‘Are you the husband?’ He replied, ‘Haley’s?’ ‘Yes. She and baby aren’t doing well. The baby needs to come NOW.’ I tried to frantically call him. He was completely unaware.’

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“When Nathan and I found out we were going to have a baby, we were so excited, so thankful, and so scared. We had no clue what to expect. Nathan would often say, ‘Babe, what the heck are we gonna do when we have a kid?’ When he’d seen newborn onesies, he would say, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re going to have a kid this small?,’ and freak out a little bit, but thanked God for giving us this child! Until about 15 weeks, I had all day nausea. Thank goodness for medication that helped with that, or I would’ve been out of commission the entire time. I was so excited when I finally started to feel better and felt like I could start working towards being healthier during my pregnancy. I had an appetite to eat and energy to do more than lay down at the end of the day.

Pregnant woman stands in bedroom with shirt raised in mirror selfie
Courtesy of Haley Magstadt

One morning, when I was just 18 weeks pregnant, I woke up and knew instantly that something was wrong. I rushed to the bathroom and discovered I was bleeding. I called for my husband and cried and cried, certain we were losing our precious baby. We talked to the doctor on call who advised us to go to the ER if I continued bleeding. We decided later on that morning to go to the ER to learn more. After an hour-long ultrasound spent in silence, the doctor came in and told us our baby was fine and I was experiencing a ‘threatened miscarriage.’ A what? We were told to follow up with our OBGYN the next day to discuss everything. I remember texting my friend who is a nurse as I was leaving the hospital asking her if she had any clue what could be going on. We were so lost and desperate for answers and understanding.

The next day, we went to the OBGYN and got another ultrasound, as the midwife wanted to make sure the placenta wasn’t the cause of the bleeding. It was at this appointment that I was told I was bleeding due to a subchorionic hemorrhage, which is a blood clot that comes from the placenta bleeding. These blood clots often resolve on their own, and that was our hope moving forward. Our baby continued to look great on each ultrasound, but unfortunately the subchorionic hemorrhage did not resolve. In fact, I ended up developing a second one.

Over the next five weeks, I continued to bleed daily. I would wake up at all hours of the night having to rush to the bathroom. I had to be on bed rest for a few weeks, and worried day after day about the wellbeing of our sweet baby. There was nothing I could do to stop the bleeding or make the blood clots go away, so our prayer was that we could just make it to 24 weeks – the gestational age of viability for a baby.

Husband and wife smile as they take selfie in bathroom
Courtesy of Haley Magstadt

It seemed as though each week, the bleeding would change or get worse in one way or another, increasing our fears of losing the pregnancy. We assumed the blood clots were resolving since I was bleeding so much, so when we were told I had a second blood clot, we were devastated. I knew one day the bleeding would stop, I just hoped and prayed it wouldn’t stop as a result of our child being born.

After weeks of bleeding, I decided to return back to work. Being at home was not a healthy environment for me, and I was struggling to make it through each day. I had come to understand what to expect with the bleeding, so I felt it would be safe for me to go back to work. My coworkers were incredibly supportive and accommodating throughout all of this, and they made sure I didn’t push myself to do more than I should. I made sure I took the elevator up and down from floor to floor, and sat as much as I could. Things were going pretty well and the bleeding was not happening as frequently as it had in the prior weeks. Maybe, just maybe, the bleeding was going to stop soon.

I left work and grabbed some food before going to my sister’s house to visit her and her family. My sister and I were going to our mom’s house for a book club that evening. I wanted to go home, but my husband would be working that evening and I was often scared to be home alone, in fears that something would happen to me or our baby. I drove my sister and I to our mom’s house, and would be my sister’s ride home that evening. At the end of the gathering, my sister was anxious to get home to her sweet son who was waiting up for her before going to bed. I stood up ready to go, and immediately knew there was a problem. I rushed to the bathroom and discovered I had passed a clot that was a concerning size to pass while pregnant.

I remember calling Nathan repeatedly hoping he’d answer. I probably called 3 or 4 times in a row before texting him telling him to call me as soon as he could. ‘Bad bleed’ was something he was used to hearing. When he finally answered, I had a a pit in my stomach. I told him I had a bad bleed, but this time it was different. This time, I knew something was wrong. I didn’t want to overreact, as if being calm would lessen the severity of what was actually happening. But there was no denying there was reason to be concerned. I had lost a lot of blood and we had no clue if or how that would affect our baby.

We decided we needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible. My husband had a small group of friends come over and pray over our baby and me before we left. I have never felt so much peace! That moment set the tone for the days and months to come.

I was admitted to the Labor and Delivery unit and they continued monitoring me over the next few hours. The bleeding progressed and I was having 45-second contractions every 2-3 minutes. They gave me medicine to hopefully stop the contractions, but the bleeding continued and caused my uterus to contract. We were told to expect to be in the hospital until the bleeding stopped for good. I was bummed, but grateful I was being monitored where I needed to be in case it was time for the baby to come. The nurse and doctor grew increasingly more concerned with the amount of bleeding I was having and the doctors decided I needed to be transferred to a hospital that had a NICU in case our baby came early. I truly had no inclination I was anywhere close to having our baby, as I wasn’t dilated. I was only 23 weeks and 5 days pregnant. I truly believe God was protecting me mentally, or my anxiety would likely push me into a worse physical and emotional state.

I was transported by ambulance to a hospital about 30 minutes away. The ride to the hospital felt long, but I was kept company by a calm and gracious Labor and Delivery nurse, a friendly respiratory therapist, and a knowledgeable and reassuring EMT. They each helped ease my nerves and keep me distracted on an uncomfortable ambulance ride. Each speed bump caused more bleeding, and at one point, something happened that pushed the nurse to check for a fetal heart rate, which turned out to be strong.

As soon as I was wheeled into my new room, I got extremely hot and nauseous, and the room began to fill with medical personnel. I felt like I was in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy! I don’t remember exactly, but I guess they did an ultrasound and checked our baby’s heart rate and discovered I was having a placental abruption and our baby’s heart rate dropped into the 50s. I was told the baby wasn’t doing well and I needed to have an emergency c-section right away. My husband had driven to the hospital separately and hadn’t arrived yet. I tried to frantically call him with the help of the respiratory therapist, but he wouldn’t answer. It turns out he was at the admission desk of the hospital trying to find me, assuming everything was okay and completely unaware I was minutes away from having our baby. Someone found him and asked, ‘Are you the husband?,’ to which he replied, ‘Haley’s?’ ‘Yes – her and the baby aren’t doing well and the baby needs to come NOW.’ He was led to my side as they took me to the OR, where he reassured me I’d be okay. The NICU doctor asked him if he wanted them to resuscitate our baby if it wasn’t breathing once born, since we were still under 24 weeks. As I was being wheeled into the OR, I remember asking anyone I could to please save our baby! The last thing I remember was having the nurse clean my stomach with betadine and the anesthesiologist apply pressure to my throat to keep me from choking as I was put under anesthesia.

When I woke up, I was in a big open room full of other patients recovering from surgeries. I had multiple nurses around me. One came and said, ‘Your son is okay and in the NICU.’ My son? I have a son? We had waited to find out the gender of our baby, and this definitely wasn’t how I expected to find out! They were able to get in touch with my husband, who sent a picture of our son to the nurse on her phone. She allowed me to hold her phone for what felt like forever as I admired every detail I could of our small, precious baby. I was in recovery for a little while longer before my husband was able to come and see me. It wasn’t until our son was 12 hours old before I was wheeled to the NICU to see him for the first time. Harrison Job Magstadt was born at 8:45 a.m. on January 11, 2018, weighing 1 lb. 8 oz., and 12 ½ inches long. He was born kicking and did not need to be resuscitated, but was intubated immediately to provide respiratory support for his underdeveloped lungs.

Father stands over preemie baby asleep in NICU
Courtesy of Haley Magstadt
Intubated preemie lays asleep in NICU
Courtesy of Haley Magstadt

When I first saw Harrison, I could hardly believe he was ours. His head was about the size of a baseball, and his arms and legs the width of our fingers. His small body vibrated to the pace of the ventilator, and his eyes were still fused shut. We were told the first 3-5 days were extremely critical, and beyond that, he would be in a critical state for months. When he was three days old, we were told that Harrison suffered a grade 4 brain bleed on the left side of his brain. We had no clue (and still don’t) what would come of the bleed, but he continues to amaze us each day.

Mother wears mask as she holds intubated preemie in her arms
Courtesy of Haley Magstadt

At just a few weeks old, Harrison got an intestinal infection called Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC), which is an often-fatal infection that affects mostly micro-premature babies. Harrison had 75% of his small intestine removed in order to save his life, and he now has Short Gut Syndrome. He has received IV nutrition since the day he was born, and each day we work towards weaning him down. Because of his need for respiratory support for many months, Harrison developed Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) that required him to have laser eye surgery to help prevent him from having vision loss. It took months for his gut to wake up from the surgeries he had, but we finally got to go home from the NICU after 25 weeks.

Father kisses forehead of newborn with NEC
Courtesy of Haley Magstadt
Husband and wife smile as they stand in hospital hallway with baby in carseat
Courtesy of Haley Magstadt

Harrison continues to have multiple medical needs, but nothing we can’t handle. It’s difficult to describe just how amazing, brave and strong he is. Harrison has been on more ventilators and respiratory assistance than we can count, he has received multiple blood transfusions, has had nearly 15-20 eye exams, countless x-rays, and has been to the ER at least 13 times since we have come home from the NICU 7 months ago. He has had two blood infections, has had hand, foot, and mouth once, three different colds, and an ileus, where his intestine ‘went to sleep,’ causing him to have a temporary blockage resulting in a hospital admission.

Baby smiles as he lays asleep with bib on
Courtesy of Haley Magstadt
Baby who was in NICU for a while after birth lays on back asleep
Courtesy of Haley Magstadt

Through each of these challenges Harrison has faced, he has continued to be the most joyful and precious baby we’ve ever known. No matter what he’s able to accomplish, we could not be more proud of him. We look forward to the day he no longer needs his central line and we can take him to the beach or play in a water table with his older cousins. Something as simple as a bath will be exciting and new, as we have to be extra careful not to get his dressing wet. While Harrison’s life comes with many obstacles that seem difficult (and are for the most part!), we find ourselves grateful and humbled we have been chosen to be his parents and greatest cheerleaders in life. He amazes us each day, and we can’t wait to see who he grows to be.”

Mother smiles as she holds baby in her arms
Kaitlyn Phipps Photography
Mother and father kiss forehead of baby that they hold between them
Kaitlyn Phipps Photography
Husband and wife stand smiling with their baby in front of his crib
Kaitlyn Phipps Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Haley Magstadt of Virginia. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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