I Am Stronger Than I Ever Knew I Could Be  (Sawyer’s Birth Story)

My whole life I have been a wimp. “Strong” is not a word I would use to describe myself. I don’t like taking big risks, I am a very picky eater, I hate roller coasters, I hate scary movies, I would never go skydiving or bungee jumping, and I have an extremely low pain tolerance.

On June 24th, 2015, I had just been discharged from the hospital after being diagnosed with preeclampsia and put on bed rest. We were so happy to be home but very scared and cautious at the same time. We knew we had to be on alert and make sure my condition didn’t change. We went to sleep in our own bed and slept and slept. We were so exhausted from spending the last 3 days in the hospital, we didn’t wake up until almost 1:00pm the next afternoon. Looking back, I’m so glad we had the chance to do that, that was the last time we would sleep in, probably ever!

June 25th, 2015. Kurtis went out to run some errands and I got a few things done around the house. The doctor I had spoken to before I left told me the bed rest was not strict and I could move around a little. I called my doctor to schedule all my blood pressure tests (they wanted to check my blood pressure regularly until I hit 37 weeks and could safely deliver the baby), loaded the dishwasher, and put in a load of laundry. Feeling like I had probably done enough activity for a while, I settled on the couch and watched some tv. When Kurtis got home, we went over to my mom’s house to discuss the plan for the next 10 days until I delivered. We have air conditioning in our town home but it isn’t ventilated well enough to reach the upstairs so our bedroom gets extremely uncomfortable in the Summer and Kurtis didn’t want me being alone when he went back to work so it was decided on the days he worked I would spend my “bed rest” on my mom’s couch so I could be cool, and she could keep and eye on my symptoms and take back to the hospital if needed.

When we got home from my mom’s it was about 6:00pm. We decided to take my blood pressure. We had a cuff at home and were instructed to take it every few hours. It was expected to still be pretty high since I was still pregnant, but to call them if it got in the “danger” zone.

It was in the danger zone.

At first we decided to wait 30 minutes while I relaxed and then take it again before we panicked. Then I noticed myself starting to get a headache and a pain in the right side of my ribs, two of the warning signs they had told me to watch out for. We took my blood pressure again. It was even higher. Kurtis called the medical advice line and they told us to get to the hospital right away. He grabbed our bags and loaded up the car. We had barely been home 24 hours.

I lost it.

I began sobbing so uncontrollably I could barely breathe. I was clutching onto Bennett like my life depended on it, determined not to leave him. I told Kurtis I wouldn’t go, that I knew they were just going to monitor me again and send me home once I stabilized and we couldn’t keep doing that for the next two weeks. I didn’t want to leave the comfort of my house and my dog to go back to that awful hospital room with the doctors all telling me something different, unable to give me a straight answer to my questions, unable to agree on my treatment, each one having a different plan. I couldn’t go back there and I was determined not to.

Eventually, Kurtis coaxed me to the car and I sobbed the whole way there. We stopped at a gas station where Kurtis got me a protein shake so I would have something in my stomach. We knew once I was admitted I wouldn’t be allowed to eat in case they needed to deliver. When we arrived, they skipped the triage completely and admitted me right away. Nurses swarmed in hooking me up to all kinds of machines. I tearfully gave them my arm each time they wanted blood or an IV. I begrudgingly got up and trekked with all my monitors to the bathroom each time they wanted urine. I was too tired to fight it, to ask them questions. I just laid there like a zombie not wanting to talk to any of them, and just allowed them to do their thing. I was poked and prodded and I tried not to care (my arm would be extremely bruised for 2 weeks after).

June 26th, 2015. After a few hours, Kurtis went to go get himself some food (I, once again was not allowed to eat) while I laid in bed and watched TV.  Out of nowhere, an older man with scrubs walked into my room, hastily introduced himself, and started talking about my epidural. He was very direct, to the point, and had probably been talking for 5 straight minutes before he noticed the bewilderment on my face and then asked if the doctor had been in to talk to me yet.

“No!” I exclaimed. I was terrified as to why he was there and why he was talking to me about epidurals. Of course. Kurtis was gone and I was all by myself. I started crying and my nurse ran in and apologized. “We thought the doctor had already talked to you! She was supposed to come in first. We’re going to have ourselves a little birthday party in about an hour.”

And that’s how I found out they had decided it was best to delivery the baby. He was still breeched and we had decided against trying to turn him so C-Section it was. Half of me was terrified, half of me was relieved I wasn’t going to be sent home again. We called our families to let them know the baby was coming while the nurses prepped me for surgery. Our families and a few friends arrived and came back to see us. We visited for a while and then they filed out to let Kurtis and I be alone for a little bit. We spent a few quiet moments together, our last time just the two of us, and then they came to take me away.

I never felt a contraction, I never pushed, I didn’t have my baby set on my chest after delivery. My heart ached for “normal”. There was nothing normal about what was happening here. I prayed for peace the whole way to the OR.

I remember I hated the fluorescent lights. I hated that I could see all the machines and the tools that would momentarily be used to cut me open. I hated that my dad was in Iraq and couldn’t be here. I hated this whole thing. They sat me up on the table and I began shaking uncontrollably and crying and telling Kurtis I couldn’t do this. I was terrified. He held my hands and looked me in the eyes and talked me through the whole thing. They administered the numbing shot first, and then the epidural. It hurt, but I survived. They had me lay back and wait to feel numb. I was still shaking uncontrollably. The epidural took and they began the surgery.

Kurtis stayed by my head and prayed over me and talked to me the whole time. We talked about how we had first met in high school and how we never imagined we’d end up here. Every time I got scared or the tugging and pulling got too uncomfortable I would ask him to pray again. I tried to stay as calm as possible. I heard the doctor announce that she was in and the nurse told me that I was going to feel some uncomfortable pressure in my chest. It was the only part that kind of hurt after the epidural. I tried my best to breathe through it. As I was doing this, Kurtis told me that since I had been through so much, I could pick his middle name. “It’s Sawyer Joshua” I said in between breaths, I felt a final tug and a nurse called out “4:04!” I held my breath waiting to hear my baby cry.


I gave him a few seconds and then I started looking around the room and panicking. “Why isn’t he crying?” I asked the nurses. They assured me that he was fine. I couldn’t see anything over the sheet blocking my stomach. More seconds that felt like hours passed and still, nothing. I was panicked and everyone kept assuring me that he was fine. I wouldn’t find out until later that he wasn’t breathing.

2 minutes and 30 seconds later, right as they were about to intubate him, he let out a scream, followed by crying. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. There are no words to describe how I felt when I finally heard him. I choked back a few sobs and tears ran down my face. It was the first happiness I had felt since this whole nightmare began 3 days earlier. It would still be a while before I could see him so I sent Kurtis over to be with him while they got his stats.

“Babe, he’s 7 punds 2 ounces!” He shouted to me from the other end of the room. We couldn’t believe our preemie was so big! Finally, they wrapped him up, handed him to Kurtis, and he was able to bring him over to me. I looked at him for a few seconds. He was beautiful! Not wrinkly, no cone head or anything! One of the few perks to a C-section. After just a few seconds I got horrible shakes again and got extremely nauseous. I focused on breathing while Kurtis and Sawyer bonded. They stitched me up and transferred me to a bed. They plopped the baby down next to me and wheeled me to recovery.

The next few days are where it gets hard again. I had to be on magnesium for 12 hours in an attempt to keep my blood pressure down. Magnesium is not fun. It makes you extremely hot and gives you flu-like symptoms. I handled it better than I thought I would and didn’t think it was to awful. I got pretty hot at times but I mostly slept through it as I rested after delivery. We all slept for a long while that first day since we had been up all night. My blood pressure was still really high the whole time I was in the hospital and for 2 weeks after I was home. I would constantly get bad headaches and the doctors would be stumped as to why my preeclampsia wasn’t going away even though the baby was out.

We stayed in the hospital 4 days while I recovered and Sawyer was monitored. I’ll never forget the first time they had me get up and walk to the bathroom. It was excruciating. I’ve never felt pain like that in my life. The 4 feet between my bed and the toilet seemed like and eternity and with each step I felt my incision burn. The nurse had to do basically everything for me, which is one of the most humbling experiences of my life.

I was, for the first time ever, completely bed ridden. I didn’t change a single diaper until we were home from the hospital. I couldn’t. When Sawyer cried in the middle of the night, I couldn’t sit up in bed to pick him up and comfort him. Kurtis did every diaper change and almost every feeding. Sawyer wouldn’t latch for the first couple of days due to being a preemie, and had to be bottle fed donor milk. I stopped drinking water the second day we were there to avoid having to go to the bathroom again, I couldn’t bear the idea of walking. I took painkillers to no avail. Doctors and nurses were constantly coming in at any hour of the day or night and I wasn’t getting any sleep.

Finally, on day 3, the pain wasn’t quite as bad and I was able to stand and take a shower (with lots of help), and walk down the hall to the ice machine and back. Sitting up in bed was still the hardest thing and everything I did still hurt pretty badly. I was still having preeclampsia symptoms on top of all this. On day 4 we were finally discharged and could take Sawyer home.

Home was a whole new challenge. Luckily, Kurtis got a “paternity leave” from work and was able to spend the first 2 weeks with me. Plus both of our families live in town and were able to help a lot. We came home to a completely clean house and all the baby stuff set up where we would need it. We were provided meals, and our mom’s would sit with Sawyer during the day so we could nap. But I still relied heavily on pain medication, I was still experiencing a lot of preeclampsia symptoms, I needed help getting up and down the stairs and had a really hard time with Sawyer’s night-time feedings. Kurtis can sleep through absolutely anything and the hardest thing was still sitting up and getting out of bed.

But I did it. I did all of it. I pushed through every ounce of pain and every shred of anxiety and I tackled a premature birth requiring an emergency C-section, recovery from said C-section while simultaneously recovering from preeclampsia as well, all while caring for and adjusting to a newborn. And I don’t mean to toot my own horn but for the girl who used to need nurses to hold her down while she got a shot, I’m pretty proud of myself for handling everything and coming out okay. Sawyer and I are both healthy, and we couldn’t have done it without all the help and support of my amazing husband and our families. I’m stronger than I ever knew but I did it all for him. And I’d do it all over again if it meant my beautiful, healthy baby would be sleeping on my chest like he is right now. Nothing about this was planned. From his conception to his delivery he has been constantly surprising us but he’s the biggest blessing we could’ve imagined.


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