From the moment I found out I was pregnant, things were hard. I was so sick. I wished for just morning sickness instead I had 24/7 sickness. I lost almost 20 pounds my first trimester. Working full time as a hairstylist was so hard since I was only able to keep down French fries at one point, but I loved my job. As my second trimester came I started to feel better. Finally, light at the end of the tunnel. I was able to take my stepdaughter to the park again. I finally felt like a human. I was starting to show and I was so proud of my growing belly.
We found out we were having a boy. I was SO happy. The next day I bought his coming home outfit. I couldn’t wait to hold my son in my arms. We were almost halfway done. I started to plan for my labor. A natural birth. My husband and mom were with me. I imagined laboring at home and going to the hospital as the time came for our baby boy to make his appearance. I couldn’t wait to see my husband hold his son. For my stepdaughter to meet her baby brother. For my parents and my husband’s parents to meet their grandson. So many things to look forward to, it was a magical time.
28 weeks rolled around and my husband drove me to my routine appointment. I drank the glucose drink on my way into the office and was feeling pretty crummy. We got to the office and made our way to the ultrasound room to see our boy. While getting ready the nurse took my blood pressure as always but this time it was high. We started the ultrasound and I could tell something was off. The energy in the room had shifted so I asked how he was looking. Small is what I was told about 10th percentile. We headed to another room where they took my blood pressure again hoping it had calmed down. The opposite happened. My doctor came in and told me she was concerned. Preeclampsia was the word being thrown around and my head was spinning. I was crying at the thought of something being wrong with my baby. Forget me I’ll be fine, but let my baby be okay is all I could think. I was sent to labor and delivery for monitoring.
My blood pressure eventually went down! We were released and I was told to monitor my pressures at home and work but it likely wasn’t preeclampsia since they went back to normal. The next day it was high. Really high. I called my ob and asked what to do and I was sent to the hospital again. I called my husband and told him not to bother coming it was probably going to be the same thing or I’ll get on a prescription to help and be home soon. Thankfully he didn’t listen to me and met me at the hospital.
On my drive over my pressures had climbed I was given so many meds. Two doses of labetalol and magnesium I was so out of it. At this point, I knew it was serious but still, I thought I’ll spend the night and be on bed rest for the rest of my pregnancy. I asked my nurse for dinner and that’s when it hit me. I wasn’t allowed to eat because there was a big chance I was going to be having a c section that night. 28 weeks exactly. There’s no way this was happening to me. There’s no way I would have a NICU baby. I was supposed to go full term. I was supposed to feel strong kicks. I was supposed to have a baby shower and maternity photos. None of that mattered anymore though.
We were able to bring my pressure down. I was then moved into another room where I got the news I wasn’t leaving the hospital until my baby would come. 34 weeks was our goal. 6 weeks in the hospital sounded dreadful I begged for home bed rest but the doctors didn’t agree. The MFM came in and gave me the news that this should be my only pregnancy. I was numb. I had just found out I was sick, really really sick and now I couldn’t ever have another baby. I’ve never been so angry in my life.
It wasn’t fair.
I was supposed to have a huge family. I was supposed to have a daughter. I was supposed to go full term. I’m only 25 how am I done having kids I was just starting my family.
3 weeks later, I had started to have vision changes. Go time. I was so afraid. I wished I would had lied when she asked about my symptoms. I felt selfish for opening my mouth. Would he be okay? 31 weeks was so early. After two days of being induced and nothing happened, we moved for a c section. The operating table was so cold. Everyone was moving so fast. I could feel them pulling and pushing then a gush of water and silence. Silence that pierced your soul. Then a tiny scream. There’s never been a more beautiful sound. They took off with my little baby and I was put back together.
Thank god for FaceTime. My husband was with our baby and I was able to see the most beautiful face I had ever seen. Nurses and doctors were talking a mile a minute in the background and I was trying to make sense of everything. I cried all day wishing I could be there meeting them in person, getting the information first hand, most of all just being with my baby.
I was able to be wheeled to the NICU 24 hours after having my boy. 24 of the hardest hours of my life. I got there and the room was dim and the nurse was in the room. She told me about his first day of life. He was a fighter. He was off the ventilator and on c pap. I was able to put my hands in his box and touch my sweet 3 pound baby. I was so scared to. I felt like a horrible mom for being afraid of my own baby.
The next night I was wheeled in and there were about 3 nurses and a doctor. My baby was screaming as he was getting a chest tube placed and had a pneumothorax. That was the worst thing to walk into alone. My body had failed him. Even with two doses of the steroid for his lungs I couldn’t make them as strong as he needed. The worst feeling was knowing my son was in pain and not being able to hold him to comfort him. All I wanted was to scoop him up in my arms and tell him everything was going to be okay.
I sat with him as long as I was allowed before I had to go back to my room for monitoring. Discharge came two days later. My husband and I left my room and went to the baby’s. The first drive home was the worst moment of my entire life. Leaving the hospital empty. No car seat in the back. Nothing but a pump and a sore body. I screamed the whole ride home. It was the lowest I have ever been.
Over the next week, he had two more chest tubes placed and on day 6 they were able to be pulled. That meant I could finally hold my baby. He was so tiny we used my bra as a hammock for kangaroo care. My baby knew who I was. He finally knew who his mommy was. I felt so disconnected from him, he didn’t know what I smelled like or what I looked like or how it felt to be in my arms, but now he did.
I spent every moment I could snuggled up with my son. I put my healing to the side and spent every waking moment sitting in a hard plastic chair next to my sons bed. A few weeks later we tried to go to low flow oxygen from the c-pap. He didn’t do well he turned purple in my arms twice and to high flow he went. He did really well with it and at 36 weeks he was switched to low flow. That meant we could try feedings! Breastfeeding was something I craved so bad. I wanted to feel like my body didn’t fail at something. But again, it felt like it did. I couldn’t get him to latch. We had to use a nipple shield and it felt like again I wasn’t what he needed.
We started bottles and he would Brady and choke at every feed. The last time we ever breastfed he was nursing, choked and turned completely purple. I held my limp, purple baby in my arms yelling for a nurse to come help me. We finally did a swallow study and he had been aspirating on all his feeds. I felt horrible. The diagnosis of a swallowing disorder meant thickened formula. No breastmilk. It was the last thing I wanted. I had spent the last 6 weeks pumping every three hours around the clock so that I could feed my baby. Again I thought I failed.
After starting thickened formula he started to actually drink his bottles. He was doing so good! I was told to bring in his car seat. I knew what that meant. Monday was going to be the day my baby broke out. Sunday night I went in and heard they misspoke. He was on a five-day apnea countdown and it wouldn’t leave until Wednesday. So that was the new date. Driving home Sunday was awful. I had expected to be overnighting with him and bringing him home in the morning but doctors know best.
Before I knew it Wednesday came, it was finally the day. We packed, I cried, I cried some more. What felt like was never going to happen, finally did. My baby was going to feel the sun hit his face. He was going to finally meet his family. I was so afraid I would break him. He was so tiny. It took a while for me to fully feel comfortable with him. I was so used to asking to hold him or having others tell me when to feed him I didn’t fully feel like his mom. After a while, we found a routine and what felt like would never happen did. We fell into a normal life.
It took a lot for me to realize I did the best I could. My body didn’t fail him but kept him alivewhile it was shutting down on me. Things happen and unfortunately this is one. I may never see my biological daughters face but I see my own joy in my stepdaughters. My son has my eyes and his father’s nose. He is a perfect mix of us. I am so grateful for all the staff at Children’s Hospital who kept my sweet baby going, who cried with me, and who were strong when I wasn’t. I wouldn’t want anyone to have to go through any of what my family and I did. I’m healing every day and each day feels a little lighter.
Your story matters. Thank you for sharing your story Katheryn. We are forever grateful!