‘If you had waited another day, I think you’d be dead,’ my doctor said. At that point, I realized how serious this was. I had put it off, trying to fight how I felt with Tylenol.’

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“A week after bringing Layla home, I ended up back in the hospital.

In the last week of my pregnancy, I started running high fevers, mostly at night time. I had gone to the birthing unit several times because of it; worried about having the flu.

My worst fear was having the flu when I delivered and not being able to kiss my baby girl.

I tested negative for flu swabs 2-3 times.

At 39 weeks and 1 day, I was induced.

On January 25th, 2018, I welcomed Layla Claire Vance into this world.

Courtesy Autumn Benjamin

3 days later, I was discharged from the hospital.

In the days following, every single night I would start running very high temperatures ranging from 102-104.8. My body would feel like it was shutting down. I felt like my skin was on fire. My entire body was swollen with what I thought was left over fluid from pregnancy, but it turns out it was deeper than thatI started having dizzy spells when I would bend over or move. I would momentarily black out and end up in the floor. After almost a week of being home, I was in the shower when a golf ball sized blood clot came out of me. I got out and called my OB, and they told me to go to the ER.

Courtesy Autumn Benjamin

I didn’t. I was convinced that if the Tylenol took my temperature down and I felt okay during the day, I would be fine.

But it didn’t stop.

I ended up going to my OBs office to get checked out. She sent me to the ER almost immediately. As I mentioned above, the flu was going around badly at the time. The ER was full of people being seen for the flu. I had to make a decision- bring my daughter in with me, or let my mom take her back to her house. My milk had just come in. I had maybe 6 ounces of breastmilk and colostrum saved in my freezer at home (for emergency purposes, I never intended to give my daughter a bottle- I wanted to exclusively breastfeed).

How selfish would I be to expose my newborn to all these sick people in order to avoid the anxiety of being away from her? Letting her leave with my mom was one of the hardest things I’ve done so far as a mother. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready to have my baby away from me. I remember kissing her bye and feeling like I was going to throw up.

11 hours I spent in the ER. Kevin left work to come sit with me. I had the birthing unit send down a pump to the ER, so I could send milk to my mom’s house. My step dad came and picked up 2 bottles to take back to my baby girl. I remember thinking ‘this is it. this is the end of our breastfeeding relationship.’

I was crushed.

After 11 hours of anxiety, they finally ran some tests. Blood tests, cat scan… and what they found shocked them.

My doctor came in my ER room around hour 8 or 9. By this point, I was lying covered with a sheet, my fever was back up and I was shivering. I remember having Chopped playing on TV.

‘We’re going to have to admit you, and we are going to need to run an MRI test with contrast dye.’

For those of you who don’t know, Layla is exclusively breastfed. Dye used in MRIs makes things more ‘visible’ in the scan. You cannot breastfeed with dye in your blood. I argued with my doctor. She told me, ‘would you rather not be here or have your daughter eat formula if necessary… your daughter needs mama here.’

She was right but for some reason I was still so conflicted. Why in that moment did I feel like I would rather get sicker and die than give my daughter formula? Maybe because I didn’t believe how close to death they claimed I was. Maybe because ‘breast is best’ has been hammered into my brain since finding out I was pregnant.

Reluctantly, I agreed to the MRI when I came back to planet earth.

My daughter needs me.

Even if she has to have formula once or twice.

I think the risk of ruining our breastfeeding relationship is what scared me. I had already worked so hard to establish that relationship. Persevering through Layla losing a ton of weight, over active let down, and Layla’s bilirubin levels reaching 21 which is borderline ‘she has to go lay under lights.’

After knowing I was going to be admitted, Kevin left to go pack clothes for us and get my baby girl from my mom since I would finally be out of the ER.

The doctors told me I was scheduled to have the MRI after I get settled into my room, and that they were waiting for them to find me an open room.

I had time to collect some milk, so I did.

Despite my fever, dizziness, and cold chills, I spent the whole-time pumping. Switching breasts every 10 minutes then waiting 15-20 minutes in between.

My dad arrives at the hospital to bring me my first meal of the day (around 7 at night). Chicken and dumplings from Cracker Barrel, a sweet tea, and a bag of snacks for my stay. Shortly after I scarf down the chicken and dumplings, a doctor comes into my room and tells me they’re ready for me. He’s got a wheelchair (thank God- Lord knows I was too exhausted and sick to walk).

I get wheeled to my room while my dad follows. I’m in a tiny room on a high-risk floor of the hospital. Not quite the ICU, but a step under. I get hooked up to an IV and the other necessities that allows them to monitor my heart and oxygen. I immediately tell the nurse I need a breast pump and a baby bed from the birthing unit of the hospital, as my newborn will be arriving shortly and will be staying with me while I’m in the hospital. They accommodate.

After about 10 minutes of being in my room, Kevin shows up, our baby girl in his arms.

I wanted to cry.

I had gone what felt like an eternity without her.

I reached out for her and Kevin laid her on my chest.

He was watching the heart monitor and told me,

‘As soon as I laid her down on you, your heart rate slowed dramatically.’

Courtesy Autumn Benjamin

That part still makes me want to cry.

Shortly after, they came to get me for my MRI. I wasn’t ready to leave Layla again, but was more content on the fact that we would be in the same building, and it would only be for an hour.

I got wheeled into the room and when I saw the MRI machine, my heart dropped.

Before then, I’d never had an MRI.

Being extremely claustrophobic, I told my nurse ‘I don’t think I can do this.’

She let me try. The moment I felt it closing in on my neck head area, I started to panic and yelled ‘STOP!’

I had to be sedated to have my MRI.

Afterwards, I was wheeled back to my room. When I got there, I found out that my OB had somehow arranged for me to get a room in the birthing unit, which I was ecstatic about. It was the safest floor for my baby, and they had everything I needed to accommodate my newborn. Not to mention, I had just spent 3 days with the staff a week prior, so I was familiarized with all of them which helped my level of comfort.

We got moved to the new room and settled in while we waited for my test results.

I was pumping and dumping, and Layla was receiving bottles of my pumped breastmilk.

Turns out, by the time it would be safe to feed her again, she would be able to breastfeed without having a substitute of formula in between.

I was silently patting myself on the back for working hard to pump that extra milk while waiting on my scan.

Many hours later, I got the full diagnosis.

Sepsis. And severe clotting in my pelvis.

‘If you had waited another day, I think you’d be dead’ said my doctor. At that point I realized how serious this was. I had put it off and tried to fight how I felt with Tylenol.

Courtesy Autumn Benjamin

‘Your fevers were so high because your body has been trying to fight off this blood infection and keep you alive.’

A week after bringing my daughter into this world, I almost left it.

I was started on strong antibiotics and blood thinners. Injections in my belly twice a day.

My hospital stays ended up being a week long.

‘If you can go 24 hours without tuning a fever, you can go home.’

Each time, I’d get close to that 24-hour mark and then I’d start running a high fever. I remember one night when I was sleeping, my oxygen levels dropped to the point where it set off an alarm. After that, I had to do a breathing treatment for the remainder of my stay. My oxygen levels fluctuated pretty badly, especially at night time.

I was dealing with all of this, on top of baby blues, learning to breastfeed, learning to care for a newborn, a bad vaginal rip, and constipation due to fear of my ‘first poop’ after ripping as bad as I did.

I ended up having to get an enema, which is one part of this story I’m NOT going to recall. Because it was awful, embarrassing, and above all… painful. After a week of hospital meals and sleeping in a bed designed for giving birth and not comfort, I was finally sent home.

The point is, I made it. I persevered. I beat sepsis, I continued to breastfeed, and I eventually got rid of the blood clots. It took 8-10 weeks of injecting blood thinners into my belly, every single day. But I did it. My stomach wasn’t only covered in stretch marks, but now it was covered with bruises and tiny injection sights making me even more self-conscious about my new body. That paired with the swelling from the clots, I felt completely out of body.

But here I am now, almost 7 months later and the bruises are gone, the stretch marks have faded, and swelling has gone down, the clots are gone. I’m still here beside my best friend and my baby girl every single day, living the family life. My daughter is still exclusively breast fed and hasn’t had a bottle since that hospital stay.

I recently had another scan due to swelling and pain in my legs after a vacation, to find out that the ordeal caused permanent damage in my veins. The valves are permanently ruptured. So being on my feet for an extended amount of time will cause swelling and pain for the rest of my life.

When I decide to go back to work years down the road, I won’t be able to go back to what I love and will need to find a job where I can sit. No more long summer hikes or days spent running errands all day, unless I want my legs to swell and feel pain and put myself at risk for more clotting. Life has changed for me forever, in more ways than one.

But knowing what I know, I would do it a thousand more times to have my daughter here with me. I would live through those fevers, I would deal with that rip… I would do it all again.

The last 7 months of my life have been the most incredible ones. Even through the hard days, my daughter brings me so much inner peace.

When you have a child, it’s not just that. It’s so much more.

It’s giving your life if it meant they would live to see the light of another day.

It’s waking up to a smile and big brown eyes after a bad nightmare- because yes, adults have nightmares.

It’s feeling ready to give up then feeling that baby lay her head on you.

It’s not knowing what to do sometimes but finding a way every. single. time.

It’s a mini best friend, a smile on a bad day, and the very air you breathe.

It’s your reason.

Mama loves you, Layla Claire.”

Courtesy Autumn Benjamin

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Autumn Benjamin of Layla’s Mama – Mamahood & Beyond.  Submit your story here, and be sure to subscribe to our best love stories here.

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