Mom to Seraphina
June 13th, 2011
When I discovered I was pregnant, I was sure that I was carrying a boy, and so did almost everyone around me. So much for mother’s intuition!
After 4 years of marriage, my husband and I decided that we were ready to have a child of our own. I got pregnant right away. We thought we were so lucky: lucky that we had waited until we felt ready to be parents, lucky that the baby would have a very nice home and parents that never fought, and lucky to conceive so quickly and easily. At my first OB appointment, we saw the flicker of a heartbeat and were congratulated. I went to see a perintologist due to a pulmonary embolism I had several years before. He got me started on daily Lovenox injections, just in case. I had used Lovenox before, so while I wasn’t thrilled to start again, I did exactly as he said with no hesitation. The first trimester was easy, I was usually slightly nauseous, but I never got really sick. Things were going so well, or so I had thought.
At the early screening ultrasound at 17 weeks, the lab tech pulled in a doctor who told us that the baby was measuring significantly behind. She wanted us to see my perintologist again right away. The baby was diagnosed with Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR), and she was in the 5th percentile which is not good, especially so early in the pregnancy. The next step was to determine the cause of it, after all, I was not a smoker or a drinker, I was taking my prenatal vitamins and I was very healthy. My bloodwork indicated that I may have Antiphospholipid Antibody Syndrome (a.k.a. APS a.k.a. Sticky Blood Syndrome) which causes blood clots and sometimes miscarriages and other pregnancy complications. I started taking an aspirin alongside my Lovenox injections, which is the typical treatment for pregnant women with APS. We began weekly ultrasounds where we got to watch as she formed into a perfect tiny baby girl. The only problem was her growth restriction. I left each and every appointment in tears, which I would have to wipe away, take deep breaths to calm myself and head back to work like everything was just fine.
Each Wednesday was a struggle. I was put on modified bed-rest, I started taking more supplements, doing tons of research, reaching for anything I could to get this baby to grow. I also started preparing myself for a premature delivery, reading up on the NICU, and even reading about and looking at pictures of preemies so that I would not be shocked when my baby was delivered. She was going to be small and premature, but we could handle this.
At my 24-week appointment, I told my perinatologist that I had some indigestion that wouldn’t go away. It was a sharp pain in the middle of my chest. He recommended some OTC medications, and I probably tried them all but nothing would help for very long. The indigestion got so bad that I couldn’t sleep. I was completely miserable and uncomfortable every minute of every day. I couldn’t go to work because I was exhausted from fighting the pain all night.
After a couple days I couldn’t take it anymore and I went to the hospital. My blood pressure was high, but the baby was still fine. They prescribed a strong painkiller and gave me the materials needed to do a 24-hour urine test. I was told to take the test into my OBs office the next day where I was to also get some more bloodwork done. Little did I know, this was the beginning of the end.
The labs came back and the results pointed to preeclampsia. I was told to pack a bag and head to the hospital immediately. This was on a Friday night. I immediately broke down because that very week my perintologist had said that even at 24-weeks, which is usually the date of viability, my baby would be too small to survive due to IUGR. He had decided to wait on giving me the steroid shots that would develop her lungs because she was still too small for it to help anyway. We knew that delivery meant death. I kept apologizing to my husband for failing our baby. He calmed me down and I decided to try to stay positive like him, maybe they would find a different reason for the protein in the urine and the pain in my chest. We left for the hospital.
The following morning my OB sat down on the hospital bed and told me we would have to deliver. She told me that if I didn’t deliver now, I could start having seizures or a stroke. She told me that both me and the baby were very sick but that my life was at stake and there was nothing they could do. I knew all of this already, but it was still crushing and we all cried together. How unfair was it that I would have to go through the pain of labor and delivery knowing she wouldn’t make it through?I was put on the medications that would start the process of delivery and other medications to keep me from having seizures. The magnesium sulfate was the worst. I was burning up, and so weak. My mom spoon-fed me ice chips and jello, and helped keep a cold washcloth on my forehead. The nurse called a priest from my mom’s church who came in to pray over me and the baby. I remember the nurse trying to explain everything to him in a low voice, but I still don’t think he understood why they had to deliver a doomed baby. The nurse stayed with us to pray. The priest gave my husband holy water to baptize our baby after delivery.
Nothing much else happened for a while. I got my blood pressure checked every hour, and blood taken every 6 hours. They had a terrible time taking blood, and had to bring in an anesthesiologist at one point to pull from a tiny vein in my wrist. My arms were so punctured and bruised by the end of my hospital stay.
On Sunday I had some contractions. I would squeeze my husband’s hand through the pain as I listened to soothing music on my iPod, until they finally subsided and I fell asleep. On Monday at 24w 5d gestation, they decided to deliver her for my safety even though my body had given up trying to help me through the labor process. They kept giving me more and more labor-inducing medications but nothing was working. It’s like my body had changed its mind and wanted to keep her. After what felt like hours and hours, I was able to deliver her anyway. I remember a lot of pain and some other sensations I really wish I could forget.
The moment I held her in my arms my heart ripped in half. I remember her face, vividly. She was beautiful. She had the most perfect tiniest features. Her dark eyes were open. Though she was as light as a feather, I couldn’t hold her for long, I was sobbing too much and so drugged up that I was afraid to drop her. I gave her to my husband and he baptized her. We couldn’t keep her with us for very long, it was too hard to see her like that, perfect and still, her eyes open, but unseeing. And then she was taken away. I wish I would have kept her for longer, but it made the whole horrible experience too real. The hospital gave me a memory box and some pamphlets on grief counseling. I was released from the hospital on Tuesday night.
I hope Seraphina knows how hard I fought for her and how much I wanted her. It’s a sad coincidence that the root of her name is seraph, an order of angels, fiery six-winged celestial beings. I guess she’s where she belongs, with the angels. I just wish she belonged with me instead.
Jessie can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org