by Stacey Montgomery
Adapted from Stacey’s upcoming book, “Isaiah’s Story: Affirmations for Families of Preemies.”
My pregnancy was fairly normal until the 26th week. Around that time I started to gain a lot of weight. I had
done a great deal of reading about pregnancy– particularly the potential problems. For some reason I focused on preeclampsia and was concerned about it for most of my pregnancy. When I started to gain a lot of weight, I became more concerned. I checked my blood pressure daily. Each time it was normal. Each time I visited my obstetrician, Dr. Michele Baer, my blood pressure was normal. At about my 26th week when I visited Dr. Baer, the level of protein in my
blood was slightly elevated, but I showed no other
alarming symptoms. Over the next 24 hours Dr. Baer
monitored the protein level – but it returned to normal.
My feet continued to swell. Friends told me that this was fairly typical during pregnancy. It seemed as
if my body was becoming round. Still, my blood pressure was normal. At about my 28th week, I developed severe shortness of breath. I was out of breath after walking only a few yards. At the time we lived on the 3rd floor of a walk-up apartment building. Each time I had to walk up the steps, I practically passed out. Again, I was told that this was not atypical of pregnancy. But I knew something was not quite right.
April 1, 2004. Grocery Shopping
On the morning of April 1st my husband, Harold, and I visited Northwestern Memorial Hospital for a tour
of the maternity ward. Later we went grocery shopping at Cub Foods in Niles, Illinois. I noticed a blood
pressure monitor in the pharmacy. I took my blood pressure. It was elevated. I was scared. I knew that
this was not good. Harold thought I was overreacting, but I insisted on paging Dr. Baer. We immediately
left the store and I paged Dr. Baer from the car. She called back right away and I explained the symptoms. She told me to go to Northwestern right away to get a thorough exam. At the moment she was not that worried, but wanted to make sure. We stopped at our apartment for a few minutes and then went back downtown to Northwestern. I did not pack a bag. I fully expected that I was going to return home that afternoon.
Once at the hospital, a doctor examined me and told me that I had symptoms of preeclampsia. I would have to be hospitalized and they might have to delivery my baby. When Dr. Baer arrived, she referred me to a colleague, Dr. Dooley, who specialized in high-risk pregnancies. Dr. Dooley filled me in on how she wanted to proceed. Because I was only about 29 weeks, Dr. Dooley wanted to try to delay delivery as long as possible. She wanted me on bed rest —in the hospital— for the rest of my pregnancy. This meant that I could potentially be in the hospital for about 2 1/2 months. However, there were more tests to be performed.
Preeclampsia is a potentially dangerous condition that only occurs during pregnancy. In the most severe cases it causes seizures, brain hemorrhage, or coma in the mother. Dr. Dooley was concerned about my shortness of breath. Tests confirmed that my shortness of breath was caused by fluid in my lungs. That settled it: I had severe preeclampsia. Dr. Dooley was going to deliver my baby as soon as possible.
Dr. Dooley was concerned about my baby’s lungs. At 29 weeks, his lungs would be underdeveloped, putting him at risk for respiratory problems. So, Dr. Dooley wanted to postpone the delivery at least 2 days in order to give me an injection of a corticosteroid. This would accelerate the development of my baby’s lungs.
The last 24 hours were unreal to me. One moment I was grocery shopping, expecting to deliver my baby in June. A few hours later I am told that my baby would be delivered within the next couple of days. I just could not believe that this was happening to me.
April 3, 2004. Inducing Labor
On April 3rd Dr. Dooley decided to try to induce labor so that I could deliver Isaiah vaginally. After several hours I still was not dilated. The monitors indicated contractions, but they were so week that I barely felt them. Since I was not progressing toward a vaginal birth Dr. Dooley decided to deliver my baby via C-section.
Tuesday, April 4, 2000. The Delivery.
The small delivery room seemed to be packed. Three pediatricians, an anesthesiologist, 2 obstetricians,
a few nurses and seemingly hundreds of other people hovered around me. My last memory of my delivery room experience was gasping for air. I received anesthesia that was supposed to numb me from the abdominal area down so that I would remain alert during the procedure. However, for some reason I felt the affects of the anesthesia in my chest area, making it difficult to breathe. I felt panic; but because of the anesthesia I could not express the panic. I wondered if I was dying. I did not know what was going on. I tried to tell the doctors that I was having difficulty breathing, but could not
Harold walked into the room as he wanted to be present for the delivery. He was beaming. I know he was excited about the birth of our child. But I also think he was amused at having to “scrub in” and wear surgical scrubs. He sat next to me. I turned to the left to look at him. With much difficulty I pleaded, “I can’t breathe — Help me!!” By that time the doctors had realized that I was in distress and gave me general anesthesia. They rushed Harold out of the room. A few seconds later, I was unconscious.
Tuesday, April 4, 2000. Welcome to the World, Isaiah!
When I opened my eyes I was back in my room. It took me a few seconds to realize that I had had a baby. My sister, Trina, was in my room. She told me that I had a boy and that he weighed 1 pound 14 ounces. One pound, 14 ounces. I was stunned. I could not imagine what a baby that small would look like. That a baby so small could survive. We named him Isaiah Jack Burnham Montgomery. Trina told me that she saw him and that he looked just like Harold.
I asked the nurse to see him. Because of my condition, I had to be wheeled on a gurney. That was kind of amusing. The gurney was huge compared to Isaiah’s tiny bed in Nursery C of the Special Care Nursery (SCN). There was a sign over his bed identifying him as “Isaiah.” He was absolutely beautiful. He did look like Harold. The nurse picked him up so that I could see him better. He opened his eyes for a couple of seconds. They were deep blue. He was long and really skinny. His rib cage pressed against his thin skin. His feet were huge. I laughed and told my sister that he looked like a little chicken!
I was very happy after that visit. Isaiah was small and at risk. So far he was doing well. However, the
doctors predicted that Isaiah would not be able to come home until around his “due date”– June 19th—another 2- 1/2 months. That did not matter. At that moment I was just happy to be a mommy.
Stacey Montgomery is the publisher of CelebratingChildren.com. She is the proud mother of 4 year old Isaiah– born 2 1/2 months early. He is now in perfect health. He is enjoying preschool.