Hi. I’m Ashleigh, and welcome to our story.
Rewind to early 2014. My (now) husband and I found out that we were expecting just after Valentine’s Day. We found out that our sweet baby was due to arrive on Halloween 2014. We were very excited about our little pumpkin. We first saw the baby on ultrasound right at 10 weeks. The only pregnancy symptom I had was severe morning sickness, and I mean SEVERE! Everything made me sick, even water. But as all moms do, I learned to push through it the best that I could. Anyway, the Spring semester was about to be over in a month, but IU left the dorms early. I flew from Texas to Cali to spend time with my family.
A little over a week later, I had my scheduled gender peek ultrasound (the day I turned 15 weeks). Still being relatively early, I wasn’t sure if the baby would cooperate. Well, as soon as they fired up the machine and screen, we could instantly tell that the baby was definitely a GIRL! We were all Team Girl, so it was really exciting. About a month later, I started feeling extremely uneasy about being 1,500 miles away from her Daddy. So, just before 20 weeks, I flew back to Texas. I got settled in, saw my OB and did my QuadScreen. It came back very elevated, so I was sent to see the MFM in Plano. During the ultrasound the MFM didn’t see any “soft markers” so she scheduled me for one last appointment four weeks later to make sure we were negative. (Not that it mattered)
Fast forward 3 weeks and 5 days later… At about midnight on July 23rd, I started to develop the definition of a headache from hell. It kept me up half the night. Then, just before 6 am, my ribs (right side) and right shoulder began to burn and hurt immensely. I spent two hours alternating between an extremely hot shower and then trying to lay down after the pain had subsided for a little bit. I called the OB and made an appointment for that afternoon. I continued the bed and shower routine until then. Getting dressed to go and the ride to the office made me miserable 1000x over. I thought I was immune to miserable considering how terrible I had felt in the 20 weeks since I found out!
Austin (her Daddy) dropped me off at the front door and went to park while he finished his lunch. As soon as I walked back to the room, I saw it written all over my OB’s face. I wasn’t overreacting like I thought, something was seriously wrong. The nurse went to take my vitals. She held onto the monitor end of the blood pressure cuff, which she never did. She ALWAYS let me see the numbers. Her eyes got big as she ran it again. Eyes still big, she took it manually, twice. The OB came in and took it twice manually herself. She looked at me, went over my symptoms again (severe headache, right upper quadrant pain, facial and body swelling, and at that point I was assuming high blood pressure) and then told me to go to Labor & Delivery. She would meet me over there as soon as possible. She called over to let them know that I was coming, and I headed over. Thankfully it was just next door.
When I got there, they had a room ready for me with a cath and IV ready to go. I was instantly put on bags of magnesium (which are the worst invention known to man) and a BP cuff. At this point my (now) Mother-in-Law walks in to see me. She works as an L&D and nursery nurse at the hospital. She knew my numbers, she knew the situation, and I know it had to have terrified her. But, it was relieving to see her, and know that she was praying something fierce for all of us. The OB walked in and told me that the labs had confirmed that I had HELLP Syndrome. HELLP Syndrome consists of:
H- Hemolysis (destruction of red blood cells)
EL- Elevated liver enzymes
LP- Low platelets
The symptoms are typically: High blood pressure, headache, swelling, right upper quadrant or liver pain, and protein in the urine. If you have these symptoms while pregnant, PLEASE seek immediate medical attention.
After confirming the diagnosis, she told me that she was calling every hospital in the Dallas Metroplex with a high level NICU to have me transferred. Since I would be delivering by the end of the next day, they gave me the first dose of steroids to help our daughter’s lungs. By dinnertime, she had found a hospital that would take us both. We were relieved, and I prepared to take the ambulance ride down there. The hospital I was transferred to was the same hospital where the MFM’s office was located, where I was supposed to have an appointment in just two days.
The OB at the new hospital reviewed my labs, and had them run again. We met the man who would become our daughter’s Neonatologist and discussed survival rates, outcomes, possible conditions, and general length of hospital stays. I was monitored through the night, though I couldn’t sleep. The OB had the labs redone at 4 am, and by 5 am had the results. She briskly walked in told me that she was moving me into the 6 am OR slot, that a nurse would be in to give me the second dose of steroids (per the Neo), and that I would be take into prep at 5;45. Austin called his mom with the update and she rushed to the hospital. At exactly 5:45, they wheeled me back to be prepped. They gave me an epidural, and it made all of the RUQ pain disappear. I could breathe easily. When I was all prepped, they brought Austin in. Gown, hair net, and everything.
At 6 am they started the surgery. My dedicated nurse, took Austin’s phone and made sure we got potos of the experience, without having to miss the experience. I was extremely thankful for that. At exactly 6:19 am on July 24th 2014, our daughter was born. Unlike what we were expecting (and as is usually typical of 25 weekers) she screamed. We heard her cry, her eyes were open, she was looking around, and she peed on me. I wouldn’t catch a glimpse of her until much later. Her Neo delayed cord clamping for one minute, and then took her over to her area with her team. They cleaned her off, weighed her, checked her, and then tried to intubate her. They couldn’t quite get it, but since she was breathing on her own, they would try again when they got her over to the NICU. Austin went with her as I was stitched back together, As soon as he walked out of the OR he saw his mom, she had made it in time. They both walked her over to NICU to get settled. I went back to my room to recover and start pumping milk for her.
After I went to see her, I was ready to announce her birth to everyone (outside of immediate family), but we didn’t have a middle name. I looked at pictures with her, and then scrolled through my Facebook feed hoping to find something that just fit. I finally did. That afternoon, along with pictures and her gender (which no one outside of immediate family knew), we announced the birth of our daughter.
Alexis LeighAnne was born July 24th 2014 at 6:19am in Plano, TX. She weighed just 1lb 13oz and was 13inches long. Her eyes were blue and her hair was dark brown.
That’s the day I became a Preemie Mama, and just 134 days later I would have my sweet baby girl home at last.