In March of 2016 my husband and I were beyond excited to be expecting our first child in December of 2016. I was twenty-six years old, active, healthy, a current preschool teacher, a step aerobics instructor and a soon to be grad student in the field of speech and language pathology. While pregnant, I had all of the typical exciting emotions when a new milestones was achieved during pregnancy. On September 16th 2016, I experienced severe upper abdominal pain throughout the night, which radiated to my back and shoulder blade but the pain went away by the next day. Within the next week, I noticed that I was suddenly experiencing extreme swelling that was not present before. I called my doctor and told them about my sudden increase in swelling, they encouraged me to watch my sodium intake and to let them know if anything else came up. On September 23rd 2016, my pregnancy journey took a traumatic turn. I began to have the same severe upper abdominal pain that I had experienced the week before. At 5 am on September 23rd, I woke my husband up and told him what I had been experiencing. My husband insisted on driving me to the hospital but I convinced him that this was not a big deal. I told him that he could go to work and I'd be fine driving to the hospital. After monitoring my vitals and receiving information on my initial urinalysis my doctor decided to keep me in the hospital for a 24 hour urinalysis. I called my husband crying when they told me that I couldn't leave for the hospital for the next 24 hours. Little did I know, I was going to be there much longer than that... I began asking the nurse a billion questions of the best and worse case scenarios. She told me the best case scenario is that I go home on bed rest after the next 24 hours. She said worse case scenario would be that I get two rounds of a steroid shot to boost my baby's lung development in case of the emergency of an early delivery. At 11 am the nurse came into the room with a steroid shot. A sudden rush of sadness, guilt and terror came over me. At 5 pm on September 23rd, my doctor came into the room and said that we do not have time to do the second round of steroids and we'll be having a baby in the next thirty minutes. At 6:05pm my son Drake was born at 29 weeks and 6 days, weighing 2lbs 10oz.
The six weeks that he stayed in the NICU was the biggest emotional roller coaster of my life. There's just an overwhelming sensation that comes upon you when you see your child in an isolette, covered in wires and tubes that are connected to multiple machines, displaying multiple numbers and making various noises. The feeling that you're lost or helpless to the one whom you love the most. That moment when your heart drops because his machine starts making unusual noises. The fear and anticipation in the doctors daily report on how your little one is doing. Dealing with the emotions of guilt and sadness when experiencing things such as, the inability to help your baby grow inside your womb during the last trimester, having a baby shower without him, leaving the hospital without him, going home without him, not hearing his first cry, not seeing him after he was born, not being able to hold him whenever/however long you please, not being the one to care for him 24/7, and not being able to distinguish his cry from others. This experience can be difficult to overcome but it allows you to have a completely different perspective on life. It was an experience that taught me how precious life is, how size doesn't distinguish one's strength, and how amazing and extraordinary a NICU team can be.
What I've learned:
I couldn't help but feel as if my body had failed me and I was the reason my son had to experience such a traumatic event. I've learned that this traumatic event happened to us for a reason and it only made us stronger. Through this hardship, I've obtained knowledge on a life threatening pregnancy condition called the HELLP syndrome and I can now share my experience with others in order to help future moms become aware of early signs and symptoms.
Thank you to Pampers and The Today Show for allowing us to share our story and for helping other NICU babies!
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