The Drought

In my heart, I fully believed we were starting our family with this pregnancy. But in my mind, what toyed with me, slaloming in and out of my thoughts, was that we might not even have a baby at the end of this. To go through so much and end up with nothing seemed too unfair to be possible.

4.25.17

“At this point, my hope is more so that this won’t be what my entire pregnancy is about.”

At 6 days of no significant blood loss, this drought had already become the largest since the chaos began, but again, I couldn’t allow myself to believe it was over. By this time, the mental battle had become real. I needed to believe something good.

I needed to believe our pregnancy wasn’t going to be defined by blood loss, by previa, by abruption, by chaos.

In my heart, I fully believed we were starting our family with this pregnancy, so that’s how we planned and projected. But in my mind, what toyed with me, slaloming in and out of my thoughts, was that we might not even have a baby at the end of this. To go through so much and end up with nothing seemed too unfair to be possible, yet I know it happens, and I knew I couldn’t write off that possibility just yet either.

But the baby was fine. The baby had been fine at each step so far. It was me who wasn’t – my body that had been fighting the pregnancy, refusing to be beautiful and glowing and all the nice words people use to describe a pregnant woman, and instead gushing blood, misplacing organs and growing cysts in the space meant for our baby.

I was pregnant with a trouper who was putting up with the overly unideal circumstances my far-from-trouper body was giving it. I was mentally and emotionally asking a baby to flourish in the slums that were my reproductive system.

I was losing my mind.

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 18 weeks, 3 days
Days of blood: 13
Days of bedrest: 20
Doctor’s Appointments: 5
Ultrasounds: 2

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P.S. I selected the picture above mostly to show that I sat on towels everywhere, just in case. If that’s not humiliation, I don’t know what is.

Those Cruel Good Days

The good days felt cruel. We could see right through them. Behind their transparent bliss lurked the bad days. We knew we weren’t out of the woods, but starting blood loss again was harder than starting it in the first place.

4.17.17

“It’s getting harder to believe everything will be ok at the end of all this. So many tears have been shed, so much blood lost and so many prayers said. What could the next 4-5 months possibly hold?”

The 16th and 17th each saw another large, middle-of-the-night round of blood loss. Relapse. An end to the drought we’d prayed would last forever. I wasn’t surprised, but I was hurt.

The good days felt cruel. We could see right through them. Behind their transparent bliss lurked the bad days. We knew we weren’t out of the woods, but starting blood loss again was harder than starting it in the first place. The more often I lost blood, the more it became our “normal”. The more it became our normal, the more our pregnancy became abnormal.

I slept on towels, afraid of ruining our sheets. I slept in fits, afraid of ruining our child.

Why couldn’t the blood loss just stop? And what on earth was God’s plan in this?

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 17 weeks, 2 days
Days of blood: 11
Days of bedrest: 12

Doctor’s Appointments: 5
Ultrasounds: 2

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The Rise of the Village

It was as if, in word, it was easier to commit to hopelessness – to plan on more blood. Between the detriment of our pregnancy, the lack of sleep, the loss of blood and the navigation of interactions, I hope this was one of the hardest weeks I ever have to live.

4.15.17

“I’m looking forward to the day we hold our baby, and hoping that day will be in September. I know God can do miracles – it feels like it’s going to take one to get to that day.”

Since the 11th, I’d only lost minimal amounts of blood. Back in March, this was enough to completely freak me out, but after seeing the amount of blood my body could lose time and time again while pregnant, it was hard to find this spotting significant. So as for the days where I simply spotted, I didn’t even count them as “days of blood” anymore. They felt, relatively speaking, easy.

Could my pregnancy return to “normal” like my doctor had said? I refused to believe it would, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle the disappointment if it didn’t. On the 13th, already, I’d written, “While I want to believe this is the home stretch, I’m also very hesitant to trust my body these days. It still feels like I could gush blood at any moment, because when it’s happened, it’s come without warning.”

I think in the back of my mind there was room for a glimmer of hope things would return to normal. I knew it was a possibility, but it wasn’t one I could speak out loud. Each time I bled, my body let me down. Had I shared my tiny bit of hope out loud, I feared I’d be letting everyone else down too. It was as if, in word, it was easier to commit to hopelessness – to plan on more blood. I was verbally convincing everyone, including myself, this was not the end of the bleeding, but in spirit, I wanted so badly to be able to believe it could be the end.

Regardless, in the one week things had been sour, our village began to rise up and rally. As I’ve mentioned, I am not a bedrest kind of person, so when I couldn’t get out into the world, the world came to me, one visitor at a time. I had been on bedrest for one week, and I’d already had lunches brought to me, dinners, smoothies, orange juice, coffee, snacks, books… I was beginning to taste the support I’d noticed just a couple of weeks ago we would have.

I was also beginning to taste the hard part of being the invalid in those interactions. Throughout the rest of our pregnancy, people would, with their best intentions, say or do things that probably seemed right to them, but felt hard and hurtful to me. It was this first week of chaos that I not only saw how truly great our people were, but I was most hurt by those people. I hadn’t yet had the time to think about the spot they were in. What do you say to the person in my shoes?

I went on to receive the awkwardness with grace, but in this first week when someone told me if I miscarried “it must have been God’s plan for this pregnancy”, I honestly wanted to ask that person not to pray for me. I do believe God has a plan and that it was being carried out in my pregnancy, and 99% of my life I’ve prayed for His will to be done. But on that day, if His plan was miscarriage, I needed prayer against it. I needed people rooting for me and my baby, not dismissing the chaos, encouraging me to be fine with the worst of outcomes, by attributing it to God’s plan.

I prayed against miscarriage, but yes, I already knew God’s plan would prevail regardless of what I wanted. I just didn’t need to be told that.

*Proverbs 16:9*

I would go on to be immensely blown away by the village that formed around us, and eventually I’d learn to let the awkward words and deeds roll off my back. But that first week was the greatest concoction of encouragement and discouragement from other people I’ve ever experienced.

Looking back on that week, I’d categorize it as one of two weeks in our journey to parenthood that still make me want to throw up. Between the detriment of our pregnancy, the lack of sleep, the loss of blood and the navigation of interactions, I hope this was one of the hardest weeks I ever have to live.

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 17 weeks
Days of blood: 9
Days of bedrest: 10

Doctor’s Appointments: 5
Ultrasounds: 2

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P.S. This post’s picture is of me and my best friend from college. She came and spent the weekend with me. It gave my husband a chance to not have to babysit/entertain me, and it gave me a chance to practice styling her hair for her wedding in May, of which I would be the Matron of Honor.

The Things We Lost

I dreaded going to bed each night, because going to bed meant lying still for 6-8 hours, purely waiting for my body to fail me.

4.11.17

“Going to bed is scary. I don’t want to fall asleep and wake up to another nightmare.”

Looking back on the week where our pregnancy spiraled out of control, what feels worse than the blood loss is the loss of sleep. Both losses would go on to become “normal” in our pregnancy, but in those first five days, if I had to guess, I probably slept a total of 14 hours of 120… and most of that sleep occurred in 5-10 minute increments when I just couldn’t keep my body awake despite my very wakeful mind.

I dreaded going to bed each night, because going to bed meant lying still for 6-8 hours, purely waiting for my body to fail me. It was essentially an odd form of solitary confinement, being trapped awake in the dark, silent nights yet doing everything in my power not to fall asleep, because sleep meant failure.

Sleep is a beautiful, beautiful thing. I think any new parent would agree with that, but my daughter, postpartum, has never kept me awake for five days straight. I was sick in every way possible for those five days. Mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically… A human is not meant to operate without sleep.

On the 11th, we went back to my OB for a follow up after our emergency room visit. We wanted to know what our new information meant for the rest of our pregnancy. Instead, we learned I also had two large ovarian cysts that would continue to be monitored and hopefully not interfere with the pregnancy. As for our fate, the doctor tried her best not to give any answers at all. It was frustrating. The most she said was we could easily face pre-term labor, but things could also still return to “normal”.

We were just too early to really predict how this would go.

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 16 weeks, 3 days
Days of blood: 9
Days of bedrest: 6

Doctor’s Appointments: 5
Ultrasounds: 2

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P.S. Remember when I said you wouldn’t find pictures of my dog on this blog? I neglected to think about the fact that the bulk of the time I was at home on bedrest, the only thing I took pictures of was my dog. I’m trying to stay as true to each date as possible in stats, journal quotes and photos, so for the duration of my bedrest at home, you’re welcome… cute pictures of my dog like the one on this post. What a perfect, comforting buddy he was in this time. Dogs are the best, aren’t they?

The Emergency (Room)

I patiently waited for my body to fail me again. And it did. Blood. Again. We had answers as to what was wrong, but we still had so many questions as to what this would mean. And for those answers, only time could tell. 

4.8.17

“We’re praying for the ideal situation, but we’ll take whatever ‘good’ situation we can get at this point.”

2:00 am on April 7 was entirely too similar to that of 2:00 am on April 6. The doctor told me the baby was fine. We saw it wiggling around in there – there was no reason to believe anything was wrong. Yet here I was, again, hurling myself into the bathroom to quickly lose a revolting amount of blood.

I returned to bed, knowing full well I would not be sleeping anymore this night. Then at 6:00 am, my body had the audacity to make it happen again. This time, I wasn’t going to wait for another doctor’s appointment. I wasn’t going to believe this was just a fluke anymore. My sleep deprived self needed answers. I rounded the corner into our bedroom and said to my husband, “You have to get up, I need to go to the emergency room.”

We ate breakfast and drove down the road to the small, local hospital we’d imagined delivering our baby at some day. We walked through the revolving door of the emergency room where I uttered to the receptionist, “I’m pregnant, and I’m bleeding.” Tears welled up in my eyes and streamed down my cheeks as we walked the long, empty hall to the last room on the right.

One by one, doctors, nurses, students, administrative assistants and whomever else, it seemed, was bored would peak their heads in, go through a similar list of questions, and leave without giving us any answers. After blood work and an ultrasound, finally our primary doctor returned with the news.

First, the baby was still fine.

Second, my blood levels were still fine as long as the blood loss would slow down – he feared I couldn’t afford to keep losing at the rate I was losing.

Third, I was diagnosed with placenta previa and showed signs of a marginal abruption. Before explaining these terms to us, the doctor warned us not to look them up online upon our departure. The amount of horror stories revolving around these terms is probably enough to scare a baby right out of you.

So what do these things mean? In laymen’s terms, the organ that was meant to nourish and maintain my baby in the womb, the placenta, was instead threatening our pregnancy. It was improperly placed, blocking the birth canal (referred to as placenta previa – a condition 1 in 200 women will experience into the third trimester) and, for some reason, tearing away from the uterine wall (referred to as an abruption), a condition that can deprive the baby of oxygen and nutrients.

In other words, 16 weeks ago, when I was worried about petty things like a pregnancy ruining my body, I had no idea that I would so soon be worried about my body ruining a pregnancy.

And no, the pregnancy wasn’t ruined yet, but its potential to become ruined greatly increased with these diagnoses. We needed the placenta to remain attached – to continue to nourish and maintain our baby for, ideally, 24 more weeks. And we needed it to move as my uterus would grow, or we would be facing a cesarian section for delivery.

But until delivery, one thing was certain, I would be put on bedrest, and I would remain on bedrest until the end.

When I went to bed on April 4, I didn’t know it would be my last full night of sleep for almost an entire year. On April 7, I laid on our living room couch through the night, a continuous drip of tears onto my pillow, my husband sleeping on the floor next to me as I patiently waited for my body to fail me again. And it did. Blood. Again.

We had answers as to what was wrong, but we still had so many questions as to what this would mean. And for those answers, only time could tell.

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 16 weeks
Days of blood: 7
Days of bedrest: 3

Doctor’s Appointments: 4
Ultrasounds: 2

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P.S. Again, for those of you relying on Facebook to follow along, thank you for following. However, eventually I will become more selective as to what goes on Facebook as things become increasingly more personal. Feel free to subscribe via email by entering your email address in the Follow Along box to the right of this post. I’d love to share our story with you, but I don’t want to keep sharing it with those who’d rather not hear about it.

P.P.S. I do not have pictures from April 7 or 8. I cannot even begin to imagine what I might have taken a picture of on either of those days, hence the picture of my dog who snuggled me on April 6 after our first big scare.

The First Big Bleed

I’d been awake for less than 30 seconds, yet my nightmare was just beginning. Blood. So much blood that there was no question – things were not ok.

4.6.17

“I was given the worst case scenario by the on-call, emergency nurse. She delicately explained there was a good chance I’d lost the baby.”

It was 2:00 am. Rain on the roof, head on my pillow, blankets over my body, in a matter of seconds, my eyes jolted open into the dark room, my brain recognized horror and I lurched my body into the bathroom. I’d been awake for less than 30 seconds, yet my nightmare was just beginning. Blood. So much blood that there was no question – things were not ok.

What do you do at 2:00 in the morning when your pregnant body gushes blood? How do you tell your husband? How do you reach any sort of peaceful rationale?

The blood seemed to have come like a tsunami – one quick, massive tidal wave that left behind immense devastation.

We decided I’d return to bed and deal with the trauma in the morning when I could reach my doctor, but sleep was no longer an option. I laid there for four hours, mind frantic, eyes wet with tears. My doctor’s office opened at 8:00 am, but at 6:00, I gave up on pretending I’d be able to sleep and willed myself to get ready as if I would go to work that day.

After an hour and a half of mindlessly pacing various rooms of my house and unproductively “getting ready” for work, I called the number for the on-call, emergency nurse. Through teared attempts to swallow the lump in my throat, I explained exactly what had happened and awaited her response. She didn’t need to use words – the tone in her voice could have said it all, but two of her words will forever haunt me – threatened abortion.

The nurse gracefully warned me that our doctor would be referring to our situation as a threatened abortion, that I needed to get an appointment immediately and that there was a good chance I’d lost the baby. Our conversation took us to 8:00 am, when I could call my doctor’s office to make that appointment. By 10:15 am, my husband and I sat in a waiting room, minutes away from learning if our baby was still alive or not.

Our appointment began with the surest way to answer that question – an ultrasound. In a matter of seconds, we let out the breaths we’d held for what felt like minutes. Inside my womb was a baby; squirming, doing somersaults, living.

There was no explanation for the blood. It seemed to have done nothing to our pregnancy other than give it the title “high risk”. My husband and I left that appointment with a nervous reassurance. We parted ways, and went to work as if it were any other Thursday. When we reconvened at home that night, it was as if we’d dodged a bullet. For eight hours, a third of our day, an eternity in the land of worry, we’d wondered at a whole new level if this pregnancy was done.

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 15 weeks, 5 days
Days of blood: 5
Days of bedrest: 1

Doctor’s Appointments: 3
Ultrasounds: 1

Sponsor/Join Oaklee's March of Dimes team.

P.S. Again, for those of you relying on Facebook to follow along, thank you for following. However, eventually I will become more selective as to what goes on Facebook as things become increasingly more personal. Feel free to subscribe via email by entering your email address in the Follow Along box to the right of this post (if you’re on a computer) or at the bottom of the page (if you’re on the mobile website). I’d love to share our story with you, but I don’t want to keep sharing it with those who’d rather not hear about it.

Pregnancy is Bliss

There in my journal, on January 4, 2017 sits the goal that would become the excruciating theme that would encapsulate so much of 2017. Slow down.

3.26.17

“For a year where I’d hoped to slow down a bit, I didn’t anticipate having to almost get through March before that could happen.”

I was either out of town or in town, but at conferences for work for eight weekends of the first twelve weeks of 2017. Like I do every new year, I’d picked a goal to achieve in 2017 – to slow down. When I picked the goal, I knew we may or may not enter into a pregnancy in 2017, and assumed it would probably be a good thing for my whirlwind of a self to learn how to slow down.

Things I don’t like:

1 – slowing down.

True confession – I was not 100% on board with starting a family yet, because I didn’t want to slow down. I didn’t want to give up my weekends away, my lighthouse-seeking adventures, my vacations, my hiking/biking/cross country skiing outings, my ability to work out or read whenever I wanted, my grocery shopping on the fly… I wanted to still be able to jam pack each week with the perfect concoction of fun, productivity and necessity. I knew having a baby would put a wrench in the cog that was my perfectly planned out whirlwind of a life.

So I needed to learn how to slow down. I needed to learn how to stay home, how to scale back, how to be content… As an achievement-focused individual, what I needed most was to put in writing a goal that would help me learn these things. There in my journal, on January 4, 2017 sits the goal that would become the excruciating theme that would encapsulate so much of 2017. Slow down. The foreshadowing I projected on that day would become downright eerie.

But the foreshadowing I projected on March 26 would become the hug I would wear through much of my pregnancy and beyond:

“Baby-wise, in general, I finally feel like I’m in a good place with it. I’m actually looking forward to being a mommy. I think the mind-shift took place as people began to step up… I’m so, so comforted by the support system that has formed around us. I don’t know that I necessarily thought we would have to face all of these changes alone, but I’m more so just realizing that we can do this. And in the times when we think we can’t, our support system will be there for us. Praise God for the people He’s put in our lives…”

On March 26, we were just days away from an abrupt ending to the honeymoon phase of our pregnancy, yet I already knew the major blessing God had bestowed upon us in our support system – our people, our village. I wore that blessing when I needed the reassurance that slowing down and starting a family was going to be ok, but I would wear it again like it was the old, worn out, comfortable sweater I’d never be able to part with for much of our pregnancy and Oaklee’s first months.

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 14 weeks, 1 day
Days of blood: 4
Doctor’s Appointments: 1

Sponsor/Join Oaklee's March of Dimes team.

P.S. For those of you relying on Facebook to follow along, thank you for following. However, eventually I will become more selective as to what goes on Facebook as things become increasingly more personal. Feel free to subscribe via email by entering your email address in the Follow Along box to the right of this post. I’d love to share our story with you, but I don’t want to keep sharing it with those who’d rather not hear about it.

Mom, Dad, We’re Having a Baby

One more sleep, one more day of work, and then an evening of visiting/calling all our immediate family to finally, finally, spill our happy news.

3.13.17

“Hopefully I remain in good health for the busy week ahead. This weekend was the most ill I’ve felt since being pregnant. I still didn’t throw up, but I almost wish I would have. It might have helped me feel better.”

I wrote the quote above in the Atlanta airport, on my way home from visiting one of my best friends who was also pregnant and already high risk herself. It was the last week of secret keeping, and we let the secret begin to trickle out, taking advantage of the face-to-face time I got to spend with two out-of-town friends while in Atlanta and my husband leaking the news to a family friend in Germany. 

One more sleep, one more day of work, and then an evening of visiting/calling all our immediate family to finally, finally, spill our happy news. 

When we got out of work, we picked up Jimmy John’s subs and headed to my parents where we released Charlie, our miniature pinscher, donning the “Lil’ Big Bro September ’17” t-shirt pictured below. Amidst surprises/celebrations at each of our stops and through each of our FaceTime conversations (thank goodness for today’s technology, huh?), we gave each family member a copy of our announcement picture (also pictured below).

Pregnancy Announcement

What I would call “the honeymoon phase” of our pregnancy – the days we could finally talk freely about it, and without worry – had begun. Throughout the next week, we continued to tell our friends, co-workers and extended family, and we learned our ability to keep a secret/hide a pregnancy was pretty top notch as not a single person had suspected we might be pregnant. 

On the 16th, I shared the following text on social media, accompanying the laundry image above:

This September will be extra sweet. Not only will we celebrate three years of marriage, but we’ll become a family of three. 

If only we would make it to September before our baby was born…

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 12 weeks, 2 days
Days of blood: 4
Doctor’s Appointments: 1

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The First Bleed

I was pregnant. I was bleeding. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to make me turn to the stats. To me, blood meant miscarriage – what else could it mean?

3.3.17

“I called my doctor’s office on Monday and they didn’t seem too concerned, so that helped me feel better too.”

It’s said approximately 20-30% of women bleed a little in early pregnancy. Half of those who bleed go on to miscarry. In general, 15-20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, though many happen before women even know they’re pregnant.

I was pregnant. I was bleeding. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to make me turn to the stats. To me, blood meant miscarriage – what else could it mean? It didn’t matter that every fourth or fifth pregnant woman was experiencing the same thing. It felt traumatic. Was my body unable to do this? Had I lost the baby we’d just found out about six weeks earlier, the one we’d yet to tell anyone about? And how could this be happening to me? How, after a fun night out at a local hockey game with friends, could I have to come out of the bathroom and utter the words to my husband, “I’m bleeding”?

I bled lightly for four days. I called my doctor’s office – the doctor I’d yet to meet since we were still so early. They didn’t seem concerned, so I tried to believe things were fine. Then we had our first actual appointment and, low and behold, there was a heartbeat.

Our baby’s heart rate was 160 beats per minute. At this gestational age, simply hearing a heartbeat meant we had less than a 5% chance of miscarrying. All that worry over the week leading up to the appointment was for nothing. The doppler’s reassurance, in that moment, was everything I needed.

In just over a week, we’d tell our friends and family and proceed to the second trimester. I’d almost gotten through the first trimester completely unscathed of morning sickness, with only a little bleeding to be upset about. Things were, once again, peachy, and we were so excited to be closer to letting the secret out.

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 10 weeks, 6 days
Days of blood: 4
Doctor’s Appointments: 1

P.S. Don’t be fooled by the smile on my face in the photo of this post. I’d also gotten a haircut that week, and it’s literally the only picture I took all week. I’m doing my best to use photos from or around the date of the post, so… I guess I’ll tell you that picture is it… and I guess I’ll tell you it was taken in the bathroom at work because I’m classy like that.

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I’d Like to Thank the Academy

Being nine weeks pregnant on a friends’ weekend away to northern Michigan is rough. We went up north to Glen Arbor to ski and go wine tasting, two things I could not do, being pregnant.

2.22.17

“I can’t believe we’ve kept the secret this long. So. Hard.”

Being nine weeks pregnant on a friends’ weekend away to northern Michigan is rough. We went up north to Glen Arbor to ski and go wine tasting, two things I could not do, being pregnant. The weather wasn’t ideal for winter activities, so while I did manage to get out on my cross country skis once, what’s more impressive is that I managed to hide the fact that I wasn’t drinking… for an entire weekend… where people went wine tasting.

How did I work my magic? The answer is three-fold.

1 – My drink of choice was “apple cider and fireball” (sans fireball of course), though I did bring fireball, and I did get it out and put it away several times. Really, I just drank half a gallon of apple cider all by myself over the course of about 24 hours. The sugar. Oh, the sugar. When offered a glass of wine, I said, “Sure, just a half glass though,” and held onto it long enough to make people believe I’d been working on it before handing it over to my husband to finish off. I couldn’t be double fisting with my “spiked” apple cider, now could I?

2 – When the girls started getting ready to head out to go wine tasting, I needed a reason to stay behind. My reason didn’t feel very believable, but it worked in the end. I acted as though I was between going and staying, when, really, I knew I could not go. I stayed back because “I wanted to get out on my cross country skis once more and the snow was quickly melting away”. Luckily for me, the poor skiing weather played into my needs.

3 – When we paid a visit to a meadery on the way home (one that I absolutely love, by the way), while our friends tasted various meads and my husband filled our howler, I stood off to the side taste-testing various flavors of honey, and picking one out to take home. I was oh, so interested in that honey. And you know what? We still have that jar of honey today, unopened. Thanks for being the decoy – I bet you’re delicious, but you’re not mead. Maybe we’ll get to you this year.

Weekend away with friends aside, we also had our first pre-natal appointment, which was really just a consultation with a nurse where they pretty much tell you not to drink or smoke while pregnant. Um, ok, got it.

In other news, just over two weeks and we would finally get to spill our secret!

In the stats: 
Gestational Age: 9 weeks, 4 days

P.S. As we get further along into this, you’ll realize how crazy it was that I could go from February 6 to February 22 with no updates due to an uneventful two weeks.

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