In June of 2003 I married my best friend, Matt. We knew we wanted to have children right away. In fact, we were hoping for a honeymoon baby. It ended up taking us nine months to conceive. I had the perfect pregnancy and labor and delivery. Our little boy was born on November 26, 2004. We named him Logan Allen. He was so little weighing 6lbs 10oz. It was the happiest time in our lives. He brought us so much joy that I couldn’t imagine not having more children.
Even though we were so happy with our perfect family we felt as though something was missing. I’ve always wanted a big family and wanted nothing more than to give Logan a sibling. In the spring of 2006 we made the decision to start trying for our second child. Where it took us nine months to conceive Logan, we weren’t expecting it to happen right away but we never imagined it may not happen at all. I began working closely with my OBGYN having tests and procedures done on Matt and myself. I took clomed and tried Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) several times but after a year and a half my doctor finally advised me to see an infertility specialist because he could no longer help me. So in October of 2008 I began seeing a specialist. After several more tests and procedures they found that the problem didn’t lie with me but rather with my husband. He had a very low count. When I first started seeing my specialist his staff assured me that they would hold my hand every step of the way and they truly did. I felt as though I were his only patient. After trying a few more rounds of IUI my doctor informed me that we would have to try In Vitro fertilization (IVF). I went through the whole cycle… the medications, injections and ultrasounds only to have it cancelled two days before retrieval. My body had reacted so strongly to the medications that I ended up with Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). I had to wait a couple of months for my body to recover and get back to normal before trying again. By this point, I felt as though all I did was cry. I was so sad that it was so difficult for us to conceive another child and it seemed like everyone in my life was pregnant or had two and three kids by now. Logan would come home from daycare after seeing the other mothers who were pregnant and ask when he was going to have a brother. My heart was broken. It became all I could think about. I couldn’t believe this was happening to us. It was like a nightmare. I had no control over it.
It was finally time to start another IVF cycle over again. My doctor insisted that I was not a candidate for IVF because my body responded so strongly to these medications but he wanted to give it one more try before trying something else. So once again I started on the medications, injections and ultrasounds. This time I had about 20 plus eggs that developed but my blood levels were still safe so we went ahead with the retrieval which was scheduled for two days later. When I woke up from the anesthesia, the doctor notified me that he retrieved 52 eggs!! He was amazed!! But he also said that I once again had OHSS and would need to wait a month for my body to settle down and get back to normal before we went through with the transfer which, in a normal situation, would have taken place just three days after retrieval. About a month later I had two frozen embryos implanted into my uterus. Waiting the next couple of weeks to see if it took was the longest time of my life!!
On the morning of Sept 9, 2009 I went in for my blood work to see if I was pregnant. They called me at 4:30 that afternoon with the results… I was FINALLY pregnant!!!!! I bawled my eyes out with joy and called everyone I knew that supported me during all this. I spent the next 8 weeks under the care of my infertility specialist but then he had to release me to the care of a regular OBGYN. I had him help me find a new doctor in the area because I couldn’t travel over an hour each way back to my former OBGYN. It was too much driving time and time away from my family.
That Christmas Matt gave me a Journey necklace. He said it symbolized the journey that we went on and all the struggles we faced trying to conceive our second child. He thought our difficult days were behind us but little did he know that they hadn’t even begun yet. What we were about to face didn’t even compare to the heartache we suffered over the past three years. As with Logan, I had the perfect pregnancy with this child… up until I was 37 weeks along when it turned into a nightmare. On the morning of April 23, 2010, I woke up and got in the shower. I started to get a throbbing pain behind my right eye. I had this pain on and off for a week and had mentioned it to my doctor but he said if it goes away with Tylenol then don’t worry about it. This time the pain was so intense I couldn’t take it. I knew right then that something was horribly wrong. I stumbled out of the shower and started yelling to Matt that something was wrong with me. He was actually coming up to say goodbye to me because he was already running late for work. My head was hurting so badly, I started vomiting, was having trouble controlling my right arm, my speech was becoming more and more slurred and I had a difficult time walking. I was having a stroke. I told Matt to call an ambulance but he said he already called. At that point, I started to go in and out of consciousness. As I laid there on the bathroom floor holding my head, because the pain was so intense, I remember thinking that the baby had passed away and I was next. I didn’t have the energy to speak out loud or even open my eyes but in my head I was saying my goodbyes and thanking my close family and friends for having such an impact on my life. When the paramedics finally arrived the man took my blood pressure and asked me if it was always this high… my systolic blood pressure was 170 mm Hg and by the time I got to the hospital it went to 190 mm Hg. I was taken by ambulance to Charlton Memorial Hospital where they did a CT scan and found that I had a blood clot in the base of my brain that burst. They confirmed that it was pre eclampsia that caused this. Up to this point, I had no signs of pre eclampsia. In fact, I was at the doctor’s office the morning before and my blood pressure was perfect and I had no protein in my urine. The doctors quickly realized that I needed to have brain surgery but they didn’t perform that intricate of a surgery at that hospital. They took me again by ambulance to Rhode Island Hospital where they had a trauma team waiting for me to arrive. They decided to take the baby via emergency c-section then literally flipped me over to perform the brain surgery. When my family arrived at RI Hospital they were told that my chance of survival was very slim based on the size of the bleed. That’s why, after some deliberation, the two teams of doctors decided to take the baby first. They said her chances of survival were greater than mine. They assured my family that they would do all they could to save us both but there were no guarantees and that the longer they stood there and answered questions, the more brain cells were dying. My husband got down on his hands and knees and begged to be in the operating room to be there for the birth of our child. They didn’t want him in there because it wasn’t your normal c-section procedure. This was literally a cut and pull. They had no time to spare. If they had any chance of saving my life they would need to get to the brain surgery as quickly as possible. They finally agreed to let him be there for the delivery but he would need to leave as soon as the baby was born. From what I was told, there wasn’t a dry eye in the operating room. It was such an emotional situation. Everything was happening so fast.
Matt came out of the operating room a short time later to announce that they just delivered a baby girl!! We named her Alexis Elaine which we had agreed upon earlier in my pregnancy. She was 5lbs 10oz and absolutely perfect! After she was born a team of NICU nurses took her over to Woman and Infant’s Hospital to care for her there. My family had to wait a little over two hours after Lexi was born to hear whether I survived the surgery or not. The doctors had my husband’s cell phone number and said they would call him and let him know how it went and if I survived. After pacing back and forth for what seemed like a life time and my family trying so hard to wrap their heads around everything that was happening, my husband finally got the call. He jumped up and started walking down the corridor. The entire waiting room (including people we didn’t even know) stopped breathing and followed behind him. After a few moments, Matt turned around and gave them a thumbs up… I survived!!
My neurosurgeon had to shave the back of my hair and I had 18 stitches straight up the back of my head. They had to remove a bone at the base of my skull to allow for the swelling which they could not replace. I spent the next 8 days in the ICU at Rhode Island Hospital. Lexi spent 3 days in the NICU at W&I’s Hospital. I wasn’t able to see her until Matt had her discharged early so that he could bring her over to me. I was only able to spend a couple hours with her each day until I finally went home. Because of the stroke I had suffered, I couldn’t walk, talk or use my right side. I spent several months in speech, occupational and physical therapies trying to relearn everything. My coordination was affected so just standing up was hard for me to do without falling over. I also had a visiting nurse that would come to my home multiple times a week. I suffered from severe and constant nausea for over two months and would vomit at least twice a day. I had extreme vertigo which I still have at times but nothing compared what I had for months after. It has been a very long and difficult road but we are both doing very well. I went back to work after 6 months and continue to improve every day. I just thank God every day for Matt’s quick response and the neurosurgeon that saved our lives!!!! There are some brilliant doctors and nurses at Rhode Island and Charlton Memorial Hospitals. If it weren’t for my neurosurgeon I wouldn’t be here today!
Matt had to take 15 weeks off of work which was unpaid to stay home and care for myself and the kids. He managed my schedule with all my therapy appointments and my visitors. He had to wake up with Lexi every three hours during the night for her feedings because I couldn’t even take care of myself never mind our newborn child. Whenever he would get up with her he would then come in and flip me over because I couldn’t do it on my own. Often times when I would move it would cause me to be sick. My Mom and Dad were extremely helpful to me as well. My Dad brought me to all my appointments and completed all my paper work as I couldn’t write myself. He did not want to leave my side for the first few weeks. My mom would give me showers and carefully wash my hair. She helped us care for Lexi by doing the motherly things that I could not do. My parents also helped us watch over Logan and made sure that his nose was never out of joint with all the attention being directed at me, my recovery and our new daughter. I had such a great support team between all my family and friends. It was overwhelming how many people reached out and showed their love and support. Those that came and sat by my side everyday without me having to ask them to be there meant more to me than they will ever realize. They are my angels. What I needed more than anything was a friend to sit with me, keep me company and assure me that all was going to be okay. They empathized with my situation and cheered me on, encouraging me every day to keep going. Even though they didn’t exactly understand what I was feeling and going through, they never let me feel alone.
I have gone back to work full time and I am about 99 percent recovered. I still have trouble writing and my speech isn’t 100% yet but they are getting there. I have a few other minor issues that only I recognize but it’s nothing compared to the way it was a year ago.
I’ve been told that I cannot have any more children, and honestly I could never go through that again, but I’m okay with that. I have never felt so complete. I have the perfect family… one of each. Lexi truly is my little angel. From start to finish she is such a miracle!! I often look at her and can’t believe that she was “created” and struggled through so many obstacles before she even arrived into this world! I just thank God that she is such a fighter! My son, Logan, is now 7 years old and he is so happy to have his little sister. He just loves her so much and she just adores him. When we first came home, I remember him going up to her and whispering “I’m so happy you are here Lexi. I love you so much”! He melted my heart. He is an amazing little boy and was my strength that enabled me to fight and get through all this. I would often cry out of fear that I would never recover and sadness that I couldn’t care for my newborn and my family. He would come over and give me a big hug and say “It’s okay Mommy… I think you’re beautiful”. I knew I wasn’t but if he thought so then that was all that mattered.
Looking back we thought the biggest test in our lives was the three years we spent trying to conceive a second child but it was actually nowhere near what we went through after. I was only 31 years old and suffered from a stroke, had brain surgery and an emergency c-section. I never used to believe in miracles but I truly believe my daughter and I are living proof. The odds of us surviving were against us but we beat them. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. I am so blessed and thankful for my family, friends and for how our lives have turned out. I now have a whole new outlook on life.