- Tell us about Covey’s birth story and your experience with Preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome:
"Wow!! Where do I even begin? We worked very hard to get Covey here in all aspects of her life. My husband, Brandon, and I tried for almost 3 years to get pregnant. We turned to fertility help about 18 months into the 3-year journey. We worked closely with my OB and then went to a couple of different fertility clinics before deciding what was best for us. You will find in the fertility journey lots of people have very different opinions. We were able to get pregnant with the help of amazing doctors and even more amazing nurses. From the moment I found out I was pregnant I honestly felt uneasy about something. My placenta was anterior, so I never felt her and by the grace of my amazing OB she reassured me multiple times with a quick handheld ultrasound she was bouncing around in there. Around 14 weeks my OB started talking to me about possibly starting Aspirin since I had high blood pressure with Sienna (she was delivered at 38 weeks due to high blood pressure). She let me know that this was my choice, and if I wanted to do so, I just needed to make the decision by 16 weeks. I was feeling good about my blood pressure levels as we were not seeing any concern.
So, in comes my number one regret of this pregnancy…I chose to not take the Aspirin as we didn’t really see any concerns for blood pressure with Sienna until the final weeks of pregnancy. And preeclampsia didn’t ever come to mind. We continued with our pregnancy checks as usual and everything was going well (except for nausea during the entire pregnancy). Around 28 weeks my appearance started to change. I was swollen and felt more sick than usual. My blood pressure started to creep higher. On July 3 rd I was admitted to the hospital. When I woke up that morning my hands were so swollen, and my blood pressure was high enough that was concerning to my OB that she had me admitted. While admitted I was given an NST (nonstress test) and blood panel. My blood panel came back good and there was no indication of preeclampsia. I was discharged and given a 24-hour urine jug…literally a big jug where I would dump my pee for 24 hours (it just chilled in our refrigerator). My results from the urine came back at 245 (they prefer you to be under 300). My OB had me come in for another checkup on Friday the 13 th and my dipstick test indicated I had protein in my urine and my blood pressure was high. It was then that she started to prepare me for all the possibilities in the remainder of my pregnancy. Her office is across the street from the hospital, so we walked over where I would again do a 24-hour urine collection. It was also at this time that my OB let me know that she was going out of town. I think this was worse than knowing I had protein in my urine. She is my rock and I didn’t know if I could do what was to come without her. I tried to take it easy as I completed my 24-hour sample. We delivered it to the hospital on Sunday morning and I just kept checking my health app awaiting the results. The results came in and my protein level was now at 3720. I immediately panicked and reached out to the on-call OB who assured me I would be taken care of. Monday morning July 16 my OB called me. She climbed down a mountain to where she could get cell service to call and come up
with our game plan. I was then scheduled for another NST, a first dose of steroids for Covey’s lungs and blood panel testing to take place on Tuesday July 17. That day my OB made the hike again to talk to me and check in to see how I was doing. Brandon and I went to the NST and blood draw where my blood pressure was still high but the NST looked great. On Wednesday July 18 the my OB again made the hike down to call me, but this time it was to tell me to get to IMC Hospital immediately as there were concerns with my blood panel results. She assured me that I was in great hands with the doctor she arranged, and if I made it to the following Sunday she would be there. As I frantically called Brandon to come home and got Sienna taken care of, we anxiously drove to the hospital where I was admitted, given my second dose of steroids and immediately put on what is called Magnesium Sulfate. This was administered for 12 hours and it was pure hell (there is no other way to explain it). This is given to prevent seizures and stokes. I
couldn’t stop throwing up. I felt like I was going blind, had a raging headache, and just didn’t feel like I could feel my body. I had a blood pressure cuff on that was going on and off every 5 minutes, and constant monitoring of Covey. Once we got through the night it was decided that I was going to move upstairs where I would remain until delivery. They scheduled me for an ultrasound and another NST. We are now to Thursday July 19 th. I was starving and hadn’t eaten anything. We ordered some breakfast but then were whisked away to our ultrasound. Covey was swimming all over the place, she looked great and there were no concerns. This was probably around 9:00am. I was then taken to have my NST. We waited because they were backed up. Our nurse came in and was trying to figure out why we needed an NST as I was monitored all night. They usually do them every other day, so she asked if we would mind coming back the next day as they were very busy. As she was getting ready to have us leave, she paused and something apparently came over her because she said “no, let’s actually do it”. She got us hooked up and this was the moment everything changed. Covey failed the entire NST. She then had us buzz Covey for 30 minutes to watch for movement and we got nothing. The doctor came down and said we needed to go into surgery immediately. I was then rushed back downstairs where I was put on magnesium again. Brandon was dressed in surgical attire and I was naturally losing my mind. I was wheeled into the operating room. Well the miracle nurse who performed my NST gave me some crackers and juice since I hadn’t eaten. Because of this (and I secretly think because I was hysterical) I was put under general anesthesia rather the planned general anesthesia. In a flash Brandon was kicked out and my doctor was holding my hand. The next 24 hours are a complete dream as I was on magnesium. I kind of remember seeing Covey for the first time not believing I was looking at her. I spent a full week in the hospital trying to control my blood pressure. I was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome. Both conditions take the lives of babies and mothers more than I would like to know. It is in my power to educate and advocate for proper and adequate medical care for our pregnant mothers. Like I said, if it wasn’t for my persistent OB, the team at IMC, and the amazing nurse who performed my last NST I don’t even want to begin with the “what if’s”.
Covey Twila was born at 30 weeks 4 days, weighing 2 pounds 8 oz. and measuring 15 ¼ inches long. She was tiny, beautiful, and had the longest toes and fingers. I was able to hold her on July 20 and it was the scariest and most amazing moment. We spent 43 days in the NICU. We were so lucky and had very minimal problems while we were there. I treasure the stillness of the skin to skin with her while in the NICU. It is one of my most treasured moments in my life."
- What or who helped you most to stay grounded during this time?
"My husband Brandon was the champion of champs throughout all of this. He kept me grounded by being the realistic sound in my head at all times. He would calm me when I would insist we call for the 100 th time to check in on Covey while we were home, and he would make sure I would stop Googling things.
In the beginning I didn’t dare touch Covey. I was so scared I was going to harm her (I blamed myself so much for this situation we were already in). He taught me how to do of all her “care times” (diapering, temperature, etc.) while in the NICU those first couple days. Our nurses helped all of us so much! We had the best team. I am so thankful that I am in touch with many of them still."
- How did you balance the needs of your toddler, your new baby and yourself:
"Oh goodness, this took some time and a lot of personal work. We had a great system with the NICU and I am so thankful that Brandon’s work was so accommodating. Brandon and I would alternate morning and nighttime shifts so that Sienna was always with a parent. Once Covey was home, due to their age difference, Sienna was very helpful, loving, and attending all day school a couple of times a week. We made sure to do date nights with just Sienna. As far as my own personal needs…I don’t even remember that time frame to be honest. I
was solely pumping so I really enjoyed that every 2-3 hours I got to go hide in my bedroom and watch my shows. I feel like balance is a constant battle with children, self-care, and relationships. As soon as you figure it out something changes.
- What advice would you give to other preemie mamas, including mamas who have toddlers and older kids at home:
"My biggest piece of advice is to give YOURSELF grace!! You and your family have just gone through an extremely traumatic experience. Forgive yourself for all of it! Take time throughout the day to be 1 on 1 with your kiddos, even just 10 minutes. Keep hugging them and don’t ever stop! And be present with your spouse/partner."
- If you could give three tips to mamas with babies in the NICU what would it be?
"1. Take advantage of having people watching your miracle baby at night and SLEEP!!
2. Don’t forget about your spouse/partner. Remember that they also went through this experience.
3. Take the help that is offered to you. You don’t need to pretend you have it all together. I promise you this will creep up on you in years to come."
- What has this experience taught you about resilience?
"This experience has taught me that our human nature is meant to be challenged, shaped, and adapt. It has taught me that I can do hard things and in those hard things I can work as an advocate, supporter, and empathize with others more. It taught me to rely on others and believe in the power of science and faith. This situation, like most difficult situations is completely out of your control. I had to learn to adapt to change, this was so hard for me as I like to fix and be “ahead” of what could happen next, I learned to trust the process."
- An update on Covey:
"Covey is now two years old and is currently belting out “Into the Unknown” in my ear! She is doing great! She participated in early intervention from the week she came home until about 26 months. She started attending a Montessori school and dance a couple days a week. She LOVES being with other children. She also just made the weight charts at 30 months old!! We are so thankful and do not take for granted how well she is doing!!"