I have had some form of this story written in my drafts folder for 2 years now. Every once in a while, I go back to it and review and edit it. My memory of Emerson’s birth is foggy and filled with fear, and while I wish I could remember more of that day, it’s probably best that I don’t.
When I first found out I was pregnant, I dove head first into reading every single mommy blog birth story I could find. I was obsessed with reading them and all the differing accounts. It didn’t take me long to figure out exactly how I wanted my birth to go. I did my research and had it all set. I planned to go unmedicated. My doctor was fine with my decision and I mentally and physically prepared for the hard, but not impossible, feat that lie ahead of me. Silly me to try and plan for such an unplannable moment.
My actual birth story could not be any more opposite of what I had wanted it to be like. To be honest, much of that day is still a blur or a mystery to me. It was a scary day, a rushed day, a drugged day.
The whole ordeal started about a week early, on Monday when I went to my OB for my 30 week checkup. I stepped on the scale and was a little upset by my weight gain. My doctor was too. He lectured me about gaining weight too quickly and reminded me to watch my carbs.
I remember feeling mad. I really hadn’t changed my eating habits but the scale said otherwise. I assumed it was because I had not been running as much so I made a goal to run 3 times that week. I ran Tuesday and other than some swelling I was feeling ok.
By Thursday of that week I felt very pregnant. I felt sluggish and my cankles were painfully throbbing. I made myself go for a run, and it ended up being more like a hobble. I was winded after a mile and my feet were so swollen my toes started to go numb in my shoes.
On Thursday night I woke up in the middle of the night and thought I had the stomach flu. All day Friday I couldn’t keep anything down. Kevin brought me soup Friday night, which was the first real food I had in more than 24 hours. I called the doctor and they said to just keep drinking fluids so I wouldn’t get dehydrated.
I began to feel better on Saturday and hoped that I was over it. Unfortunately my eyes were extremely swollen. I thought it was because I was dehydrated. (Looking back I know I missed a big warning sign.)
By Sunday I felt pretty good. I was up and moving around the house and even took a shower. I thought my flu was over and I was on the mend. However, Sunday night the stomach aches came back, along with terrible heartburn that seemed to radiate up through my shoulder blades. I couldn’t get comfortable and knew that something wasn’t right.
We called the on call OB again and she said to keep taking in fluids. She recommended going in if I felt dehydrated but thought I just had the stomach flu that was going around town. Immediately after we hung up the phone I told Kevin we weren’t waiting. I knew something was very wrong. My pains weren’t normal and I didn’t have the flu.
We went straight to the ER. I continued to throw up while they took my information. All that was left in me was bile. The nurse took my blood pressure and it was at 213/100. Normal blood pressure is 120/80. I could feel the nurse change her tone and pace of treatment at that point. It was clear she knew what was going on, but I was still oblivious. The nurse told me she would take me up to labor and delivery so they could monitor the baby.
In labor and delivery, the sweet nurses hooked me up to monitor the baby. Thankfully she was doing fine and had a good heartbeat. The nurses also gave me a shot of steroids to help her lungs develop quickly if they needed to deliver. I remember feeling terrified when they told me that. I remember vividly imagining going home without a baby.
The baby monitor was two tight straps that went across my belly and made me feel like I was suffocating. I begged to have them taken off. My back ached between my shoulder blades. The nurses told me they were getting me pain meds but I declined because I was worried about them making me more sick. The nurses convinced me otherwise and I’m so glad they did.
After I got some drugs in me I felt so much better and i honestly don’t remember much else while we waited for test results. The next thing I remember is the on call doctor coming in the room. She told me I had HELLP syndrome and would need to deliver the baby right away. I think she told me the basic idea of my condition but I think I was too in shock to comprehend. I do remember asking if the baby would be alright and I will never forgot her face when she said “we have a really great nicu here.” That didn’t alleviate my fear, and I immediately felt the need to call my mom.
It was nearly 3 am I called my mom terrified. I can’t imagine how she felt to get that call. I know I told her what was going on but other than that I don’t remember any specifics.
At this point nearly everything in my memory becomes pretty blurry.
I do remember turning to Kevin and losing it. I kept repeating “it will be ok. It will be ok.” I think I was trying to convince myself as much as I was trying to assure him.
While the nurses were running around prepping me the anesthesiologist came in to explain the procedure. Because it was such an emergency they needed to put me completely under general anesthesia. The doctor was very soft spoken and gentle. At some point he asked me a question and I realized I had missed something important. I felt so awful for not paying attention. The doctor was really sweet and took my hand and explained it all again.
At some point I learned Kevin wouldn’t be able to go back in the operating room with me. I remember feeling even more afraid. I was worried about Kevin having to wait alone. I was even more worried about our baby being alone and not being able to see her and hold her right away.
I remember kissing Kevin and telling him I loved him. I remember being in the OR, although I don’t remember how I got there.
The room was cold and white. I had my arms pinned down in a T. They put an oxygen mask on me and I instantly felt claustrophobic and exposed at the same time. They told me they would count down from 10 and then would begin the operation. I remember 10-9-8-7…. Within seconds I was out.
The next thing I remember is my mom walking into my room in recovery.
Immediately after I called her she jumped up, packed a bag, and hit the road for the 8+ hour drive to Nebraska.
I now know that in those 8+ hours I had conversations with Kevin that I don’t remember. We apparently had a long conversation about how Kevin got to cut Emerson’s umbilical cord and a funny story about how he found out we had a girl and it was a good thing we had a girl’s name picked out! I wish I could remember these precious conversations the first time I heard them. I also posted an announcement on instagram, which I don’t remember doing, and that was how my mom learned of Emerson’s name! Our family arrived in waves to see us during that time and I don’t remember any of it.
Because of my condition, I wasn’t able to get up and move around much. I later learned that I needed to rest as much as possible to keep my blood pressure down. Even after the surgery and on medication, my blood pressure was still around 180/90. The nurses were monitoring me for further complications, which are common with HELLP syndrome.
Through facetime, I was able to see images of my baby, sleeping in a tiny cocoon a few floors below me. More than 24 hours later I was able to see Emerson for the first time in person
3 days after she was born I finally got to hold her. When the nurse put her on my chest I couldn’t believe how little she weighed. It barely felt like I had anything laying there, and her head was about the size of a baseball. We both instantly fell asleep and cuddled.
Our journey continued for 52 more days in the NICU, but both Emerson and I were so fortunate to not have any further or lasting complications. I didn’t get the birth story I wanted, but the outcome was everything I needed— a healthy, feisty, happy baby.