Happy Birthday Amelia: My Birth Story

Everyone has a birth story. Mine happened to come 26 weeks. I knew I had preeclampsia, but didn't know until after my emergency c-section that me and my daughter were HELLP Syndrome survivors. My daughter was born 14 weeks premature and it led to a long journey in the NICU.
We all have a birth story. It was pointed out to me that I really left my readers hanging as I talked about my 6 days in the hospital, battling severe preeclampsia, but never shared the rest of my story. My last sentence in that blog Pregnancy Plans vs. Preferences was something about me doing my best to keep our girl in my belly and that she had other plans. Amelia was ready for a birthday party — 14 weeks early.


My Birth Story –– August 3, 2017

The day started out pretty much just as every other day had that week. My night nurse came in to check vitals and give me my pills at 4am. Hubby’s alarm went off an hour later. He eventually got up and went home to let the dog out and get ready for work.


Side-note: I need to mention how extremely grateful I was to my husband for not leaving me alone one single night in that hospital. They gave us a double bed and he made many trips back and forth so that he could be by my side.


So Hubby went home that morning and since I wasn’t tired, I got out my computer and made some headway on work emails. After lots of discussion, we’d decided the day before that I would take advantage of the 6 month leave my company could offer me. I would have preferred to work throughout all of this, but it was clear my blood pressure couldn’t handle it. So regardless of when our babe would come — hoping it wouldn’t be for 8 more weeks — I’d be on leave.


Taking Leave

Although this was not the way I wanted things to be going, I had to let it go. The leave was happening. And since I was feeling good that morning, I decided I’d just clear out my inbox, tie up loose ends, and get that leave paperwork taken care of.


Time passed very quickly and before I knew it, Hubby was back with my morning smoothie, ready to eat breakfast together. So we sat in bed and ate, waiting for the nurse to come in and take my vitals and bring me my meds.


Wake Up Call

This nurse was new to us, so we started chatting with her like we’d done with each new nurse we had.  I’ll never forget what happened next —  as she was checking my vitals somehow my smoothie got bumped and dumped all over me and our bed!!


The nurse felt awful, but Hubby and I laughed. While I changed my clothes, our nurse grabbed new sheets. She also got me a nice pad to put under the sheets to make it more comfy (since I was going to be laying in that bed for a while). All the while, she’s apologizing. I felt bad that SHE felt so bad!

After the bed was remade, I climbed in so we could do our daily monitoring of Amelia. We continued to chat as we monitored and I just felt so comfortable with her! It’s nice to feel like that with a nurse, especially when she’d be checking on me ever 4 hours.



After we ate, I started to feel a tightness in my chest. I assumed it was heartburn — I’d heard that’s common for pregnant ladies. My midwife had been encouraging me to eat, eat, eat to get our little lady bigger! So I was trying to do just that and was starting to get miserable.


I quickly texted my friend who was a new mom and asked her if she’d had this problem. She confirmed that was a thing for her, especially when she’d eaten a lot and wasn’t moving around. BINGO. Great, and since I couldn’t move around, I’d probably have it for a while.


The “H” Word

I told my nurse about my heartburn and about the same time my doctor stopped by. She was very excited to see my blood pressure was down and even said the “H” word! Depending on how my labs looked tomorrow, she’d consider letting me do my bedrest from home.


What?! Home?! With my puppy? In my own bed? And then I realized how difficult it would be to be home and confined to my bed. No house work, no projects, no nesting. Hmmm… Now home sounded less appealing. At least in the hospital, I COULDN’T do any of those things.


Home didn’t sound as good as it had a couple of days prior. And for some reason, I just wasn’t excited about that thought. Oddly enough, looking back it almost seemed that my intuition was ‘firing on all cylinders’. It was almost as if I knew what was going on with my body & that it wasn’t good. This ‘feeling’ I had served as somewhat of a buzzkill for what would be my enthusiasm in finally going home.


Antacid and Wait

So labs tomorrow, heartburn today. Between doc, nurse and Hubby, we decided I’d try an antacid and see if that helped with the heartburn. And… no effect. And pain started to slowly get worse.


I ordered lunch and Hubby came back to eat with me around noon. I told him I wasn’t feeling any better and he chatted with the nurse about trying another antacid. She said my doc had made a list of a couple I could try, so we went for a Tums.


Before Hubby went back to work, he put oils on me to help me fall asleep and I settled in to relax and let the pain pass. Nurse and Hubby left me to rest. But there was no resting. The pain gradually increased. I tried sitting up, laying flat, walking a bit. Nothing worked.


Something Isn’t Right

I moved to my rocking chair in my room to see if it would help. In an effort to distract myself, I journaled and texted a few people. Time passed slowly. All I could think about was making it to my next vital check at 4pm.


The pain grew so intense, I couldn’t take deep breaths. Tears started to come, but I told myself, “Come on Jessi, labor is going to be so much worse than this! Get it together.” I paced in front of my bed. Then I thought, maybe if I could just throw up, I’d feel better. So I tried that. No luck. I thought about pushing my call light to have my nurse come, but that seemed too extreme. So I kept waiting.


When I heard the door open — my nurse coming to do vitals — I was in bed sobbing. I gathered myself quickly. Letting a nurse see you cry is awkward! But I could only hold my composure for a couple of minutes before the tears came back.



I’m thankfully I felt so comfortable with her because it made it easier to just say what was going on. As I cried, I explained that the heartburn was the worse pain I’d had in my life! I couldn’t handle it. I needed help!


She remained calm, but said, “You know what? I think we should run your labs today. It’s only a day early. I’m going to call your doctor and see if that’d be OK and then I’ll get Lab up here.” So I waited.


And waited and waited. It was almost 5pm and no one from labs had come. I called my mom and asked her to come. Then I texted Hubby. Routinely, during our stay at the hospital I would ask him how soon he’d be coming “home”. He would later reveal to me that for some reason, he could tell it was different that day. So luckily without any explanation from me, he left work early and came back to the hospital.


My nurse came back to check on me a few minutes after 5pm and was surprised that Lab hadn’t been up. She called again. About that same time my mom and Hubby got there too. I was doubled over in pain, tears rolling down my cheeks.


Things Escalating Quickly

Lab finally came. I couldn’t take deep breaths anymore, the pain was too severe. As I laid there for them to stick my arm, my midwife came in. I felt like an angel had shown up. My mom stepped out of the room to call my dad and while she was gone, my midwife calmed me down while we waited for the lab results to come back. My doctor had already gone home for the day so they were tracking down the on-call OB. Unfortunately, because of my circumstances, that doc didn’t feel comfortable handling my case, so they continued to track down my OB.


While all that was happening in the background, I sat there with my midwife. She told me stories to distract me from the pain. She held my hand. I was terrified and she knew it. Finally, she called Hubby over to where we were huddled on the bed. She asked him to pray and we all sat there together, holding hands and asking Jesus to be with us.


Seconds after our Amen, her phone rang. She stepped away from the bed and had a quick chat with the person on the other end. When she hung up, she turned around and smiled at me.


“You’re going to meet your daughter tonight.”

I began to sob and my husband looked as sick as I felt. It’s too soon! I was going to make it 8 more weeks!! Why?! She explained that we didn’t have time to induce, and frankly, if we did, Amelia might not make it through labor. So it was going to be an emergency c-section. She knew how I felt about that. This was not my plan! But nothing about any of this was in my plan…


HELLP Syndrome

As soon as she spoke those words, the mood in the room changed drastically. My nurse came back with my lab results and we learned I was spilling the max amount of proteins into my urine that they allow for pregnant women. Also, my liver enzymes had tripled since I was admitted 6 days prior.


The pain I was experiencing all day wasn’t heartburn. It was my liver swelling and pushing against the rest of my organs. This was serious. This was HELLP Syndrome. And the only cure for HELLP (and preeclampsia) is to not be pregnant anymore.


It’s Go Time

Within minutes our room flooded with people. Many nurses came to talk to Hubby and explain what was about to happen. He looked like was in a wired daze as he took in the information and signed the papers. I rattled off a few names of people he needed to contact.


As he did these things, two nurses were working on me. I had to be put on “The Mag” — magnesium sulfate. I was not prepped on this stuff, but apparently it does two things: 1. prevents Cerebral Palsy for the baby and 2. prevents me from stroking out. And also, it makes you feel awful. All at once, I felt like I had the flu, on top of the pain I’d had all day. Seriously? Can it get much worse?


It can, and it did. My clothes came off and a gown went on. I was having a serious out-of-body experience at this point. An anesthesiologist came in and explained his part and that I wouldn’t be under. It was all a blur!


Guilty Feelings

As all of this happened, I remember telling my nurse how sorry I was that she was having to stay late — the decision was made to deliver at 6:15pm, 15 minutes before shift change! My nurse stayed with me until I went into the operating room after 7:30pm.


I also apologized to my night nurses for causing such chaos for them to walk into. They just laughed. Later one told me it was the best time it could have happened because there was double the staff! Oh good, Amelia and I have good timing! :)


Going to a Birthday Party

Heading to the OR, I looked over my shoulder to see many people following, although I’m not sure who all was there. I said “Hey, we have a parade!” I really could say anything on The Mag — and I was.


We rolled into the room to see dozens of smiling faces (I think there were only about 10, but it seemed like a lot more). I know now it was the NICU staff I first saw. They were ready for a birthday party! Definitely what you want to see when you are scared for your life — reassuring faces that you and your daughter are in the best hands.


They told me I’d have to walk to the table. Yikes. Luckily my midwife and Hubby had my hands. I got up there and looked down at my legs. Who’s legs are these?! They look like a fat dead person’s legs. I’m not kidding, my calves were the size I remember my thighs being.


Unbearable Fear

I looked up and my midwife was standing there with her hands on my shoulders. I was trembling and she knew it. Next up, the spinal. I’d never had anything like it and I was afraid of the pain that would come. She told me to breathe with her and to keep saying His name. “There’s power in His name.” So we just kept saying “Jesus” together as she guided my breath through each prick. The lidocaine was the worst and then, I couldn’t feel anything.


They had me lay down on the table to put the catheter in. No one had mentioned this step. Of course it’s standard, but I just didn’t realize. As they uncovered my bottom half, I was so embarrassed. Hubby came and held my hand. I looked up at him and said “I’m just totally exposed right now, huh?” He said “Yep.” “Cool,” I sarcastically thought to myself.


Game On

We waited for my OB to get back to the hospital and scrub in. As soon as she stepped in the room, it was game on. Thankfully, my midwife was assisting in the c-section, so I felt like I was in the best hands possible. And the party began.


Hubby was at my right shoulder holding my hands and I laid staring at the ceiling. I’d occasionally glance at the TV screen to my left that showed the incubator waiting for Amelia. Hubby and I joked and cried a bit trying not to think about what all was about to happen. We were terrified.



The doc told Hubby to stand so he could see them pull Amelia out. She let out a screech. It was music to our ears! All of the nurses ooo’d and ahhh’d over her saying how cute she was. I looked at her dad and said “You know you have the right people caring for your baby when they think that little alien baby is cute! I mean, she’s PURPLE!” We both laughed and he held onto me a little while longer.


We both watched the screen as the neonatologist and NICU nurses went to work. We heard them counting and saw them working quickly. It was amazing all the things they had to do — and thankfully, that same ‘neo’ had explained all of this just 4 days earlier. Finally, I heard someone say, “Ok, Dad, it’s time to go.”


Parting Ways

We had agreed he would stay with Amelia, so he gave me a kiss and went to be with our baby girl. The second his hand left mine, all of the pain came back in my chest and tears trickled down my face. I looked at the anesthesiologist and said “I can’t do this anymore.” He smiled and said “Oh, I have something for you.” Whatever he put in my IV made all the pain go away. I felt like I was floating. I could relax and just listen to my midwife and OB chatting as they finished the surgery.


Once they closed me up, my nurses wheeled me to recovery. I thought, Ok, now I can relax. Wrong. People kept coming to give updates. Oh yeah, I just gave birth! And then it was time to pump. And, of course, the nurse had to push on my abdomen. Yow!


I have no idea how long we were back there… but a NICU nurse came to find us — it was time to see her! My nurses rolled me down the hall to a very bright room in the NICU.



Amelia’s nurses asked us for a camera. Hubby said, “Why would I have that right now?!” They reminded us that most people want pictures of the birth or right after. Oh…. duh. So he handed them my phone. As the nurses finished their typical post-birth checklist, they snapped a few photos. Hubby & I waited patiently outside her room.


I remember looking at him and thinking he looked like he just ran a marathon, very pale and exhausted. I realized later how awful all of that must have been for him. Trying to care for both his girls, but feeling completely helpless. All the while messages were coming in on both our phones as word spread of our situation. And he also had to provide updates to a room full of loved ones waiting beyond the restricted area.


Family of Three

As the nurses wrapped up, they wheeled my bed into her room. There I saw my tiny babe wrapped in plastic, intubated (tracheal inserted air supply via a tube down her throat) and trying to yell at everyone. We should have known then how feisty she was going to be!


A nurse tried to put a glove on my hand so I could touch my little peanut. But I was so swollen she could only get two fingers covered. And that is how we took our first family photo: gowned, in plastic, swollen, pale, exhausted and dazed. And it was perfect.


That night began our long journey in the NICU. A journey I was not excited to begin, but one I would never change.


Happy Birthday Amelia!

So we will celebrate an August birthday, instead of November. And that’s OK. Happy Birthday Amelia!

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