When Rachel first found out she was pregnant with Fletcher, she was over the moon with excitement, and she couldn’t wait to become a mom for the first time. Over the course of the first 27 weeks of Rachel’s pregnancy, everything went as expected. Her baby was growing steadily, and she was just getting used to the idea of becoming a mom for the first time. But one early morning, Rachel had a headache she couldn’t shake and swelling in her feet.
“In my heart, I could feel like something wasn’t right, so I called my doctor and spoke with a triage nurse who, after asking me about my symptoms, told me I needed to come in right away,” added Rachel.
Following that phone call, Rachel and Justin’s life changed completely. Upon arriving at the hospital, Rachel was diagnosed with preeclampsia and admitted to prevent early delivery, but despite the doctor’s best efforts to lower Rachel’s blood pressure, she developed a seizure that forced her doctors to perform a C-section and deliver Fletcher at 28 weeks.
“I was there when Rachel had the seizure, and it was the scariest thing I have ever experienced in my life. For ten minutes, I had no idea whether my wife or baby were alive,” added Justin.
Fletcher was born at a little bit over one pound, and for the next seventy-six days, he would call home the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
“I delivered on Wednesday morning, but I didn’t get to see my baby until Friday night because I was still recuperating from the seizure,” explained Rachel.
Forced to watch Fletcher spend his first two months of his life growing, Rachel and Justin turned to the work of March of Dimes for support. March of Dimes is a non-profit organization working to improve the health of mothers and babies to prevent birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.
“They were a huge support for us because they helped us understand what our baby was going through at the NICU,” added Justin.
Thanks to the work of March of Dimes, Rachel and Justin learned that preeclampsia is a condition that some pregnant women develop. There’s no way to cure preeclampsia except for delivery, and that can be a scary prospect for moms-to-be. In addition to high blood pressure and protein in the urine, preeclampsia symptoms can include swelling in the face or feet.
The organization’s efforts don’t support just moms through their pregnancy but also educates the community about best practices, supports life-saving research and provides comfort and support to families in NICUs across the country.
Today, Fletcher continues to grow and thrive at home, and his parents Rachel and Justin have turned into advocates for parents and families of premature babies.
“When you have a baby in the NICU, everything in your world turns upside down. Navigating this experience taught us to be selfless and to be more understanding of others. When supporting a family with a baby in the NICU, small things like offering a meal or a listening ear can be so meaningful,” added Rachel.
Haz clic para leer en Español: Un trayecto inesperado al ser madre