At 24 and a half weeks pregnant, I was feeling pretty good. I’d been enjoying second trimester life with renewed energy and eating better. We had decided on a name around week 22, and we’d even gotten some hand-me-down furniture for her room. And oh, yes, we had settled into the idea of the little peanut being a GIRL! She was already becoming daddy’s little princess.
We had plans mapped out for what we’d get done each week over the next 16 weeks of this pregnancy. I was happy to be on the same page for all of this. Showers were being planned, we had conversations about all the things to come in the next few months, we were getting excited to be parents, and best of all we had plenty of time to get things done! Including time to enjoy each other and being a two-some before we added a 3rd to the party.
Clearly, we had plans. Did you catch that? Yeah, I’m laughing right along with you. I’m learning the true meaning of that, and how God probably just laughs at us each time we tell Him or others our “plans”. I am picturing Him now: “Oh Jessi, that’s nice, but that’s not how this will be going down. I have bigger PLANS for you.”
Barely Half Way
That Monday morning (24 weeks + 4 days), I attended my monthly centering group with 5 other moms, who were due around the same time as me. As each of them got their blood pressure taken, I sat there trying to be as calm as I could. We’d discovered at about 10 weeks that my blood pressure seemed to run high. I hoped it was a fluke, white-coat syndrome. But each week, I continue to show signs it might not be.
As the assistant made her way to me, she smiled and told me to keep breathing. When she took my vitals she hid them from me. When the numbers appeared, she half smiled and told me to be calm. BE CALM?! I was truly calmer than ever! She showed me the numbers: 156/105. Damn. We tried again a few minutes later. Yeah, it was worse.
**For those of you who don’t know what is considered “normal” (and don’t feel bad, I didn’t know either) ,120s/80s is normal, so they like to see pregnant women in that range or a little lower.**
As I made my way back to the little couch where we each get to listen to our little ones’ heart beat, I held back tears. My midwife asked me to keep a log of my blood pressure over the last month, which I’d done. I handed the sheet over and we discussed all the things I’d been doing to keep it down. At the end of our chat, she sighed and said “Jessi, the problem is, you just shouldn’t have to be working this hard to keep your blood pressure down during this point of your pregnancy…” Dang. She told me I’d need to go see the doctor and get a plan in place for the rest of my pregnancy.
Too Late to Back Out?
The rest of centering class was a blur. We discussed pediatricians, breastfeeding, and toured the new birthing facility. All I could think was, “I’m not going to be able to deliver here.” And then the feelings began to overwhelm me. I wanted to quit. I didn’t want to have a baby anymore. This was going to be too hard — all of it. Labor, breastfeeding, raising a child. I wasn’t up for it anymore.
As I left class, I called my husband and told him the news. I asked him not to be upset, and then explained we likely wouldn’t be able to deliver in the birth center because of my high blood pressure. I felt like a failure just saying it out loud. The birth center was part of my PLAN. And now I had the sad realization that it would likely not happen. I told him I wanted to quit. He questioned what part I wanted to quit. All of it! I don’t want to do this anymore!! I told him I understood that was not an option, but that’s just how I felt at the moment.
As we hung up the phone for him to get back to work, I melted down and let all the feelings come to the surface. It helped a ton and I realized most soon-to-be moms must have these thoughts at some point. I held my head high and continued on with my week, continuing to do all the things we’d worked on to keep my blood pressure down. And those things seemed to be working as we monitored at home.
Just Another Dr. Appointment
Friday morning, I got ready for the day like normal. I checked my blood pressure and it was elevated, but not terrible. Before going into work, I was to meet my husband at the doctor’s office to discuss my blood pressure and a plan. I felt calm, cool and collected.
We had a nice ultrasound and watched our little girl move around. I felt so in love with both her and her daddy, I even had tears. The ultrasound tech did say she was measuring a bit small for a 25 weeker, that she looked more like a 22 weeker, size-wise. But she assured us she looked healthy and was happy with what she saw. I made a note of that in my mind because that is 3 weeks difference. At our 20 week ultrasound, the tech thought she was measuring about 2 weeks behind.
We waited only a few minutes longer before a nurse called my name to come back for the actual appointment. She grabbed my weight and then had me sit down right then and there for a blood pressure. I saw my husband shake his head, he already knew taking it in a busy hallway after I’d been walking around was not going to go well. The nurse started pumping. Then her eyes got big…
“Do you normally have high blood pressure?” I chuckled. “That’s why I’m here. I don’t normally, but it’s been elevated since I’ve been pregnant. What is it?” She didn’t want to tell me. I felt fine, so I thought it couldn’t be too bad.
Morning of Truth
200/115. That’s bad. For a normal person that’s not great, but for a pregnant woman, that is BAD. She had me sit there for another minute or so. I took deep breaths knowing that never really works for me. She took it again: 178/105. Still not great. She took me back to a room to wait. Tears welled in my eyes. I knew this wasn’t good. I was grateful my husband was by my side, but the panic was growing inside me and I had a lump in my throat.
Because I was working with my midwife, I hadn’t met this doctor yet. So not only was I concerned about my situation, but I was also nervous to meet her. Honestly, I don’t remember much from that first meeting with her, other than the seriousness in her voice. I didn’t quite understand what was going on, but I could tell she was very concerned.
Before I knew it, she’d called a high risk doctor from the Maternal Fetal Medicine office to make an appointment for another ultrasound and to meet with him. She sent me straight to the hospital as he too headed there from a town close by.
The Nightmare Began
My husband and I drove our own cars the short distance to the hospital. He called his customers and I called my boss. We explained to each that we may not be around for a few more hours, unsure of what to expect once we arrived at the hospital.
When we got there, we did not go to another doctors’ office like we thought we were to do. No, we were admitted to the hospital. I kept asking everyone, “How long are we going to be here??” No one could give me an answer. In my mind, we were just getting another ultrasound (30 minutes tops) and meeting with this high risk doctor. Couldn’t take more than a couple of hours.
After the HOUR LONG ultrasound, followed by blood draws and all the health questions you could possibly imagine, the doctor finally arrived. He was a tall, bald man who entered the room with purpose. He sat down near my bed and his tone was serious. I remember little from that conversation other than the words “severe preeclampsia”, “still-born”, “death”.
I know they have to tell you all the bad, but I wasn’t particularly ready for that level of morbid dialogue. As he got up to leave, we asked what to expect. He looked at my husband and said “If this was MY wife, she’d be staying here until she delivered. My highest hope for you is a delivery at 34 weeks — but I doubt we’ll get that long.”
34 weeks?! That day I was 25 weeks and 1 day. Nine weeks in the hospital?! This was all so surreal. Remember, I started my day thinking we were just going to an appointment before we each went to work. Now, it looks as though we are going to live at the hospital for 2 months.
Time for a New Plan
People spilled in and out of the room over the next few hours. Nurses and hospital staff, close friends, our moms. We texted friends, arranged for someone to stop by the house to check on our pup. My midwife came by while both of our moms were there and I was so grateful for her exquisite ability to convey the message of our situation all while using much gentler terminology in contrast to how my husband & I had received it from the two previous doctors. She explained the seriousness of what was going on, but had many stories to share that gave us all piece of mind.
At the end of the day, once everyone was gone, my husband, Seth, and I were left to process all this news. He didn’t have many words and I was completely overwhelmed. We were both scared. When someone tells you death is a possible outcome of your situation, it takes awhile for that to sink in. Normally I bombard my husband with questions, but tonight, we both were quiet, talking only about logistics for work, pets, plans, etc.
I’d had more shots/pokes/prods that day then I’d ever had in my life. Knowing all the circumstances against me, I knew we were in the right place. But laying in that bed, only being allowed up to use the bathroom, made me feel completely hopeless. And the question I ran over and over through my mind was: “What did I do to cause this??” Although, each doctor assured me there was nothing I could have done, I just didn’t believe it. To me, their answer was unacceptable.
Evil Showed Up
At the order of the doctor, I commenced taking high blood pressure medicine. I don’t do medicine, so I felt extremely defeated and sad. To compound that feeling, there were medicinal side effects. My heart pounded so hard all over my body I couldn’t sleep. So, as I laid there with my temples pounding, I thought. Then the voice came… the voice mirrored my own, however, this whisper didn’t have the familiarity of my own voice.
This is the end. There’s nothing left for you. You are done. This is the end. This is the end.
As I heard these words, I sobbed, trying to be quiet as to not wake my sweet husband sleeping on the couch 5 feet from me. (He refused to go home and sleep in our bed without me.) So I laid there staring at that wonderful man, remember all the talks we’d had about death. Thinking about how I felt about it all — since I had turned my life over to God shortly after I got sober, when I thought about death, it wasn’t sad like it always had been. I thought of being with Jesus and being in heaven. I welcomed it, if it were my time.
But that night, as I heard those words in my head, I pleaded.
No please. I’m not ready to leave Seth. I know I said I was ready at any time, but please not now. I can’t leave him yet. I’m not done here! I’ll do better if you give me more time! PLEASE!
A nurse came in every 4 hours to check my vitals, and each time she came in, I was wide awake crying. When she came in at 4am and found me still crying, she gave me a hug. She was very empathic and expressed how sorry she was that I had to go through this. She offered a sleeping pill, which I declined, but she told me I could change my mind at any time.
The next day, we had many friends visit. It become quite evident, when visitors where present, my blood pressure would go up. When my dear husband was able to make this deduction, he became tenaciously defensive of my well-being. I was limited to two visitors a day to protect both our little girl and me. Prior to putting this new plan in place, I’d asked a certain friend to come visit.
For some reason I was spilling my guts to this friend via text in a way I couldn’t share with anyone else, not even my husband. We’d only known each other a few months and I felt more comfortable telling her what was going on inside me than my best friend. Right away that morning, I told her about the voices I heard in my head. She shared about hearing evil during her pregnancy too.
EVIL. I hadn’t even thought of that. I thought it was God telling me it was time. How did I make this mistake?! Once she pointed that out, I felt relieved and I told Seth about the voices. He hugged me with tears in his eyes. He confidently and compassionately replied, “Oh honey, you know that wasn’t God. God doesn’t talk to us like that. I believe when it is our time, He will loving come to us and say ‘It’s time to come home’.” I liked that view better than what I was hearing.
God Showed Up
When my friend visited, we talked and prayed. She read to me out of Isaiah 61 — but she put my name in place of “me”. As she read each line, I heard the voice of God speaking truth into me.
You aren’t done yet. I have bigger plans for you. I need you here. You are not done. There is more for you on this earth.
Tears streamed down my face as we continued talking and praying. How amazing. That was the first time I’ve had God speak to me in that way. When I heard Him, and I didn’t question if it was Him. I knew, and the peace that came over me was tremendous. Even though I had no idea what the coming weeks would look like for me and for us, I knew I didn’t need to be in fear. I wasn’t going to die and God was in the room with us and He was not leaving.
Angels in Scrubs
The next day, Sunday, they increased my dose of BP meds and we moved to a room in the postpartum section of the floor. It was a good move because we got a queen size bed so Seth could actually get a good night sleep too. Things were looking good. Soon I’d be stable and, even if I wasn’t home, I could just chill and let our baby keep cooking!
Unfortunately that night, things took a turn. My nurse woke me up for my 1am vital check and found my BP to be 177/105. Yeah, super high for someone in a dead sleep. My nurse had a magic number and if I reached it, her direction was to immediately notify the doctor immediately, regardless of time of day… 177 was over that number. So while she was calling her, I laid there stewing and feeling so awful she had to wake her up in the middle of the night! AND, it wasn’t even MY doctor, she was the on-call doctor!
My nurse received orders to give me a shot that should bring down my BP. Once she gave it to me, she needed to wait, then take my BP again 20 minutes later. So, while we waited for the meds to do their magic, we chatted. We realized we were both in the marching band in college at the same time and recognized each other.
As we kept chatting (of course trying not to wake up my poor husband who had to work the next day), she told me her story of having her daughter prematurely three months early due to similar conditions. As she told me her story, more fear left me and I felt relieved to know that, should we have our little girl early, she’d be in amazing hands here. I felt like this nurse was a little angel for me, like God was sending me a little reassurance.
Meds, Meds and More Meds
Obviously, they had to change my BP meds since what I was on wasn’t working. The next one they gave me made me feel incredibly anxious and I shook terribly on the inside. It felt like a constant adrenaline rush. Although it felt like my BP should be out of control, it actually brought it DOWN. So, I’d endure the shaky feeling in order to keep my BP under control in hopes of prolonging baby girl’s stay in ‘Hotel Mama’.
Little did I know the worst was to come that night… HEADACHES. This medication can also give you awful headaches! Lovely. Beyond that, as I mentioned, my hospitalization was due to preeclampsia. As a patient with this diagnosis, they are always asking you if you are experiencing headaches or if you are seeing spots. Alternatively, the preeclamptic headaches they are looking for are in the front of your head and are so excruciating that they hurt your eyes and make you extremely sensitive to light. So these headaches were all over my head and down my neck, but NOT on the front, which was good. That makes me chuckle to think about. Trading one kind of headache for another. But, I’d deal with the pain to keep baby girl cooking.
Life on Bed Rest
With the new medication, my doctors were happy with the results, and I settled in to this new life. Vitals every 4 hours, meds at 0900 and 2100. Keeping track of my liquid input and output. Seth going home each morning to see our pup and getting ready for work. Returning for breakfast and then again for lunch each day. Having him coordinate my guest schedule. Evenings in bed watching TV or resting. A cocktail of essential oils to keep me calm. It was quite dull, but that’s how it had to be.
I was in it for the long haul. Bring it on! If this was the new “plan”, I’d give it my all! I could do 8 more weeks of this if it was for our girl — and for my husband. He, in turn, was doing the same for me. My job right now was very clear — everything was for her. I’ve never had a more important job in my life.
Unfortunately, my body and our little girl had other plans…. and let’s just say I didn’t make it 8 more weeks.