January 30, 2024 By Shelby Griffin
My first (and likely only) pregnancy was a whirlwind of anticipation, anxiety, and hormones, but overall very healthy.
The day before 34 weeks I was feeling…off. When I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror Sunday afternoon, my face was puffier than usual. Probably just normal pregnancy things, I told myself. I’m not the first expecting mom to not be thrilled with her appearance.
I had a routine appointment three days later on Wednesday and was expecting the usual “all good!” from my OB. This time was different. My blood pressure was elevated so they sent me down to triage just to investigate further. After running some tests they released me to go home, with a follow up appointment set for the next day. I was showing signs of preeclampsia with the protein levels in my urine. I could tell by their voices they were worried, so that night I went ahead and packed what I could for a hospital bag and my husband finished most of the nursery…just in case.
When I returned on Thursday I was worse and got admitted, this time looking and feeling very swollen. I got started on magnesium (awful) and had to sleep with a blood pressure cuff going off all night (also not great). We briefly discussed an induction and got it scheduled for Friday. I took a good shower and French braided my hair, a decision I ended up being grateful for later.
The induction on Friday was hands down the worst part of the experience for me, and if I could go back I would have just pushed for a c-section to begin with. To already be in a delicate state and then be given a cervical induction with a nurse who was not very kind- I just wish I would’ve known more and avoided some trauma.
I labored for about five hours until the OB on call (who was great) came in and said “baby isn’t doing great and you’re not doing great…how do you feel about a c-section? It’s not emergent yet but can be very soon if we keep going.” It was the fastest yes of my life.
Within an hour the c-section was done with such a quickness and calm I didn’t have time to panic or even process what was happening. I think my fawn response and the adrenaline helped in the moment. I wasn’t able to hold my baby, but a nurse held her up for a picture with me and my husband before they took all 4lb., 7oz. of her to the NICU.
Because I was still on magnesium and wasn’t allowed to get out of bed, my husband followed the baby to the NICU and I got wheeled back to my room, shaking all the way. Once I was in and somewhat settled, my mom went up to the NICU, with my blessing, to see her.
It would be over 24 hours before I could truly meet my tiny baby. A small part of me will always be sad our golden hour was anything but. On Sunday, my hair was dirty but still braided, and my original OB came to check on me. That was when I finally broke down. In less than a week’s time I went from feeling “off” to having a full blown medical emergency, a horrible induction, a c-section, and a NICU baby. It was so much to even begin to process.
Baby girl stayed in the NICU for 16 long days, while I went home to try to put myself back together. Of course we visited every day, my husband going twice a day when he could. I had already decided during pregnancy to exclusively pump, which made it easy to fortify with formula and not necessarily have to worry about latching. Skin to skin, vending machine snacks, a cold hospital pump room, an infant CPR class and an uncomfortable rooming in bed got us through.
She is two and half now, turning three next July. She is smart and vibrant and fiercely bonded to me (even more than I would like sometimes). She has friends and favorite stuffies and ended up 98th percentile for height. I sought out therapy and mom friends and IG pages like the Preeclampsia Foundation who GET IT. I promise, it gets better.
I also made it a tradition to French braid my hair for my daughter’s birthday every year and whenever I need to feel brave.