Today, Jessica Valenti shares the story of what she calls her “new normal” — life after giving birth to her daughter Layla after just 29 weeks of pregnancy. Layla weighed 2 pounds, 2 ounces.
Valenti had an otherwise normal pregnancy until, at a routine check up, she was found to have dangerously high blood pressure. Even after being immediately hospitalized, she and her husband were skeptical that there was a real problem, because as she says, she didn’t feel sick. But two days later, pre-eclamptic symptoms and HELLP syndrome set in and she became seriously ill. Doctors gave her magnesium sulfate for her blood pressure and pitocin to induce labor. After two hours, her liver was failing and she was rushed for an emergency c-section.
Eight weeks later, her daughter is still in the NICU and life for her family is not the same. Nor does she think it should be.
Layla now weighs four pounds and is doing well, according to Valenti. But she makes a wise point about going through a traumatic experience — you’re not the same on the other side. And that’s okay. We should hear more about this, because I think when people have a near-death or injury experience, we expect that as soon as health is back — everyone made it out in one piece — life goes back as it was.
After a trauma, when the dust settles, I think it’s as if your brain knows things are okay, but your body (your emotions) take some time to catch up — they’re still in fight or flight mode.
But Valenti isn’t trying to carry on as usual, she’s still mourning the loss of how she expected her pregnancy and birth to go. And trying to live her new normal.
I also want to share something amazing about the field of obstetrics: at the turn of the 20th century, 100 out of every 1,000 babies in the U.S. died before the age of one. That’s 1 in 10. And at that time, 6 to 9 moms per 1,000 died in childbirth in this country. The pace of advancement around mom-baby care is breathtaking. And I’m so glad for Jessica and her baby.
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