Wait, My Body Did What? A True Story

It’s not like me to have missed an entire two months of blogging right? Well, I’ve been a little busy as you probably know from following my Instagram: PGARTistry. I hope you’ve also been enjoying In Other Words, the quick reads written by my friends. Lastly, I’m hoping to have some announcements about the future of LOBW’s in the next few weeks. But in the meantime, keep reading. You know I’ve got a story to tell!
– Paula Michelle Gillison

May be an image of one or more people, coffee cup and text that says 'MOM EST 2021'

Over the years, my body has handled some strange yet miraculous things and survived them all. Like the time I accidentally drank bleach & had to get my stomach pumped or the super rare type of tumor that was discovered growing out of my big toe. However, nothing has been tougher or more brutal on my body than the thing I’ve been told my whole life my body is naturally created to do.

Just so you know, while the physical details of giving birth is what I’m talking about here, the emotional stuff plays a part too. You’ll see why.

In August 2020, I got pregnant. Yup, mid-pandemic while on vacation in the mountains and just 2 weeks away from Emmanuel’s 5th birthday. Emmanuel is my first born. He was born premature and passed away shortly after birth. Emmanuel was meant to be my only biological child. I made the decision not to have another because of the hereditary issue that caused my son’s death but primarily because I was in the middle of a heath crisis. Due to my suffering with prolonged and painful menstrual cycles, my gyno and I were discussing a total hysterectomy. But I was undecided about the surgery and wanted to try natural remedies first. So I got serious about my health and began to better control my diabetes which resulted in a 50 pound weight loss and some very fertile eggs.

Fast forward to Feb 2021, everything is going well. Baby is strong, my blood sugar is great, and other than a little nausea, pregnancy had been a breeze. At 6 months pregnant, I was smaller than I had been since college. But one night, after dinner and a movie, something didn’t feel right. A slight ickyness escalates into dizziness and headaches. After doing some at home test, I see my blood pressure is elevated big time. I go to the ER. By the tine I’ve arrived, the numbers regulate themselves and I don’t have to be admitted but the doctor wants to start seeing me weekly. I’m not due to have the baby til May but better safe than sorry so I agree to change my diet again and take extra precautions.

My next two doctor’s visits are fine. They repeat that my blood pressure is okay but to keep monitoring it and eat healthy. In the following weeks, I get engaged, I start applying for some huge life changes, and we began renovating the house. But by the 3rd visit to the doctor, the numbers are not okay and I’m sent to the ER again. After a few test, I’m admitted and told I’ll be staying for intense monitoring. Preeclampsia. They test, they probe, and they try all types of treatments but my blood pressure won’t regulate. On March 11th though, it hits an all time high. Its around 9pm. I’m lying in the hospital bed alone when something again doesn’t feel right. My mom and fiancé are gone for the night so I call for the nurse. By the time she arrives, I’ve gone from slightly uncomfortable to being in excruciating pain. My body is moving involuntarily and waves of cold are flushing over me. My blood is rushing and my muscles ache. Nurses and doctors rush in. They confirm they baby has an active heartbeat but can’t successfully track it. They do a quick ultrasound and let me know that there will be am emergency C-section tonight.

I began to panic. The waves of cold have gotten worst. I feel myself slipping in and out of myself. I text my mom and fiancé. I let them know I’m having the baby now. As the nurses are preparing the anesthesia, I am convinced that I am about to die. I text again that I love them. I call on my ancestors to either save me or greet me. Then I fall asleep.

Everything else I know is learned after I wake up. My placenta detached and ruptured. My stomach filled with blood. My son was fine but I was not. He was retrieved from my stomach via c-section. I was given two blood transfusions to stay alive. My uterus wouldn’t constrict. The doctors prepared for a hysterectomy but were eventually able to massage it back into place. My son Khaleef was born 3.15 pounds at 31 weeks, 2 months too early. It was 2 days of recovery before I was allowed to see him. The doctors said that I was lucky. I called to the nurse for help in perfect time. A few minutes more and neither my son or I would have survived the placental abruption. The nurses referred to us as “the miracles” for the next month as my newborn son lived in the NICU and I was sent home to recover.

*Pause* I know the statistics. Black bodies in the hands of white institutions have equaled high mortality rates, ignored concerns, and unnecessary or inaccurate medical intervention. I was very concerned about what would happen if my life and recovery was left to doctors who had biases or believed in stereotypes. However, when all hell broke lose, the man who walked into my room was a highly respected black male doctor who even the white nurses praised and one exclaimed “You were blessed that he was on this shift.” Because of the positive and caring experience I received, I’m hopeful for the future of our children and medical integrity. But I recognize that this is not always the case. So remember to speak up and out. Ask questions and get a second opinion. You are in control of your body and all who interact with it.

Emotionally, I was on a rollercoaster. Five years later, I was back where it had all started. I couldn’t help but compare and see the similarities of this pregnancy with the last. Same hospital, giving birth to a boy, mandatory bed rest, premature, elevated blood pressure, another emergency c-section. It was mental torture. But words my mother had spoken reverberated through me “Things are different this time.” So I’d channel my energy into all the wonderfully beautiful and different things about this pregnancy. I had a loving partner by my side, the baby was healthy, I was much healthier, and more prepared to be this kid’s mother. I spent a lot of time in the hospital room chatting with Emmanuel, my first born. He assured me he was watching over us and I 1000% believe he did.

While the at-home recovery was tough, the one month NICU stay was brutal and the unknowing was torture, the reward has been sweet. Exactly one month after birth including switching hospitals, baby came home and we are doing great. My body has a journey ahead of it. I’m on 11 blood pressure medicines plus another 10 for diabetes and general health. I’m still having to monitor my sugar 4 times a day and take my blood pressure to avoid the danger zone. And postpartum depression, that’s a whole other article.

My body did what? Yes! It did. I’m amazed at it. I also get mad at it and annoyed for not being more normal. But overall, I’m thankful. Sometimes, it feels like a whole sperate entity from my mind but they are harmonizing beautifully. And together, we did the miraculous.

Paula and Khaleef

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