I have needed to write this for the last two years, but just haven’t wanted to. I have needed to for my own sake, for the sake of sharing it with others, and for remembrance sake. Even now so many of the details are lost to me.
Two things have prompted it. One was Katie Bower’s post about her births. I knew I needed to get my first done before I even thought about having another child. The second prompting was the recent episode of Downton Abbey. Spoiler Alert! Sybil has eclampsia and dies. You will know why that matters to me as you read farther. After this episode aired I got a few texts telling me they were all happy it wasn’t 1912. Ha! Me too! I am so glad the Lord decided to intervene on my behalf on December 2nd, 2010.
Here is our story.
Aaron and I got pregnant very quickly and were thrilled! I can remember when we first decided we wanted to have a baby. I was so afraid. What if I couldn’t get pregnant? What if something happened? There were a million thoughts. All of which were things out of my control. That’s just it. It was all in the Lord’s hands from the very beginning.
I loved being pregnant! I have always had headaches and pregnancy eliminated all of them! Also, it is the only time in life you are allowed to have a cute little belly! Lastly, most times the hormones make women crazy. Well I guess I am crazy to begin with because the pregnancy made me AWESOME!!! I was so so so laid back. Nothing made me mad in the slightest! I was as cool as a cucumber. Seriously, I wish I could be pregnant all the time.
That was until week 23. We were having a HUGE dorm event where we turned the whole building into a Candyland Board Game. That being said it was a very big undertaking for this little pregnant lady. Aaron was out of town on work so that meant I could work until I wanted to. That being said I was up till nearly 3 in the morning a few nights in a row and then would wake up at 8 and start again. In the middle of working I started swelling like a balloon. My ankles were massive!!!! Then my lips started to swell. Don’t get me wrong. This wasn’t that bad because it looked like I got some injections. I wasn’t complaining about this. The kicker was that I was supposed to fly to Florida for my cousin Jon’s wedding and a baby shower with Aaron’s family.
So…being a little concerned I called my doctor and told them what was happening. They told me that I needed to go get my blood pressure taken. So I called the clinic on Asbury’s campus and they got me right in. The sweetest woman in the world Tracy Rexford greeted me at the back door so I wouldn’t be in contact with any sick people. It was so funny when she saw me because she said. “Girl, you are working those pregnancy lips!” It made me laugh so hard. It made me feel a little more normal.
My blood pressure was 120/80. Which for most people is normal. However, I always have a 120/60. I called me doctor and nurse and let them know. They said it was totally normal and that I could fly with no issue up to 36 weeks. Being that I was only 23 weeks at this point it was no big deal. Right? Wrong! From this point on it got worse and worse. I did go to Florida and everyone I saw was like…”Are you OK?”, “Is this normal?”, “Does your doctor know?”. Yes, No, and Yes.
The lady giving me a pedicure was super concerned for me. Aaron’s whole family was concerned. My family was concerned. But, I had a 24 week appointment so I knew I would talk to the doctor soon. When I went to my appointment the doctor assured me that is was normal and that I could not be pre-ecclamptic before 28 weeks. Well, ok. Whatever you say. What you need to be reminded of again is that nothing bothered me preggers. I was not high-maintenance at all! I wasn’t one of those girls that called the doctor at any moment. I only called the one time and just went with it when they said I was fine. They’re the expert right?
If you have made it this far you are a champ! Let’s fast forward a month. At Thanksgiving I was a BEAST!!! I was so tired, so sick, and SO SO SO SO SO swollen!!!! None of my shoes fit and I was miserable!!! The big tragedy from my perspective at this point was the shoes. I broke down in Aaron’s office one day about all my shoes not fitting and what the heck would I do if I could never wear them again. This blog will explain why losing all my shoes would be an issue.
The shoes may have been my issue, but EVERYONE was worried about me. Then on December 2nd, a week after Thanksgiving I woke up and started getting ready. Aaron went about his morning getting ready as well and then I looked in the mirror!!! Oh my word! Puffy was an understatement. Swollen couldn’t begin to describe it! My face was at least 6 inches wider than usual from all the fluid. At this point I stopped Aaron and said, “Look at me! Look at my face!” He immediately stopped and looked. He too was very shocked at my appearance.
He had to leave for work so I let him know I would be calling the doctor and I would let him know what she said. Keep in mind again, I was a super low maintenance prego lady, but EVERYTHING I had read told me to be very alarmed if there was severe swelling overnight and to contact your doctor immediately. So, I picked up the phone and gave her a buzz. Of course the receptionist answered and told me to hold for the nurse. No problem.
I waited a minute and the nurse picked up. Nurse, “Hi Abby. What seems to be the problem.”
Me, “I know I have an appointment tomorrow, but I woke up this morning and my face has doubled in size from swelling! Maybe not doubled, but it is really really big.”
Nurse, “Well we are really full so there isn’t anything we can do for you today, but I will let Dr. Ashmun know.”
Me, “Ok thank you! I really need to be seen today. I am really concerned.”
We then got off the phone and I decided to go about my morning until I heard from the Doctor. About an hour later I got a call telling that they had a cancellation and then I could come in at 1:30. Great! 1:30 couldn’t come fast enough for me, but I decided to chill since the nurse didn’t seem alarmed at all. I called Aaron and let him know about the appointment and he told me he was going to lunch with our friend Joey. That was no problem and we just planned on me picking him up on my way to the appointment. That way he could still see Joey and go with me to the appointment. Aaron wasn’t able to go to lots of my appointments, but was concerned enough to want to go with me to this one.
I had a one-on-one with one of my Resident Assistants Susannah. So I got dressed and went to my office to work before meeting with her. Susannah came into my office and took one look at me and asked if I was ok. I told her that I wasn’t feeling well but I would be ok. We met, but kept it brief and I closed with letting her know I was going to go lie down.
I walked into our apartment and went straight the restroom and got sick. I didn’t have any morning sickness while I was pregnant but did throw up a few times here and there. I thought this was just one of those times. After throwing up I called Aaron again and just let him know that I had gotten sick and was going to lay down until I needed to come get him.
That was exactly what I did. I was asleep instantly! At 12:45 Aaron came in our room.
Aaron: “Abby, you need to get up so we can go to the doctor’s office.”
Me: “What are you doing here? I was going to come get you?”
Aaron: “Yeah, I know, but I didn’t want you to have to drive since you had been sick so I just came home.”
Me: “Ok, well just give me five more minutes. I am so tired.”
That is the last full thing I remember about the day. The rest is a total blur and will have to be from what others have told me and very brief moments of me being lucid.
Five minutes later Aaron came back in the room to get me again and I was having seizure in our bed and was bleeding from my mouth from biting my tongue. He promptly called 911 and they told him to stay with me and try to get me to answer questions. He said that when I did come back a bit I didn’t know who he was and I was afraid of him. He was talking to me about the baby and I didn’t know what he was saying. Also, nothing I was saying in reply made sense.
Like I said, we lived in the dorm because I was a Resident Director. This was a good and bad thing. The bad thing was it made the ambulance harder to find us as it wasn’t a perfect street address, but the good thing is that there were girls in the lobby who were able to help Aaron. One went and stood outside to look for the ambulance and to help direct them, while another waited in the lobby of the dorm to give them more direction.
I think in all it took them 11 minutes to get to Aaron. He has told me on many occasions that it seemed like an eternity! I think at this point he used my phone to call our dearest friend Paul! I have known Paul since I was in middle school and we were now co-workers. Aaron told me he thought of the first person he knew would drop everything to come and help him with me.
While Aaron put one of his X-Large shirts on me he said he looked out the window and saw Paul running across campus in a suit towards our apartment. There are tears in my eyes as I write this thinking about this moment! Paul is a rare find in this life. A truer than true friend. Aaron wrote a whole blog about him over here.
Paul, I think, arrived around the same time as the ambulance and Aaron gave him our keys to follow behind in my Escape.
This is the first of three times I remember being conscious. While driving in the ambulance I needed to throw up again. The throwing up is what I think brought me to life again. I remember getting sick into one of those stupid little peanut shaped plastic things they give you at the hospital and thinking, “You seriously expect me to get all my mess into that tiny little funny looking tupperware thing?” Looking back it is so goofy to me that this is what I was thinking while nearly dying and riding to the hospital. After getting sick the last thing I remember for a while is sitting up and seeing my car out the back and thinking, “Where am I and why is my car driving behind me?”
Back to unconscious.
As Aaron rode in the ambulance he sent one text message to his mom and mine just letting them know what was happening. They both called but he didn’t answer because he was too emotional to talk. One of the most touching things Aaron told me after the fact was his simple prayer prayed over and over on the way to the hospital: “Jesus, please let Abby be okay. Please let the baby be okay. Please Jesus.”
Aaron has filled in this gap for me and let me know that the EMT called the hospital while in route and told them it was VERY SEVERE and to have very large doses of Magnesium ready when we arrived. The female EMT was very worried for me and Eli. When they arrived to the ER entrance I came to for the second time. It was when they opened the door. The freezing cold air whipped in and I was brought back to reality. At this point all I remember thinking again was what is going on and it is so cold.
Back to unconscious.
When we arrived Aaron said they didn’t know who we were and why we were there making the EMT even more mad because this was exactly what she was trying to avoid. This was a life and death situation and she had taken all precautions to make sure I had the best care. After she reexplained things they got me to a room and Aaron sat while the nurse went about her duties. Then I began seizing again. Aaron was frantic and the lady told him I was coding and that he needed to hit the “CODE” button.
Aaron looked at her and said, “What is the code button and where is it?”.
She ran passed him and pushed a button on the wall. At this point the EMT came in again and escorted Aaron out of the room telling him. “You don’t need to see this.”
I am to this day so grateful for those Paramedics. They were so comforting to Aaron and were so invested in us. The one actually cried at one point. Probably not the most professional, but it is what we needed. Anyone who was there for Aaron that day is an Angel in my book.
This is where it is all really confusing for me since I was unconscious for all of it. After I had two more seizures they were telling Aaron that they needed to do an emergency C-section and that he could not be in the room. They were telling him that they were going to give me an epidural. Aaron kept asking them to talk quieter so they wouldn’t upset me.
Can I please just insert a mushy moment here. What an amazing husband. Here I am totally unconscious but he knew if I heard them it would upset me. He is always thinking of me and taking care of me. I have the best husband in the world for me!
Up to this point Aaron and I had planned on me trying to have the baby natural. We were still 3 months away from birth so we hadn’t started classes but I had read a few books and we had talked with family and friends about the process. For me an Epidural was the second choice and a C-section wasn’t even an option. However, our sweet friends the Kocak’s had had their baby a month prior and through their experience I learned that we are only in control so far and if I had to have C-section I wasn’t a failure. Boy am I glad I came to this realization. Otherwise there would have been even more anger in the healing process.
Back to the story. So, as they continued to talk to Aaron I remember my last moment of consciousness. I did in fact hear them say epidural and I came to with a vengeance. I can remember very little but I know one thing is true. I was so protective of my baby. I was telling them things like…
“You cannot take the baby.”
“He is too small.”
“He still needs to grow.”
Aaron wasn’t in the room with me. I was all alone fighting against strangers who were trying to tell me what was best for my baby. I could not tell you a single person in that room or anything they said to me. The last thing I remember is them sitting me up and sticking me in the lower back. I can remember thinking, “Oh that wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.” Back to unconscious.
We then had our precious miracle of a little boy! Eli was born at 3:32 pm. He weighed 1 lb. and 15 oz. and was 13 inches long. He cried just like he was supposed to after birth even as tiny as he was. They immediately put him an incubator and Aaron got to see him for a few seconds to snap a picture as they rushed him to the NICU.
After I was all stitched up they transferred me from the operating room to my normal hospital room. At this point I passed by all the folks who had come to the hospital to support Aaron, pray and see me and Eli. I was told a few funny stories about this time. When I saw Lisa, my old boss and dear friend, I said “Your hair looks really good.” And when I saw Paul for the first time I thanked him for carrying my purse. I roll my eyes at all of this. I am such a weirdo. Why would those be the things that cross my mind?
I wish so badly I could have been more conscious for this period. I have heard story after story about people coming to the hospital just to be there with Aaron and to pray for Eli and I. Aaron snapped a photo of the near 20 students that filled the lobby. My current bosses Joe and Mark, as well as co-workers Paul N. and Paul Stephens were there. Mark was sending email updates to campus so that they could all be praying for us. It is the most humbling experience of my life to know that thousands stopped and prayed for me and my little man that day. It is a true testimony to the body of Christ and the community you enter into when being a believer.
I later learned that throughout this whole process they were more concerned with my life then Eli’s. They knew he was strong enough. They knew he would make it. It was me they weren’t sure about. I was out most of the day and came to in the evening after dinner. I remember my family being there and Aaron’s mom and brother flying in. His Nana, Papa, sister, and our niece flew in the next day.
I was so confused as to why they were all there. I was taking a masters class at the time and I remember forcing Aaron to go an get our computer from the apartment because I had to turn in an assignment. He kept telling me it didn’t matter, but I was very persistent. As I look back now I know I wanted the computer more because it was something I could control than any real need to turn in a project.
I had no idea what was going on around me and turning in the paper gave me a task and a completion. For the record I did get an A on the project as well. Ha!
(This is a crappy photo but it was the firs time I saw Eli.)
This is where the hard part for me began. 36 hours after delivering I was now with it enough to begin to understand. They had asked me previously if I wanted to go down and see Eli and I told them no. I didn’t know who Eli was or care to see him. So finally after the two day fog had lifted I agreed to go see my son. When they rolled my bed up next to him I remember looking at him and being so confused. He looked nothing like a baby. More like a little alien and I was so confused! Everyone says you love your baby the first time you see them and it is so unconditional, but I didn’t feel that. I hurt for the little one I saw and felt so bad that he was so tiny and weak, but I didn’t know this baby.
It is still so hard for me to say this and even admit it but it is true. It took me a few days to really grasp my reality and that the little body laying in the incubator was my son. I can remember the moment I held him for the first time like it was yesterday. That was the moment that I fell in love. I had to put him against my skin to keep him warm and it was the most amazing thing I had ever done. He was two weeks old and he only weighed 2 lbs. I was only allowed to hold him for 30 minutes because they were worried about stressing his body out to much, but I remember telling my mom that I could have held him for hours and never gotten tired because he was so light.
This isn’t where our story ends. I drove back and forth to the NICU 30 minutes each direction twice a day for 67 days to hold, feed, and change my son. People were beyond generous to us. They gave money, gas cards, food, prayers, and encouraging notes throughout. Aaron covers it more in depth over on his blog here if you want to check it out. Even with all this support it was beyond tough for me. I am a naturally positive person I think and I knew the Lord was in control, but what I was most surprised with was my anger.
I truly felt robbed of a pregnancy. I barely got to spend time bonding with my baby before it was born. My favorite time of pregnancy was worship because I knew that Eli could be a part of it with me. That he could hear his momma praising his creator’s name. That he could feel the music and the joy. I wasn’t able to worship for months after Eli was born. I would start to sing and just cry so instead I usually just stood there not allowing myself to feel.
(This was our first family photo)
I can remember one time that Aaron and I left the hospital and I was just mad and grumpy. Aaron kind of got after me and reminded me that it was a good visit and that he was doing well and he would get to come home with us soon. I looked at him and said, “Just let me be mad for a minute! Just one minute! I am allowed to be mad that I can only see my son twice a day! I can be mad that I am told when and for how long I can hold my son! And I can be mad that I have to leave him there every night!” Aaron just held me and let me cry for a little while and then just said you are right. You can be mad about all those things.
Then I shook it off and was able to focus on the good but those moments of mad crept up on me now and again. I know people were trying to be encouraging but they would say things like…
“Well at least you missed the worst part of pregnancy.”
“You got to skip the hard part.”
“The last three months are terrible anyways.”
I just wanted to yell! How dare you. I never got to feel my son roll over inside of me. I never got to feel his little foot shoved in my ribs. I never got to feel his hiccups. I never got to feel so many things and I never even got to try to give birth!
It just all felt so unfair. I would see pregnant women walking around and would just be so sad and mad. The worship pastor at our church was a female and pregnant and I couldn’t watch her. I just thought of the times that I was leading worship at our old church with Eli tucked safely in my belly listening to the worship around him. It was just painful reminder after painful reminder.
So for anyone reading this that has experienced those thoughts, know you are not alone. God does have a bigger plan and it will all work out for His glory. Just lean into Him in those moments. Tell Him you are mad. He understands and will provide the strength you need in those moments.
Our story has a very happy ending with a healthy little boy who is now two (I know I am a sucky mom for taking this long to write his birth story) running around with more personality and enthusiasm and I can take in at times. He is the joy of Aaron and my life. It was not an easy journey but it is our story and I wouldn’t change a thing if it meant not having our little Eli. God was faithful and I know he will continue to be in our future.
I will close with this. If you are a woman who is pregnant and you have any concerns, listen to your body. I told my doctor two different times that something was wrong and she ignored me. When we have another child I will not be so inclined to take the doctor’s word. It is your body. You know it better than anyone else, even a medical professional. Find someone who will listen to you and will support your decisions and promptings. I am not saying to be bossy or not to trust your doctors, but just remember you are your own body’s expert and a mother’s intuition begins even before childbirth.
OK, really, I will close with this. Thank you to everyone who has loved, cared and supported us through not only this season of struggle but also through our times of joy and growth. We are grateful for your friendship and care throughout our journey.
If you want to see the full conscious story you can find it over here on Aaron’s blog.