Angelique Serrano 8 months pregnant

How I Dealt With an Early Delivery During My Second High-Risk Pregnancy

I was getting close. I was approaching 36 weeks pregnant with my second child, and every passing day I grew more and more nervous. My first baby sent contractions through my body just after 34 weeks. Baby Liv spent almost a week in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit afterward, gaining weight and strengthening her lungs. I spent five days in the hospital recovering from HELLP Syndrome, a condition involving hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, plus a low count of platelets.

During this pregnancy, doctors had detected Mosaic Trisomy 13, a chromosome abnormality, which in my case was confined to the placenta. Now my baby and I were being monitored at least once a week. I was doing my job as a magazine editor in New York City, taking care of my toddler at home, and trying to stay calm for the baby in my belly. At this point, I was running on empty.

I remember going for a check-up at around 36 weeks; with machines stuck to my belly to track the baby’s movements, I asked if I could be induced. Truth be told, I was scared that history would repeat itself and I would be diagnosed with HELLP Syndrome again. And I was terrified that my placenta could suddenly stop working correctly and my unborn baby would somehow suffer due to Mosaic Trisomy 13. I was worried about worries I couldn’t even keep track of anymore, both real and irrational.

I was worried about worries I couldn’t even keep track of anymore, both real and irrational.

Finally, the doctors decided that, yes, I could be induced. And so that’s how I found myself packing a bag for the hospital one Sunday afternoon in autumn. I packed my iPad, my toiletries, and my softest dark-colored pajama pants and top. I pulled on my comfy black stretchy jeans, a sweater, and then I hot-rollered my hair and applied a few individual false eyelashes. I know, I know. With everything going on, how could I possibly think about my hair and makeup, right? All I can say is that, for whatever reason, it made me feel better.

I tried not to cry as I watched my 2-year-old daughter, Liv, wave goodbye to me from our front door. My parents were staying with her, and I explained to Liv before I left that when I got home in a few days, she would meet her baby brother. I’m not sure how much she understood, but I tried to look happy and excited when I said it, even though my heart felt tight to leave.

At the hospital, I began answering all those familiar questions (name, date of birth, doctor, why I was there, etc.), and then I waited for a room. My husband stayed by my side, which was the greatest relief. When he was in the room, it felt like I had backup, someone to catch me if I stumbled over my words or forgot a detail about my conditions. I was grateful.

I checked in on a Sunday, and on Monday I was still...waiting. My body was moving things along at a slow pace. And then things grew scary. Nurses began coaxing me into different positions as the baby’s heart rate troubled and then would stabilize. Whenever the baby’s heart rate would start to dip, nurses and doctors would help me find another position. I breathed through an oxygen mask as I repeatedly waited for the beeps to regulate and the nurses to tell me that he was doing okay. This went on for what felt like an eternity.

Today, when we look back on this time, my husband says he knew in those fraught moments that I was headed for a Cesarean section. I was stunned a bit later when my OB/GYN came into the room said just that: They would need to perform a C-section to bring my baby boy out.

In the procedure room, I remember shivering to the point that my teeth were chattering. The whole procedure didn’t take long, relatively speaking. I was surprised at how quickly I heard my doctor say "Here’s your baby!"

My husband and I both started asking questions: Is he okay? Is he breathing? It turns out, the umbilical cord had been wrapped around his neck, and that’s what was causing his heart rate troubles during my labor. But we were soon told that he got near-perfect scores on the Apgar tests they performed on him just after birth. A relief!

And when I held him in that room, nestled him on my chest with my husband by my side, all I could do was stare at him. There was something inexplicable, something silent between us. It was as if we had known each other for centuries.

In the hours to follow, I asked my doctors over and over again if the Mosaic Trisomy 13 diagnosis, or my compromised placenta, had hurt him in any way. I was reassured that he looked fine, that everything would be fine. But after eight months of worrying, I felt like fear had become my default emotion. It would take me weeks to come down from the odd anxiety high that had gripped me through much of my second pregnancy. But little by little, I learned to breathe again.

But after eight months of worrying, I felt like fear had become my default emotion. It would take me weeks to come down from the odd anxiety high that had gripped me through much of my second pregnancy. But little by little, I learned to breathe again.

My post-delivery tests results showed that I did, again, have HELLP Syndrome. And so I received a magnesium treatment after delivery. Those hours in the treatment room were some of the loneliest of my life. The beeps and buzzing of hospital machines filled my ears, the lights blurred my vision, the treatment made me wildly thirsty and my heart ached for my family.

The following days were harder in a different way, as the C-section sent searing pain through my lower body every time I dared to move my legs. Each step I was forced to take made me cry. And when I could relax and hold my baby boy in my arms, I cried for far happier reasons.

A few days later when I was released from the hospital, I was still in disbelief. I couldn't comprehend that I had my baby boy in my arms, that he was here, that he was alright. Introducing Liv to her baby brother, Julian Hector, was a moment I’ll never forget. She looked in his basinet and exclaimed, “He’s so little!” And when I laughed, my belly hurt.

I would have a long recovery in front of me, but in those first moments at home with my husband, Liv, and Julian, all I wanted to do was savor the hard-earned peace. Keeping baby Julian close by in a bassinet, sleeping as I slept, helped solidify his presence in my mind. And when I felt too weak to move, I tapped my husband, or called my mom and dad; I needed support and help, and I couldn't be afraid to ask for it. Because I knew if I didn't ask, then nothing would heal properly, not my body, not my mind, and not my spirit. And so I asked for help, and I was immeasurably grateful to receive it.

Every pregnancy is different, and so many developments are unexpected. In those days after, I tried to go easy on myself, forgive myself, and remind myself that I did the best I could. And above all, I tried to focus on one fact: We were here, alive, and together. Nothing else really mattered.

By Angelique Serrano
Angelique Serrano is an independent journalist, award-nominated writer, reporter, and editor. She specializes in beauty, wellness, and lifestyle content, and has expanded into parenting, family, and health. Her work has been published in many publications, both print and digital.