From the time we are children, we are told that a baby begins with an idea, or “in the twinkle of their parent’s eye”. And so it was with my little girl. I had my own little set of criteria for what needed to happen before a baby entered my life. It wasn’t much, but important to me all the same. I need to be married-checked that one off in September of 2004 on one of the best days of my life. Second, I wanted a house-check! We closed on our home the July before our wedding. I wanted to know we had a stable income and health insurance. Check and check! I was hired right out of school into the job I thought I’d be working for most of my career. My husband too had a stable job that made him happy. So within the span of a few short months, my list was checked and my husband and I saw little reason to hold off a family. In addition to having all our ducks in a row, a sudden and frightening medical event for my husband made me want to start a family even more. The thought of loosing him, and not having a living breathing testament to our love was devastating.
It did not really seem like we were newly weds to us. Sure, everything was exciting and new and we’d never lived together. However we’d been together for four years at this point and traveled quite a bit together. We’ve always had a great sence of team work and became very comfortably into our roles as a happily married couple. In no time at all we were completely used to each other’s little habits, quarks, strengths and weaknesses. And so it came to pass that by my 24th birthday, we knew for sure that we’d be adding a baby to our happy little life. We did the math and discovered that baby would be joining us some where around our first wedding anniversary and couldn’t have been happier about the whole thing. We joked about having to share our special day with a new somebody, but never thought much more about due dates than that.
It would be fair to say I over analyse situations in my life. I believe I am a flexible person, but I like to get as much information up front as I can to hypothesis possible outcomes. Being pregnant was no different. I started to devour all the information about a healthy pregnancy I could get my hands on. I bought a book that gave me the kind of information I was craving along with a big fat book of names, and settled back for a normal pregnancy. History can be its own story teller, but if you knew me you would know that few things go in my favor the first time around. Some causes are self-destructive, and others follow Murphy’s law. I remember distinctly the first time I got violently ill with “morning sickness” and the conversation I had with my best friend about it. My thought was, it’s me, so something has to go wrong, so I’m glad it’s this. Baby and I are OK, so I’ll just cope and learn to deal. I thought maybe my bad luck had been satisfied for this endeavor. I was wrong.
Regular morning sickness grew into all-consuming unlivable all day bouts of vomiting and nausea. Some women are said to me, “I can relate, I felt sick to my stomach a lot when I was pregnant.” With all due respect, I know how miserable it is to experience nausea, but it really doesn’t compare to running to the toilet and having dry heaves for hours on end. It took a prescription of Zofran, a drug prescribed to people receiving chemotherapy just to live my life at all. I was still sick and vomiting, but did not require IV fluids to live anymore. Some how, even with the severe nausea, I still managed to gain an alarming amount of weight. I was gaining weight much faster than I should and my mother was concerned, but my doctors weren’t, so I wasn’t. Sure, my mom had three kids of her own, but these were medical professionals taking care of me. I decided to go with their opinion at each appointment which tended to be “Everything looks good. You have any questions? No? Ok then, see you next time.” Why would I need to ask questions when I had already consulted every fact based website and read several books, and they told me everything was fine? I was so naive.
Into the third trimester, I was getting increasingly tired. I had a very difficult time making it through my work days. The hospital lab has a long-standing history with being short staffed and holes in the schedule. I knew we needed extra money, and so I filled as many as I could. I was only employed half time but maintaining a full-time schedule. In my personal life, my grandfather was on a fast decline and my husband and I had already gone through the funerals of two of our grandparents during my pregnancy. Stress continued to mount with everything adding up, work, family illnesses, my brother-in-law moving in temporarily, and it all was hard on me. When I was 33 weeks pregnant, my grandfather did in fact pass away, I worked overtime, was stressed out, and then my mom took a good long look at me while I rested on her couch. It was the late afternoon following Grandpa’s funeral and I was hot, bloated, and otherwise miserable. The swelling in my feet didn’t go down this time while I laid down and baby was resting in my rib cage, as she frequently liked to do. “Call your doctor,” my mom said. “I’ll be fine,” I said. “I will not stop bugging you until you are seen, something is very wrong,” she insisted. In the interest of appeasing my mom, the doctor was called and we drove off to the hospital to get checked out.
Now, here you need to understand my clinical background. Upon being admitted to the labor and delivery floor, I was found to have sky high blood pressure. I know that patients exhibiting high blood pressure, accelerated weight gain, and persistent swelling (edema) has possibly developed pre-eclampsia and should be lab tested for elevated liver enzymes. I know this now, I knew that then, but I was not tested. Instead, I rested, was made comfortable, and when my blood pressure was elevated instead of critically high, I was sent home to follow-up with my OB group with in a few days. I figured if they didn’t screen me for pre-eclampsia then it wasn’t really a concern. I was wrong. When I showed up to my appointment, I saw a different doctor, just like I had for every appointment in the previous three months. I was told it was a good idea to try to see all the doctors to get to know them before delivery. He was the first in a long time to look completely at the chart instead of just the new daily information, and his conclusion was a shock to me. He looked me straight in the eye and said,”you are very sick. I need you to be on full bed rest,” I was totally caught off guard. Why didn’t I know that something was wrong on my own? How could I have missed this? “How long do I need to be on bed rest?” I asked. Then he paused for effect and looked me straight in the eye. He was very serious, but also had a tone of sympathy and understanding. He said,”Look, we need to buy this baby as much time as possible.” In that moment, for the first time I realized that baby and I were both in danger, and that early delivery was very possible. I went home distraught and perplexed. From here I thought we’d have a good solid month of sitting around and waiting. If I was good, I figured everything would be fine. I can’t tell you how much I wish it were true. Just one week after sitting in my grandfather’s room as he passed away, I went into labor.
While laying on the coach and trying to enjoy evening TV programing, I sneezed. Yeah, that was all, I sneezed, but at the same moment I felt the most peculiar pop. I realized that my water might have broken and held my breath, tip toed carefully into the bathroom, and confirmed my wost fears. I will spare you the details, but there was no denying my condition. I called my doctor and they told me to head in, and said it was probably nothing. Why do they never believe a first time mother? Just like that we were in the car and headed to the hospital again. No bag, no creature comforts, just us headed off for hope and answers. It was at that time that we first realized that if I was going to have this baby now, it would be born on my husband’s birthday. By the time we were half way there (it’s a ten minuet drive) active labor had kicked in. I was put in a room, confirmed to have broken my water and given an epidural. This was a protective measure to try to lower my blood pressure. Upon being admitted, my BP was 145/110. My blood pressure never dropped, but it also never elevated further so I avoided getting a dose of magnesium which helps to protect mothers from having a seizer which can be fatal in labor to mothers and babies. It all went very fast, because I guess I am more like my mom than I ever guessed. Her first labor was about four and a half hours, and so was mine. On the 21st of August 2005 at 2:22 am, Kayla Johanna was born at 34 weeks gestation. As my husband was holding her for the first time I said I could not get him anything else for his birthday, so I hoped he appreciated this one gift. He smiled and kissed me. If you told me it would happen the day before, I would have never believed you.
I blamed myself in any way I could manufacture for her premature delivery. I was depressed, I was dead set on giving her the best care possible, and well, I was just a wreck. My day dreams of what the first days of motherhood would be like were ripped away from me, and I had to mourn the loss of those dreams. It would be fair to say I never fully recovered. My husband and my mom had to force me to sleep and take care of myself because I was totally fixated on her and her care. Thank God for them. She never experienced any complications and was discharged from the hospital 15 days after she was born. I was a well educated women with prenatal care and taking an active role in my experience. I thought these things weren’t supposed to happen to me. It opened my eyes to how these things really can happen to anyone, and I started for the first time to wonder if there was a better way to care for women than the standard care offered by a OBGyn office. It was the catalyst to my journey, but not the decided moment. For that you need to know what happened with my son. Another story for another time.