Part One~ The unexpected Arrival
It is not often that you encounter this much tenacity, grit, and humor in such a small package. But that is what you get with our little warrior Fiona. In fact, from her earliest days in the NICU, all the nurses commented on how alert she was. It was as though she was watching every conversation and taking it all in.
Have you ever seen a praying mantis? My husband, Kyle, has a weird obsession with those things. We hatch them every summer, he says to "protect our plants," but I think it is more for entertainment. When you hold a praying mantis (yes, he holds them for hours), they will turn their heads to look at you. If your walk away, their tiny little eyes follow you. It is crazy and eerie to see. However, as tiny and fragile as those little bugs are, they have an incredible fight. Did you know they can eat a hummingbird?
That is the kind of warrior spirit Fiona has shown all along. From day one, she has been fighting for her life.
You see, Fiona arrived nearly three months early. I had gone to work that day at the local community health clinic. I am a PA-C or Advanced Practice Clinician. I didn't want to cancel my clinic, but that morning I awoke with a headache. I took some Tylenol, hoping it would go away. It lingered throughout the day, but I was determined to finish my clinic. By the end of my shift, I called Kyle and asked him to pick up the kids. I drove straight home to bed. I was hoping I could sleep the headache away. I woke up to eat some dinner with the family but ended up going back to bed. At about 8 o'clock, Kyle checked my blood pressure. ( He is also a provider) which was elevated but in my mind only slightly; since the headache was worsening, I decided to call the on-call nurse. I was advised to go to the Emergency Room for triage. Not thinking this would be more than a formality, we asked our neighbor to stay with the kids instead of waking my mother. We didn't take anything to the hospital other than our phones because we mistakenly thought this would be a quick check and then be on our way.
When we arrived, Kyle dropped me off at the front door and then went to park. I went inside to register. The nurse got a set of vitals right away. When he saw my blood pressure, he said to me gleefully, " looks like you are going to have a baby tonight" My heart sank. I was in disbelief and angry. How could this man say that to me? I wasn't even 30 weeks, yet that would be devastating for Fiona. I remember texting Kyle my blood pressure numbers through the tears, telling him to hurry. When he came inside, Kyle offered words of encouragement, telling me to forget what the nurse said and that things would be fine. (We know that this nurse is not representative of the nursing profession; we just happened to get 'that guy' ) We were taken up to the OB floor. That is where the next 90-day whirlwind began.
The Doctors determined that I had developed preeclampsia as a result of complications from my Lupus. I have had SLE for the last 15 years.
- Read more about our SLE awareness causes here
My three other pregnancies had minor complications but were manageable. I had hoped this one was going to be the same. But with Fiona, it was much different. She had challenges all along due to my medications. But up to week 27, things had been going ok.
When I was admitted, they immediately started steroids for Fiona's lungs; I told myself this was just a precaution because she is so young it didn't mean that I was actually going to have her. They started me on magnesium sulfate—a medication for preeclampsia. I remained on that medication for a few days while we waited to see if things improved. During that time, they had the NICU team come and talk to us. I remember feeling dismissive. 'Thank you, but we are going to be going home today,' I remember telling the provider. She smiled and comfortingly said, well, take this info just to look over.
It turns out that was the day Fiona was born.
I had thought I was improving, and my blood pressure was borderline but better. I was telling myself I would be fine, Fiona would be fine. I just needed to get home and take it easy for a few days. That was not the case. Later that day, the headache came back with a vengeance, I will spare you the details, but my condition worsened.
My OB came in and said those infamous words. " I am sorry but we can't wait anymore; we need to deliver your baby now."
At that moment, the world stopped. I remember the feeling of the wind knocked out of me. Then beyond that, it was a blur. My OB was amazing. She had been with us for our previous pregnancy as well. I trusted her, and she was very reassuring. She told me Fiona would do fine; she is a fighter. Moments later, I remember sitting on the OR table. I was grateful they were still letting me stay awake for the c-section. Kyle was with me the entire time. (a perk of working in the OR) I remember the room being full. The NICU team was surrounding us. It was not the same cheerful events of the past. This was terrifying. Anyone who has delivered a pre-term infant knows the quiet buzz as people are working to save the life of your child. That sound does not go away. I was able to see Fiona for a moment before she and Kyle left for the NICU.
After surgery, I was returned to my room and had to remain on magnesium sulfate. I was not able to go to the NICU to see Fiona. Kyle stayed with her. He took a video and tried to facetime me. At that point, I was still very ill and not able to see much. My mother was with me so that Kyle could stay with Fiona. I remember telling him not to leave her. Still, thinking about that moment, she was taken away from me brings tears to my eyes.
Throughout that night, my condition remained borderline. I still had elevated blood pressure. I remember waking up in a panic, frantically trying to get to my baby. I could not calm down. I felt like I couldn't breathe. The nurse and Kyle were doing everything to reassure me, but I was experiencing a panic that I had never imagined possible. My nurse decided that I needed to see Fiona. She arranged to move me in my bed with the monitors, oxygen, and medications to the NICU. I was going to get to see my baby.
I remember being so scared to hold her. Kyle had already been able to have Kangaroo time. Even from just a few hours old, it helps the baby to maintain temperature and remain stable. I am so grateful for that special bonding time he had with her. And I was thankful for the reassurance he gave me—convincing me it was ok to hold her.
That night Fiona fought hard. She fought to breathe, and she fought to maintain her body temperature; she fought to maintain her blood sugar. But little did we know just how long her fight would be. We did not realize that this was just Day 1 of what has become a lifelong fight. But, what we did know, is that we had a Warrior!
Watch for Part Two of Fiona's Fight coming soon.
Thank you for your love and encouragement!
~The Mahaffey Clan~