A Special Guest Post from San Jose Promise Walk Participant Elizabeth Barnett.
I remember how excited we were when we first found out I was pregnant. It was November 8, 2010. I had taken a pregnancy test by myself because I wanted to surprise my husband with the news. After taking the test I was ecstatic and went to the store where I found a bib that said “Daddy’s hugs are the best.” My husband gives the best hugs so I thought this was perfect. I wrapped the bib and went home. My husband was already home and I could hardly contain myself so I immediately said I had a surprise for him. He unwrapped the gift and looked at the bib with a bit of a confused look. It took a little time to register. I shouted out that I was pregnant! He was going to be a dad. Tears of joy just started flowing and we immediately thanked God for the blessing. In that beautiful moment we had no idea what lay ahead of us.
At 20 weeks we were told there was a mass on the placenta and our baby hadn’t grown since our 17 week appointment. We were extremely worried and for the next week I had numerous doctor’s appointments and tests done to try to figure out why our baby wasn’t growing. Around 22 weeks my feet and legs began swelling. I assumed this was a normal symptom of pregnancy. The swelling got worse at 23 weeks with my hands and face swelling overnight. I was unrecognizable. I had read a little about preeclampsia but didn’t realize how serious it was. I had had a busy week and thought I was just on my feet too much and needed to rest. I drank lots of water and rested all day. Later that night we took my blood pressure on a home machine. My blood pressure was really high which was not normal for me. I was concerned and feeling like something was wrong but knew I had a doctor’s appointment the next day.
At my doctor’s appointment I mentioned I had been experiencing some swelling, my blood pressure was high and I wasn’t feeling well. The doctor immediately became concerned and had the nurses take my blood pressure. It was up to 159/111 and there were proteins in my urine. The doctor sat my husband and I down and that is when everything became a blur. It all happened so fast. I was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia and had to get to the hospital immediately. I would be on bed rest in the hospital until I delivered my baby. Naively, I was calculating in my head that I would spend 17 weeks in the hospital, not realizing how grave my situation was and how dangerously close to death I had come.
My husband and I went straight to the hospital and called our family on the way. At the hospital I was immediately hooked up to an IV of magnesium to lower my blood pressure. My blood pressure was 170/110 when I got there. They also told us we were having a boy. Our family arrived at the hospital not long after us so we could explain what was going on and we needed their support. We were so upset and couldn’t believe how quickly things had taken a downward turn. The doctor explained all of our options and none of them were good. Our son, Cooper had an 11% chance of surviving and if he did survive, he had a very high chance of having a myriad of problems.
On the morning of March 15, 2011, we chose to induce labor, knowing Cooper most likely would not survive the delivery. It was the hardest decision we have ever had to make. As I gave birth to my Cooper, all I could think about was the painful silence: my baby did not cry out to me. This is not how it’s supposed to be.
Cooper Landon was born at midnight on March 16, 2011 and he didn’t survive. The nurse immediately handed Cooper to me to hold. Cooper was a beautiful baby boy. He was so precious and little, 11 oz. and 11 inches long. We held Cooper close for a long time and told him we loved him.
After coming home from the hospital, I knew immediately I wanted to do something to make a difference so other families would not have to go through what my family did. Upon hearing of our loss, we had many friends who wanted to make charitable contributions in memory of Cooper. I began to research online and that is when I discovered the Preeclampsia Foundation. I also learned there was going to be the first Promise Walk in San Jose on the same date and in the same park my baby shower was going to be. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend that day. My family started a team and spread the word. In a matter of six weeks we had raised $8,000 and about 30 of our family and friends showed up to walk with us. We were so touched and overwhelmed by all the love and support we felt. It still brings tears to my eyes. I know we have already made a difference.
Today, we are still grieving the loss of Cooper. Cooper has changed our lives forever and he will never be forgotten. He will always be our first-born and live in our hearts. My passion now is to continue to raise awareness about preeclampsia and funds for research. I supply doctor’s offices with brochures on preeclampsia and share my story whenever possible. Those are just a couple of ways I help the Preeclampsia Foundation move their mission forward in memory of our son, Cooper Landon.