I found out I was pregnant in the fall of 2006.
I was married, of course. Michael and I had tied the knot in May, and we knew we wanted to get pregnant right away. Actually, we’d been planning to wait until the following spring, but at dinner a few nights before the wedding, Mike said, “Let’s not wait until spring. Let’s just do it.”
So we just did it.
I’m not a hypochondriac, and I’m not one of these women who obsesses over everything she eats during her pregnancy. I just don’t have that kind of temperament. But by February, I started thinking there might be something wrong. I was having terrible headaches, and I couldn’t sleep. I went to my doctor, and he told me everything was fine, I just needed to relax.
At the end of February, Michael and I went to Orlando for a week with some friends. We saw the Daytona 500 (a miserable experience for me, since the weather was 40 degrees and windy, and I only had Capri pants and a sweatshirt) and went to Disney World. I’m a good traveler — I went around to all the rides and got express passes so the others could ride the big roller coasters. Then I would sit on warm benches and read books while they were riding the rides. We had a really nice time.
I was also working full time during that period, and because my team had changed firms, I was extremely busy, and under a tremendous amount of stress. I was pulling 60 hour weeks, and I’d come home and crash.
I still knew something was wrong with my pregnancy. I kept having headaches, and I kept going to the doctor, and he kept telling me I was fine. It was in my head. He said my mother, who is a nurse, was telling me things to make me nervous. My due date was placed at June 18, 2007.
My headaches got worse. I was so swollen, people at work were starting to comment on how bad I looked. I had a baby shower in mid-April, and no one could believe how swollen my feet and hands were. Speculations were made whether I’d need to cut my rings off.
When we left that baby shower, I asked my mom to drive us home, because my headaches were tremendous. She drove — straight to her house, where she went in to get her blood pressure cuff.
My blood pressure was 175/100, very, very high for a pregnant woman.
My mom and my husband rushed me to the ER. This was mid-April, so I was only about 32 weeks pregnant. At the ER, they diagnosed preeclampsia, and they decided they would induce labor, but they were calling my doctor to have him come in.
He did come in. He came in and yelled at me, ordered them to stop inducing labor, and sent me home. I’d been in the hospital all night, with numerous professionals telling me I had preeclampsia, and then he comes in and says it’s all in my head, and my mom was just making me nervous. He told me to come see him in the office the next day.
So I did. Mom went with me. We watched the girl take my blood pressure. The girl said, “Absolutely fine. 120 over 80.” As soon as the girl left, mom said, “She lied.”
I knew she’d lied, too. Growing up with a nurse for a mother, I also knew how to read the dial on a blood pressure cuff.
The doctor still insisted everything was fine. We smiled and nodded and went home. I started researching preeclampsia, and found an incredible support network on www.preeclampsia.org. With everyone there telling me my doctor might be nuts, I went with my gut instinct and called a high-risk OB in Annapolis and asked for an appointment. The girl said, “Well, for pregnancy, we’re scheduled out for 12 weeks.”
I said, “Well, I’m due in 7 weeks, here’s the situation, I really need a second opinion.”
She could have brushed me off. But she put me on hold, spoke to a doctor, and fit me in for an appointment the next day. I didn’t tell anyone I made this appointment.
That night, I went to dinner with my husband, and we talked about everything that was going on. My husband, who is a wonderful man, said, very gently, “Hon, do you think maybe everything is in your head?”
I said no, that I knew something was going on. I couldn’t keep anything from him, so I broke down and told him that I’d made an appointment with another doctor for the next day. I said I wasn’t going to give the doctor my history, that I was just going to have him look at hard data (blood pressure, urine, etc) and see what he thought.
When I went to the office, I found out that I’d been scheduled with one of the head OB’s in the practice, and he’d actually postponed leaving for vacation so he could fit me in. When I sat down with his nurse, she took my blood pressure. It was 180/105, and I’ll never forget her frowning and saying, “I think I need to get another cuff. This is reading really high.”
The other cuff got the same reading, of course.
They tested my urine, which immediately came up as 3+, which means there’s a lot of protein, one of the key indicators of preeclampsia. The doctor did an ultrasound, and said that the baby’s head measured as 34 weeks, right on target, but the body only measured as 30 weeks. He said that was also indicative of preeclampsia, because the body starts sending all the nutrients to form the baby’s brain, because the placenta is starting to fail.
The doctor said his opinion was to admit me immediately, run some more tests, and induce labor the next day.
It was a new hospital, a new doctor, and a new labor unit. But I agreed. What was I going to do, go back to the doctor who said it was all in my head?
I’ll never forget calling my husband from the hallway outside the doctor’s office, telling him they were admitting me. It took the admissions nurse six tries to start an IV because I was so swollen. I weighed 236 pounds at admission, and a huge percentage of that was fluid. After they induced labor and they wanted to start an epidural (which is a needle that goes beside your spine), the anesthesiologist said, “I have to warn you, because you’re so swollen, there’s a possibility the needle could cause paralysis.”
Because I was 6 weeks early, they wanted to try for a normal delivery, to force the fluid from the baby’s lungs. I agreed to the risk, because he said it was better than injecting me with Ketamine, because that could cause more difficulties for the baby. Unfortunately, once they induced labor, the fetal heartbeat started to plummet. Fetal distress, I think they called it. So they rushed me in for a C-Section. The epidural hadn’t had time to take effect. They injected Ketamine anyway, and they pulled the baby out.
Nicholas Parker Kemmerer was born at 12:14am, May 4, 2007.
I didn’t learn until later that his APGAR score at birth was a 1. I didn’t get to hold him. He was immediately rushed to the NICU, and I was stitched up and sent to recovery. I was told I couldn’t see my son until I calmed down and my blood pressure went down. So I held back on my tears and sent my husband to the NICU just about every five minutes.
I finally got to hold Nicholas that night, almost 24 hours after he’d been born. He weighed five pounds, and he had wires everywhere, including a feeding tube that went down his nose.
I wasn’t supposed to be doing anything strenuous, what with the 20 staples across my abdomen, but the NICU was on a separate floor from Labor & Delivery, so I made numerous trips up and down the stairs. I brought books to read, and I’d sit in the rocking chair next to his incubator and read. It was right before Mothers Day, so there were dozens of commercials on television, and every single one would make me sob.
They told me Nick might be in the NICU for six weeks.
He’s a strong kid. They released him after 8 days.
But I owe my thanks to all the the people on those message boards, and all the doctors and nurses at Annapolis OB/GYN and Annapolis Medical Center, most especially, Dr. Fred Guckes, the amazing doctor who saw me and made the initial decision to admit me, and Dr. Pablo Argeles, the amazing physician who ultimately delivered Nicholas. Both these doctors saved Nick’s life and mine.
I will never forget them, and I owe them more thanks than I could ever express.
Thanks, guys. You are all amazing.