The Mama Village. Photography by Gina Zeidler.

The Unicorn of Pregnancies


Forty-seven days in the Children’s Hospital NICU. 

When I got pregnant I thought I would be the unicorn of pregnancies. You see, I was full on delusional. I thought I was going to be the lucky girl in four-inch heels all the way until I gave birth. I was even hallucinating about not taking pain meds. Awesome to the mama’s that do go no-meds, but the future that awaited me was far different than my visualization. I was so sure of my standard pregnancy that I even skipped over the part in my pregnancy books about c-sections. Little did I know my path would be so very different. 

Around twenty-five weeks, I felt like my body was betraying me. I was swelling to extreme. Every week I would call my doctor’s nurse and tell her I felt weird, something was wrong and I was swelling. Every time she would say; well honey you’re pregnant and your labs all look great, just take it easy. Day by day it got worse and I felt less and less heard. By this point I was wearing men’s slip-on slippers in a size ten (I was a ladies 8.5) because it was the only thing I could get on my swollen feet, I was wearing compression socks and my breasts were enormous. I went to Target one day to buy a new bra, I parked my car, walked inside. I knew at that point there was no physical way I could waddle to the bra section of the store. In Minnesota that is only half way into the store, and I knew I couldn’t make it.

Pride be gone.

I waddled over to a electric cart, cried and drove it to the bras. I cried while I picked one out. I was in pain and the act of standing hurt. I made it to check out and to home with my new coveted cotton bra.

A day or so later I went in for my next appointment at my doctor at twenty-nine weeks. The way the nurse looked at me I knew I was right. I was sick. They brought me in for an ultra sound, even though I wasn’t scheduled for one. Just to check, they said, but I knew. The ultra-sound technician said, everything looks good, there is your little boy, but I think we should send you to United Hospital to have them do one more test. I knew she was lying, she didn’t want me to be scared.

I got in my car and drove alone to United Hospital in St. Paul, MN, found my way through the hospital and was admitted. They hooked up all kinds of wires to me. This is when I lost it and began sobbing. They reassured me I would be out of there in no time.

Somewhere around this point I realized I wasn’t at work, and by now I should have been. I called my boss sobbing, told her where I was and that I was supposed to be working on something today, but I couldn’t remember for the life of me what it was. I was a mess, I was scared, and I was alone. After two hours of laying in a room crying the doctor told me I wasn’t going home, that I would be staying there until my baby came. I was only twenty-nine weeks pregnant. I was supposed to have my maternity photoshoot that week. I cried. I cried a lot in the next five days. 

The doctor said, “we are keeping you together as long as we can.”

That basically means they push my body to the brink of death to keep my child in for as long as possible so he can grow and flourish. Everyday I gained more weight, peed less as my organs shut down, and eventually I was trapped in a room with no light because they were concerned with my advanced preeclampsia that I may have a seizure. I couldn’t look at a phone or watch tv. I couldn’t hold a book because my fingers were so swollen that it hurt to wrap them around the pages. I gained sixty-eight pounds in water-weight in about a week. I was nearly 200 lbs. One night the nurse came in and woke me up. I knew what she was about to say.

“You’re going to have an emergency c-section today. You’re going to have your baby.” she said.

I burst into tears, “I haven’t even taken a birth class yet.” 

“It’s okay honey, we will tell you what to do. You won’t be alone.” she said. 

Hours or minutes passed, I couldn’t tell you which. That’s when they came in the room with a clipboard and told me I had to sign the waiver. I couldn’t hold a pen, so the nurse held it to my hand and I scribbled. That was my consent for them to save my baby’s life and my own. They put a towel over my face to block out the lights and wheeled me down the hall. 

They lay me on a cold metal table and inserted a needle in my back. They put up a sheet so I couldn’t see and they strapped my arms down so I couldn’t move. I was desperate and terrified. In truth the whole procedure only felt like someone shoving me around, but I heard every word they said and I lay there silent, panicking. Praying my baby would live. They took him from my womb, just thirty weeks old. He didn’t make a sound as they took him away. The depth of my fear and agony are immeasurable. 

I wake six hours later and the nurse asks me, “what did you name your baby?” 

“I haven’t met him yet.” I said. 

She left. I lay there sadder than I have ever felt. Finally they brought my son to me. I looked at that tiny baby boy with all the wires and tubes and sensors stuck all over his skin as he let out a bird-like squawk and I cried. He was mine. I knew him. I knew everything about him. The nurse lay him on my chest and I whispered, “Hello Henry.” 

Eventually I had to let him leave my room. It broke my heart, but we were united the next day and we began skin-to-skin care and I began breast pumping so he could be fed through a tube down his throat with my milk. 

The nurse from the night of my emergency c-section came in one day and told me something that will always fill me with a deep sense of thankfulness. She said, “I’m so glad to see you. We didn’t think you or your baby would make it. You two sure are fighters.” I am so thankful for all the nurses and doctors that cared for Henry and I. For the gift of our lives. We are truly a miracle, Henry and me. I wasn’t the unicorn of pregnancies, but I got something even better, a healthy baby boy. 

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