countless other things surrounded her tiny body – but she was gorgeous. And she was stable.
The next day, when I was finally allowed in a wheelchair, we went up to visit her again. The nurses told me she was doing very well, and that she had repeatedly ripped her feeding tube out of her nose. I knew right then we had a fighter. As I visited the NICU every day, I started to get to know the other parents who had children there. Parents of preemies, and of micro-preemies, parents of full-term babies with problems well beyond anything I could comprehend. We comforted each other and rejoiced in small victories with each other.
Last week my daughter celebrated her 13th birthday. With the exception of a rough first two years of ear infections (which seems to be common for premature babies) she has had a pretty noneventful life health-wise. She’s almost as tall as me now, smart as a whip, and twice as sassy. When she grows up she wants to be a pastry chef.
I never knew pre-eclampsia was even a thing before I had her. It wasn’t something my doctor even brought up in conversation. Maybe they were trying to protect me from worrying about something that wasn’t going to happen. Except, it did happen to me.
Nicole is an Army wife and mother of three kiddos, 4 cats and a spoiled dog. When not blogging, she is usually found in the kitchen (creating masterpieces or disasters, it’s always a toss-up) or hiding in the bedroom trying to read “just one more chapter” before the kids burn the house down. She’s a little bit crafty, a lot nerdy, and has huge opinions on just about everything. And no, she will not fix your computer for you.