Image by Hazel Leggatt.

I was starting to blow up like a balloon and could no longer really see ankles. All my shoes were too tight and each day when I walked into work (I worked for an insurance company at the time, in the medical management department, so my boss was a nurse) my boss would say to me, “I sure wish I knew what your blood pressure was!”

I was retaining fluid with each second and getting frequent headaches. I went to the pharmacy to pick up some Tylenol and while I was there I decided to stick my arm in one of those blood pressure taking machines. My blood pressure was in fact through the roof so I called my doctor’s office.

No one answered the phone (it was a Saturday) so I left a message for the on-call doctor explaining that I had just taken my blood pressure and it was pretty high, and since my sister had pre-eclampisa and two 3lbs babies I was a bit concerned. Within minutes the doctor called me back, told me to get right to the hospital.

So, my husband and I hopped in the car, drove to the hospital where they continued to monitor me for several hours. At this point I was a little over 31 weeks along. After watching my blood pressure rise and fall over the next several hours they admitted me. Sigh.

I was in the hospital for almost a week while they monitored my blood pressure, urine, and blood several times daily. After several days I just didn’t feel right, my gut told me something was wrong. I expressed to the nurse that I knew something wasn’t right, I couldn’t explain it very well, I just knew. They decided to do some more tests, took me for an ultrasound and deduced that yes, something was in fact very wrong and they couldn’t wait any longer to take the baby out.

I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, toxemia, and the HELLP syndrome. My doctor had been out of town and when she walked into my room and saw me she did a double take, I had gained so much weight (fluid retention) since my previous appointment nearly 4 weeks before that it was astounding and I didn’t even look like me any more!

The doctor told me to get ready, that I would have a baby in the next couple of hours!

My husband was teaching a class and came to the hospital when it was over, (per his usual routine that whole week), when he walked in I said “we’re going to have a baby soon!!” He was a bit stunned but rallied quickly and we both made some calls to family and a few close friends. It was nearly midnight at this time and a couple of my dear friends came to the hospital to sit in the waiting room and just be a support.

I was wheeled into surgery a little before midnight for my emergency c-section. At 12:09am at exactly 32 weeks pregnant at 3lbs 6oz my baby girl was born. It was the most amazing, beautiful moment of my life. Even in the midst of all the chaos and urgency I had a peace that washed over me, God is so good that way!

They held her up for about 1 second for me to see her face and then whisked her off to the NICU where she stayed for 26 days. My beautiful, perfect baby girl was here, totally healthy, just tiny. I practically lived in the NICU for the next month until I could bring my sweet girl home where she belonged.

My birth story wasn’t what I thought it would be but it was how it was meant to be and I got the most perfect reward.

From Molly Winn.

P.S. — Here’s another early delivery story with lots of stunning images.

Note from Design Mom: throughout my 6th pregnancy, I posted advice, memories and stories about pregnancy, childbirth, adoption and growing a family. My baby is hardly a baby anymore — here’s her birth story and her newborn photos — but the series has been so popular that I’m continuing it indefinitely. You can find all the stories in this series by clicking here. Have a story you’d like to share? I’d love to read it. You can send it to me at