In 2009, at the age of 18 as a senior in high school, I found out I was pregnant. I remember taking five pregnancy tests in the bathroom of the restaurant I worked in because I couldn’t believe it was true. Over the next few months, we began to prepare for our unexpected bundle of joy. I assure you this was by no means easy. It seemed everywhere I turned I was met with disappointment, disapproval, and anger. I was determined to rise above it and make a good life for my baby. In January of my senior year I was confronted by my high school principal, and he judged, stereotyped and made me feel unwelcome in the school I’d gone to for the majority of my life. In May of 2009 I received my GED through a career network, a month before my fellow seniors were handed a diploma. In my eyes, I am a quitter for letting the hazing stop me from graduating, but in the eyes of the public, my GED is equivalent to a high school diploma.
In July of 2009 at 6 1/2 months pregnant, I went to my obstetrician for a routine ultrasound. I sat in the waiting room of the doctor office waiting for them to call my name, and my OB came out in the waiting room and sat across from me. Now maybe you will find this as strange as I did, but as the last patient before lunch and the only people in the waiting room, I didn’t think much of it at the time. He proceeded to tell me that he was sending me an hour away to see someone who specialized in small babies, but assured me I had nothing to worry about. Being 18 and naive, I didn’t question him.
On the following Monday, July 6, 2009, my mother and my grandparents took me to see the specialist. I heeded my OB’s advice and did not worry. I convinced my baby’s father to go to work and that everything was fine. I left my dogs tied outside, dirty dishes in the sink. Once in the office, the tech gave me my sonogram, not really saying much to me in the process. Abruptly she left the room and left my other and I in the exam room. Finally, a doctor I had never met comes in and sits down on his stool. He then tells me that because of my baby’s size I will have to be admitted to the hospital, an hour away from my home. My mom began to cry, and I began to fire questions at him. What did size have to do with anything? He proceeds to tell me that my placenta has holes and scars throughout it and rather than flourishing as a baby should in the womb, he was barely surviving. He also explained to me the dangers of preeclampsia, which he suspected I had.
Upon admission to the hospital, my urine tested positive for protein, and my blood pressure was weirdly high, common indicators of preeclampsia. They placed me on a medicine to prevent me from having seizures because of the high blood pressure. They also gave me a steroid injection to help mature my son’s lungs. My son’s father stayed with me in the hospital that night. The next morning, July 7, 2009, a sea of doctors at the foot of the bed awakened us.These doctors informed me with a smile on their face, that I would be meeting my son that very same day, after receiving my second steroid shot. In a medicated daze, I just nodded my head, too out of it to argue or ask questions.
At 5:58 PM via emergency classical C section, I gave birth to my miracle, Paxton Lane. He weighed exactly 3 pounds and was 16 1/2 inches long. Unlike most mothers, I was only allowed to kiss his cheek before he was whisked off to the NICU. I was not allowed to see him again until the next day, after I had been weaned off the seizure meds and pain medication.
Walking into the NICU, I felt the rows and rows of incubators were terrifying. I had never seen babies so tiny. I laid eyes on my son. He was all skin and bones, long legs, long arms, tiny hands and feet, tube down his nose, IV in his arms. All I could do was cry. The nurse bundled him all up and handed him to me and I can honestly say that there is no love stronger than a mothers love for her child, for my love for my son. He was perfect, no matter how small.
Paxton was a true miracle. Never needed oxygen, toughest little bugger out there. He ate through an NJ tube for a few weeks, and I did my best to pump milk for him as the nurses wouldn’t let him out of the incubator long enough to try and latch on. Paxton Lane came home on August 10, 2009, 19 days before his due date. He was one month and 3 days old. Paxton is now 4 years old and he is right on track developmentally, He is a little on the small side, but he comes from a family of tiny people.
I bet you thought that was the end, huh? I got my happily ever after, right? Wait, it gets, much, much better.
Paxton’s father and I went our separate ways a few days before his first birthday. We went down a long road of fighting, harassment, and custody battles. And I began the inevitable struggle of being a single mom at the age of 20, until I met my soul mate. On June 13, 2012, a friend suggested a blind date with her fiancé’s best friend. We all decided to go fishing in the local park. Paxton and I spent all day getting ready for his first fishing trip. We went out and bought his first fishing pole and tackle box and all the necessities. Paxton caught his first fish that day, and never was I prouder.
This man I met proceeded to take me out on dates, make surprise visits to me in the most menial places, like the laundry mat, and instantly I was attracted to the way he was with my son. He didn’t treat him as though he was fragile, rather like he was an equal. They played, they talked, they ran under the sprinkler, and as summer wore on, we moved in together.
In November 2012, one of our friends made a joke about how I was gaining weight, that I must be pregnant. To prove them wrong, I took a pregnancy test. Much to my astonishment, he was right! We were pregnant! After Pax was born, the doctors assured me I could have more children. They would give me medication and monitor me, so I never had to go through this again. In the beginning of my pregnancy I even spoke with a specialist in Maternal Fetal Medicine and he advised I just monitor my blood pressure with this pregnancy.
Paxton was so excited to have a baby brother. He began planning all the things they would do together and all the things he could teach him. All of our friends and family came together and helped us get everything we needed for our new baby’s arrival. Throughout all of this, I was working as a nurse’s aide, and coming home every night in so much pain I could barely walk from all the lifting, walking, bending, etc. My feet were so swollen my socks would cut off my circulation. Although my coworkers tried their best to go easy on me, I quit my job in April if 2013 at my fiancé’s insistence.
It turns out he was right to push the issue because in early May I was put on modified bed rest. No more lifting my son, no carrying laundry baskets, no walking the dog, etc. My blood pressure was high again and everyone was concerned. They did an ultrasound, which confirmed the baby was small, but showed no other problems. I even asked the tech how the placenta looked because of my problems with my first pregnancy, and she assured me it was normal. They admitted me to the hospital for a night and the baby showed no distress, so they sent me home the next day on strict orders to become one with my couch.
I followed their orders to a T, yet woke up the next morning with an elephant on my chest. As a CNA I at least knew enough to know this was a symptom of a heart attack. I called my mom, because I couldn’t stop getting sick, and the bed rest didn’t allow me to drive. She came to pick me up and she took me to the ER and triage took one look at me and sent me up to maternity.
I was put in this broom closet sized room and all the nurses knew me by name from being there so many times. They took one look at me and got to work administering an IV to give me anti nausea and pain medication. On the bed I rocked back and forth sobbing. The nurse couldn’t get me to hold still long enough to get the IV in and ended up getting blood everywhere. She tried to get me to lie back to attach the fetal monitors and I remember yelling at her to leave me alone. Those poor nurses.
When the medicines kicked in and they had me on oxygen, I finally calmed down enough for them to hook up the fetal monitors. By this point, my OB was there, hooking me up to an ultrasound while an aide took my blood. I distinctly remember the OB frantically telling the nurses that my baby’s heart beat was in the 50s and I needed to get to an OR stat. When nobody moved, she ordered the nurse to stop taking my blood and began to push me from the room herself.
Upon entering the operating room, all I remember was the doctor frantically asking the anesthesiologist if I was under yet so she could begin. I didn’t even have time to be afraid.
Jaxson Levi was born at 2:26 PM on May 30, 2013, just an hour after being wheeled into the ER. He weighed 3 pounds, 3 ounces and was 16 inches long, born 45 days before his due date. I woke up in recovery, and was soon after wheeled to the hallway to meet him, before he was life-flighted to the nearest Children’s Hospital.
It turns out that my placenta had ruptured from my uterine wall due to the stress HELLP syndrome had put on my body, causing the severe chest pain. Had I come in half an hour later, they believe neither of us would have made it. They had to perform chest compressions on Baby Jax because his heart rate was so low. When I met him in the hallway, my bed next to his incubator, I was again, terrified. No matter how many preemies you have, the shock of it still scares you, I think. He was on a ventilator, the tubes so large compared to his tiny body.
As Baby Jaxson headed to his helicopter, I was shipped back to a birthing suite where those wonderful nurses took such amazing care of me. They all said I should never have been discharged the day before.
At 1 AM, my OB came in and told me I was being transferred to the nearest women’s hospital because they couldn’t get my blood pressure under control. She hugged me and cried. The two of them, my regular OB and the one who did my C section, are my heroes for saving my son. And of course, those nurses for recognizing my symptoms for what they were. I spent one terrible night in the ICU. I had to cry to get a pillow, they wouldn’t give me a breast pump, I was allergic to the pain medicine they gave me and scratched myself raw and I had bruises that looked like finger nail marks up and down my neck, back, chest, arms and legs. They also thought they should take out my catheter in a room with no restroom. After hours of asking, at shift change I was finally moved to the oncology floor where there was extra space, and was treated wonderfully. It took 5 days to get my blood pressure down, and I still had to go home on a blood pressure pill that cost $100 for a monthly prescription. Finally, I was released, and went straight to the NICU of the children’s hospital to see Baby Jaxson. He was 6 days old when I finally got to hold him.
Jaxson was released on June 20, 2013, when he was 3 weeks old. He is now 3 months old, and he weighs nine pounds, triple his birth weight.
Both of my boys are wonderfully healthy and perfect. And although I cannot have any more children, two miracles are definitely enough for me.