Twenty one years ago, I was a young scared soon to be young mom, who had been lying in the hospital for almost six weeks due to complications from Preeclampsia/Toxemia which was only getting worse. I didn’t understand what this was or why this was happening to me, and no one took the time to explain anything other than the fact that my blood pressure was going up, and I was spilling protein in my urine, (whatever that meant) and just before my water broke I gained 5 pounds overnight of I believe fluid; I wasn’t eating a lot because at the same time I was suffering from major gallbladder attacks so I couldn’t eat anything with fat or I had an attack, so there wasn’t to much I was eating; therefore the 5 pound weight pain was just scary. My hands looked like I was wearing baseball mitts and my legs and feet were so swollen I couldn’t even see my ankles. I knew that this was just wrong and I wanted to know that my baby and I were going to be OK. All I was told was the “cure” of my Toxemia was to deliver the baby.
The evening after the huge overnight weigh gain, my water broke at 34 weeks. I was told that it would be risky for the baby, perhaps his/her lungs would not be developed enough, but there was no way to stop the pregnancy at this point. This was my body’s way of saying “get this baby out of here.”
Twenty five hours and forty minutes later Rebeka was born via an emergency c-section. I don’t remember much of her birth since I was so exhausted from the Pitocin-which was used to speed up my contractions, and Magnesium Sulfate, which was used to “stabilize” my blood pressure which was like a roller coaster, going up and then plummeting to the point where they needed to give me Epinephrine to bring it back up. My body was going through a huge amount of emotional and physical anxiety, but I do remember when they pulled her out, and there was “nothing.” No cry and then panic hit the room. My poor husband didn’t know which way to turn, to me, or to our newborn daughter whose future which looked quite grim. They rapidly laid Rebeka down on a board and used Velcro straps on her arms and legs; that is all I remember before I blacked out.
When I came to I was in the recovery room and Geoffrey was sitting next to me. I remember I couldn’t move, and of course I asked about the baby. Where was she? How was she? How much did she weigh? What did she look like? The next 24 hours Rebeka showed us what a fighter she was, within that time the tiny 4 pound baby that was born not breathing who was resuscitated and ventilated was pulled off the ventilator and breathing on her own.
In the mean time, we were told by all that she would most likely be “blind, deaf, retarded, and probably never be able to live on her own.” We were devastated. How could this beautiful little baby be born and be such a “fighter” to only have these prognosis’s “thrown” on us? Well they couldn’t have been more wrong. Rebeka has grown to be a very intelligent and well versed 21 year old lady.
However now believe that the powers “above” were just “testing the waters.” Three and a half years after Rebeka was born, I went through the same ordeal of a “pregnancy” with the same lousy complications, minus the gallbladder issues because six weeks after my first section, I had my gallbladder removed. (Back to back surgeries not recommended by me!) In any event, the same things started happening but I was much more aware of what was going on and just a little scared about the same thing happening again.
And at 34 weeks after a month long stay in the hospital Ainsley was born. When things went to that “bad place” on the radar we opted it was time to get her out and scheduled a section for the first availability of the Operating Room. The next morning I was wheeled in and prepped for surgery. This time the section went much better and thank god, when they pulled her out, I heard that loud cry! There was no “drama” no board with Velcro, they wrapped her up and carried the little 3 pound munchkin to the NIC unit to eat and get bigger and go home and start her life. Unfortunately when Ainsley was 10 days old she suffered an intraventricular hemorrhage which changed her life and certainly all of ours. And then I remember what “they” had warned us about Rebeka. What was going to become of our little Ainsley? How would we live with a disabled child? What would that mean for her? What would that mean for us?
Our family has come a long way in those 21 years, we have learned to jump thru hoops and we have overcome a lot in coming to terms with having a disabled child. We have even become advocates in the disability community! I share this short snippet of our family’s history with you in honor of March of Dimes Prematurity Awareness Month.
And ask that you take a moment to see how you can get involved. If nothing more become informed about premature birth. Although I could not avoid mine there are things women can do.
The March of Dimes mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. They carry out this mission through research, community services, education and advocacy to save babies’ lives. March of Dimes researchers, volunteers, educators, outreach workers and advocates work together to give all babies a fighting chance against the threats to their health: prematurity, birth defects, low birth weight.
Please share this info with anyone who you know who is pregnant and make sure that they are getting prenatal care. I am always happy to talk to anyone who might need help, even though I am not a doctor and do not claim to have any medical training, I have “been there and done that,” and I am happy to reach out and share with anyone who might need an ear or a hand to hold, even if it is through the Internet!