16 years ago on this very day, March 10th, I almost died.
I know that may sound dramatic. Usually if asked, I tell people my first pregnancy was a little rough and my baby was born a month early.
BUT, 16 years ago I did almost die.
My pregnancy started off perfectly. I did everything right; I formulated every last detail. I had dated my husband for 3 years before we married. We then waited another 3 years for our first child. I planned my delivery for April, the perfect teacher pregnancy schedule, because I would be able to get 5 months off with the baby. I even gave up my one vice, soda, for my child’s well-being.
I had it all figured out. If I had a girl, she would be named “Audrey Rose” because of my admiration of Audrey Hepburn and my love of reading (there is a really twisted book titled Audrey Rose- don’t judge me!). My potential boy’s name would be “Blake Edward” after my father.
I wonder if God chuckled at all “MY” plans.
I was determined to be the toughest pregnant woman ever with no complaining or whining. I was not going milk my condition, because women have babies every day. So, I read all the books; I quietly bore the Charlie Horses; I endured the strange cravings. When I had to pull over on the freeway and open my door to hurl or dash frantically from my classroom to the bathroom, I never grumbled. I did everything the doctor told me (although someone could have warned me about the first ultrasound visit with the wand- YIKES!). I tried not to get frustrated when the sonogram was inconclusive about the baby’s gender even though I really wanted to know. As long as the baby was healthy, I took it in stride. I fully accepted all that came with being pregnant.
I never griped at the doctor’s office either, which is why my condition almost went unnoticed. My 22 week appointment started as usual. The nurse dutifully recorded my blood pressure and weight. The doctor measured my belly and in 5 minutes we were finished. As she walked me out, she asked how I was feeling. I exclaimed everything was great…except I was a little swollen. She told me that was normal but for some reason she decided to check how much. She took me back into the exam room and really looked at me.
You know those super cute pregnant women with adorable bellies and fashionable clothes? YA- soooo not me! I gained weight everywhere. I am not kidding! My ankles, my face, and even my fingers became enormous. In addition, my 1998 fashion forward maternity overalls were not kind to the Pillsbury Dough Boy look alike I had become. By the middle of my pregnancy I was uncomfortably huge. I began wearing my husband’s sweatpants and tennis shoes with the laces removed.
It is never a good sign when a doctor gasps as mine did when she noticed my legs. She consulted my chart and actually read my results. My blood pressure was off the charts high and I had gained 10 pounds in 3 weeks. She had me come into her office (again not a good sign) and informed me that I was suffering from Preeclampsia, commonly known as Toxemia. She put me on bed rest for the duration of the pregnancy. I nodded my head like I understood what she was saying. Preeclampsia meant that the baby would probably need to be born early to prevent a stroke she explained.. I nodded again and went home in a stupor.
Actually, the rest of my pregnancy became one long daze as I worried about my baby’s well-being and progress. Here are a few highlights I remember: I had a sonogram every week and never once could the baby’s sex be revealed (the BRAT!). I continued to gain weight and looked like a character from Eddie Murphy’s Nutty Professor movie. At 24 weeks, I had to register at two hospitals for delivery- my local hospital and the hospital nearest me that had a NICU capable of dealing with a baby born before 32 weeks. I recall each week being a milestone: 24 weeks meant the baby had a 50% chance of survival; 27 weeks meant a 95% chance of survival with intense medical support; 30 weeks meant the risks of birth defects, vision issues, and cerebral palsy decreased, but lung development would be an issue.
At 30 weeks, my blood pressure remained high and I had immobilizing headaches. My pregnancy brain felt like it was filled with fog from San Francisco. I remember thinking I should pack my hospital bag, but since I could barely function- that never happened. On two occasions I was nearly admitted to the hospital for inducement. Yet, every day the baby was allowed to stay in utero was another day of much needed development.
Suddenly, on March 9th there was no more waiting. I was losing consciousness and Magnesium Sulfate was no longer keeping my blood pressure under control. I was on the verge of Eclampsia. My platelets were so low that if I started to bleed, I would not clot. The baby was 36 weeks old. I was admitted and my labor was induced at 3:00 pm on a Tuesday afternoon.
The doctor told me two “wonderful” pieces of news:
1. It could take up to 3 days for the labor to fully take hold.
2. I could have no epidural because my platelets were too low.
That was when I virtually lost my mind. No pain meds?????? UGG. I was not one of those brave women who wanted to have a natural birth. Nope, I jokingly and repeatedly asked my doctor if she could knock me out and wake me when it was over. By 6:00 am on Wednesday I was fully dilated (so much for the 3 day theory). At 9:23 am, my beautiful baby burst into this world angry and crying. There was no better sound than her shrieks.
My Audrey Rose was born 4 weeks early, weighed in at 5 pound 13 ounces, and was 19 inches long. She was small and jaundiced, but she was able to breathe on her own. Though this journey had not followed the map I made, the destination was nevertheless paradise.
I found out later that the medical tests and treatments Audrey and I received were developed in part by the research funded by the March of Dimes. It breaks my heart to think about what would have happened to both of us if I went through this pregnancy 50 years ago. The March of Dimes charity impacted my life without me even knowing it or asking for it. While my case had a happy ending, there are other babies and families that need the March of Dimes to continue their important work to save babies lives!
Audrey is why I walk in the March for Babies campaign. Your child is why I walk. I walk so that all babies are given a fighting chance for a healthy start.
I walk because Love is a Verb and what doesn’t kill me makes me motivated.
For more information: http://www.marchofdimes.com/
To donate to my campaign: http://www.marchforbabies.org/RaeDunn