"What a difference a couple of hours made between life and death," Danielle Bergman writes in an exclusive blog for PEOPLE
The Married at First Sight alums welcomed daughter Olivia Nicole in February of last year, telling PEOPLE at the time that they were “absolutely enamored with” the new arrival and adding, “The second we laid eyes on her, we both knew that she is exactly what we waited our whole lives for.”
To get to that point, though, they endured a harrowing night of unknowns not only about whether Olivia would survive, but also whether Bergman’s life was in danger.
As they gear up to celebrate their daughter’s first birthday next month, Bergman and Dodd tell their respective stories of her arrival into the world below.
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The night started at my company’s baby shower for Danielle. She felt fine, looked great and was in good spirits for someone about to pop! After we opened presents, Danielle went back home to take care of the dogs and let the camera crew into the garage so they could store their supplies. I stayed behind to spend some time with my coworkers at the party. When I got home, Danielle was asleep in bed, so I got in bed and fell asleep, too. She woke me up at midnight; all the lights were on and she was in the shower.
I got up to check on her and she was hunched over in the shower and told me that she could not stay warm and could barely stay on her feet. I ran to the garage to get a bucket so she could sit down, but when I got back with the bucket, she told me to call the doctor. The doctor told us to come in, so we grabbed the baby bag and began hauling ass to the hospital about 20 to 25 minutes away. I was panicking with my wife unable to sit still, breathing heavily and wincing in pain. Not gonna lie, I was doing about 80 to 85 mph. I specifically remember a moment we came to the stop light just before the hospital. With the time around 1:30 a.m. and no one on the roads, it seemed the light was in no hurry to turn green … it was like it was stuck or something, so I ran it (after I looked both ways).
I swear when we got into the hospital it was like something out of a movie. No one to be found — like ghost-town quiet. So we rang the bell and waited a good 5-plus minutes just for someone to get to the front desk. We finally get into a room and after about an hour and a half of tests, they decide we are not going home. I think she said, “Well, it looks like you have bought yourself a one-way ticket.”
They decided to move us upstairs to a birth room to induce and see a specialist. I remember Danielle being very groggy pretty much the entire time due to all the meds. She was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, which was explained to be very serious and very rare. I knew things were serious when they were taping towels on the bed in anticipation of a seizure, and in the way they were answering my questions. For one question in particular, “Are they going to be okay?”, I kept getting the same answer: “We are going to do everything we can to make sure both Mom and baby go home.” Not sure I took deep breaths that entire night.
The most difficult moment during the birth was when I stepped out of the room to call Danielle’s mom. When I got out of the room and walked by the front desk, I overheard one of the nurses on the phone. She said, “Yeah, we will just have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.” I asked the nurse if she was talking about our room number, and she said that she could not tell me. When I told her that was my wife in that room, she told me that they were ordering a blood transfusion for her.
At that moment, I walked away and proceeded to call Danielle’s mom. It was difficult having this emotional conversation over the phone when I had only met Danielle’s parents two or three times — especially when not knowing if their daughter and granddaughter were going to live.
The rest of the night is a complete blur to me. I was floating around in a bit of shock, hoping that I would be taking my wife and daughter home at the end of all of this. It’s scary knowing that the happiest day of our lives initially was truly the scariest.
I was exactly 39 weeks and had gone to the OB-GYN for a checkup first thing in the morning. I had been dilating since 37 weeks but had stalled at [2 centimeters] from the week before. I was about 70 percent effaced. The nurse made a comment about my blood pressure, which was slightly high for the first time, but my urine sample was fine so they let me go on about my day.
That afternoon, Bobby’s work was throwing me a baby shower and I remember being so tired driving there. We had a great time but now, looking back, this is when I really started feeling symptoms for what happened later. I went into the bathroom multiple times to make myself burp because my chest was starting to burn so bad from what I assumed was heartburn or trapped gas. I decided to head for home a little early so I could lie down. I got in bed with a heating pad, thinking that would break up this gas trapped in my chest that was getting increasingly more painful. At this point, I couldn’t even lie down, so I fell asleep sitting up, waiting for Bobby.
At around midnight, I was in so much pain I decided to get in a hot shower to see if that would help. By the time I got in the shower, I was vomiting so much that I woke up Bobby, who then decided to call the OB-GYN on call. When he explained what I was going through, the doctor said it was highly unlikely this was heartburn and I should probably head in to get checked out to be safe. I remember being so sick but so calm. I was walking around in pajamas with a bowl to barf in while I let the dogs out to pee and gathered up all my hospital bags just in case. I remember Bobby speeding the whole way there and there was no one on the roads. We got to the hospital in record time, but when we got to the delivery ward, there wasn’t a nurse in sight! I was trying not to vomit all over the nurses’ station while Bobby went to find someone. We were finally directed to the ER, where I was admitted.
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At this point, I was asked for a urine sample, so Bobby helped me walk into the bathroom, where he ended up just holding my hair because I still couldn’t stop vomiting. It was around 1 a.m. at this point, and I remember being so tired. I did the walk of shame out of the bathroom, where I told them I didn’t think I had any fluid left for a urine sample, so they hooked me up to an IV to re-hydrate me and decided to take some blood to send to the lab. It took about half an hour before the nurse said, “It doesn’t look like you are going anywhere tonight,” so Bobby proceeded to call his parents and let them know what was going on.
During this time, I was given a few different cocktails of pain medication to help the unknown cause of chest pain, so things from this point on get a little fuzzy for me. Someone came in to tell us they thought I was showing signs of preeclampsia. I’m unsure if they had decided to induce labor before or after they ultimately diagnosed me with HELLP syndrome, which later I looked up and found out that less than 1 percent of births in the U.S. are affected by. Go figure, right?
I was put on Pitocin at about 3 a.m. I was also given magnesium sulfate to prevent a seizure from happening. This caused major confusion and a spotty memory. The few things I remember were the nurses padding my hospital bed, which frustrated me because then I couldn’t access the buttons to adjust my bed. Bobby later told me they were getting ready for me to have a seizure. I also remember the anesthesiologist almost denying me an epidural because my platelet count was so low that my blood was not clotting. This was the only thing I had in my birth plan, so it really freaked me out. I felt even more out of control at this point.
The next thing I remember was being approached by a specialist asking if they could go in and place a monitor on Olivia’s scalp, so they could ensure she was not being put under too much stress during labor. The doctors were trying to avoid a [cesarean] section, as it increased the danger to me drastically because my blood would not clot. A vaginal delivery was preferable — and necessary if I were to live.
The next thing I remember, which was hours later, was feeling ready to push! It took me almost an hour, but Bobby was right there and helped coach me through. Then, all of a sudden, she was here! I remember being so relieved. I remember her starting to cry when they put her on my chest and panicking because I had no idea what I was doing or how to make her stop!
I had to spend the next 24 hours continuing my magnesium treatment, which meant I was chained to my bed. Since I couldn’t get up, Bobby had the nurses teach him how to change a diaper! He brought her to me when she needed to eat, but he 100 percent did the rest. We stayed for a total of five days while we waited and waited for my blood pressure to go down. Once I was off magnesium, I was able to start mentally processing what happened: that I had almost died. That my daughter had almost died.
When the OB-GYN came to visit, she said that the symptoms had come on so fast (remember, I went to the OB-GYN for my checkup hours before symptoms started) that if I would’ve waited just a few more hours, both myself and Olivia would not have survived. That is still chilling to me, even to this day. What a difference a couple of hours made between life and death.
The last thing I remember is the evening after Olivia was born. Bobby was sitting by my bedside, telling me that he was so freaked out that I wouldn’t make it home with them that he had decided if anything happened he would change Olivia’s name to Danielle.
It took five days for my blood pressure to go down, and I was freaking out the entire time that I was going to have a stroke (or maybe worse) and miss my kid growing up. It was awful not feeling like I was in control.
We had planned on starting to try again for a baby as soon as we could to keep our kids close in age, but I have to say, this experience freaked us out so much that we considered keeping Olivia an only child. Luckily she is a happy and healthy little girl who has never had any issues from her rough entrance into the world!
The new season of Married at First Sight premieres Wednesday at 10 p.m. on Lifetime.