October 14, 2020 By Elise Sagaspe
We had a dream pregnancy. At every prenatal visit we were told baby and I were in perfect condition. My husband and I wanted to have a natural birth outside of a hospital and began receiving prenatal care from the nurse midwives at an accredited birth center while continuing routine visits with my OB.
I was in my 8th month when I first started showing signs of swelling that my OB and midwives chalked up to typical 3rd trimester symptoms. I saw my midwife on Monday of my 35th week she said I was doing well and baby sounded great. On Thursday I went in for my routine appointment with my OB. The nurse said I had protein in my urine and my blood pressure was reading high. During the visit my belly measured small and ultrasound showed low amniotic fluid. I was sent to the hospital for monitoring and within hours I was diagnosed with preeclampsia. My blood pressure readings had been high for two visits prior to my admission to the hospital. I'd asked about it and was told it wasn't that bad. I knew I was swollen in my face, hands, legs and feet but was told that it was normal. I was going to every appointment in person despite the threat of covid and receiving concurrent care by independent midwives and traditional OB and nursing staff at Kaiser but still my baby suffered from IUGR as a result of my condition going undetected.
Our son was born at 35 weeks and weighed only 3 pounds 7 ounces. He was taken to the NICU immediately. The miracle was that despite his small size our baby had no further complications. We were not permitted to visit our son together during our hospital stay and after I was discharged we were only allowed one visit each per day and only one of us at a time. We were kept from being together with our newborn son for 13 days. Because of these covid 19 restrictions the time we actually spent with our son was so limited and he was a premature newborn alone in the hospital for hours on end because the hospital did not allow us to come back in if we needed leave the NICU, even to get a meal or take a quick nap. Which anyone who's in the first few days post emergency C-section and still recovering from preeclampsia knows you can't go long without.
I am up many nights watching my now almost 5 month old sleep, making sure he's still breathing and crying over the time we lost and wondering how this disorder popped up seemingly overnight. Feeling so grateful for his life but also wondering why, if a small aspirin each day can prevent this, why all women especially women like me with PCOS aren't told to take one from the start as a precaution?
I still don't know how a hospital can tell parents they aren't allowed to visit their newborn in the NICU together or more than once in a day. We weren't just visitors, I was his home, his mother, we're his parents his caregivers his family! Parents are crucial to recovery for premature infants and keeping them out of the NICU is unethical.
Within days he was feeding from a bottle and by day 10 he was breastfeeding like a champ. He gained weight quickly and was released from the hospital after only 13 days weighing 4 pounds 4 ounces. The surprise of it all, the instant loss of our original birth plan, the fear of complications for myself and our son, the major surgery and recovery, having to go home without our baby, making the trip to visit him each day in the NICU, all while coping with the realities of the covid-19 pandemic and the social riots in LA the week our son was born made this the most difficult experience of our lives. But we made it through, our son is healthy and thriving and we're healing too, day by day.
It woke me up around midnight. The pain started as a dull ache at the top of my belly on the right side, no immediate feeling of danger, just...ReadMore