written by: Jessica Micheli
My husband and I started trying to build our family in 2016. We had Grayson in 2019. It took us three years to bring our miracle into the world. Our journey was nothing short of complicated from the very beginning. Within the first year, we suffered two miscarriages. Although extremely difficult on my physical and mental health, we were never going to give up on having a baby. After the miscarriages, we spent another full year of trying to get pregnant with no success. When we realized that we may not be able to get pregnant naturally the third time around, I finally gained the courage to set up a consultation with a fertility specialist to see what our next options were. In the time period between me making that appointment and the actual appointment date, we got a little surprise. We got pregnant when we finally decided to take a mental health break from the stress of constantly trying. And what a sweet surprise and relief that was!
I was considered high risk from the beginning of this third pregnancy because of my history of miscarrying. Part of me enjoyed the extra attention and appointments to see my baby – the extra monitoring made me feel a little better about going through pregnancy again. But despite that, I ALWAYS feared the worst. I think those of us who suffer loss are unfortunately programmed this way.
I started experiencing hypertension pretty early on in the pregnancy, but it was very sporadic. My blood pressure would be fine for weeks and then I would spike for no reason. Both my OBGYN and my high-risk reproduction specialist kept a very close watch on it, and I had to take my blood pressure at least twice a day every day for the duration of my pregnancy. I was also put on medication to regulate it. In addition, I developed what is known as Placenta Vasa Praevia – a very rare condition where the blood vessels of the umbilical cord that connect the fetus to the placenta are too close to or run across the birth canal opening. This can be dangerous and fatal for both mom and baby if these vessels rupture due to pressure and/or labor contractions. Our doctors helped us come up with a plan to prevent natural birth and placed me on bed rest when I was four months pregnant. If I were to have a contraction, we would have run the high risk of both me and baby not making it through labor. So, the plan from there was to keep me on bed rest at home until I was 37 weeks, and then we would have a scheduled C-section.
One Saturday, while moving into our new home, I started feeling a lot of “movement” in my belly and remember joking with my husband and my mom that the baby was a ninja and doing some serious backflips! I brushed it off and thought nothing of it. I felt that movement all day Saturday and Sunday. On Monday, I went in for a scheduled appointment to get the first set of steroids to help build my baby’s lungs for an early arrival at 37 weeks. My blood pressure was normal. On Tuesday, I went in for the second and final round of the steroids and my blood pressure was dangerously high. Within 24 hours, everything changed. I was at the doctor by myself because my appointment was only supposed to take five minutes. No need for my husband to take time away from his new job, right? I told him I would bring lunch home when I was finished. Little did I know…
I waited for what felt like an eternity for my doctor to come back to my room. I knew by the look on her face that something was wrong. She told me to call my husband – that I could not drive myself – and that he needed to take me straight to the hospital. I just sat there blankly not fully grasping what was happening. Scared. Confused. Sad. Nothing about my pregnancy was “normal” so this shouldn’t have been surprising, but I just wanted to go back home and have lunch with my husband and go back to being on bed rest.
My husband came to get me and drove me to St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital (because they have a NICU). I think that deep down in my gut I knew things weren’t going to go as planned so I already had a hospital bag packed. He brought that with him and that made everything so real for me at that moment. I went to the hospital on that Tuesday. They told me on Wednesday that I would probably have to spend the remainder of my pregnancy in the hospital for 24/7 observation of me and the baby. They were able to give me enough medication to bring my blood pressure down, but my health was starting to decline on Thursday. I developed severe preeclampsia overnight. Extremely high blood pressure, fluid in my brain, kidneys starting to fail, risk of having a seizure, among other things. My nurse was trying so hard to remain calm while taking my morning blood pressure, but I knew. She stepped out of the room to find the doctor. I called my husband right then and told him that something was wrong and that he needed to come to the hospital. He was in my room within 20 minutes. The hospital is about 40 minutes from our house. He knew, too. Our wonderful doctor came into our room at 12:20 PM and told us what was happening and what we needed to do to make sure that I and the baby survived. He had to be delivered right then. So that’s what happened. Grayson Joaquin Micheli was born on Thursday, February 28, 2019, at 12:51 PM at 2lbs, 14oz. He was here within 30 minutes of us making the decision to have him that day and three days after I was hospitalized for complications. What a whirlwind of emotions that I will never fully be able to explain.
As soon as Grayson was born, he and my husband went off to the NICU. I saw my son for a brief second and that was the last time until I was healthy enough to see him two days later. While I was in recovery after surgery, my whole family was able to meet him. While I thought about how beautiful that was, I was also extremely upset that I wasn’t able to meet my boy before anyone else. After all the struggles I had endured, I couldn’t meet or hold my baby. I couldn’t have that sweet moment of trying to breastfeed him for the first time after birth. I couldn’t relish in that moment with my new little family. I wasn’t able to have a vaginal birth as I had wanted. I wasn’t able to take it all in and enjoy it. Instead, I was lying in a bed by myself in a hospital recovery ward trying to make sense of everything that just happened. I had a baby but I didn’t have him with me. I kept telling myself that none of that was important at that moment and the only thing that mattered was that he and I were both alive. That’s what helped me get through the next few days, weeks, months.
Our NICU journey was a long one. Grayson spent the first eight weeks of his life in his little NICU room, and I spent every day of those two months driving back and forth to the hospital to be with him. My husband would meet us there every single evening after he got off of work. And we spent every weekend there as a family. It became a lifestyle for us. One that we had never imagined, but one that we grew to learn and appreciate. We were lucky that Grayson never had any big or worrisome complications in those first couple months of his life. He just had to learn how to survive outside of his cozy little womb – he learned how to breathe on his own, bottle feed, breastfeed, and how to thrive in his new outside world. Our NICU nurses, doctors, and specialists were our saviors, and I will never ever forget them. They took great care of my boy and made sure he hit his milestones when I couldn’t. We will forever be indebted to them.
Almost exactly two months to the day after he was born – on my birthday – we were told that we could bring our boy home. That was seriously the very best day of my life. And from now on, my birthday will not be about me, but the homecoming of our little superhero. And I wouldn’t want to share that day with anyone else.
Today, Grayson is a happy, healthy, amazing 17-month-old. He’s funny, smart, full of personality, and my greatest pride and joy. Although our pregnancy and childbirth journey didn’t go anything as planned, I am not sure we would change a single second of it. It has made us stronger as a family with a bond that can never be broken.