The Milestone of Viability

I cannot express to you the weight that comes off a parent’s shoulders when it is no longer their signature that would keep their struggling child alive despite any complications she might have forever because of that struggle. In Michigan, 24 weeks is deemed the milestone of viability. We hit that milestone on the 3rd, celebrated with a wheelchair ride to Starbucks for frappacinos, and then I woke up the very next morning to severe abdominal pain. This spurred into motion trip 3 to Labor & Delivery.

6.4.17

“Fear is huge. Pain is constant. Still, as much as I wish this wasn’t happening, this is what we were given. We can only trust that God’s purpose will prevail. He knows what He’s doing. I pray for good outcomes, but it’s His desires that will be made reality. In the meantime, the battle is hard. Hopefully, it’s one of the hardest battles I’ll ever have to fight, because I’m not certain I’m strong enough for anything harder. Some days, I’m not certain I’m strong enough for this.”

Viability. We made it.

I cannot express to you the weight that comes off a parent’s shoulders when it is no longer their signature that would keep their struggling child alive despite any complications she might have forever because of that struggle. In Michigan, 24 weeks is deemed the milestone of viability.

We hit that milestone on the 3rd, celebrated with a wheelchair ride to Starbucks for frappacinos, and then I woke up the very next morning to severe abdominal pain. This spurred into motion trip 3 to Labor & Delivery. Having made it 8 days longer, baby girl’s chance of survival increased to somewhere around 40%.

While they did not put me back on mag during this trip, we did enter into the conversation of whether or not to use the repeat round, that is the final round, of steroids. The math breaks down like this: when given steroids to boost baby’s lung development, they’re most effective the sooner the baby is born after administration. After about two weeks, they lose their effect altogether.

Again, I asked the doctor, “What would you do if you were me?”

She replied, “I would take the steroids. If you make it another two weeks, you’ll be in an entirely different place with baby’s chances of survival.”

In other words, should we deliver, now is the time to do the repeat round. Should we hold off yet again, two weeks would put baby girl at 26 weeks and 1 day, a much better place to be than 24 weeks and 1 day.

I took the steroids.

Shot 1: I’m in Labor & Delivery.

Shot 2: I’m back up on the OB Special Care floor. We did not deliver.

What we did learn on the Labor & Delivery floor that day was this: L&D is not a place for visitors. My half naked, contracting, hungry, tired self did not tolerate well the two sets of visitors who showed up. After set two, I burst into tears and told my husband, “No more. From now on, this is not a place for visitors.” In fact, aside from the fruit snacks I had my husband sneak me, I didn’t even allow eating in the room when I was on that floor. It wasn’t exactly comforting to watch someone eat when you were denied food.

After being released back to OB Special Care, I ate my victory meal – chicken quesadillas – and we ventured outside despite how terrible I looked and felt. I needed the sun on my face like I needed the air in my lungs those days. Get me out of the sterile hospital and into the little bit of nature my wheelchair wheels can get me to.

wheelchair privileges

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 24 weeks 1 day
Days of blood: 39
Days of bedrest: 60
Pre-Hospital Stay Doctor’s Appointments: 8
Ultrasounds: 4
Days in the hospital: 10
IV starts: 2
Magnesium drips: 2
Trips to Labor & Delivery: 3
Sets of visitors: 17

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The Midnight Call

I climbed onto the stretcher and made the midnight call to my husband – come back, we might be having our baby. Again, our car sat in the emergency room parking lot. Again, I was denied food in case we went into surgery. Again, I was hooked up to a magnesium drip, convinced my skin might be on fire and my blood was lava flowing through me. Again, I cried instead of sleeping. 

6.1.17

“All I want to do is make it to the end of this. Each day is a gift. Apparently some of them are going to be really difficult gifts to bare.”

On Wednesdays, typically my husband and I hang out with our small group in the evening. We’re really blessed to have a great group of friends not only journeying with us through difficult times like this, but through everyday life as well. When things started going awry, they quickly stepped in, putting together a meal sign up, stopping by with little things to brighten up our day and, most notably, visiting/hanging out with us in a way that made us feel normal.

On Wednesday, May 31, my husband came to the hospital, like he did every day after work, ate dinner and headed out for a night with the small group guys. The girls came to the hospital to spend an evening with me. One had arranged to pick up my favorite dinner. Another had arranged for us all to decorate onesies together for baby girl.

painted onesies

As we decorated the onesies, I began to feel off. I couldn’t decide if I’d gobbled up my favorite dinner too quickly or if I was truly feeling something botched pregnancy related. There was pressure in my lower abdomen. After the girls left and I was alone, the pressure escalated into clear contractions.

I called my nurse in, Nurse B, and she put me on the monitor for my third time that day. Not only was I contracting, but our baby’s heart rate was tachy, coming in around 180 beats per minute, about 20 beats per minute too high. Nurse B calmly and quickly got me changed and on my way back to the Labor & Delivery floor. I realized somewhere in this sequence of events that I’d crossed into a new, dignity-less dimension. When Nurse B held up the hospital gown to give me privacy, I didn’t care that I was stripping naked whilst sitting on the toilet in front of my new friend.

I climbed onto the stretcher and made the midnight call to my husband – come back, we might be having our baby.

Again, our car sat in the emergency room parking lot. Again, I was denied food in case we went into surgery. Again, I was hooked up to a magnesium drip, convinced my skin might be on fire and my blood was lava flowing through me. Again, I cried instead of sleeping.

And again, I had an IV start. I had to keep an IV in at all times, whether it was hooked up to anything or not. When it was not hooked up to anything, the nurses would regularly flush it to guarantee it would work should I be rushed into surgery. For every IV start I had, it can be assumed it took at least two pokes to get it right.

What you should know about me is that I hate all things medical. (I’m breaking into a sweat just thinking about IV starts.) The nurses were given the ok to prolong my IVs if they flushed well because pokes make me panicky. This particular IV start may have been the worst. I needed a new one anyway, I was going on day 7 which was the limit, but I had been told I was going back on mag, and then in came the nurse with a needle just shy of the size of a Capri Sun straw. (I might be exaggerating, but I did need a larger needle because it was assumed I would need blood after the cesarean, and possibly quickly.)

Poke #1 – I’m hot, and we haven’t even started the mag.

Poke #2 – I’m blacking out.

The nurse left and came back with a nurse friend. She gave me some lidocaine to numb the area and poked again. I survived IV start number two.

Contractions, bedpan, IV start, magnesium, sleep deprivation, food deprivation, fear, anger… I survived trip two to L&D as well. At 10:30am on the first, they sent me back up to the fourth floor where our unofficial welcome committee of nurses cheered as I was wheeled back into my room still pregnant.

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 23 weeks 5 days
Days of blood: 36
Days of bedrest: 57
Pre-Hospital Stay Doctor’s Appointments: 8
Ultrasounds: 4
Days in the hospital: 7
IV starts: 2
Magnesium drips: 2
Trips to Labor & Delivery: 2
Sets of visitors: 13

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Alone in a Building Full of People

We choked back emotions as we said goodbye for our first time in this new stage. We were supposed to be giggling, giddy for the birth of the baby that would take us from two to three, babymooning, putting together a nursery and dreaming of what life would be like in four months. Instead, Kevin walked out of my hospital room, retrieved our car from the emergency room parking lot and went home alone to the house I would not see again until our baby was born.

5.29.17

“I think we both wish so badly this didn’t have to be a part of our story, but it’s completely in God’s hands. All we can do is pray for the best.”

It was a weird sort of unworldly experience, that first weekend in the hospital. We hadn’t fully understood what this phase of our lives was going to look like. We lived somewhere between bliss and denial. Baby girl was still on the inside, but so was I.

On Saturday, I was administered the second dose of my rescue round of steroids. Otherwise, over the weekend, I’d returned to steady, though steady now meant losing blood consistently throughout the day as well as the nightly gushes.

My husband stayed with me, sleeping on the chair/lounger, bless his soul, through Monday, it being Memorial Day. We had several visitors, family and friends, and I was given wheelchair privileges, so we ventured out into the beautiful weather for an hour here and there, making sure I was back in time for pills, IV flushes and vitals.

We marveled at how when we’d left our house on the 26th, we’d packed overnight bags for the wedding I was standing in the next day, and while our packed attire did not exactly fit the hospital scene, we were lucky to have our toiletries, pajamas/lounge clothes, cell phone chargers, my body pillow, and some other necessities right in our car. We were lucky to have had Kevin home from work early, on a day when we thought we were crossing the state in the afternoon, but instead admitted me to the hospital. We were lucky to have had our dog packed up and ready to go to my parent’s house for the weekend that would turn into the summer.

And then Monday evening came.

Our holiday weekend, filled with too much excitement and a getaway to the Medical Mile of Grand Rapids, came to a close.

For one of us.

Kevin had to return home, to take care of our house, to go back to work, to sort out our lives a bit.

And I was left alone.

We choked back emotions as we said goodbye for our first time in this new stage. We were supposed to be giggling, giddy for the birth of the baby that would take us from two to three, babymooning, putting together a nursery and dreaming of what life would be like in four months. Instead, Kevin walked out of my hospital room, retrieved our car from the emergency room parking lot and went home alone to the house I would not see again until our baby was born.

I cried. Oh, I cried.

You can be surrounded by people all day long as a hospital patient – doctors, nurses, visitors – but they all go home at the end of the day. This would be my first experience of significant loneliness in a time when I was never more than 25 feet from another person. However, the only other people who could truly understand the loneliness I felt were also locked away in their rooms until they, too, were granted wheelchair privileges and their family or friends retrieved them. Still, we didn’t chat even when we did see each other.

Though my body was best when still, my mind was not. I learned to keep myself busy. I continued working from the hospital. I crocheted more and more dish scrubbies. I shared my days with endless visitors. I chatted with my nurses. I read books. I journaled. I checked on and tweaked our baby registry almost nightly.

I did anything to keep my mind from reminding me just how isolated I felt.

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 23 weeks 2 days
Days of blood: 33
Days of bedrest: 54
Pre-Hospital Stay Doctor’s Appointments: 8
Ultrasounds: 4
Days in the hospital: 4
IV starts: 1
Magnesium drips: 1
Trips to Labor & Delivery: 1
Sets of visitors: 8


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P.S. I have to note the real heroes in this stage of our pregnancy, my nurses. I’ll mention some here and there in the upcoming posts, but it shouldn’t go unsaid that yes, I was beyond lonely, but these girls were absolute godsends. They chatted with me, laughed with me, cried with me and cared about me as if I hadn’t just entered their lives a few days ago. 4 Center, OB Special Care, is a truly special place. While I hope I’m never their patient again, I so badly miss some of those girls who so quickly became my friends.

Admission

With pen and paper thrust toward me, Dr. D asked the question I’d never discussed with my husband, “Knowing the severe complications your baby may face due to prematurity, do you want us to take full resuscitation measures?” I frantically looked from person to person, trying to get a read on the room and have a conversation with my husband via our eyes alone. What was his stance? What is mine? Is this a situation where we go with our gut or is there a deeper level of thinking we’re supposed to reach in the next 25 seconds? I could throw up.

5.26.17

“Admission. I was staying. They prepared us for what would happen if we delivered and sent us up to labor and delivery.”

If this pregnancy had not already been a lesson in best laid plans, the 26th of May was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

It was the day of my best friend’s rehearsal dinner. My ceremony stool packed into the trunk of our car, my yellow dress hanging in the backseat, I’d worked in the morning and the plan was to leave around lunch time, giving us ample time to make our trek across the state to the rehearsal dinner. Another friend of mine would be carpooling and staying in the hotel with us.

And then at noon, I started feeling weird. Not sick, not stressed, weird. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was happening. I laid down. I went to the bathroom. I texted my husband. Eventually, I asked the friend who was supposed to be riding with us to walk my dog so I could have a moment alone to call my doctor without bringing anyone else into the details of our chaos. I left a message with a nurse and then my husband came home. We hastily chatted in whispers as we finished packing up, got in the car, and headed out toward the other side of the state.

We’d decided to drive for a half hour before making a final call, with the hope that we’d hear back from my doctor by then. Making our way out of town, we merged onto a highway heavily in need of repair. Through the perfectly consistent bumps I realized what I was feeling was also perfectly consistent – about every three to five minutes to be more precise. Contractions.

Still trying to remain calm, we pulled off at a gas station just out of town so I could “use the restroom”. I used that restroom to cry and to communicate via text with my husband who was right out in the car that we needed to turn around. I pulled myself together, walked back to the car, sat down, and the question my husband broke the tension with was, “So… to the hospital then?” I didn’t answer.

I called my best friend and told her through tears we would not be making it. I gave the phone to my friend in the backseat and had her call the hotel to cancel yet another set of reservations.

We pulled into the parking lot of the emergency room.

“Do you have a medical emergency?”

“Yes.”

“Do you need a wheelchair or can you walk from parking?”

“I can walk.”

I could not walk.

My husband parked the car in the first available parking spot and my feet dragged my body to the first available wheelchair. I hadn’t realized how bad things had gotten. Just yesterday we’d been prepped by Dr. C. “If something goes wrong, you go straight to the emergency room, to the front of the line and say, ‘My name is Mandi Grasmeyer and I have placenta previa.'” Now, slightly over 24 hours later, I mechanically regurgitated those very words.

While waiting for an ob-gyn doctor to come down, the nurse at my doctor’s office called back and told us to go straight to the emergency room downtown. We had made the right decision, but by now I already knew that to be true.

Away they wheeled me, my husband following, my friend hanging back in the waiting room.

The nurse started an IV and hooked me up to the monitor. My husband frantically texted both families on our phones, trying to give updates and coordinate temporary help. Dr. W watched as my contractions showed themselves in chartable form on the endless strip of paper that confirmed my fate – pre-term labor.

We were officially admitted.

They moved my bed up to the Labor & Delivery floor, and I was given a shot of steroids to help speed up lung development for our baby girl.

They started me on a magnesium drip to hopefully slow my contractions, but at the very least for neuroprotection of the baby. In all but five minutes, I went from being in a stilled state of shock, to being incredibly in tune with the fire coursing through my veins, boiling my blood, heating the room to what felt like otherworldly temperatures. A nurse turned down the temperature of the room. She and my husband stripped me of my blankets and clothes and shivered themselves while placing iced washcloths all over my body. Magnesium is not for the faint of heart.

The hospital called in a NICU doctor, Dr. D. She handed me hell in the form of a pamphlet, “To parents of babies born at 22-25 weeks…” and explained our daughter would most likely not be able to breathe on her own, may suffer brain damage, will struggle to fight infections, could very likely be blind or extremely hard of hearing, most certainly will be developmentally delayed and could face several other significant lifelong issues… if she survives. Her chances of survival were somewhere around 20-25%.

Then we moved onto our business meeting. Dr. D, the nurse as our witness, my husband and myself entered into a conversation I never imagined I’d need to have. Legally, viability begins at 24 weeks. At 23 weeks, the mother and father can sign, asking for resuscitation measures to be taken. We were 22 weeks, 6 days and 18 hours. At the very least, we needed to not deliver in the next 6 hours.

With pen and paper thrust toward me, Dr. D asked the question I’d never discussed with my husband, “Knowing the severe complications your baby may face due to prematurity, do you want us to take full resuscitation measures?” I frantically looked from person to person, trying to get a read on the room and have a conversation with my husband via our eyes alone. What was his stance? What is mine? Is this a situation where we go with our gut or is there a deeper level of thinking we’re supposed to reach in the next 25 seconds? I could throw up.

I broke the silence, “What do most people do in our situation?”

Dr. D responded, “Most people give their babies a chance to declare themselves.”

I didn’t know what that meant, but I knew from her demeanor that if I said what my gut had told me, she wasn’t going to judge. I looked at my husband while I answered, “I think we’ll sign for full resuscitation, right?” He nodded.

We signed.

Dr. D and the nurse as our witnesses, we signed the papers that said save our baby. Do what you can. We’ll take her however she comes. We’ll love her no matter what happens.

They left the room and, for a moment, it was just the three of us, my husband, my yet unborn baby and me. I looked at my husband. Just seconds ago I’d wished we had a moment to talk through a substantial conversation and now I had no words to say.

The resuscitation conversation is supposed to happen at the end of a life – not the beginning.

When our nerves settled, my husband and I entered the next difficult conversation. I’d said many times in this pregnancy that I would not be picking a name for our baby in the delivery room. I had no idea I’d be in the delivery room so soon. Having already chosen a family name for the middle name, I whittled our first name list down to two and my husband chose. We vowed to keep it a secret until she was born.

Contractions somewhat calmed, my parents entered the room. They were our second set of visitors, my in-laws having been the first to both get some things to us and rescue my friend from the waiting room. We shared baby girl’s middle name to confirm the spelling as she’s named after an aunt of mine. We otherwise spoke with heavy emotion sitting on our hearts.

After all of the visitors left, my husband and I spent a sleepless first night in labor and delivery before being moved up to a world I didn’t even know existed, OB Special Care.

I closed out my journal that day with this:

“We’re praying the Lord continues to watch over us and keeps giving baby girl the gift of each next day. Ultimately, His plan will prevail. We’re trying our best to trust whatever that may be.”

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 22 weeks 6 days
Days of blood: 30
Days of bedrest: 51
Pre-Hospital Stay Doctor’s Appointments: 8
Ultrasounds: 4
Days in the hospital: 1
IV starts: 1
Magnesium drips: 1
Trips to Labor & Delivery: 1
Sets of visitors: 2


Sponsor Oaklee's March of Dimes team.

P.S. My go-to questions for the doctors throughout this pregnancy were, “What would you do if you were me?” and “What do most people do when they find themselves in our situation?” If you’re in uncharted territory and a doctor says, “Any questions?” the only way you’ll get more information is if you ask questions. Some of our biggest decisions revolved around the answers to the two questions I just mentioned. Please, if you find yourself even remotely in a bad medical situation, ask questions.

Ask questions, and pray. I am blessed to know I had a God watching over me at my very worst. My daughter’s birth plays a significant role in my spiritual journey. It was my Abraham and Isaac moment in life. God created her, God saved her.

What Color is the Bridesmaid Dress?

At 8:00am on the 25th of May, we made our first drive to the Grand Rapids Medical Mile. We navigated parking ramps, elevators named by colors, hallways named by numbers and the many offices packed into various buildings named by donors. We sat anxiously in the waiting room, hopeful not for a great outcome, but even just for some answers. I remember looking at the other couple in the waiting room and realizing I was in a place solely for people with botched pregnancies. How could I belong here?

5.25.17

“We waited so long for this appointment, and now he suggested I admit myself to the hospital at 23 weeks to be monitored for the rest of the pregnancy. That’s Saturday… that’s two days away… TWO DAYS AWAY.”

It was the 25th at last. Since the perinatologist referral on the 10th, we’d held steady, living our normal and waiting on the appointment that’d been made for us. So long as things stuck to our status quo, we were told all we could do was wait. In that time, “our status quo” meant being content to add 11 more days of blood loss to the count, because blood loss was nothing new.

At 8:00am on the 25th of May, we made our first drive to the Grand Rapids Medical Mile. We navigated parking ramps named by numbers, elevators named by colors, hallways named by letters and the many offices packed into various buildings named by donors. We sat anxiously in the waiting room, hopeful not for a great outcome, but even just for some answers. I remember looking at the other couple in the waiting room and realizing I was in a place solely for people with botched pregnancies. How could I belong here?

They called my name, an unwelcomed welcome to the club.

We followed the ultrasound tech back to the first of two rooms we’d visit. I sat on the table. She dimmed the lights. Our fourth ultrasound commenced. Again, the tech silently and impassively made note of the many abnormalities our untrained eyes couldn’t see, while we breathed sighs of relief because at least our baby girl was still alive.

I can’t say whether the ultrasound lasted longer than usual or whether my mind was playing tricks with time, but it felt as if we might be sitting one room away from some real answers and the tech wanted to confirm what she was seeing 30 times over. Alas, she escorted us to room number two.

Shortly after, Dr. C entered and the three of us, Dr. C, my husband and myself entered a scene of movie quality. He sat across the table from us, drawing diagrams, explaining potential outcomes, giving best and worst case scenarios and, ultimately, delivering the reality check of a suggestion that I admit myself to the hospital at 23 weeks to be monitored for whatever would be left of my pregnancy. We’d reach the 23 week mark in two days, the day of my best friend’s wedding of which I was the maid of honor, our second day on the other side of the state to celebrate said wedding.

I had to hold myself back from the part of me that genuinely wanted to say, “No, you’re mistaken. You see, I still have 17 more weeks to be pregnant. What would I do with myself if I spent that entire time in the hospital?” And truth be told, that part of me did still exist. Every step of the way, each doctor had told us there was a chance things could still return to normal. Admitting myself to the hospital in two days for an undetermined amount of time doesn’t sound like the route of someone who’s planning for normal.

Why hadn’t any doctor told us we might be facing a long term hospital stay when Dr. C offered the suggestion like I didn’t have any plans for the summer of 2017? I’d already borrowed the stool I was going to sit on during the wedding ceremony on Saturday. I’d booked our vacation just three and a half weeks ago so I could get out of the house for once and sit somewhere else.

Things had been so crappily steady, but Dr. C knew how much worse they could get. Half of our time with him that day revolved around the discussion of whether I go to my best friend’s wedding on Saturday or admit myself to the hospital. Two pieces of his wisdom stuck with me.

1 – He said, “The difference is, I’ve seen how these things can go. You don’t know any better to be more scared than you are.”
2 – I asked him what he would do if I were his wife and, without hesitation, he answered, “I would bring you to the hospital at 23 weeks.”

Still, my husband and I took the suggestion as a shock. I couldn’t fathom not only skipping my best friend’s wedding, but choosing to spend my summer as a patient in a hospital for an undetermined amount of time. We reasoned more with ourselves than with Dr. C that we would go to the wedding, come back on Monday, and get a second opinion on Tuesday at my next scheduled doctor’s appointment.

Dr. C walked us to the checkout. Having left the decision up to us, I could sense he wanted to tell us what to do, and I wanted him to tell us too, but I was 99% certain I didn’t want to hear what he had to say, leaving 1% left for denial. He finished our conversation with this question:

“What color is the bridesmaid dress?”

Somehow, in that question, I knew he was telling me the wedding was a bad idea. He wasn’t directly telling me not to go, and my decision hadn’t changed, but his words would bounce around in my head for the next 24 hours.

Yellow. The dress is yellow. I hate yellow. Does any bridesmaid ever love their dress? By asking the color of the dress, Dr. C reminded me this: your role as a bridesmaid is subject to one day. Your role as a best friend is not. On that one day, you wear whatever the bride tells you to wear, do whatever the bride tells you to do, and all that lives on for you, as a bridesmaid, are the pictures of you in the dress you didn’t like.

Bridesmaid Dress

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 22 weeks 5 days
Days of blood: 29
Days of bedrest: 50
Doctor’s Appointments: 8
Ultrasounds: 4

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P.S. Again, I will warn you, the posts are about to pick up. June and July were big months for us. I’ve tried to limit myself to two posts per week, but I also want to make sure each important day is covered.

Day 48

My 48th day of bedrest (May 23, 2017) was no different than the others but, little did we know, life would be significantly changing for us soon. So what did it look like then? What had I been doing for 48 days? Here you’ll find a loose schedule of my days, some notes that may help clarify how we made things work during this time and some tips for approaching people in our situation.

My 48th day of bedrest (May 23, 2017) was no different than the others but, little did we know, life would be significantly changing for us soon. So what did it look like then? What had I been doing for 48 days? Below you’ll find a loose schedule of my days, some notes that may help clarify how we made things work during this time and some tips for approaching people in our situation.

My typical schedule looked something like this:

2:00 am – Much of my blood loss came like clockwork. 2:00am seemed to be the witching hour. It was not a long, drawn out process over night. It was a quick, large gush; too much at once.

6:00 am – If there was a second round of blood loss, it was most often around 6:00am.

7:00 am – Get up, get dressed, brush my teeth, do anything I needed to do upstairs before making my descent to the family room on the main floor.

7:30 am – Breakfast. I don’t usually do this, but every day from the day I went on bedrest I ate a bagel with cream cheese. Call it a craving. Call it a guilty pleasure. It got me out of bed in the morning during a real crummy time, so let’s just call it a miracle.

8:00 am – Work. A lot of people didn’t realize this, but the two part time jobs I had been working were more than willing to let me work from home as all of my work could be done with a laptop. I would sit on my living room couch and accomplish just as much (if not more) than I had been accomplishing in the office.

11:30-1:30 – Lunch. Usually somewhere in my work day, someone would bring me lunch or stop by for a visit. Some days these visits were warmly welcomed. Some days they were hard to endure. While I wish I could say I loved every visit – I was mentally exhausted from trying to schedule visitors, get all my working hours in, keep a happy appearance for 9-10 hours a day and navigate our obvious situation.

I don’t know how to tell you what is the right or wrong thing to do when someone is in our situation other than to say these two tips:

1 – Be flexible in your availability. Even though I was sitting on a couch and unable to leave my house all day, I still had a lot going on (like getting in 8 hours of work each day) and still had to schedule people. It was easy to feel taken advantage of when people would tell me, “I’m coming over tomorrow at 1:00.” I struggled to say no because I both needed and dreaded these visits sometimes.

2 – Be flexible in your conversations. Sometimes I wanted to talk about our situation. Sometimes I wanted to talk about the book I was reading, or my dog or anything but our situation. Be prepared to listen to the person sob and be angry and be prepared to interact with the person like you normally would have, as if you’re just two friends shooting the breeze.

1:30-5:30 pm – Work. Usually, given the weather was good, at some point in the day I moved out to our patio to work. I typically worked later than I did prior to being put on bedrest to make up for the time I was losing during my lunch visits. This also helped me keep busy until my husband got home from work. If I didn’t need to make up work time, I would read (did you expect anything else?).

6:00 pm – Dinner. Between my husband cooking, takeout and our friends and family, dinner was very different for us during this time, but we were always well fed.

A few notes on that…

1 – If you provide dinner to someone in our situation, please take the time for it to be homemade. The amount of restaurant food I ate during bedrest was substantial. Never have I felt so gluttonous.

2 – Ask the person for an old staple of a meal you can make for them. In my house, there are one or two meals we eat every week. I missed those meals during this time. I missed you, flatbread pizzas…

3 – Eat the meal with the people you’re providing for. Don’t get me wrong, ask about 42 times whether they want that or not, but it’s a great way to visit that doesn’t make the person feel like an invalid. We’re all just hanging out, eating dinner, like we always do. Maybe we’ll play a game or something too.

7:00 pm – Outside time. Usually we’d sit outside at night for a bit. My husband would shoot hoops or grill our dinner and I would crochet dish scrubbies. I was told I could leave my house so long as I never walked further than the distance from my house to the car, so occasionally we’d get out and go to small group or a family dinner or something of the sort.

8:00 pm – TV/Read time. As before bedrest, we generally ended our days with a bit of TV or reading or some type of unwinding.

10:00 pm – Bedtime.

Some seated hobbies I acquired/continued during bedrest were:

1 – Reading.

2 – Learning how to crochet dish scrubbies and knit dish cloths and then giving everybody and their brother a dish scrubbie or dish cloth.

3 – Making cards for people and/or writing thank you notes.

4 – Binge-watching Netflix (can I count that?).

Some seated hobbies we learned I am terrible at:

1 – Puzzles. My husband did more of the puzzles than I did.

2 – Adult coloring books. Which is odd, because I love to doodle. I just don’t have the patience to color someone else’s doodle.

As many people know, we had planned on doing a “babymoon” road trip through Canada, stopping in NYC and ending in Acadia National Park in Maine in the middle of June. We kept our reservations for this trip until May 1st, when I finally admitted defeat and cancelled everything. Our doctor told us we could still go somewhere, as long as we were within a half hour or so of a hospital with a solid NICU and only two hours from Grand Rapids. After some research, I booked us a trip to the beautiful and exotic New Buffalo, MI at a hotel in the marina where we’d planned to just sit, watch boats/people and be on bedrest somewhere else. On May 25, I would cancel that reservation too. 2017 was not a year for traveling.

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 22 weeks 3 days
Days of blood: 27
Days of bedrest: 48
Doctor’s Appointments: 7
Ultrasounds: 3

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P.S. I want to be transparent in the process of telling our pregnancy story. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions! I’m trying to include the important details, but I realize that may mean I’m neglecting to include details that make it all add up to the outsider. Also, don’t hesitate to share our story with others – especially those who might be facing a similar situation, looking for a story of hope and ready to hear ours. (I know, firsthand, not everyone is ready/wants to hear these stories in those moments. Please be considerate.)

I should also note that the posts are about to pick up. June and July were big months for us. I’ve tried to limit myself to two posts per week, but I also want to make sure each important day is covered.

Mother’s Day

I don’t know what people thought when they looked at me on Mother’s Day last year. Were their wishes hesitant? Did they make a conscious decision of what to say or not say to me before the even saw me? Did they wonder, like I did, if I would actually be a mother? I was in the darker side of the grey area that is a woman pregnant with her first child on Mother’s Day – with child, my body threatening to be without.

5.15.17

“The concept of Mother’s Day is hard. I get wished a happy Mother’s Day, and then I pray I’m going to be a mother at the end of all this.”

I don’t know what people thought when they looked at me on Mother’s Day last year. Were their wishes hesitant? Did they make a conscious decision of what to say or not say to me before they even saw me? Did they wonder, like I did, if I would actually be a mother? I was in the darker side of the grey area that is a woman pregnant with her first child on Mother’s Day – with child, my body threatening to be without.

I’d lost two gushes of blood in the night – a bad night. It felt cruel that laying down seemed to be the cause of blood loss when I was, indeed, on bedrest. I propped myself up on pillows. It was not the first time I tried this trick. While it gave me peace of mind, allowing me to loosely fall in and out of sleep, I was, yet again, in another uncomfortable sleeping position.

For 27 years, I’d only slept on my stomach. In the last 10 weeks I’d tried my back, my side, propped up, wrapped around a pillow – all with no success. I was uncomfortable. I was losing blood. I loathed nights.

But a redeeming quality of the early hours of Mother’s Day last year was this: On Mother’s Day, my husband felt our little girl move for the first time. Maybe it was the lunge into the bathroom that awoke her and got her moving. Maybe it was just God rubbing my back and telling me it was ok – she’s still moving, she’s still alive.

Mother’s Day was hard. I cried more days in this pregnancy than those I didn’t, and this day was no exception.

Please God, please let me be a mother.

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 21 weeks 2 days
Days of blood: 21
Days of bedrest: 40
Doctor’s Appointments: 7
Ultrasounds: 3

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The Review of the Ultrasound

Sure, my womb was all but shutting down, but my baby was still thriving, and as long as she was thriving, there was no reason to change our course.

So we wait. I bleed. I cry. I pray. We wait.

5.10.17

“The whole waiting thing is wretchedly rough…”

Moving on from the joys of gender reveal, on the 10th, I took the call from my doctor we’d been waiting on. Our ultrasound had been reviewed, and there appeared to be changes happening in there.

At the time, it was believed the previa had cleared but left behind a massive clot. They found “flecks” in the amniotic fluid, alluding to blood being within the amniotic sac. Despite an abruption causing blood loss, blood should never be within the amniotic sac, so where was this coming from? They really couldn’t say.

We were referred to a perinatologist (a high risk ob-gyn/maternal-fetal medicine specialist) who would work in conjunction with my doctor to figure out the implications of these new findings. However, that appointment wouldn’t be until the 25th of May.

After sorting through the news from my doctor for two days, replaying the conversation over and over again in my mind, trying to make sense of what she’d told me, I called her back and begged, make the perinatologist appointment sooner. We need answers. But the truth is, at this gestational age, there’s no point in an earlier appointment. Sure, my womb was all but shutting down, but my baby was still thriving, and as long as she was thriving, there was no reason to change our course.

So we wait. I bleed. I cry. I pray. We wait.

 

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 20 weeks 4 days
Days of blood: 18
Days of bedrest: 35
Doctor’s Appointments: 7
Ultrasounds: 3

P.S. The picture for this post is at 20 weeks. Somehow, as I plotted all of this out – posts, pictures, quotes and stats – the one good picture of my husband and myself during our pregnancy did not make the cut given it really doesn’t speak into our pregnancy story. So, here, let me share it so you know I looked cute at least once in the time I was pregnant…

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Blue or Pink, Which Do You Think?

We made the conscious decision to celebrate the gender reveal as if the real meat of this ultrasound wasn’t about placental problems. So off we went to the little, local hospital down the road on a Friday morning, my bladder full, my husband praying for a boy.

5.5.17

“The next big number I’d like to get to is 24 weeks. That’s when she becomes viable. Oh, how I’d love for her to stay in another 12 weeks after that yet.”

In comparison to a “normal pregnancy”, few days in this pregnancy were celebrated. We had the joy of announcing our pregnancy before the bulk of the chaos ensued, but nothing else super celebratory happens before week 16, and by then, it was hard to celebrate. Therefore, the mixed emotions of the 20 week ultrasound…

We were excited, heading into the 20 week ultrasound, our third ultrasound, because we would finally learn if our little warrior was a boy or girl. However, we were far from all rainbows and unicorns. We were more like rain and an injured bird. With our gender reveal came the next look at the makeup of my womb. Had anything changed in the past four weeks that might set us on a better trajectory? Or were we right to give up hope that things would return to normal?

Still, we made the conscious decision to celebrate the gender reveal as if the real meat of this ultrasound wasn’t about placental problems. So off we went to the little, local hospital down the road on a Friday morning, my bladder full, my husband praying for a boy. Once on the table, we agreed to let a student look first. She poked and prodded and eventually handed the wand to the certified tech. She then poked and prodded as well, drawing the process out for over an hour before showing us what solidified that inside, there was a healthy baby girl.

My husband was visibly disappointed. I was disappointed for him. I wanted him to have a son more than I wanted myself to have a daughter. But this was uncontrollable. God chose us for that little girl. What a blessing. So we slapped on our “how do I respond to this?” smiles and went on with the ultrasound. I remember telling my husband, “You have to be ok with this,” but we would go on to learn the incredible benefits of having a girl in our situation. If a baby has to fight, you want it to be a girl. Praise God she’s a girl.

As far as the makeup of my womb, we had to wait until the radiologist reviewed the ultrasound, which took longer than usual, given it was a Friday ultrasound. Therefore, massive props to the ultrasound tech, because she looked at my war zone without batting an eye.

We left the hospital with our semi-happy news. It’s a girl. A she. A little lady. I had drawn two hearts – one blue and green, one pink and purple. We tossed the blue and green and snapped a photo we would send to our family and friends… in black and white, making them guess. Eventually, we shared the colored photo as well, and then for the weekend, we clung to the new, good thing we knew, while waiting for the news of what was really going on in there. And in the mean time, we knew we needed our little girl to stay in for at least another four weeks – the milestone of viability.

gender reveal girl

I can’t recommend this enough: If you find yourself in a situation similar to ours. Celebrate the things you’d imagined celebrating. Do the things you’d dreamed of doing. Cling so tightly to what you’d planned to do for the special moments that you make normal leak out of your abnormal situation.

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 19 weeks, 6 days
Days of blood: 15
Days of bedrest: 30
Doctor’s Appointments: 7
Ultrasounds: 3

 

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It’s Not Over

To this day, I still can’t really describe the devastation I felt on that day. I’d hoped so badly our pregnancy wouldn’t be defined by the havoc of our issues – that they might be temporary. But on this day, I lost all hope that things could return to normal.

5.1.17

“This is why I refused to believe the bleeding could be done this time. After 11 days, I lost blood last night. I don’t even have the words to talk about it.”

The three short sentences above were the only three I wrote in my journal on May 1. To this day, I still can’t really describe the devastation I felt on that day. I’d hoped so badly our pregnancy wouldn’t be defined by the havoc of our issues – that they might be temporary. But on this day, I lost all hope that things could return to normal. On this day, I knew it was only downhill from here. On this day, I sank into a pit – the pit I’d pull myself out of for each visitor I’d have going forward, slapping on a smile and claiming I still had hope things could return to normal.

Things were not going to return to normal. You don’t go 11 days without blood loss and relapse just once. If it’s coming back, it’s back.

So now we looked toward the 20 week ultrasound, the one ultrasound I thought I’d have in my entire pregnancy. We would find out the gender of our baby and if there were any changes on the inside for the good.

But until then, I continued to rely on beautiful weather to get out of the house. My “bed-ridden” self would walk down the stairs in the morning, to and from the bathroom and, if the weather was nice, out to our patio table where I’d work.

Never have I taken in the nature of our backyard so deeply.

There was a momma mourning dove protecting her eggs in the crook of the tree next to our patio table. She and I seemed to have an understanding of each other last spring/summer, each trying to do the best for our unborn child(ren). There were butterflies frequenting the milkweed in our backyard. And once, there was a squirrel napping in the sun on a tree branch.

We don’t have this gloriously beautiful backyard, but last year, a year where we were so limited, being outside was beautiful.

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 19 weeks, 2 days
Days of blood: 14
Days of bedrest: 26
Doctor’s Appointments: 5
Ultrasounds: 2

P.S. Friends, this is the last pregnancy-related post before the March for Babies walk on Saturday. Please consider making a donation if you haven’t done so already. We’ve far surpassed our initial goal of $1000, and we’re immensely blown away and blessed to be able to give almost $3000 to such an amazing organization. We’re $327 away. Could you make even a donation of $6.90 – a dime for each day Oaklee spent in the NICU? 

Every donation helps expand programs and educate medical professionals to make sure moms like me and babies like Oaklee get the best possible care. Your donation is funding research to find solutions to the biggest health threats and supporting moms through every stage of the pregnancy journey, especially when things don’t go as planned. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your consideration.

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