As far back as I can remember, I have ALWAYS wanted to be a mother. I also wanted magical powers like mind control, the ability to fly and invisibility, I mean, who doesn’t right?? But I digress… I remember once in elementary school for Career Day I was called on by one of the guest speakers to tell everyone what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said “A Mom!” Cue the teachers and other moms there trying to “help me understand” that I can be ANYTHING I want to be when I grow up…yeeeaaaahhhhhh…um…still just wanted to be a mom. Fast forward *cough* many moons and it is 2013. I have three kids ages 18, 16, 11 and am pregnant with my fourth baby. I’m 37 years old, so I am already considered “high risk” because of my age (insert eye roll). I also was being seen more often because I suffer from chronic pain in my back, legs, joints and well, basically everywhere from when I was still active duty Navy and was in a pretty bad car accident, resulting in me having 3 spine surgeries, countless ongoing procedures, and I also have Fibromyalgia (but those are for another story altogether).

Anyway, everything was going smoothly just as my other three had gone. I went to my OB checkup a couple days prior and everything was perfect. My husband went to school the evening of April 8 and my oldest daughter left to have dinner with her boyfriend and his family, leaving my 16 year old son and 11 year old daughter with me at home. I was folding laundry when I suddenly felt pain on top of my abdomen that wouldn’t go away. Something about it must have been different because my son and daughter both knew something wasn’t right and told me to go to the hospital. Initially I didn’t want to go, saying that I’d be too embarrassed if it turned out to be just “gas”. The pain wouldn’t subside, though, and as it became worse they ran to our neighbor’s and told them something was wrong with me and the baby so they jumped in their car and raced me to the hospital ER (literally 5 minutes away). By the time we pulled up, I was in so much pain I could not walk. On our way, my son called my husband at school and he raced to meet us at the ER. Once inside, my kids yelled for help telling the reception nurses that something was wrong with their mom and (unborn) baby sister. I was quickly taken back and hooked up to monitors where it was quickly shown that my blood pressure was getting higher and higher. I was given magnesium with no results, so they began administering it to me every 10 minutes. The pain was, at this time, getting worse by the second. My husband made it there in record time as did my oldest daughter and her boyfriend. We were told that they thought I had preeclampsia but were waiting for my OB to get there. She arrived shortly thereafter and confirmed the diagnosis but said they were trying to get it under control. Unfortunately nothing worked. My blood pressure reached 216/119. I remember her telling me, very calmly, I’m talking like in an eerily calm voice that my blood pressure was critically high. She said “Your blood pressure is too high and the medication is not working. Now, I don’t want to scare you or cause you to panic, but you’re going to have a stroke. We are going to try everything we can to save you and your baby, but you will have one, in fact I’m surprised you haven’t had one already. The only way to cure this is to take the baby out as soon as possible. Now, if there is anyone you need to call, speak to or say anything to, you need to do it now.”

Ummmm…I’m sorry, what??? My brain just couldn’t wrap around the sound of her calm voice saying those words.

You. Are. Going. To. Have. A. Stroke.

I remember it so clearly. I heard her say it, but it wasn’t really registering that she was really saying it. To me.

Wait, did she say the only way to stop it was to deliver the baby?! I couldn’t believe what she was saying. No!! This couldn’t happen, it was still waaaaaaay too early to deliver, I was only 27 weeks along!! She then said that the hospital we were at was not equipped to care for a baby so little and early (she was considered a “micro-preemie”) so I needed to be transported to Sharp Mary Birch hospital in San Diego, an hour away. They then gave me painkillers and loaded me into the ambulance for the transport to San Diego where an entire team was waiting for me upon arrival. My husband called both of our moms (I would hate to have been him for that!) and my mom met us at the hospital in San Diego. Unfortunately, my mother in law lives in South Carolina so she was stuck there waiting for any news from us. They got us in a room and then Dr. Daneshmand walked in and gave an ultrasound to get the full picture of what he was dealing with. He was like an Angel, really. This doctor was so calm (not that I expected him to be a basket case or anything) and had such an amazing bedside manner and ability to calm us all (which was a miracle in itself). By this time my kids all met us at the hospital, as did my mom. Doctor D then explained to everyone what he was going to do (emergency C-section) and took my husband and me to surgery. I was still in horribly bad pain and was terrified as hell. We went in the operating room and as they were going to put in my spinal block a nurse held my hand until my husband was allowed in. Once he was in and holding my hand, the surgery started. They start cutting and all of a sudden, I started feeling even more pain and started crying out for help. Everyone stopped and quickly realized that, because of my spine surgeries I had had years prior, the spinal block DID NOT TAKE as it was administered where all the hardware was in my spine. At that point I knew we needed to get her out and she was my main concern. I told them to just keep going and get her out. My poor husband, he didn’t know what to do. The last thing I remember was they were starting to pull her out, then nothing. I woke up in the ICU. I didn’t know what happened, I didn’t know where my baby was or if I even HAD a baby anymore. All I knew was that I was pregnant and now I wasn’t anymore. I started (understandably) freaking out and my husband came to me to calm me. He told me that she was alive. Barely…but alive nonetheless, and she weighed 2 pounds! My little Holly Sofia was alive!!!

From what I was told, once they took her out, my blood pressure rapidly bottomed out down to around 35/26 and I was dying on the table, literally dying in front of my husband. The nurses tried to get him to go with them and our baby so that he wouldn’t have to see me die but he wouldn’t leave me. He said that he knew he couldn’t do anything to help our baby, he’d just get in the way and that she was in the best hands, but he could do something for me. He held my hand. Even though I lost consciousness, he stayed with me and held my hand.

I didn’t realize how bad it was until the next day. I mean, I knew it was BAD, but I’m not sure I fully grasped it until this. The anesthesiologist came to my room in the ICU and told me that he couldn’t stop thinking about my baby and me and that he needed to come see me for himself. He said that nobody thought I was going to make it. Wow. That hit me. At this point he was visibly shaken and he hugged me. That’s when it really hit me hard just how bad it was.

I was in the ICU for a week, whereas Holly was there for 3 months. She was such a little fighter, too! She had surgery a month later (at 3 pounds) to close a hole in her heart, but amazingly has not had any lasting effects at all. She is, quite literally, a walking miracle.

Being so early, she had to have tests every six months for a variety of things; eyes, ears, neuro development, speech, you name it, she had it, as it generally takes a good two full years for preemies to “catch up” to where they should be developmentally. Her pediatrician also had regular visits with her to check progress. At each of these checks, he was remarkably surprised at how far she was developmentally. By her 9 month check, he said that she was fully caught up and that he had never seen a Micro-preemie catch up as quickly as she had. At her second exam with the specialists at 12 months, they remarked how they would never have known she was born over 3 months early. She was performing tasks that even we had no idea she could do. It was to where they told us that we could not come back for any more exams because the insurance would not pay for them as she was even pretty advanced for her age!

Holly is now a big sister herself, to our youngest (and last) baby, Adeline Asuncion who is a year old. Because of the trauma we went through with Holly’s birth, my pregnancy with Adeline was considered extremely high risk. I did end up having Adeline about a month early in another emergency C-section, however, we were all ready this time and had already planned that I would need to be put under general anesthesia since the epidural would not work.

I am very grateful for the doctors and nurses who were there and who helped care for my little Bug and me. It was such a roller coaster for me emotion wise and there were a handful that just went so far beyond just “doing their job” for us. The gravity of it all is definitely not lost on me and I will forever be in their debt for giving me these little miracles.

Holly holding on to her daddy for the first time

Holly in the NICU at about a week old

She was so tiny and so red!

First time meeting Santa

First trip to Disneyland

First Christmas

My beautiful kids

Holly Sofia

Holly’s 4th birthday

Showing some sass