Celena Celena was born and raised on a small Indian reservation in Southern California and now lives in Missouri. She’s been married for 10 years and has two children, a daughter and a son. She loves riding with her husband on their Harley and camping with her family.

My daughter’s birthday was on September 9th. I cannot believe that another year has gone by and that my little four-pound preemie who spent her earliest days in the NICU has turned 7.

Years ago, when I finally got pregnant, I knew right away that I was going to have a girl. It was the type of feeling that I cannot explain, but it was a strong feeling. I immediately knew this was not going to be an easy pregnancy and that she was going to be a fighter. I never complained about being pregnant. I loved being pregnant. I loved feeling my body changing and feeling complete happiness because I was having a baby.

I never took those feelings for granted because I know firsthand what it is like to lose a baby. I’ve lost two. I don’t know why my body rejected a life or why terrible things happen when we are pregnant.

I only know that once I delivered my daughter, I was blessed and I would have not changed anything. Well, maybe I would change the fact that I was so heavily medicated at the time of delivery and it was a slight blur. What I do remember is that it was truly traumatic, and of course my birthing plan completely went out the door. I mean, the birthing plan just decided to get up and walk away. It had enough.

During my pregnancy, I was completely healthy and my daughter was fine and was always active and awake. She loved to lay on my bladder and kick me whenever I was ready to rest, which is pretty typical.

But, as the days passed, she became less active and I became more exhausted and swollen. I knew something was wrong. I went to the doctor and they ran some tests.

I ended up with gestational diabetes and had too much protein in my system.

Red flags. I was dealing with a high-risk pregnancy. I couldn’t believe it was happening. For the next couple of weeks, I had to keep track of my numbers and keep a running log before and after each meal, including snacks. I also had to have three checkups at the hospital a week and keep urine bottles for testing, which, yes, I had to do at work. It was exhausting. I still did not complain.

Then it was September 9th and I was on my way to one of my many checkups, and I realized that my legs and feet were abnormally HUGE and I wasn’t feeling any movement in my belly at all. I had an extreme headache and I just didn’t feel right. The doctor checked my blood pressure and told me he was admitting me right away. I had preeclampsia and was going to have either a stroke and/or seizure. If the baby wasn’t delivered as soon as possible, I was not going to make it.

I went from a routine prenatal checkup to a life-or-death situation.

We started talking about rehab if I had a stroke. I wasn’t ready to deliver. I didn’t have my bags packed. I only attended one Lamaze class and I couldn’t participate because I had to prop my feet up the whole time. I didn’t have a coming-home outfit picked out for my daughter. Little did I know, our stay in the hospital would last a month and a half. Most of all, I was hungry. I needed to eat and they denied me that request. What the heck? I was having a stressful moment and they couldn’t give me another lunch?

Once the nurse took me out of the doctor’s office, the room started to spin and it seemed like everything was in slow motion after that. I saw the halls speed by as I was wheeled to my room. The nurse tried to have a conversation with me, like I even wanted to participate. They immediately started magnesium and IVs and passed me pills and paperwork. By the time, the magnesium kicked in, all the fear went away and it seemed like everything I was experiencing wasn’t real.

Then the on-call doctor explained that I had to immediately decide whose life to save first in case it needed to be done.

Choose a life? How was that my decision to make?

Everything I experienced that day made me realize that God could have taken my life or my daughter’s life. But he didn’t and we made it, and I will be forever blessed and thankful.

Once they prepared me and got me into the surgery room, I felt at ease. Maybe it was because my husband and the anesthetist started talking about German Shepherds like it was a normal day while I was lying on a table highly medicated. All I could think about was how hungry I was and how I was about to get opened up and have a baby, and my husband was talking about dogs. My husband kept telling me to stay awake, but it was extremely hard because of all the medicine. My eyes felt heavy.

I forced myself to stay awake long enough to see a small baby carried over to me and placed on my chest. The room was full of nurses and doctors and everyone was checking on my little girl, and then she was whisked away. Why wasn’t she crying? What’s happening now? Where were they taking her? Then the room went dark.

The NICU Experience

By the time I woke up, it felt like I had been asleep for weeks. I was still medicated and hooked up to magnesium and IVs. The doctor came told me I had a severe case of preeclampsia and HELLP Syndrome. He explained that our girl had to be admitted to the NICU. She was in distress and had to be incubated, and it would be a couple of days or weeks before I could hold her. As for me, it would be a couple of days before I could see her.

For the next three days, the nurses came in with pictures of my sweet baby girl. Finally, someone had the idea to wheel my whole bed to the NICU as long as I didn’t stand up, so I could see my baby girl in person. What a wonderful feeling to see my her, but to see her in an incubator and hooked up to a machine with wires and a breathing tube brought an overwhelming feeling of pure guilt. I felt I should have done something to prevent it.

During the next couple of days, I started to feel better and was able to see my baby girl in the NICU every day. The closest I could get to her was placing my hand inside the incubator and talking to her to make sure she knew I was there.

I finally got to hold my her on September 11th.

It was absolutely the most wonderful feeling ever. I felt complete. I felt like a real mother.

However, I still felt overwhelming guilt. I felt if I could have somehow changed what happened, maybe if I had slowed down a little, she would not have been born early. I was being punished for something. I knew it.

The most dreadful feeling was watching another new mother being wheeled down to the front of the hospital as she held her baby. They were going home together. I couldn’t help feeling jealous. My baby girl was upstairs in the NICU.

As the days went on, my husband and I celebrated big milestones with our daughter. We celebrated when she was placed in an open air crib. We celebrated when she was able to drink a full bottle without spitting up. We celebrated when she passed all the major tests and her car seat challenge. We celebrated when she graduated from the NICU.

One time, I was asked if I would have changed what happened during my daughter’s birth and her time in the NICU. The truth is that I absolutely would not.

What my husband and I went through brought us closer together and made us appreciate what we have.

My daughter has a very strong will. She has a combination of both personalities from my husband and me, which makes her complicated at times. Yet, makes her so unique and funny at times. She was born a fighter and she will always be one. I know that she will be just fine when she gets older.

She was born a preemie, and I wouldn’t change that for anything. 

I know this, too: Our experience with our daughter prepared us for the birth of our son. I will share that story soon …

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Category: Pregnancy

Tags: birth story