From Birth Center To Triage

January 04, 2023 By Lisa Pettinato

From Birth Center To Triage

When I became pregnant I already knew exactly what type of birth plan I wanted. I would give birth at our local birthing center, with my Midwives, and my husband in the room, surrounded by candles and music and it would be nothing but blissful. In order to manifest this, I knew that I had to focus on setting forth a safe and healthy pregnancy. I worked out two times per week, I did prenatal yoga weekly, I walked over one mile a day, and I ate nothing but wholesome meals throughout the duration.

Around 28 weeks, things began to change for me. I woke up one day experiencing what I now know was upper right quadrant pain, something very impossible to describe. I also noticed that my wedding ring no longer fit. My hands and feet were so swollen, beyond the “Normal” pregnancy symptom of swelling. I ended up ignoring the symptoms and telling myself I was ok, the pain was normal and would subside. I went in to my Midwife for my 30 week appointment (for blood work) and we started to talk about how we would prepare for the birthing center experience. When she took my blood pressure, I noticed her face drop. I was instantly scared. I knew something was wrong. She asked me to give her a urine sample and proceeded to tell me that the results show protein. I will never forget her words “I am so sorry to tell you this. You have to go to triage immediately”.

After 11 days in the hospital, I barely made it to 34 weeks before the placental insufficiency began to show, and it was determined that my son, Liam, was IUGR. They told me “its happening today, you are having your baby asap”. Those 11 days were the worst of my entire life. I was so convinced that I would be able to leave, and go to the birthing center, for my dream birth. I thought I was stuck in a nightmare full of beeping bloodwork machines, headaches, BP spikes, anxiety, swelling, multiple blood draws a day, and high blood pressure medication that made me feel awful - all during the COVID pandemic. The first magnesium drip I experienced came with a wide array of awful symptoms. From confusion, to dizziness, to flip flopping between hot and cold temperature, I just wanted the nightmare to end.

When Liam came earthside he needed support breathing. He was just about 3 lbs and was rushed immediately to the NICU. I remember glancing over at him and thinking “this can’t be happening”. The fear in my body and mind as I knew what would be ahead of us, as NICU parents, was so painful to endure. After my hospital release 6 days later, we drove over one hour each way to visit Liam in the hospital. This was our new normal, and we did this for 30 days straight. He was so tiny, and it was evident that he stopped growing at some point. BUT he was a fighter, and wanted to show us how strong he truly was. Having a baby in the NICU during the pandemic is an unexplainable feeling. I was so scared to bring any type of sickness into the NICU and would call all hours of the night to check in to see how he was doing. It was awful to leave the hospital without my baby, something I wish for no woman to ever have to experience.

When I look back at my life and birth, I realize how little I knew about pregnancy related disease. I had no idea how to grasp the experience while in it, and still to this day find myself research preeclampsia and educating those around me about it, especially my friends who are pregnant. Preeclampsia doesn’t stay at the hospital, after you are discharged. It imprints you, it is part of you forever, and it will carry with you every single day. When you hear your friends family planning, talking about their future family growth, you can’t help but hope that if you were to ever get pregnant again, you won’t experience preeclampsia and even worse… die. Facing death is how I would describe what it is like to endure the physical, emotional, and mental experience of preeclampsia. In the thickness of it, you really feel hopeless and confused.