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In Memory of Baby Belle

May 29, 2020 By Shawn Gibbs

In Memory of Baby Belle

My Most Exquisite Baby Girl Belle was born very early — at 27 weeks due to Severe Preeclampsia and passed away after four remarkable months of life from complications of prematurity and lung disease. Here’s hoping our story helps save lives….

Getting the positive pregnancy test at the age of 39 after trying the first time of trying with my parenting partner (in his early 50’s) was a moment I will never forget. Having a baby was a dream we both shared for many years, and were excited to be able to do it together. We were two loving, nurturing, and creative people finally achieving the desire of both of our hearts — building a family. I always had my concerns, however, about whether my “older” body could carry a baby, but as the weeks flew forward and I breezed by the common pregnancy woes (morning sickness most of all!), I became more confident that we could indeed pull it off.

I am an African American woman who never had any issues with high blood pressure or diabetes. It is my hope that I can help shed some light via my personal experience with the condition to help future Mommies notice warning signs that can be crucial to their pregnancy and birthing journey.

My beautiful baby girl Isabelle Mullen, was being born at 27 weeks at a hair over 1 pound (a "micro preemie") due to an onset of Severe Preeclampsia. She fought an inspiring and courageous four-month fight after suffering severe IUGR (intrauterine growth restriction) because my blood vessels carrying nutrients and oxygen were constricted for quite some time which lead to her tiny size for her gestational age and underdeveloped lungs. Despite all of that, she was amazing, curious, incredibly social and one of the most gorgeous babies I’d ever laid eyes on… Of course I’m partial as her proud Mom. I am so happy for the moments we spent together during her lifelong stay in the NICU, but with more research and education about Preeclampsia in the medical community, there is a chance that she could still be here today. Through better understanding of this disease, it is my hope that fewer mothers will have to experience the loss of an infant as I have (or their lives own due) to this incredibly mysterious pregnancy complication.

I know every case of Pre-eclampsia has its own pathology. But here are things I noticed during the course of my pregnancy that were actually signs of Pre-eclampsia that had gone unnoticed. I have since reviewed my records and spoken with my medical provider and put in a grievance for the lack of followup on some red flags during my pregnancy:


- MY BABY MEASURED SMALL DURING HER INITIAL FETUS GROWTH SCAN

I had to ask for her growth range on the chart which was 21% at 20 weeks. 3-4 weeks behind. My persistence in getting a followup scan led to the discovery that we were in crisis in my 27th week.

- MY BLOOD PRESSURE GRADUALLY ROSE DURING THE COURSE OF MY PREGNANCY

In early pregnancy, my blood pressure was 80/70’s and I was concerned it was too low. By the first day of my 27th week, it was up to 138/78, which was creeping into the pre-hypertension category. By my 27th week and subsequent emergency c-section, it was off the charts.


- I DIDN’T “SHOW” DURING PREGNANCY (MY BELLY / FUNDAL HEIGHT WAS SMALL)

I grew increasingly concerned during my pregnancy that I was not “showing.” My belly wasn’t getting that round, characteristic circle that means a baby is growing inside. My concerns were waived off by the midwife, sadly, this was a result of the Preeclampsia and IUGR. Just another example of how your intuition is one of the most important tools you can have in this life. Ladies, continue listening to your intuition and speak up early and often. If your provider isn’t listening, it’s okay to ask to be seen by someone else who will. I learned that lesson a little too late, but will never forget it.

This is my effort to help bring a bit more awareness about Preeclampsia to families.

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