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January 31, 2021

January 31, 2012

I don't have any photos from January 31, 2012. I didn't think it would be a day that needed capturing.

But the pictures in my head are so clear I won't ever forget.

I was 29+6 weeks pregnant and I got suddenly sick -- vomiting through the night and feeling like someone was taking a blow-torch to my upper abdomen. And a headache like no other -- throbbing, pounding, making my whole body shake. 

I showered and we made our way to Markham Stouffville Hospital early in the morning. I remember the maternity shirt I wore -- I still have it actually, I can't part with it. 

I threw up in the hallway of the hospital in a garbage can. A concerned nurse saw me and within a few minutes, I had a room with a team by my side, asking me questions and trying to get to my veins to take blood. I had swollen so quickly, it was proving very difficult.

I apologized to the nurses for having hairy legs! Can you imagine. But it was January and I didn't think I'd be in the hospital today. Funny thing: I actually had blue nail polish on, but took it off before we left the house. 

They put me on an IV and inserted a catheter (that was fun) and began administering medication to keep my blood pressure low. I didn't have high bp at all through pregnancy.

"You have really high proteins," the on-call doctor told me. He was actually the head of the department. How lucky was I?, I thought.

"Is that a good thing?" I asked, hoping.
"No. It's not," he said.

 I was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, which I had just read about in one of my pregnancy books. It's a liver disorder and thought to be a severe form of pre-eclampsia. And it could be life-threatening.

I was given a needle for the babies lungs and I would need a second one in 24 hours. 

He told me he was looking for a bed for me at a Toronto hospital -- and that I would be bedridden for the remainder of the pregnancy. About 2 weeks. 

32 weeks, I remember thinking.


They didn't let Donny come in the ambulance. Yes, I needed an ambulance. This was serious.

A sweet nurse accompanied me and talked to me the ride down to Sunnybrook. I was relieved it was Sunnybrook -- my dad had a stroke in 2010 and they saved his life. 

I was wheeled out of the ambulance and into the same entrance you see on TV --  I recognized it. And it was hot. January 31 and it was like 10 degrees, the sun beaming down. I think I joked we needed sunglasses.


We got a room right away.  A big huge room with a big window.  The Four Seasons of hospitals. 

Donny arrived and we just sat. Groups of doctors and residents came in all the time asking questions, the same questions over and over. To this day, we refer to it as "Grey's Anatomy".

"What would have happened if I didn't come to the hospital?" I asked the nurse who hadn't left my side for one second of the day. 

"Let's not talk about that," she said.

I probed her for more, but I knew the answer.

The answer was I would have died. I would have likely had a stroke and we both would have died. 

"You did the right thing," she smiled at me. "Mother's intuition."


Through the day, they kept me relaxed. There were no visitors allowed, so as to keep me calm.  They kept assessing me and scaling back the day I would deliver.

2 weeks became 1 week.
1 week became a few days.
A few days became 24 hours.
24 hours became today.

I asked if I was going to have to push today. I wasn't ready. 

"No, we don't think your body can handle it," she said. So emergency c-section it was to be. There wasn't enough time to administer the second needle for the baby's lungs. 

What I didn't immediately understand was that it wasn't the baby in danger. It was me. 


I was hot -- the magnesium would do that, they said.
I was thirsty -- I couldn't drink and hadn't eaten since the day before. They gave me a few ice chips, but that's all because I was headed into surgery.
And I still had a headache.


The emergency C section wasn't really what I thought it would be. It wasn't chaotic or frantic -- because it was like a scheduled emergency. There were fish on the tv over my head. "That's nice", I thought.

I'm sure in a normal situation you could watch the c-section, but they didn't offer and I didn't want to see. Baby would be out in the first 7 minutes and then they would finish the surgery.

There were dozens of people in that OR, and Donny was beside me. Grey's Anatomy.

OK, let's do this.


I didn't have to do anything but relax.

Baby Girl was born the next morning at 5:42 am. 

I didn't see her. 
I didn't hold her. 
They didn't lift her out of my belly.

A team of NICU docs had her on her own bed and they intubated her to get her to breathe. Donny took pictures and video on his Blackberry to show me.

And my headache immediately went away.

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