“If you do not have this baby today, you will be risking her life as well as your own.”
My doctor was adamant, but I wasn’t ready. Worse still, the baby wasn’t ready. It was seven weeks before my expected delivery date, and none of this made any sense. I felt perfectly fine. I could not understand how I was so sick but not feeling anything at all.
The doctors had kept me in that hospital bed for the past four weeks. Now they were telling me that my baby had to be born right then, at only 33 weeks. It was all too much. I broke down crying for what felt like the millionth time since I’d taken up residence there.
A month earlier, I was an ordinary pregnant woman sitting in my office late one night while talking to an old friend on the phone. I was telling her how happy and excited I was about this baby. My husband and I deserved it.
We had gone through two years of infertility and three in vitro attempts before I finally got pregnant. There was a scare at 18 weeks when my Triple Test came back questionable. We followed up with an amnio which, thankfully, came back normal. It had seemed like smooth sailing ever since.
Smooth sailing, that is, until I got home after work and went to the bathroom. That was when I saw it — blood. No, this could not be happening. I was 29 weeks pregnant and something was terribly wrong. I started to shake as I picked up the phone to call my doctor. He calmly told me that it was probably nothing but to go to the hospital just in case. He would meet me there.
I cried while I dialed my husband at his office and told him to meet me at the hospital.
At the hospital I was told that the baby was fine, but they wanted to run some tests so I was admitted for the night. All I wanted was for everything to be okay and to go home. I was terrified.
I didn’t sleep at all. First thing in the morning, my doctor walked into my room with two other doctors, whom he introduced as high-risk pregnancy specialists. Why would I need a high-risk pregnancy specialist? I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Thankfully, my husband had stayed the whole night and was there with me. The doctors explained to us that I had something called preeclampsia. I just stared at them with tears in my eyes. My heart was racing, and I felt like I was going to throw up. What was preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia is a pregnancy disorder characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine. It usually occurs during the third trimester and worsens over time. If left untreated, the mother could experience seizures, which can affect the health of the baby. It is a very serious condition.
But I could not possibly have preeclampsia. I felt fine! I cried harder as I told them that they must have me confused with another patient.
The three doctors sat down on my bed while they gave us some good news; the baby was going to be okay and so was I. The bad news was, for that to happen, I needed to follow their strict instructions. I was going to have to stay in the hospital for the long haul — the rest of my pregnancy. I was unable to even leave the bed until the baby was born except to use the bathroom and for one seated shower per day. They would keep the baby in for as long as possible, but she would probably be born prematurely and spend some time in the NICU.
Did this mean that we couldn’t take our baby home after she was born? How could I possibly leave the hospital without her? My hysterics started again.
Just then, one of the high-risk doctors grabbed my hands. He looked me in the eye and said, “Your baby is going to be fine. She will go to kindergarten on time, she will have her bat mitzvah, and she will go to college. But she will be born early and must spend a few weeks in the NICU. Once she is big enough, she will go home with you. She will never remember any of this. Only you will.”
What he said calmed me. I agreed to do whatever was needed. I only wanted a healthy baby.
Because I was stuck there indefinitely, I was given a private room. It wasn’t all that bad. My husband brought some of my things from home, and I turned the TV on. It never went off — I watched every talk show and soap opera that was on. I read books, had visitors, and had presents, flowers, and dinners sent to me. It was kind of nice to be catered to. I didn’t realize it then, but it would be the last time I ever was.
There were so many difficult parts to being there. Daily blood tests, daily steroid shots to develop the baby’s lungs, and daily ultrasounds. I was constantly prodded and poked. I did not get a lot of sleep. But the worst part was the constant worry. I worried that the doctor was wrong, that the baby was not going to be okay. I did not stop ruminating for the entire four weeks.
It was on the day that one of those tests came back bad, very bad, that they said it was time for her to be born. I was not prepared for it. I thought that the baby was still too small. They assured me that she wasn’t, that she would need to go to the NICU, but as the doctor told me four weeks earlier, she would come home and would be healthy. But I had to have an emergency C-section right then, or she would not be okay and neither would I.
I put my trust in the doctors who had taken such good care of us so far, and I did what they said. I had a C-section that very morning, and my beautiful daughter was born. She was 3 pounds, 3 ounces, and needed to stay in the NICU until she reached 4 pounds. She was there for three long and torturous weeks. When we were finally able to take home our tiny 4-pound baby, it was the happiest day of my life.
My daughter is now almost 18. The doctor was right. She went to kindergarten, had a beautiful bat mitzvah, and is going to college next year. She, of course, does not remember a thing about how she was born or being in the NICU, although she has heard the stories a million times. I, on the other hand, will never forget one minute of it.
I am glad that I put my trust in the doctors even though it was upsetting not to have a “normal” pregnancy. But as everyone assured me, all turned out well in the end, which is what matters. Having preeclampsia made it a scary route to get to motherhood, but I would do it all over again to have my daughter exactly the way she is.