"I thought it was a miracle," said Trista in the September 24 issue of Us Weekly. "When the home [pregnancy] test came out positive, I went out and bought two more because I wanted to be sure. Then I called my mom and then my doctor. I was bawling my eyes out."
Trista, a 34-year-old purse designer, and Ryan, a 33-year-old Colorado fireman, announced they were expecting their first child in February after more than two years of trying to become pregnant.
"It was frustrating, but we tried to stay upbeat and positive," Trista told Us. "I truly believed I'd be a mom... EPT sent me about 100 pregnancy tests, and I discovered I was pregnant with the last one."
Trista's pregnancy was going swimmingly until July 24, which is when she told Us she "felt nauseous," something she hadn't experienced since the first trimester. So Trista went to the doctor and was tested for preeclampsia, a potentially fatal hypertensive disorder that typically occurs later in the pregnancy and is characterized by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine.
"I had protein in my urine," Trista told Us. "[My doctor] sent me home and said she would call the next day with the results. By 9:30 that night, I was terribly nauseous and in a lot of pain. I felt if something could happen to the baby, I had to go to the hospital."
Following a drive from their Vail, CO home to the Vail Valley Medical Center, Trista said doctors informed her she was suffering from HELLP (hemolysis, elevated liver enzyme levels and a low pallet count) syndrome, a complication of preeclampsia that attacks the mother's vital organs.
"The risks are seizures and coma, so they kept me overnight for observation. We told our parents they might want to come - everyone was worried," Trista told Us. "I can't remember much of the next day. My liver was failing. The only cure for HELLP syndrome is to have the baby, so they induced me."
With the baby being delivered after only 36-weeks -- several weeks earlier than was expected -- Trista said she was "scared and shocked" but confident in the hospital's abilities. However after having contractions for six hours, Trista said she "knew something was wrong when the doctor looked worried."
"Around 8PM, they got the last round of results and things weren't going well," Ryan told Us. "They said there was a chance [Trista's] liver could rupture. They were trying to get us to make a comfortable decision to go with a C-section. Eventually, we said if Trista's health is deteriorating and we're jeopardizing the baby's health, then do what you have to do."
Trista described the situation she found herself in as "the scariest thing I've ever gone through," but added "it was scarier that if the baby wasn't out quickly, things could be bad for both of us."
"I was worried, hearing the urgency in the doctors' voices and seeing the activity," Ryan told Us. "I assumed it was life-threatening, and that was tough. That prevents the release of joy you want to feel. When they put her under, I was rushed out. They allow fathers in the OR only if the mother is conscious. For 15 minutes, I sat in this big, empty room with things running through my head."
Eventually Ryan said he "heard a baby scream," looked through the OR window and was invited in to watch the nurses clean-off Max, who weighed 5 pounds, 3 ounces and measured 18 inches long.
"I thought, 'Wow. It's a boy.' I kind of hoped for that," recalled Ryan to Us about Max's birth on July 26. "I held him right away. I wanted Trista to be the first person to hold him and see him, but she was heavily sedated... I felt good and bad: You have this baby in your arms -- triggering one set of emotions -- and then you have your wife on the operating table with 10 people sewing her up, and that's another set [of emotions]."
Trista learned from Ryan it was a boy, the couple discussed the baby's name, and then she saw her newborn three hours after he arrived. Having worked as a pediatric physical therapist in a neonatal ICU, Trista said she "had seen sick babies," so she felt both "scared and comforted" that Max was born after 36-weeks.
"Max had to be on oxygen because his lungs weren't fully developed, but the doctors were encouraged by how well he was doing," she told Us. "[Max] turned his he'd and looked my way, and I was ecstatic. He was perfect and alert, and it was such a relief."
Ryan cared for the baby during Trista's recovery, and while she was discharged four days after the ordeal, Max had to stay 10 days, "mainly because he wasn't breast-feeding consistently."
"The hospital has a program where parents can stay on the obstetrics floor, and it's like a hotel, so we took advantage of that," Trista told Us.
The couple is now enjoying time with Max at home.
"He loves when his daddy reads to him. He's mellow except when he's hungry, and he gets grumpy like his dad," Trista told Us. "I felt overwhelmed at first - we don't have a nanny. Not getting a lot of sleep is definitely an adjustment, but having Max is totally worth it. Even hearing him cry - not that it's a good thing - but hearing a baby cry in my house, because we've wanted one for so long, it's just great."
"My favorite part of being a dad is watching Trista with Max," added Ryan to Us. "After all the hardship, seeing her so rewarded is pretty special."
Ten months later, ABC aired a three episode series that detailed the events leading up to their December 2003 wedding ceremony. Over 17 million viewers watched Trista and Ryan exchange vows on ABC's Trista & Ryan's Wedding finale broadcast.
Since The Bachelor and its spin-off played such an instrumental role in Trista and Ryan getting together, Trista said she'll have no problems if Max eventually tries to find love via a reality dating series.
"If Max wants to be the next Bachelor, I'll be his No. 1 fan," Trista told Us.