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Left Wondering What Happened

April 02, 2021 By Allie Hilley

Left Wondering What Happened

It woke me up around midnight. The pain started as a dull ache at the top of my belly on the right side, no immediate feeling of danger, just annoyance and confusion. I got out of bed, went downstairs and proceeded to drink chamomile tea, stretch, hugged the ottoman, rocked back-and-forth on all fours for the next 4 hours. The pain getting worse, my inner voice started getting louder and I started to think something really might be wrong. I’m only 33 weeks pregnant and this doesn’t feel right. I called the emergency on call OB, explained my symptoms and she said to come in right away. It was 3:30AM and we drove the 30 minutes to the hospital in a snow storm, half asleep and holding my belly trying to stay calm.

Two days earlier I started my NSTs (non-stress tests) for our SUA (single umbilical artery) and at my weigh-in, asked the OB if that much weight gain was normal in 2 weeks. He assured me everything was fine and sometimes that happens with pregnancy. Feeling silly for bringing it up, I brushed it off as paranoia.
Getting to the hospital early Tuesday morning they ran some tests and informed me I was in the early stages of preeclampsia. Wait, what was that again? The image of them telling me it was something I ate slowly started to fade from our reality. Preeclampsia? But I’m fine, right? The babies fine, right? Yes, baby is fine but this is serious. Steroid shots to develop baby’s lungs just-in-case and bed rest. I was feeling much better by then and felt confident I’d make it a few more weeks. Telling the L&D girls I’d see them on New Years Eve (original due date) and thanks for the juice. My inability to truly recognize the danger we were in is evident now as it always is. I had a birth plan, we took the class, I watched dozens of birthing videos, this isn’t a big deal because it isn’t what I planned.

One nurse pulled me aside before I left and said if I felt nauseous or like I had the flu to come back immediately. I probably made another joke and we went on our merry way.
I slept like a baby that night. At least 8 hours straight. It was Wednesday morning now. I was contemplating going to look at a glider at the local resale shop when a familiar feeling started creeping into my stomach. Nausea. Vomiting. I got into the shower, sat down and quickly started shaving my legs while throwing up. I didn’t want the nurses to see how hairy my legs had gotten when I was in labor. The things we do while we panic! We had packed a “go bag” the night before thankfully. I hugged our dog and that’s when the pain got bad. Trying to breath while my husband went 80 mph on our mountain highway to the hospital while I threw up in a thermos I found in the backseat. I was scared. We didn’t say anything to eachother the entire ride.

That night was a blur. Trying to breath through the pain was impossible. Let’s induce her. Bloodwork is getting worse. Cervadil was torture. Magnesium Sulfate to prevent seizures and strokes. Fentanyl every 30 minutes. OxyContin, and Ambien. Relief then pain, relief then pain. Contractions then pain, over and over. I can handle hurting but this is ridiculous. This cycle went on for the next 10 hours.

Friday morning. Friday the 13th actually. It’s 7:30 and the doctors come in. The latest bloodwork showed signs of HELLP syndrome. What? More confusion. But I’m 7 cm dilated I can push soon, I’m almost there. Nope. Baby has to come now we have to do an emergency c-section. They threw my husband his scrubs and gave me one of those stupid hairnets. And this is when it finally dawned on me that it was happening. Our baby is going to be born today whether I liked it or not. Panic, and tears painted my face as I looked to my husband for reassurance. Telling him “I don’t want to die” and “I’m scared”. “Want me to take a picture of you?” Ok”
They wheeled me into the OR on a gurney and told me to sit upright and put my feet on Ben's knees as he sat on a chair. You’ll feel a slight pinch, DONT MOVE.

“I can’t feel my legs!” “That’s the point” they said. I felt too big for the table, my arms outstretched and my legs together. Do you feel that? “No”. Looking at Ben, tears streaming down my face. I’m so scared. She’s not ready. I’m not ready. This isn’t supposed to happen! I feel some pressure, I tell the anesthesiologist next to me I feel woosie. “No problem I’ve got something for that”. More pressure and then I hear her. She’s crying and kicking. They show her little bloody and naked body over the curtain quickly. She’s so small she looks like a little monkey. They bring her to me in a swaddle with a cap on her head. I cry and kiss her face and they take her away. This all happened within half an hour and after they took her away I was left wondering if it all really happened. 

The next days, and weeks are a blur to be honest. I didn’t see her for the next 4 hours and when I did I was wheeled in and only allowed to put my hand on her gently. I got to hold her 24 hours after she was born. If there wasn’t a picture I wouldn’t have remembered that either.

I don’t write this to ask for sympathy or to get attention for something bad happening to our family. I write because I didn’t know this world existed and think people need to know that it does. 2 out of 3 maternal deaths are preventable. Read that again. 

If I hadn’t listened to that little voice, maybe we would be fine, but maybe we wouldn’t be. SPEAK UP. Listen to your body. Take care of yourself. 


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