Note: Names have been changed to protect privacy.
Yasmine P. was your typical college student. She kept up her good grades, was a member of her university’s marching band, and had a ton of friends.
She was involved in a host of campus activities — she joined a band sorority and had been named its Miss.Yasmine P.
Growing up, she was no stranger to health issues.
Her menstrual cycle had always been irregular. In fact, she could count on her fingers how many periods she had had since she was 12.
Even when Mother Nature did pay a visit, it was far from “normal” — some spotting here, a little spotting there. Doctors insisted that some girls became regular with time, and that she was perfectly okay.
But deep down, Yasmine and her mom both questioned the future of her fertility.
Stomach issues ran in the family. Her grandpa had colon cancer. Her mom suffers from diverticulitis, causing pouches to form in the lining of her digestive system.
Yasmine was 13 when she was told she was lactose intolerant — she didn’t have a single complete lactase enzyme in her body, which is necessary for digesting lactose in dairy products.
She was eventually informed she also had inflammation within her stomach’s lining, or gastritis, which is commonly caused by the same bacterium responsible for most stomach ulcers.
As just a sophomore in high school, Yasmine was forced to undergo a colonoscopy.
Eventually, stomach pains and flutters were so normal that she thought nothing of them:
“When I have little feelings in my stomach, I play it off. I’m just used to ”Oh, it must be my gastritis acting up again.'”
Yasmine’s wide array of health concerns often made it hard to pinpoint what exactly was wrong with her body when she didn’t feel well, but it became an aspect of her life she learned to accept.
But things started to take a turn towards the end of the fall semester of her junior year.
Because she was in the marching band, Yasmine was no stranger to extensive physical exertion.
But as the end of the football season approached, she found herself feeling more tired than usual. It was when she passed out after band practice one day that she knew something really strange was up:
“I couldn’t understand what was wrong but [my friends and I] just attributed it to me being weak or something because I hadn’t eaten.”
Coupled with the lack of energy was weight gain — with most of it being in her hips and bottom. She was led her to believe she was just picking up a few pounds.
When her midsection began to thicken in width, she figured she better back up from the table.
She had no clue what was going on. Googling symptoms and scouring WebMD led to no avail.
March 3 was the fateful day she would piece together the puzzle.
Her symptoms were adding up to be irritable bowel syndrome, ovarian cancer, or pregnancy.
So, she picked up a test. Process of elimination, she thought. But there was no way she could be expecting. Right?
Two lines blinked onto the tiny screen, and time stood still.
Yasmine told Dearly what it was like in that moment:
“I broke down. I cried. I knew then my life would never be the same. I questioned all of my choices that I ever made in life. And I was like ‘Why?’ That’s the number one word that popped in my head: ‘Why?'”
According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 64 percent of pregnancies among women age 20 to 24 are unintended.
She had become another statistic.
But Yasmine couldn’t focus on herself for long:
“I thought about my mama. I’m a college student, I live under her roof, she provides for me, I’m not independent as far as out of the house yet so this wouldn’t even be such a burden for me as much as her.”
Yasmine came clean to her mom, and they took the test together again for confirmation. It was an emotional ordeal.
As a teen mother herself, her mom had hoped Yasmine wouldn’t go down the same route:
“She kept saying, ‘This wasn’t supposed to be you. I was supposed to train you better. It’s my fault that this happened. I thought I did everything I could have done to prevent this from happening.'”
It wasn’t the most ideal of circumstances. Yasmine always thought she would have a child when she could fully take on the responsibility on her own, and not become a burden for those around her.
She and her mom set an appointment for the following week at a local women’s health clinic to explore their options.
Due to state laws, women could only consider abortion prior to the 16-week mark in their pregnancy. Yasmine and her mom figured she was only a few weeks into hers, at the most.
So the day came. She climbed atop the table and the nurse administered the ultrasound gel to examine the baby.
The room was silent. Too silent. Yasmine began to worry.
Suddenly, the nurse dropped the probe and rushed out of the room. When she returned, she had another nurse with her to take a look.
Minutes later, the two of them hurried out of the room again before bringing in a third nurse.
That’s when the bomb was dropped:
“Honey this isn’t an option for you anymore. You’re too far over the limit. I’m getting you at 36 weeks. You’re about to pop out a baby in a couple of weeks.”
Yasmine felt the panic crawling over her like a thousand ants. She began to hyperventilate. A nurse rushed out to find her mom.
Yasmine vaguely remembered one of the women having tears in her eyes.
The gravity of the situation was beginning to sink in when her mom was told the news. They were then informed that the clinic’s ultrasound machine was just an estimate, and recommended a visit to a doctor.
Before leaving, Yasmine was sent to talk to a counselor, who informed her that though rare, she has seen the same situation happen a few times.
Yasmine, however, was still attempting to grapple with reality.
There was no bump, just a small pudge. She never had morning sickness. Her hair had been growing a little thicker, but gosh, that could have been from anything.
She was hoping that somehow she would jolt awake:
“It was like I was in a dream. Like in a “Twilight Zone” [episode]. It didn’t make any sense to me.”
The glaring crowd of protestors with raised picket signs outside of the building surely didn’t make Yasmine feel great upon her arrival. But now she was walking past them feeling even worse.
A baby had been inside of her for the past eight or nine months, and she had had no idea. She had done nothing to care for it. She felt awful.
The atmosphere was hushed and still when they left until her cries pierced the silence.
Yasmine’s mom calmed her down. “Think about the baby inside of you,” she reminded her.
Not wanting to waste another minute, they traveled to a women’s urgent care facility. Little did she know, it would be the beginning of an entire month of being in and out of the hospital.
No one there could believe how far into the pregnancy she was. After all, she was barely showing.Yasmine P.
Sure enough, another ultrasound and blood tests projected Yasmine at 32 weeks into her pregnancy, and with alarmingly high blood pressure.
She was told she would need to stay. There was even talk of inducing labor.
So far, the entire day had been a complete whirlwind:
“I woke up that morning just trying to weigh my options and it looked like I was about to go to sleep with a baby in my arms.”
Yasmine’s blood pressure was so high that she was at risk for a seizure. She was administered magnesium and given a catheter, and remained in the hospital for two days.
Doctors believed she needed to be tested for preeclampsia, a condition characterized by high blood pressure and protein in urine, according to American Pregnancy.
Preeclampsia affects at least five to eight percent of pregnancies, with first-time moms being at an increased risk for the condition.
If left untreated, the expectant mother is in danger of serious medical complications — including liver failure, renal failure, and cardiovascular problems.
For her first test, Yasmine was ruled negative for preeclampsia. Doctors decided she was most likely suffering from gestational hypertension, high blood pressure during pregnancy without the presence of protein in the urine.
Still, American Pregnancy states gestational hypertension could lead to preeclampsia. Yasmine was sent home with high blood pressure pills and prenatal vitamins.
She had an appointment booked with the gynecologist the following Monday. But she would never make that appointment.
For the next two weeks, Yasmine was in and out of the hospital at least three times for high blood pressure. She woke up one morning with heartburn so bad she thought she was having a heart attack.
Several reschedules later, another fateful ultrasound was in progress.
That’s when Yasmine’s doctor offered some grave news — there was no way she would make it to a full-term pregnancy, which, as the March of Dimes projects, is a pregnancy that lasts anywhere between 39 weeks to 40 weeks and 6 days.
In fact, she would be lucky to make it to 37 weeks. The doctors were hoping she could hold on for three more weeks.
Most moms-to-be normally had seven or eight months to accommodate their lives for a new member of the family, Yasmine and her mom were in crunch mode.
With the news in mind, Yasmine tried to take it easy at home. The health of her baby was of the utmost importance.
Once again, it was time for another routine checkup. Yasmine was feeling perfectly fine.
But the nurse took her blood pressure and got 180 over 115. Thinking there was no way it was right, she took it again. And a third time. It was still high.
In fear that they may have to deliver the baby that day, she hurried to get a doctor.
Yasmine was rushed to urgent care and tested again for preeclampsia. It still came back negative. It looked like the bun was staying in the oven a little longer.
She was told she would only need to spend one night. Her mom went home to grab some things for an overnight stay.
That’s when the doctor came in with a different story to tell.
Yasmine’s urine sample results came back, and they painted her state in a completely different light. She went from being negative for preeclampsia to being a severe case.
Afraid they couldn’t risk one more day with the baby inside of her, the doctor informed Yasmine they would have to induce labor. The baby was fine, but she was at a high risk for a stroke or seizure.
She begged and pleaded for a couple more days. But the doctor didn’t want to risk her life for it. Neither did her mother.
When doctors checked her cervix it was hard and completely closed. Before labor could begin, it needed to soften and dilate to about 4 centimeters, and to 10 centimeters for pushing. They went to retrieve the tools they needed to induce.
But when they returned, her cervix had already dilated three centimeters.
So they administered medicine to speed things up. They warned her that the entire process could take a couple days. At about 8 p.m. that night, Yasmine received an epidural and drifted off to sleep.
It was around 4 a.m. when she suddenly awoke to pain. Worried her epidural had worn off, the nurse checked on her.
It turns out she was having contractions — big ones. Her cervix had dilated to nine centimeters.
What was supposed to happen over the course of a day or two only took a few hours.
The nurse instructed Yasmine to brace herself to prep for pushing, and that she would help her practice. But when she put her fingers in to check her cervix once more, she said she felt the baby’s head.
She hurried out to find the doctor.
Moments later, the entire team rushed in. It was time to start pushing. Yasmine was distraught. She didn’t even get to practice.
Everything was moving so fast. Everything was spinning out of control. And she really, really felt like she had to poop.
Push. Push. Another push. Oh no — his heart rate dropped. PUSH.
And just like that, at five pounds and eight ounces, Cameron was welcomed into the world. Yasmine was a mom.Yasmine P.
She recounted her emotions in that very moment to Dearly:
“I felt bad because it wasn’t like the movies. [It was] like ‘Oh my God, that was inside of me?’ It wasn’t that whole mentality of ‘Oh my God, he’s so beautiful.’ It was like ‘I can’t believe I just did that, I can’t believe he was inside of me.'”
Unfortunately, Cameron’s oxygen levels were frighteningly low. Yasmine didn’t get to see him until the next day.
Even then, he was in an incubator.Yasmine P.
But soon enough, she got to hold him and relish being a new mom.Yasmine P.
She smiled remembering those moments:
“My mama was laughing because the only thing I kept saying was, ‘He’s so tiny, he’s so cute.’ If I opened my mouth it was to say ‘He’s so tiny, he’s so cute.'”
Most people only stay a day or two in the hospital after childbirth, but because of her circumstances, Yasmine remained for a whole week.
Before Cameron could come home with her, it was mandatory that he passed the 20-minute “car seat test” to prove he was ready to make the journey.
He passed 20 minutes successfully, but his heart rate dropped immediately after the time was up. To be safe, Yasmine and her family left without him.
When they received a call the next day, Cameron was able to come to his new home.
The first couple months were rocky. Yasmine opened up to Dearly about her battle with postpartum depression, a common experience of mood swings, anxiety, crying and difficulty sleeping that can follow childbirth, according to Mayo Clinic.
The American Psychological Association reports that one in seven women experiences the serious mood disorder.
Yasmine knows just how hard dealing with it can be:
“I feel like if I was to tell somebody that today I woke up and looked at my child and didn’t feel a burst of happiness and love they’d look at me like ‘What’s wrong with you?’ or ‘Maybe you shouldn’t have a child,.’ For the longest I didn’t do anything. I just laid in the bed. I didn’t wanna have to deal with him. It was really, really hard. Even my doctors were a little worried about me because [they said] ‘You just had a complete life change in a matter of one month.'”
Though she knows she is lucky to have a mother who can help out, she didn’t want to be a burden.
And when drama arose with her boyfriend and Cameron’s father, Nick, there was an added amount of stress:
“I would just cry. I would wake up in the middle of the night when he would go to sleep and just cry. I felt bad because that initial moment gets romanticized on TV and in books. You see them and it’s like you finally know what love is or you see them and it’s like no one else matters. [For me] it was like, ‘I don’t see my child. It doesn’t feel like that’s my child.'”
Yasmine and Nick both felt their deepest regret was not knowing Cameron was there and missing out on precious time to bond with him.
Upon discovering she was pregnant, Yasmine had scheduled a maternity photo shoot because she “just wanted to feel beautiful” for the remainder of her pregnancy.
As fate would have it, the photo shoot never happened — she was induced just days before it.
It hurt. And Yasmine felt forced to finally get a grip on things. She told Dearly that though it’s all so real now, she still feels an emptiness:
“I find happiness in my child but I don’t know if I find happiness in myself. It seems like a routine. I know how to change a diaper, I know how to comfort him, I know how to do this and that, but sometimes there are times when I don’t feel like I’m here. There are still times when I’m like ‘I can’t believe I really do have a child.'”
As if right on cue, Cameron began to cry when Yasmine finished her sentence. “Aww, did that hurt your feelings?” she asked as she hushed and consoled him.
It truly has been a drastic change in such a short amount of time. Yasmine has been a mom to a newborn a little over three months now.
She loves Cameron. But at times, she misses her old life. She misses being with friends. She misses doing what she wants when she wants. She misses a lot of things.
But she’s in a place right now where she’s okay with the task God has given her. And she had some heartfelt words for mothers who find themselves in a similar situation:
“You will get better. You will learn to enjoy the bumps life throws at you — literally. You learn to embrace change.”
Yasmine is no stranger to isolation. Even before discovering she was pregnant, she found herself going through hardships with people she thought were her best friends. She was left with nowhere to turn during one of the hardest moments of her life.
Until now.Yasmine P.
She is constantly reminded there is always someone there.
“When you have a child, you have the possibility of having a lifelong friend,” she said. “You’re not alone. You might feel like it sometimes, but you won’t be alone.”