It's a little bit ironic... don't you think?

The week of Emerson Claire’s birthday haunts me every year as I can’t help but walk through the days that of my panic as my body failed to stay pregnant and our little miracle entered the world as my soul was paralyzed with fear yet enlightened with the only thing I could do…hope. As many NICU moms can relate, every year while planning to celebrate, a shadow casts over me as I recall the blood, uncertainty and helplessness we felt as I lost my fight to stay pregnant. The smokey California skies this weekend didn’t help me escape again this year...

Every year I walk through November 2015 day-by-day, with the PTSD temporarily creeping back into the aches of my heart that have healed with Emerson’s smile and progress but still hurt

  • November 11- finally 28 weeks, home from weeks of hospitalized bed rest, finally reunited with my Grace but living temporarily at my parents while the house we had just purchased is remodeled.

  • November 12th- picking out stains for our new hardwood floors when sudden excruciating pains overtake my abdomen. I call the doctor and they say I am probably fine but see me. They think it’s my body adjusting to being upright again. Tiny bones break in my feet having used them for the first time in months.

  • November 13th- I start bleeding and can’t get out of bed but too sheepish to go back to the doctor as they said I was fine yesterday…right?

  • November 14th evening- Blood and tissue is passing and I send a text to my MFM who tells me to rush to the ER. I am admitted and I get hooked up to dreadfully painful magnesium drip to prevent brain bleeds in Emery, meds to slow contractions while we try to get two rounds of steroids in for her lungs. Panic overwhelms the physical space as everyone rushes by with uncertain looks. I’m facing a placental abruption and my waters are leaking. I just remember so much tissue and blood, so much pain, and panic.

  • November 15th-  The neonatologist comes in and what may be one of the scariest moments of my life (and Grant’s, my parent’s and Grants’ mom who are gathered in the tiny delivery room.) She unemotionally rattles off all of our odds- for survival, for serious handicaps, and forewarns of the arduous NICU journey. We nod and try not to look at each other and hold it together. Tears well on the inside. Seconds later I can’t help it, I scream and the NICU team assembles in mere second, its truly marvelous Grant and I recall, a fluid team working together. They tell me to hold her in for 2 more minutes, and literally mean to stay pregnant for another 120 seconds. At 90 seconds I tell them I can’t anymore, holding my breath with my heart racing as I battle being unable to keep her in and protected anymore.

    The next 10 minutes are a blur as Grant and everyone hovers over her teeny limp, purple body- but I couldn’t see her then. Grant and the neonatologists whisk her to the NICU and I’m left alone in a bed of blood realizing that the nightmare I tried so hard to avoid all those weeks on hospitalized bed rest was happening- I was living the nightmare. And oddly - all alone.

    Grant was with the NICU team with my phone in his pocket, so no one came by to tell me if my 29 weeker was alive. May not sound like terribly long, but those 4 hours not knowing are etched in every ounce of my body with fear and guilt running through my blood of bringing a little girl into the world 11 weeks too early. It would be days before I could hold her, and when I finally saw her, my first thought was she looked like an uncooked purple pork tenderloin. Who thinks that the first time they see their child?

    With Emery overcoming her 6th battle of pneumonia of 2018 this week, its a reminder how a few extra weeks in the womb would have protected her and let those lungs and immune system grow.

    With so many beautiful congratulations as we announced the pregnancy of our little boy last week, many inquisitive friends also asked how this pregnancy would go with my history and if I’d be blogging. Between working on my doctorate and the two little girls at home, I wasn’t planning on it, but felt compelled to share at least the milestones of this journey.

    So here is the irony: this week, the week that washes over me like a cloud of inescapable soot, I have to have a fairly invasive surgery to stay pregnant... ironic that it’s the same week 3 years ago my body failed to do so. It could very well be the same day.

    We go in for pre-op tomorrow, Tuesday, November 13th up in San Francisco with Dr. Michael Katz- a lauded MFM who has some of the highest success rates in the world and will schedule the surgery for sometime the following 72 hours... which encompasses Emerson’s birthday. With this preventative TVCIV cerclage, timing is of the essence as they have to move my bladder and other internal organs to stitch up while keeping the growing baby’s sac small and safe from incision. 

    I remind my self we have a happy ending with Emerson and live life to the fullest each and every day. This week, while we celebrate our sweet miracle baby’s third birthday and try to forget how we lost our battle to stay pregnant longer, we are taking literally the biggest steps we can to stay pregnant this time around with our little boy to complete our family. Wish us luck!

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A Poem: How Preemie Moms Are Chosen

The past few days have been long. We are so fortunate to have the help of my mom who has gone above and beyond to continue to be the primary caregiver for Grace, allowing me the time to pump (about 7 hours a day right now, every 2 hours around the clock) and be with our little one at the NICU. While it has only been less than 96 hours, it has felt like a month figuring out schedules and quieting the internal battle of being with Grace whom I have missed so much these past few weeks and being in the NICU as decisions about our little girl's care are made.

The NICU is scary, but not as scary as I imagined it would be. I am so confident in the phenomenal care our little girl is receiving, and so appreciative of the compassionate and knowledgeable nurses and neonatologists who are providing us with all of the information we need to forge ahead each day, hour by hour. Grant's been so strong, asking all of the questions we need answers to while I can't think straight.

The toughest part of each visit is leaving her. We say goodbye, but we don't know if her hearing is developed so doubt she hears us. She can't see us wave or look back. She just lies there peacefully in her pile of wires and tubes, sleeping under the glow of the blue lights warding off jaundice. I have to exit the hospital the same place new mother's leave - and my heart breaks every single time watching the new father's pull up the curb ever so slowly and cautiously before fumbling with the carseat and their new precious cargo. Mom's face aglow with both pride and terror - it is now time for the next chapter of bringing baby home. It's haunting. Why did we get robbed of that?

Physically I must have been running on adrenaline those first 36 hours because I felt great (got discharged about 20 hours after delivering) but now everything hurts. I hadn't worn shoes in 6 weeks, and every step I take I feel like little bones in my feet are cracking and my muscles ache all over. I'm weak. From bedrest to child birth to pumping and taking care of a 15 month old, my body has been forced to go from 0-60 and I am just praying it can keep up with the demands. Pathology came back with a report and shockingly the early delivery was not inpart to the Incompetent Cervix which had been the foreboding theme of our pregnancy journey these past few months but instead some sort of bacterial infection that caused the placental abruption leading to bleeding and pre-term delivery. I haven't quite wrapped my head around all of this yet. 

I can't help but wonder why God thinks I am strong enough for this journey. I don't feel brave enough- my fear is suffocating. I've navigated my own health struggles with MENs/kidney stones/pregnancy throughout the years, and last year with 6 week old Grace in the hospital with her kidneys, but neither of those could have possibly prepared me for the complete helplessness that overwhelmes each minute of every hour. I tried so hard to keep her cooking, but I feel like I failed her only making it to 29 weeks... 79 days early.  

This poem was sent to me and I have to read it a few times each day for reassurance that somehow I will be able to dig deep inside of me and physically, mentally, and emotionally be able to continue this journey per God's assignment.

How Preemie Moms Are Chosen
by Erma Bombeck

Did you ever wonder how the mothers of premature babies are chosen?

Somehow, I visualize God hovering over Earth, selecting his instruments for propagation with great care and deliberation. As he observes, he instructs his angels to take notes in a giant ledger.

”Armstrong, Beth, son. Patron Saint, Matthew.
Forrest, Marjorie, daughter. Patron Saint, Celia.
Rutledge, Carrie, twins. Patron Saint...give her Gerard. He’s used to profanity.”

Finally, he passes a name to an angel and smiles. “Give her a preemie.”

The angel is curious. “Why this one, God? She’s so happy.”

”Exactly,” smiles God. “Could I give a premature baby a mother who knows no laughter? That would be cruel.”

”But does she have the patience?” asks the angel.

”I don’t want her to have too much patience, or she’ll drown in a sea of self-pity and despair. Once the shock and resentment wear off, she’ll handle it. I watched her today. She has that sense of self and independence so rare and so necessary in a mother. You see, the child I’m going to give her has a world of its own. She has to make it live in her world, and that’s not going to be easy.”

”But Lord, I don’t think she even believes in you.”

God smiles. “No matter, I can fix that. This one is perfect She has just the right amount of selfishness.”

The angel gasps, “Selfishness?! Is that a virtue?”

God nods. “If she can’t separate herself from the child occasionally, she will never survive. Yes, here is a woman whom I will bless with a child less than perfect. She doesn’t know it yet, but she is to be envied. She will never take for granted a spoken word. She will never consider a step ordinary. When her child says momma for the first time, she will be witness to a miracle and know it. I will permit her to see clearly the things I see— ignorance, cruelty, prejudice— and allow her to rise above them. She will never be alone. I will be at her side every minute of every day of her life because she is doing my work as surely as she is here by my side.”

”And what about her Patron Saint?” asks the angel, his pen poised in the air.

God smiles. “A mirror will suffice.”

God bless you all, thank you for your continued prayers- they are our sustenance. 

 

Today is World Preemie Day- and it has a whole new meaning for our family

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Today is world preemie day, raising awareness about the battle NICU nurses, doctors and parents of preemies fight for the littlest ones born too soon. I have so much to say, but words will fail to express my heart right now as I am still grappling with the turn of events- grateful our beautiful girl is here and thriving, but terrified. The vulnerability I feel is unlike anything I have ever experienced, with emotions ranging from joy to guilt and so many looming questions. I know they say not to ask those questions: the "what ifs" but I can't seem to quiet my head. What if she had been born at 24 weeks? Thank goodness I did the 5 weeks of bed rest. But what if we had gone for a cerclage instead of a pessary? What if I hadn't been released from the hospital? What if I wasn't allergic to the indomethacin and could have used it to halt labor just another day or two? An allergic reaction for me that would have allowed my baby to cook surely would have been better, right? It seems to be a dark tunnel of confusion, but we are doing our best to stay positive in that we had a good delivery, we were in the right place to get her phenomenal care from the start, and we need to be grateful that maybe bedrest did buy her another 5 weeks of cooking. 

They tell us we can bring her home likely end of January. Grace won't meet her until then. The holidays are going to be extremely tough (but fortunately Grandbarb already ordered her personalized stocking to hang on our fireplace with the rest of the family). Already it is exhausting pumping every 2.5 hours and getting the milk to the NICU, and balancing recovery (I was discharged from the hospital 20 hours after giving birth- I can't believe it hasn't even been 48 hours since this began to unfold) taking care of Grace (fortunately we are still staying at my parents and have their help while our house is being finished), and being at the hospital so we can understand what they are doing to our sweet one. 

Yesterday super-dad Grant and I had a chance to hold her for the first time -- and with the cpap machine removed we could finally see just how tiny her features were. Having only seen her through the Isolette, she seemed small but perfect- just a miniature baby. But holding her crushed both of us, she is so tiny and frail and hooked up to many lines and wires. I couldn't help but feel frustrated that I was robbed of the birth experience of holding my baby right when she was born, and leaving her at night to go home is the toughest thing Grant and I have ever done, but we know she is in good hands. 

This piece was sent to me by a friend, and if there are any other preemie parents out there reading, I thought you'd appreciate. I did.

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29 weeks today!

Hit the 29 week mark this morning, awoken by strong contractions 2 minutes apart and bleeding. I am literally screaming in between typing sentences. Glad to have made it to this milestone, really hoping we can slow down these contractions... Was a tough night but in great hands being monitored closely. 

Last night around 11pm I received the second dose of our second round of betamethasone steroids for baby's lungs. That set off a sea of  uncontrollable contractions for about two hours. We tried to control with Procardia (which I am finding has some not-so-fun side effects of its own) and eventually they settled so I could get a few hours of sleep. The place of placental abruption is now tender to the touch on my lower left abdomen, and the bleeding likely causing the ongoing uterine irritability. 

This morning we are likely moving to L and D. Still awaiting the doctors who are conferring about plan of attack. Baby has been great all week though last night began to show some very mild discrepancies in her charting where we're monitoring closely. IV fluids have been helping a ton with the contractions. Really hoping we can do this circus for at least another week and make it to 30, but if we deliver today, I know God is watching over us and whatever his plan, is meant to be.

Love you all, thanks for the continued support- we really need those extra thoughts and prayers today. Get on out there and have an extra great Sunday for me!  

 

Obligatory ugly hospital selfie. I mean, I am a millennial mom after all :)  

Obligatory ugly hospital selfie. I mean, I am a millennial mom after all :)  

Stress and Pre-term Labor

This image was posted in the Incompetent Cervix Awareness group on Facebook and I felt compelled to share. During my physical therapy, one of the surprising tidbits I picked up was just how important it was for me to destress, as tension is often held in the pelvic floor (for both pregnant and non-pregnant women) which can lead to premature dilation/ early delivery in women who are pregnant. 

I remember at our first prenatal appointment with this baby, the doctor looked specifically at Grant and said, "This is going to be a really really tough pregnancy for your wife. Your job is to make it less stressful." and we kind of laughed it off. Come full circle, it has been a tough pregnancy- perhaps in a different way than she had imagined, but letting go of the stress, trying to keep light-hearted and positive and practice things like meditation has helped me along the way. 

Aside from the stress of being in the hospital for 21 days now and away from Grace, we have been battling getting our rental in Palo Alto sublet, renovating the new home in Los Altos we closed on the day before I was admitted, and being so far away from so many of our friends. It also didn't help getting a message from a high school friend this morning who sent a picture of the garage door of our new home wide open- and finding out my husband flew to San Diego for work this morning (a trip I thought had been cancelled with current circumstances) so I had to scramble from my hospital bed to get someone to close it. Stress could be at an all time high, but I really feel like this experience has challenged me to make the active choice in relinquishing what I could, and not let the negativity or stress of others affect me. I've been blessed to be able to so heavily rely on my mother and have the support of my girlfriends for those times when I just need to vent frustrations and be a bit crazy. And sneaking extra lemons & cucumbers from my hospital lunch tray into my water bottles has made the stay feel more like a spa...errrrr, or not... :)

Scientifically, stress-related "Corticotropin-releasing hormone plays an important role in the etiology of preterm delivery associated with maternal or fetal stress." (Am J Obstet Gynecol 1999;180:S264-6.) Managing hormonal reactions can lead to longer gestation by not putting activating the body into panic mode. According to the March of Dimes, high levels of stress can cause a dangerous increase in blood pressure and heart disease- as well as increasing the risk for a preterm baby (born before week 37) and low birth weight (under 5.5 lbs). Maternal stress can lead to fetal stress, which is why patients like myself are monitored every few hours usually. Maternal stress while pregnant has also been linked with anxiety and attention problems for the child later in life.

Typically, most of my medical decisions are based on hard data-driven science, weighing odds and risk factors and unfortunately there is not tons of conclusive evidence on leveraging stress-reducing techniques to prolong pregnancy, but I honestly believe my personal choice to be as stress-free as possible and prioritize the health of my baby has helped my body stabilize and keep this baby cooking. Food for thought at least.