Though She Be but Little, She Is Fierce

May 16, 2024 By Ashleigh Lassiter

Though She Be but Little, She Is Fierce

I delivered my first son in 2016. Even though I thought I was carrying small, the pregnancy and labor were uneventful until delivery when my son was born SGA. He weighed only 5 lbs 10 oz. I also developed very mild postpartum preeclampsia, but I didn’t require an extended stay and left without any need for BP meds. Because everything resolved so quickly and without any urgent medical attention, I dismissed this first pregnancy and delivery, especially since my second pregnancy and delivery of another son proceeded without complications.

Everything about my third pregnancy was different. Almost immediately after finding out early that we were having a girl, I developed complications, beginning with bleeding caused by a subchorionic hematoma. The on-call OB told me the hematoma was so big that miscarriage was likely, but my OB seemed unconcerned. I was so frustrated with the conflicting medical advice that I changed practices. My new OB reassured me most hematomas resolve by the 20-week scan, and despite more traumatic hemorrhages, mine did. However, the scan revealed a possible VSD. MFM did more diagnostic imaging, and fortunately, they determined no VSD. Finally, I thought this pregnancy might proceed unremarkably.

When I made it to my 28-week appointment, I was preoccupied again with feeling small. I had elevated BP and protein in my urine, but I brushed off the nurse’s questions because I wanted to talk about how I was measuring. My OB confirmed I was within normal limits and sent me home to monitor my BP and collect urine. I borrowed my dad’s monitor, canceled our baby shower, and tried to rest as much as possible, but then I recalled the headaches and loss of vision I had been experiencing. It wasn’t long before my BP hit 160/99, and I was back at the doctor and sent to L&D. Without any support, I waited in a triage room where they gave me IV meds. I nodded in silence and with tears streaming down my face as the on-call OB prepared me for what would happen next: the first of two rounds of steroids to help my daughter’s lungs and a magnesium drip to prevent seizures. I was terrified and alone.

The next day, I revisited MFM for another ultrasound, which revealed my daughter was measuring SGA. I was devastated. The MFM OB told me we would try to make it to 34 weeks, and the next several days were some of the loneliest and darkest I’ve experienced, especially since my husband had to continue working while caring for our two sons. My anxiety was so bad they put me on Zoloft, and by day five, I started developing severe features of preeclampsia. I’ll never forget the look of terror on my husband’s face when he visited on his way to work, only to learn we had to deliver our baby within the next hour. They took us to the OR where I had an emergency C-section at 30w5d, and I remember my OB reporting as she removed my placenta that it was “small and aged-looking.” She would later tell me my body just wasn’t “good” at making placentas. I felt like my body failed me.

Given her gestational age, our daughter was placed on a 96-hour protocol of minimal contact to help prevent brain bleeds. I was so ill from the mag that when I tried to visit her in the NICU, I passed out. She arrived on Monday, and I didn’t hold her until Friday. She spent nine weeks in the NICU, where we experienced many ups and downs, including a congenital hypothyroidism diagnosis. Despite this setback, she worked hard in the NICU to wean from oxygen and the feeding tube, and we were finally able to bring her home the day after Christmas. Since then, she’s thrived, meeting milestones and graduating from physical therapy. I’m reminded every day that though she is little, she is fierce, and I share our story so other women may be better informed to notice the symptoms of preeclampsia so that they may never experience a birth story like ours but also that if they do, there is hope for a happy ending.