The months leading up to my son Archer’s debut into this world were hard. During my first trimester I struggled with depression quite badly. When I found out I was pregnant I stopped taking anti-depressants that I was on for migraines and fibromyalgia and had the worst withdrawal for about a week. I had no idea I was supposed to wean myself off of them. Lesson learned. From there things started to go downhill. I found myself at my OBGYN’s office, sitting on the table, crying to my doctor wondering if this was all normal. To my surprise, it was! I guess no one likes to talk about that though, because pregnancy is all sunshine and rainbows, right? Not for me.
At first I was afraid to admit that I was depressed. I felt like if I admitted that, it was like I was saying I was unhappy I was pregnant, which was not the case! I was so excited to be a mom, but my fear of what other people would think took over until finally my husband and I decided I needed to see my doctor, because surely there had to be something we could do, right?
The day I found myself crying on my OBGYN’s table, she prescribed me an anti-depressant I had never been on, and told me it was safe to take while pregnant as long as I was out of my first trimester. On my way home, I went to the pharmacy, filled the prescription, and took that pill for about 3 days. That’s when I found myself in our Maternal Fetal Medicine doctors office, Dr. Clark, my hero. This would mark our first appointment of many with her. Walking into her office that day, I thought this was a one and done kind of appointment to find out if the baby is safe and healthy – after all, it was just a precaution on our end and not required by the OBGYN. With mine and my dads history of Thalassemia, I wanted to be sure our baby wouldn’t inherit Alpha-Thalassemia, which is deadly, or any of my fathers heart conditions.
At that first appointment with Dr. C we went over Steven’s medical history, mine, and both sides of our families. When she got to the part where we discussed the medications I was on prior to finding out I was pregnant, the appointment took on a whole new direction. Why was I currently taking a new anti-depressant that I had never previously been on? In her estimation and taking into account the way that anti-depressants work, it made no sense to start a medicine I had never been on and try to find the right dosage while pregnant nonetheless, when I could easily pick up right where I left off. This is the appointment where Steven, Dr. C and I decided that I would go back on the medicines I was on prior to getting pregnant to a) control the depression and b) keep my fibromyalgia and migraines under control. There was a less than 3% chance that our son would see any adverse side affects from these medicines, and in her professional opinion, a healthy and happy mom was more important than anything that 3% could do. We agreed.
We saw Dr. C regularly from there on out. She wanted to monitor me and the baby while I was on these medicines as a precaution. Later on this will prove to be a stroke of luck on our end. Around week 32 of pregnancy, we were at our regular check-up when the nurse took my blood pressure as she always did and it was high. I remember her seeming concerned, because that in conjunction with how swollen I was was not a good combo, but I didn’t really think much of it. We went through our regular ultrasound, Dr. C came in and said everything looked good, but mentioned she was going to have the nurse take my BP again now that I had been still for a bit on the table. It was high again. She moved us back into the little room we started out in at each appointment, and had us wait a little bit and tried the BP again. It was still high. Her words were, “that BP reading gets you a visit to the hospital, my friend”, and off we went.
I remember calling my boss that morning on our two second drive from her office to the hospital. I regurgitated to him what the doctor told me. I likely have preeclampsia. If my BP stays high after they monitor me, I will likely be on bed rest. The doctor said our goal is to get to 36 weeks, but worst case he could be here as early as next week. I was panicked. I was trying to hold back tears as I told him this. I had a lot going through my mind. Will our son be okay? Will I be okay? I thought I had more time to prepare.
At the hospital they monitored me for a while and ended up admitting me overnight. I was hooked up to machines so that they could monitor my high BP and make sure that no major organs looked like they were going into failure – a side affect of preeclampsia in some cases. They also had the little guy being monitored to ensure he wasn’t going into distress due to the high BP.
That day and night I had to do a urine collection, which would later tell them that I had excessive protein in my urine. This alongside the high BP and swelling told them that I had preeclampsia. The only cure – delivery. Once I was released, I was told I was on strict bed rest, and that I had to see our OBGYN once per week and our Maternal Fetal Medicine doctors once per week. They would do an ultrasound at each visit to make sure the baby wasn’t showing signs of distress, and monitor my BP. This lasted for a week. At week 33 I found myself being admitted to the hospital again. From there it was a whirlwind. They spent an entire night pumping me with BP meds and throwing pills down my throat to try and keep my BP under control.
When we walked into the hospital that morning they were still optimistic we were going to make it to week 36. By the evening, we weren’t going to make it but another week, by the next morning a week was iffy, and by that evening it was looking like the next few days. Finally, at around 6pm an OBGYN I’d never met before came in and told us that Dr. C had called it. We would be delivering this baby tonight and that it was time for me to log off my work computer. I remember we asked her how long we had and she told us we’d meet our son within two hours. I stayed so calm, but inside I was freaking out.
Two hours gave Steven enough time to run home and tend to the dogs since they needed to be fed, and it gave me enough time to send my last email and con my nurse into letting me get off bed rest to shower. She was so nervous to let me do it, but I knew it was going to be my only opportunity for a couple of days, and I knew it would make me feel better, after all, I was about to meet my son! She sat outside of the bathroom waiting for me to finish, and as soon as I was done she hooked me right back up to the machines and prepped me for surgery. The next thing I knew I was watching Steven put on those funny blue scrub outfits and they wheeled me back.
Because of my scar/scar tissue on my spine from when I broke my L1/L2 vertebrae, the anesthesiologist was unsure if the spinal block would work or not so they didn’t let Steven back initially, because had it not worked, they would have had to put me all the way under, which he would not have been allowed to be present for. I’ll tell you what – I was most afraid for this part of a C-section! You’re going to put a giant needle in my back?! No. Thank. You! But I had no choice, and off they went. Guys, the best part is that I didn’t even feel it!
They brought Steven back after what seemed like a lifetime for him, but quick for me, and he sat at the head of the table holding my hand talking to me throughout the entire surgery. Our OBGYN was named Dr. Chi Chi, and she had music playing in her OR and she got that baby out quick and seamlessly! It was by far the easiest surgery I’ve ever had.
When Archer Lawrence Fleming made his debut at 33 weeks and 3 days, at 8:59pm on August 4, 2018 he was admitted to the NICU, weighing in at 5lbs 3oz. I got a quick glimpse of him as they rushed him over to a corner of the OR where the NICU was waiting to do their thing. Because I had preeclampsia, and because seizure risk is high, my doctors had an IV of Magnesium hooked up to me at this point. I would later learn that because I was on the Magnesium drip, I was unable to meet my son for 24 hours.
It was the hardest 24 hours of my life! I was so jealous that Steven could waltz in and out of the NICU visiting our son, while I was living vicariously through him and his iPhone pictures. But, if we’re being honest, that Magnesium drip makes you feel high as a kite, and I did not need to be doing anything of the sort.
The next evening, drowsy and all, I walked my happy little swollen butt over to that NICU with Steven and his brother, and I got to meet my son for the first time. It was SO surreal! I’d never seen such a tiny sweet little baby in my entire life. He was PERFECT.
Archer is four months old now and I’m still collecting my thoughts on our NICU experience. All I can say for now is this.. it was bittersweet, and you other NICU parents are WARRIORS. Seriously. I don’t know how some of you do it.