Falling pregnant for the first time is a magical scary unbelievable experience. My husband and I were ecstatic, if not a little afraid, of how life would change. It doesn’t quite sink in until there’s a full blown human being in your belly and you’re not sure how you are going to keep it alive. Of course the fear is mostly only until they arrive, and then you just know how. With our story though, it was a bit of a rocky arrival. I had a relatively normal pregnancy up until the point it was not normal. At 27 weeks, I visited my doctor for a normal check-up. She noted that I was retaining water but blood pressure, blood sugar was all stable and baby was doing well. The fetal measurements were taken and we were sent off with another picture for our collection of pregnancy memories.
I remember noting that I had so much to do still, pack my bag, babies room still needed work, stroller and cam cot needed to be picked up. That weekend at 28 weeks there was a list of things to tackle. Number one on the list for Saturday morning was new shoes I needed to find stretchy strappy shoes for work, nothing was fitting me anymore, and my feet were swollen to 2 and half sizes bigger!!
It was nearing the end of January and the heat was still unbearable, especially for highly pregnant person. From the Friday evening I started developing headaches. I tried to ignore them, and brushed it off as the end of a heavy week at work – we had just gone live earlier in the month with the new system on the project I was working on and the aftermath of issues were still streaming in. As Saturday dawned we set out to accomplish some of the things on the baby related to-do list. Hubby and mom accompanying me, with the errands we had to do. It was a taxing frustrating hot day. I couldn’t choose anything, find anything. The day ended hot and bothered. But at least we did accomplish something. I found ridiculously ugly strappy shoes for work on Monday, main criteria being they fit on my misshapen feet.
Sunday lunch was the usual with family. The persistent headache wouldn’t leave me. But in true me style again brushed it off as being nothing serious. As the evening approached and the headaches where more severe, hubby called in the troops. All the Moms (mine and his), sisters and sister inlaw crammed into my little lounge. In an effort to be more proactive I started reading every pamphlet and pregnancy guide and book I owned to figure what was wrong with me. We established that it could be blood pressure related. My in laws owned a machine, so all the family members that were there that evening were checking my pressure and suggesting home remedies. To which I politely, obliged to trying all of them. As it got later the crowd dispersed, and the flat was quiet again my husband suggested we try getting some sleep. We had some tea, made by him, and tried to sleep. He dutifully fell asleep as the next day was work.
12 am – the headache is excruciating, I walk with my bare feet on the cold tiles, maybe it’s the heat I think.
1 am – still not asleep, water, ice cubes, I’m sure it’s just the heat. I tie a scarf around my head, like a ninja would his headband before entering into a battle; I remember it from growing up someone once said to someone else, the pressure directly on your head helps.
2 am – hubby wakes up – to find me with said scarf tied around ahead pacing up and down the length of our tiny flat, like a crazy person. At which we point he insists we go to the hospital, I am out of ideas so I succumb, grateful for some distraction from the pain.
We arrive at the hospital. The staff on call diagnose me, with a sinus headache – they say very common with first pregnancy and are about to discharge me. I remember reading something the night before however, and I don’t think these young playful doctors (in training probably) were really paying attention to my symptoms. I mentioned the condition I read about; preeclampsia and that I had many of the symptoms, including the high blood pressure, and severe headaches. They were a bit annoyed at my intrusion and suggested I wait for my doctor who would probably be doing rounds soon. My husband and I agree. He is about to walk out the room to make the calls to all the family members. And everything goes black.
I lose the events of next 4 days. Later on I find out that as the young doctors and my husband walked out of the room, I started seizing. My whole body shaking in convulsions, my poor husband shocked as he watches his wife carrying his first baby in the throes of a full blown seizure and not knowing what to do next. I ended up in a coma for 2 days. My doctor diagnosed me with preeclampsia as I had suspected. She made reference to my husband and mom that she had to remove the ‘disease’ being the baby and that the first priority at this point was the mom. Over the next few days, I was in ICU, the doctors trying to stabilize my blood pressure and give my baby steroids so that he might have a fighting chance at surviving.
On the morning of Wednesday, the 31 January, the doctor announced the meds are working and I was strong enough to withstand a major surgery namely an emergency C-section. The baby was coming today. It happened to be my mother’s birthday. My baby was born. The one we had been preparing for and waiting for and excited for was finally here. But, too early. He was just shy of a kilogram, 980 grams to be exact. He looked like a little bird all skin and bones. He was rushed to the neo-natal ward. Lungs, eyes, and other organs all the needed to be checked. Especially lungs as they are the last to fully develop and would have in the last few weeks if he had the safety and luxury of being in my tummy still. They wheeled me in, on my hospital bed, to see him. He was beautiful, to me. Connected to pipes and machines and all sorts of scary sights and sounds of the neo natal ward. to everyone else, he was a sick baby. They said words of condolences, ‘We’re here for you’, ‘We are making duah (prayer)’ However, I never let doubt enter my mind. He was healthy, considering his abrupt entry into the world, and all he needed was time to gain weight and that’s what he would do.
Over the next 2 months. No one understood what we were going through. Yes, they offered words of encouragement and words like, I don’t know how you do it… but in all honesty we didn’t know how WE did it? All we can say maybe is that Allah (SWT) does not give that which you cannot bear.
How do we leave this little baby bird everyday – like leaving our hearts behind every night until the next feed in the early parts of the morning? He was so precious and lovely and our baby. We established a routine, hubby would go off to work and I would camp out at the hospital, spending my days beside his incubator, reading, praying, singing to him and assisting with feeding and bathing; as every few hours approached when I could hold him again, my heart rate picked up as I could interact with him and have him in my arms. Kangaroo care was my favorite thing as the idea is that the little preemie benefits profoundly from being on his mothers naked skin and allowed to hear his moms heartbeat as he would have in utero. This time was treasured. This time was sacred. this time was healing. The overall preference was to not spend too much time out of the incubator for fear of infection from other sick babies.
The things you see in the days and weeks that follow stay with you and are incredibly tragic or uplifting in equal doses. No one should go through this with a baby ever… but its life, and many people came through those neo natal doors while we were there and many more still facing challenges everyday. Therefore give thanks, everyday for the blessings you have. The little ones and the big ones.
With the challenges, your relationship also is put to the test. It can either thrive or fizzle out. My husband and I established an incredible mutual respect that cannot be described. A foundation based on love and support. It solidified our relationship, only we knew the fear accompanied by this experience and only we could be strong for each other until we made it to the other side. And make it we did.
The day we brought him home was like being released from prison. Not that I know what being released from prison is like, but if you ever watched Orange is the New Black, I think you have an image, of what that might be like, ok ok I digress…
The sun was beaming, the clouds dotted an otherwise clear blue sky and all was well with the world. That chilly day in April, two and bit months after he was born, we got to be finally be mom and dad to our little boy! we got to walk out the hospital doors with glee. Strap him in a car seat way to big for him. And so it began. Alhumdulillah! By the grace of God all the scary things we had seen and endured was over! And the joys and agony of parenthood began… fast forward to 10 years later. He is still thriving, with a personality to match.