“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?”
“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.
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
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.