August 14th~ Part II~ Ana’s Birth Story

I have thought and reflected and processed this day and this night hundreds of times in my head since that day a little over a year ago, and yet, every time I do, I still feel more and more thankful for God’s graciousness towards us. And His goodness. And His ever preset faithfulness. So, join me as I tell you the story of my sweet miracle’s birth. The day that God reminded me just how amazing He really is.

If you didn’t read the previous post about the day and a half leading up to this, click here. If you did read it, you will remember that it was around 5PM on Thursday, August 14th. and I was being wheeled up to the Labor and Delivery floor for the third time since my admission to Beth Israel hospital only 6 days ago. I don’t remember too much about that ride up the elevator, except that I was calling Esteban frantically, trying to get him to get to the hospital fast. He knew what was up as soon as he heard my voice. He was on his way back, but there was traffic. He says that the next hour was one of the most stressful hours of his life, as he wove through Boston traffic as fast as he could, helplessly pleading with God for his wife and his tiny baby daughter.

In that time, I was wheeled back in Room 1–the same room I had been in with I first arrived at this hospital on Saturday. The doctors and nurses were bustling around me, talking in urgent, hushed tones, and hooking me up to IV’s and monitors, magnesium, and taking vitals. I was starting to get hot and nauseous as the intense magnesium bolus entered my body. They checked my cervix, timed my contractions, and checked my blood pressure. At one point, a nurse cupped my face with her hands, and said, “Sweetie, I am so sorry. You are having this baby today. There is nothing else we can do.”

No, no, no, no, no!

Up until this  point, I had been calm, almost stoic even. I could not have this baby today! I was not even 24 weeks yet. Today was my first-born’s third birthday. I was supposed to be eating cake and blowing out candles. What is going on? I burst into tears and the frustration of it all shook my body violently. I was so scared for my baby girl, and I was alone, which was not helping the level of my stress.

The doctors grabbed my attention and started talking to me about the “plan”–no intervention, no monitoring, no C-secton. We are going to try vaginally, and the baby might not make it, but she’s so little that….blah, blah, blah. Now, you may remember that just two days ago, I was totally on board with this plan. I was at peace with this plan. God told me that it was going to be okay, and I knew He was in control. And for some reason that I could not have known, earlier that day, I had already known in my heart that that day, the plan would be different. I woke up and thought, “Today. Today, if she’s born, I want a C-section.” This probably sounds totally absurd to all of you reading this, and honestly, I probably didn’t think too much of it in the moment, but all day I was sick with the idea of not monitoring my baby. I knew I wanted more at that point. So as the doctors continued to talk about “the plan,” I fumbled through the words, “Um, no. No, I want her to be monitored. I want a C-section if she’s in distress.” I want to do everything I can to save her, even if it means a scar up and down my stomach. Dr. F. stopped mid-sentence and said, “But that wasn’t the plan. That is a change,” We spent a few minutes going back and forth, her explaining the difference in “the plan” to me, and me telling her over and over that I was sure that I wanted to do this. Suddenly, it was like a switch was flipped. “Ok. Find the heartbeat. Hook her up. We gotta make sure this baby is doing okay.” If I had thought they were moving quickly before, they were moving three times as quickly now. This is when things got a little crazy. Remember, Ana was still so, so tiny, and the machines that they have on Labor and Delivery floors are made for nice, big, 6, 7 and 8 pounders who are ready to pop out. So they were having a really hard time finding the heartbeat. And because suddenly the life of my baby was of the utmost importance, they needed to find that heartbeat. And fast. They found it, but it was faint, and seemed slow. They pushed me to one side, then the other. Dr. F. was moving quickly, and urgently. “Get oxygen!” she yelled to one of the nurses. They grabbed an oxygen mask and slapped in on my face. “We are going to try to help your baby by giving you oxygen,” she explained. I could tell that she was getting worried, and I wasn’t sure if I was about to be wheeled into the OR for an emergency C-secion any minute. Sometime during this craze my mom walked in. I think I said something like, “What are you doing here? Where is Abi?” She had called a friend who lives in Boston, who was sitting with Abi in the waiting room because Esteban was stuck in traffic. Esteban wanted someone to be with me. So my mom walked into me hooked up to about 12 things, an oxygen mask on my face, and doctors and nurses running all around me. A pleasant sight, I’m sure.

And then, amidst all this chaos, my sweet L&D nurse, Beverly, grabbed the fetal monitor from the doctor and said, “Stop for a minute let me try.” Still hustle and bustle. “Please be quiet. Calm down.” Chaos, stress, hustle and bustle. “EVERYONE STOP!” Beverly was taking charge. She slowly and calmly moved the monitor around my belly. I helped direct her hand to where I knew Ana usually was. And then, there she was–nice and strong. “Woosh, thump. Woosh, thump. Woosh, thump.” Her heart rate was coming up. She was not in distress. She was okay.  This is just one of the reasons that the sweet nurses who took care of me and Ana will forever be etched into a special corner of my heart. They were there every step of the way. They are fierce advocates for their patients, knowledgable resources and steady hands amidst a chaotic situation. Thank you, nurses. And thank you, nurse Beverly.

At this point, I was feeling miserable. I had magnesium coursing through my body, making me feel all sorts of awful things, and I was having pretty strong contractions, one on top of the other. And I was laying in a hospital bed. I was a hot mess. Literally, a very, very, very hot mess of a person right then. But now that things were stable, we had to figure out what we were going to do. Ana was head down, which meant there was a chance I could deliver her vaginally. But because she was so very tiny, we weren’t sure that she would make it through the delivery, so we needed to be ready for a C-section if she began to show signs of distress. In order to be ready for that option, Dr. F. suggested that I get an epidural now, so that I wouldn’t have to have a C-section with only local anesthesia. The thought of having someone cut open my stomach while I could feel it was not really very appealing, so I chose option #1–the epidural. And to be completely honest, I was more scared of this than anything else! And after having experienced full term labor without an epidural and experienced an epidural, I would 100% choose no epidural if I ever get the chance. What a strange experience to not be able to feel half of your body. I’m pretty sure I cried and nearly broke Beverly’s hand while the anesthesiologist put the gigantic needle into my back, which he later had to move because only one leg was numb. Crazy!

Anyway, once that was done, we were ready for anything. So we just waited for something to happen. Either I would be fully dilated, and would begin to push my tiny baby out, or she would go into distress and we would rush to a C-section. Boy, I was hoping for the first.

By this time Esteban was in the room with me. I think he arrived sometime during the “Let’s talk about the epidural” stage of things. He sat next to me as I closed my eyes and drifted in and out of sleep, my head pounding and my body on fire. We listened to music and prayed, laughed a little, and talked to Beverly about her kids. We told all the nurses about how it was our first baby’s 3rd birthday, and how this baby was probably going to make her entrance on her sister’s birthday. So strange!

Around 10PM (I think), the doctor came in to check on my progression. (I’m sure they came other times besides that too, I just don’t really remember them.) Dr. S (who was working under Dr. F) said that I was about 9 centimeters, and that I could probably push the baby out since she was so tiny. “Let’s do this!” he said with a smile. It was all a little strange, really. Normally, when you are having a baby, people are happy, excited, eager to meet your little one. This felt like I was walking towards something awful. I wanted so badly for her to stay inside, where she would be safe and grow. But she was coming, and there was nothing I could do. I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to be excited, petrified, devastated, or a combination of all three. Dr. S. said they would call the NICU and “round the troops” and they would be back to start. You see, when you have a baby at 23 weeks, there are a lot of people who need to be there when it happens. In that time that everyone left the room to prepare for the big event, Esteban and I listened to the song”Glorificate”–you can listen to it here. And in the quiet of that hospital room, just minutes before we would meet our daughter, we asked that God would show His glory that night. We prayed that people would see God’s face and know His goodness. We declared God’s greatness and His majesty in the world, and asked him to help us believe that His plan was better than ours. Here are the words of the chorus in English: (Disclaimer: It sounds better in Spanish!)

Be glorified.

Open the heavens, and make it rain.

Show us your glory, we want to see you, 

and to praise you–be exalted and be glorified. 

Somehow, God is good and gracious enough to do this for us–to give us unnatural strength in the midst of awful situations. Truly I can tell you that in that moment I did not know whether my baby would live or die. As we sang this song, I wept because I didn’t know if the way God would show His glory would be to take my baby. I was scared, and heartbroken. But above everything else, I wanted to be faithful to my God who had sent His Son to give me the chance to have eternal life. How could I not offer him my “plan”, when He had offered me His most precious Son, and the gift of hope through life with Him forever?

And so, we prayed and we offered the next minutes to Him. And just after that, Dr. S. came back into the room and told me they were ready. He quietly took my hand and said, “Now, when you have a baby at 23 weeks, all modesty and decency kind of goes out the window, I’m sorry to say.” I think I laughed nervously. Basically, he was telling me that everyone under the sun was about to see all parts of me. Lovely. “Whatever,” I think I said, “that is the least of my worries right now.” He told me they were bringing them in, and suddenly the door opened and about 200 people walked in.

Okay, maybe not that many.

But when you are laying on a hospital bed in a johnny, with your legs spread opened wide, 15 or 20 people really do feel like somewhere around 200. We watched as the NICU doctors and nurses set up their station for our baby. Dr. M. came and shook my hand; he was the NICU doc supervising this whole thing. He told me that they would take my baby, see how she was breathing, and then intubate her if she needed it. “Sometimes they are not breathing, and we have to resuscitate them, and if we can’t do that then we’ll have to talk about other options. But that usually doesn’t happen, so don’t worry”. He told me they would put my baby in a bag, so not to be worried; it was just to keep her warm because she was so tiny. He told us that Dad could go with them to the NICU and get her settled, and then I would see her later, assuming everything went well.

At this point, I was totally overwhelmed. My body was shaking, I was freezing, but sweating, petrified, but wanting to stop time forever right in this moment.

Finally, the NICU team was ready, the docs were ready, and I had a contraction. “Now, push!” Dr. S. said. There were three L&D doctors helping with the delivery, making sure that Ana didn’t get stuck, or strangled by the cord. I pushed. Hard. She was almost out. A few minutes later I had another contraction and I pushed harder than I thought I could. And out she came. It all was so fast. I didn’t know what was happening, or what to feel. Happiness? Dread? Worry? Was she alive? Was she breathing? Esteban kissed my head and the doctors said something about my placenta. I don’t know.

And then, I heard it.

It was a faint squeal. Like a cat.

My heart stopped.

It couldn’t be?

Beverly looked at me, her eyes smiling.

“Is that…” I said, not wanting to say it if it wasn’t true.

“Yes! That’s your baby! She’s crying!”

I have never experienced so much relief in one moment in my entire life. Never. Tears streamed down my face and I wept for my baby’s life. I think I thanked Jesus out loud over and over and over again. (The doctors must have thought I was nuts.)  But man, was I thankful to Jesus in that moment!

The feeling in the room lightened and the NICU docs invited Esteban over to them to meet our new daughter. The nurses asked me what her name was–Anamaria Milagros. There was a little bit of hope that our girl would live. She was breathing. Thank you God.IMG_6394

The very first picture we have of Ana- one that we haven’t showed to many people up until now. 

Esteban cut the cord. They wrapped her up. They brought her to me and I kissed her on the forehead. She was so, so tiny. I had never seen anything so tiny. She had a tube in her mouth, and they were pumping air to keep her breathing. They put her in a incubator and said they were going to the NICU. I could tell Esteban did not know what to do, and I yelled at him, “GO with her! Follow her!”

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And just like that, I was alone in Room 1 with Beverly again. What a surreal and strange experience. She helped clean me up, it was a little more complicated than it usually is, but I won’t go into detail about that. Let’s just say there was a lot of blood and discomfort.

A while later, Esteban came in, tears flowing down his face. “She’s moving. She’s okay. She’s okay. She’s alive.”

I begged him to show me pictures and videos and I watched my 1 pound baby girl kick her leg. She was so tiny, and so skinny, and so red. But she was mine, and she was alive.

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Ana weighed 1lb. 4oz. There is 1 oz. extra here because of her diaper! 

That night all I cared about was that my baby had made it through that day. I had no idea the journey that would follow. I was in some sort of weird daze, and I was so happy that Ana was still with me, and so thankful that God didn’t take her from me. I knew she could still die. I knew she might not make it, but now she was with me. I finally was recovered enough to leave L&D a couple hours later and they wheeled me up to meet Ana. We spent a while with her. I held her hand and stroked her arm.

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This is the first time I am showing pictures of the night Ana was born. She was so, so, so tiny; her skin so fragile, and her breathing so labored. Her fingers and her toes kept turning blue/black because her circulation wasn’t quite right. The humidity in her incubator had to be up to almost 90%. A few days later her skin would become almost raw from being exposed to so much that it wasn’t ready for. So many things that were impossible to explain to people who didn’t understand this. 

And despite all this, she was mine. And I loved her. Every time I talked with her, I told her to be strong. And we willed her to live.

And she did.

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God is so good to us.

August 13th and 14th (part 1)

Wednesday, August 13th

A year ago, on August 13th, I was 23 weeks and 4 days pregnant, which meant that I was closer to 24 weeks than to 23, and 24 was the “magic number.” If I was 24 weeks, they would save my baby no matter what, but at 23 weeks, I had to tell them to try to save her. It seems silly, really, to think that a few extra days were really going to make that much of a difference, but getting to that 24 week mark was so important for me. Before yesterday’s events, I had held onto a hope that this whole thing was a fluke, and that I was going to be discharged home eventually, and then come back to the hospital with a robust 39-week pregnant belly to deliver a chubby newborn baby. Today though, I was sure that was not going to happen. I knew this baby was coming sooner rather than later. Before I dreamed of making it to at least 35 weeks—now 27 weeks seemed like a long shot. To be honest, I can’t really remember much about this day. Sometime in the very early morning, once they deemed me stable enough to be moved off the Labor and Delivery floor, I was wheeled down to my room again. That room on the 6th floor (Anti-partum) had never felt so hopeful. It felt like home and I was so thankful to be there, with a baby still in my belly. That day Esteban didn’t go to work, and we spent the day reading, talking and visiting with family and friends. I was thinking constantly about Abi’s 3rd birthday the next day, and trying to plan from afar how I could make sure she had a fun-filled day of celebrations. That day we also decided we needed to name our daughter. We had had a bunch of names swimming around in our heads for a while, but since we knew this girl was going to make her debut soon, and since we knew it might be fast and unexpected, we knew we needed her to have a name. The problem was that all of the names that we thought we might use (before all this happened) were nice names, but they seemed…trivial. Because I wasn’t sure what the future would hold for our little one, I wanted her to have a name with meaning. A name that said something about the circumstances of her birth. Ironically (or not so ironically), both of the grandmothers had said that she should be named Milagros, which means, “miracle.” Talk about a declaration of faith. We decided that would be her middle name, since it seemed like a God-thing that they both chose that name independently. As we talked about several different names, we tried to think of what we wanted people to know when they heard our daughter’s name. Gloria, we thought, so they will know that the glory belongs to God. Joy, because our joy comes from Him alone. Some names were just practically not an option because it had to be something you could say in both English and Spanish—Faith would have been a disaster in Spanish and would be butchered for the rest of the poor child’s life. What did we want people to see? To know? To remember? And then the words of a song came to us.

Tu gracia es suficiente. That’s what we wanted people to know.

That God is gracious to us.

In the midst of our troubles and our pain. He is gracious.

His grace is sufficient.

This is what we wanted to remember when we look back at this journey.

Ana means “grace.” We decided to go with the Spanish spelling because…well, why not? It fit with our three letter theme at this point. Abi and Ana. (I will say that once we started saying both of those names together, and having to call both children, we sometimes regret this choice. Similar names make for lots of mix-ups!)

So we decided that day to name the wiggly baby girl inside of me Anamaria Milagros Peralta. We knew we wanted Maria because of Esteban’s mom, and we liked giving Ana a little more “flare.” We said it, and we felt at peace. We wrote it on the white board in the hospital and looked at it for awhile, to be sure we still liked it. There’s something about writing a name that makes it so real. And what a strange thing to be choosing someone’s name for the rest of their life—but that is another topic for another day.

That night, we went to bed at peace. We had a name, and we didn’t have a baby today. Every day we were closer to 24 weeks. Hallelujah.

Thursday, August 14th     (Part 1)  ~ Abigail’s third birthday!  

A year ago, on August 14th, I woke up sad. Not being able to be with Abi on her third birthday was hard for me. I guess I’m a little bit of a sentimental person, and in my family, birthdays are a pretty big deal, so not being able to celebrate with her was killing me. I basically forced Esteban to go to work that morning, because we didn’t know how long I was going to be in the hospital at that point, so he might as well be making some money, right? So he went to work, and I begged my parents to send me pictures of Abi waking up on her birthday. They made her pancakes and gave her a birthday crown, and she was all smiles. Kids are so resilient. They are happy with the smallest things—why is that so hard for us as adults?

I think my mom knew how sad I was that I wasn’t with Abi on her birthday, so she decided to come and spend the day with me at the hospital. She brought presents and toys and new videos to watch, and the plan was that we would hang out there until the rest of the family could come later that evening for a pizza party. I was also scheduled to have an ultrasound that day, to check on how baby Ana was doing, but they would just come and get me whenever they were ready for me. My mom arrived with Abi a little before lunch, and she bounded into the room and jumped onto my bed. We played Doc McStuffins and watched a new Veggie Tales DVD. Abi was so excited to get to order room service on her birthday, and she chose cheese pizza and chocolate pudding. A fine choice indeed. I think I felt bad that Abi was just sitting in a hospital room on her birthday, but honestly, she was so happy to be there! She was having a hard time with Mommy and Papi being away for so long. The sleepover at Abuela’s house, as much fun as it was, seemed like it should have ended days ago, and I think she was ready to be home. We were too. Truthfully, I was thankful that she wanted to snuggle up next to me on my bed and watch shows all day.

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Abi ordering room service on her birthday.

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Sometime right after lunch they came to get me for the ultrasound. I went in a little less nervous this time, and Dr. Young herself was in the room to do the ultrasound. I will never forget the smile that spread across her face as she said, “She’s head down! She flipped!” What? She did? I couldn’t really believe it at first. I had been praying so much for this, and yet I was shocked when it actually happened! She was head down! That meant that a vaginal delivery was much more probable at this point. Everything else looked good. My fluid was pretty low, which was probably why I hardly felt like I looked pregnant anymore, but baby girl was doing well. Dr. Young put away the ultrasound machine away and said “Well, she is ready to come out. She’s going to come any day now.” She told me that she was not on call tonight, but she would be watching if anything happened. It’s funny, I didn’t think much of it at the time, but looking back, I think she knew that Ana would be born very, very soon. Sooner than we could have ever imagined.

I don’t exactly know when they started, but sometime that afternoon I started feeling that familiar tightening in my back again. The first several times I tried to ignore it, but eventually I began to tense up my whole body as they quickly became stronger and stronger. My mom noticed and asked me, “You’re having contractions, aren’t you?”

“I think so,” I responded, wishing with all my heart that this wasn’t true.

I decided I should call the nurse and let her know what was going on. First she told me I should drink more water, because I was probably dehydrated and that was why I was contracting, but then she quickly hooked me up to the contraction monitor. Probably about half an hour later, she came back and said that it didn’t look like I was having any contractions at all, and that I should really drink more water and try to empty my bladder. Both of those things can cause contractions when you have an irritable uterus that wants to keep contracting. I said I would try those things again, but I was sure I was having contractions. I had back labor with Abi, and this is exactly what it felt like. The nurse left for a little while longer, and in that time the contractions started coming one on top of the other, and I was really in a lot of pain. So, as I said before, I have this problem where I don’t always show my pain externally very well, so oftentimes, doctors and other medical professionals don’t believe the level of my discomfort. This happened with Abi’s delivery also. I tried calmly to tell the nurse again that I was 100% sure that I was having contractions and that I was getting very uncomfortable. She called the doctor, who came to do an internal exam. I remember asking my mom to take Abi, because I didn’t want her to see any of the stress and fuss like what happened a couple of days ago. The doctor checked me and told me that I was progressing and that I needed to get up to Labor and Delivery. She said, “I don’t think we have to rush. It’s not an emergency, but we are just going to go up there.” Boy am I thankful for this doctor’s ability to be calm. I was starting to get pretty worried, and probably starting to have some PTSD symptoms from Tuesday’s stress, and I needed someone to tell me that this was not an emergency. I told my mom that we wouldn’t be able to have the party for Abi, and asked her to take her home. I must have told Abi I had to go take care of her baby sister and kissed her goodbye, but I really don’t remember it. I do remember being wheeled up on that fateful elevator once again, begging God to save my baby girl one more time. I called Esteban, telling him he needed to hurry up.

Somehow, I knew that this time was different than the times before…

 

A Year Ago Today~ August 12th

A year ago today, on August 12th, I went into labor for the second time in a week, at only 23 weeks, 3 days pregnant. But before I tell you that part of the story, let’s go back, just a couple of days…

Sunday, August 10th

A year ago, on August 10th, it was the first day that I had really felt well since this whole ordeal began several days earlier. I was not having contractions, and that made me feel good. I was still taking the oral medication, inducin, and would be until the following morning. At this point, the plan was that I would remain at the hospital at least through Monday, when the indicuin regimen was completed. I would have an ultrasound on Monday to check the baby and the length of my cervix, and as long as everything remained stable, I would be able to go home the next day. To say that I was not worried about going home would be a complete lie. Of course, there was a big part of me that hoped and wanted to be able to go home and stay home until I was able to deliver and bring home a chunky, full term baby. But there was also a sort of peace in remaining at the hospital, where I knew they would be able to intervene if I needed it at any moment.

I remember the conversation with Dr. Y. and Dr. S. early that morning when they came in during their rounds. They were smiling and positive. They told me the plan and said, “You are not our most impressive case. You are not going to have a baby at 23 weeks!” This made me breath a sigh of relief as I hoped they were right. My nurse came in and checked our baby girl’s heart beat every hour or so, and every time she was strong and healthy. Remember, when a baby is only 23 weeks, they are still pretty little, so they can still move around quite a bit. Our little one gained quite the reputation among the nurses while we were there because of her feisty personality. She would either kick the Doppler or wiggle her way away from it every time one of the nurses tried to listen to her. She did not like to be pressed on! This made us smile every time, as we grew to know and love our sweet girl more with every listen.

The rest of the day was filled with visits from family and friends, surprise drinks from Starbucks and 3 more gourmet hospital meals. Our church lifted us up in corporate prayer and we spent the day feeling overwhelmed by the amount of love and support we were receiving. We talked about how we would survive 4 more months of bed rest with a 3 year old at home, and went to sleep feeling more positive than we had in the past few days combined.

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Monday, August 11th

A year ago, on August 11th, I woke up still feeling good, but with an overhanging sense of anxiety about the possibility that I might be going home. I wanted to be home with Abi…no I longed to be home with Abi, but I was fairly nervous about what would happen once I stopped the inducin. The last time I stopped the medication, my contractions started right away, so I was worried that that was going to happen again. But Abi’s birthday was on Thursday, and I was already feel sick to my stomach, thinking about the fact that I could miss it. The plan that morning in rounds was that I would get an ultrasound later that morning, but they also let me know that I would not be going home that day, because they realized that I actually wouldn’t be done with the inducin until that night, and they could not discharge me still on it. Dr. Y said, “Hopefully you’ll be home tomorrow!” I told her that I was actually a little bit relieved to know that I would be staying at the hospital that day, and that I would rather make sure that everything was really stable before I went home. Dr. Y also let me know that they had asked for a couple of people from the NICU to come down and talk with us, just in case our baby decided to come early.

Completely overwhelming.

The Chief Neonatologist and one of his residents came down to talk with us about what our baby’s chances would be for survival and what her life would look like once she was born. Talk about a “this-has-to-be-a-bad-nightmare” conversation. At the end of it, what I knew was that #1) I needed to keep Ana inside of me for as many weeks as I could, and #2) No matter which way this game was played, we were going to be connected to this hospital for a very long time.  I became obsessed with making it to 27 weeks, since at that point, babies have a much higher chance of success, especially compared to the 20% we were hearing for our current 23-week mark. The Doctor talked about brain bleeds and cerebral palsy, NEC and a long, long hospital stay. He told us (and I remember this as clear as if it were yesterday) that we would most likely be in the hospital until New Years Day and possible longer. Despite all of this, we told him the same thing we had told Dr. P at the other hospital. If she was born this week, we wanted them to do everything they could to save her, within reasonable limits, so that she would not live in pain or discomfort. But we wanted them to save her. Seriously, I just couldn’t even believe we were doing this. I had read about preemies, and seen one on Grey’s Anatomy–wasn’t there a baby born at like 23 weeks? What did she look like? I started to google and ready everything I could about preemies, and I learned that there was a thing called “micro-preemies.” You can be smaller than a preemie?? Everything kind of felt like a dream. Like it couldn’t possibly be real. Little did we know just how real it would very quickly get.

Finally at almost 5:00 by the time they came to get me for my ultrasound. I was wheeled upin my glamorous johnnie and 3 sizes too big hospital socks up to the seventh floor and into the High Risk Maternal Fetal Medicine Wing. “I never thought I would find myself here,” I thought to myself. I hopped (or more like slowly, and probably awkwardly, slid) onto the ultrasound table. Suddenly, my arms and legs started to shake, and pretty soon, my whole body was shaking. Apparently I was more nervous about this ultrasound than I first thought. I apologized to the technician and Esteban tried his best to get me to calm down. Finally I did, and the tech lathered my belly up with that infamous warm goo, and we started the process. There are a lot of specifics that I don’t remember about this ultrasound, but I do remember that I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of it because my bladder was apparently exploding (Beth Israel didn’t believe I needed a catheter, so I got that removed right when I arrived—thank GOD!), and that baby girl was doing well, but was still head up. She had been that way since I was at the previous hospital. I can’t remember exactly how long my cervix was, but I think it was somewhere around 2 or 2.5 cm, so not much different than it had been when I left the first hospital, if at all. This was pretty much good news, except we really needed baby girl to flip and be head down. We returned to our rooms feeling cautiously hopeful of what the next day would bring.

Tuesday, August 12th

A year ago today, I woke up to the doctors coming in to round on me. They asked me how I was feeling and I told them I felt alright. I had taken my last dose of inducin and I was wary of what the day would bring. I honestly don’t remember all that much about that morning, but we decided that Esteban would go to work, at least for a few hours, since he hadn’t been there at all since this whole thing started. A friend from church came and sat with me and brought me coffee, and we looked at magazines, chatted and laughed. It was a good morning. Sometime in the late morning or early afternoon, I started to not feel so good. I was having some small contractions, even though I willed it to not be true. I went to the bathroom, and noticed a huge blood clot, which totally freaked me out. I called for the nurse and told her that I was having contractions and bleeding. They hooked me up to the monitor and agreed that I was in fact contracting. I cried, devastated with disappointment in my body’s inability to do what it was supposed to be doing for my baby girl. None of the doctors were around, so a Physician’s Assistant came in who was not too familiar with my case. She said that they needed to do an internal exam, and everything after that happened very quickly. I remember being thrown back into the laying position and preparing myself for yet another uncomfortable exam. I hardly flinched and she said, “It’s not good. You are 3 centimeters.” I remember crying, and moaning, “Noooo.” Why was this happening? The Physician’s Assistant said they had to get me up to Labor and Delivery ASAP, and they rushed in a stretcher and quickly moved me off of my bed and into the stretcher, leaving a basketball sized, dark red stain in my place. I gasped when I looked, and the nurses rushed to get it cleaned up and out of my sight. The PA was rushing, feeling the urgency of the situation, and they literally were running down the hall pushing me. This was not doing much to calm my anxiety, as I tried to explain to them that my husband was at work and I needed to call him. We arrived at the elevator and one of the nurses yelled, “HOLD THE ELEVATOR! EMERGENCY!” By this time, my entire body was shaking uncontrollably, and I had to close my eyes to keep my head from spinning. Somewhere deep in my heart I know I begged God to spare my baby, but my mind was racing. As they wheeled me into the Delivery room, Delivery room #2, I remember looking up at the ceiling and asking God for help.

And God answered me.

In an audible voice, I heard God say, “It’s going to be okay.”

And all of a sudden, I started to be able to think.

Somehow I got in touch with Esteban, and with a trembling voice, told him that he needed to get here now. When he did, he was pacing the room. Stressed, worried, anxious–any adjective you can think of to describe a man whose wife is looking like death blown over and whose 23 week baby girl is seriously threatening to make an appearance. I calmly told him that it would be alright. I knew that, for today, we were going to be okay.

The doctors came in and bustled around. Checking hearbeats, and ultrasounds, trying to decide if my water had broken or not. One doctor said it had, and the other later said it hadn’t. They all told us that since the baby was breech, there was a very high chance that she would be strangled by the cord when the cord came out first—a cord prolapse—but that they would not recommend a c-section at this time since she was so very tiny, and probably wouldn’t survive anyway. A C-section would mean a scar up and down my belly and would impact my long term reproductive health. We had already had this conversation theoretically several times before, but now it was real time. Esteban was sick with stress over the decision. But I was at peace. I knew somehow that it was going to be okay, and by some miracle (because it really had to have been a miracle), I was able to trust God enough to say, “Ok. I don’t want a C-section.” That meant, that I didn’t want them to rush to do a C-section if my baby was in distress. That meant, that I didn’t want 24/7 fetal monitoring, because even if the baby’s heartrate dropped, they would not do anything. Saying that now, sounds totally absurd. But in that moment, in my heart, it made sense. I had a peace that God was holding my baby in the palm of His hand, and I trusted that she wasn’t going to be born today.

They hooked me up to magnesium, that God-awful drug again, both to stop the contractions and because if a baby is born so early, the magnesium just before birth helps their neurological development and prevents brain bleeds. And I felt like I was on fire, and dry heaved all day long. You can’t eat while you take this medicine, and it makes you feel horribly nauseous. And if you know me, you know that hunger and nausea is a terrible combination, so I threw up nothing for hours. Miserable.

I convinced them to let me take a half-round of inducin, since that was the only thing that had stopped the contractions. I took that and my magnesium, and looked like a hot mess for the next 24 hours. I couldn’t get up to go to the bathroom, but I didn’t want a catheter, so Esteban had to help me use a bed pan. Talk about true love and glamour all wrapped up in one. I was dirty and hungry and nauseous and so, so tired. The magnesium also gave me a horrendous headache, so I spent most of the day sleeping. Later that night, I was a little more awake, and we decided to watch some TV. My contractions had stopped and I was feeling much more stable. We ended up watching way too many episodes of the Big Bang Theory and it was perfect. Light, funny, and it gave us a sense of normal. Also that day, we learned that some friends had had their first baby, and it brought me so much joy to know that. It was a glimpse of hope, of things going right, and it brightened the day for both of us. What a gift.

We stayed up in Labor and Delivery that night, my sweet husband sleeping folded over on a chair next to me. He did not leave my side for a second and every meal I had to force him to eat. This was also the day we started listening to “Vivir es Cristo” by Jonathan and Sarah Jerez, as we realized that we needed to rest our hope in Christ and fix our eyes on Him. He had a plan that was far greater than our plan, and we asked that He would use this to bring Himself glory. We listened to this soundtrack over and over, praying it fervently every time.

This day was filled with fear, uncertainty, pain, discomfort, frustration, disappointment, devastation. But God also brought peace, joy, hope, strength, faith and trust that could only have come from him. By our own strength, we would have been a complete mess. But by His strength. By His strength we had made it just one more day.

23 weeks, 4 days…here we come.

 

A Year Ago Today~ August 8th and 9th

To read the rest of the story, click here and here.

Friday, August 8th

A year ago today I woke up exhausted, after waking up several times throughout the night with intense contractions. I thought that I would call the doctor this morning and at least check in, hoping that they would tell me that everything was probably fine, though in my heart I was pretty sure that this wasn’t true. My mom came over to watch Abi for the day, and Esteban went to work. Our RD meetings that day would be pretty low-key, so I decided that I would go and just sit in a comfortable chair there and try to participate in the meeting as much as I could. I had called and asked to speak to the doctor on call at exactly 8AM when the office opened, and by the time I left at 8:45 I still had not heard back. My mom drove me to the apartment where our meetings were happening, and I continued to wait for the call. After a bit I had to go to the bathroom, and when I did, I noticed red blood—exactly what they had told me to call about. I panicked. I took a deep breath and walked out back into the living room, mumbling something about needing to go outside for a second, and stumbled out the door. I called the OBGYN office again, but this time, I asked to speak to a midwife. They had told me that I would probably be a doctor patient from now on, since I was “High-risk” but I needed someone to call me back, and I was pretty certain that the Midwife on call would. I left the message and within 5 minutes I was getting a call from midwife Lisa. I told her what was happening, my voice trembling, the lump in my throat getting bigger. “You need to come to the birth center sweetie. Hopefully it’s nothing, but let’s just check you out to be sure,” Lisa said, lightly. I agreed and walked back into the apartment where all my co-workers were gathered. As soon as I opened my mouth to try to tell them that I needed to go to the hospital, I burst into tears. As I stood there awkwardly covering my face and sobbing, they surrounded me with open arms, laid their hands on me and prayed. I can’t tell you how thankful I am to live and work in a place with so much love and support.

My mom came and picked me up again, after getting Abi ready for another day at Abuela’s house. We had decided that my mom would just take Abi to her house, since it was closer to the hospital, and we didn’t know what would end up happening that day. We called Esteban and told him to meet us at the hospital. The drive was long and tense. I began to feel the contractions more frequently and intensely. As Abi chattered mindlessly in the back, I tried my hardest to focus on her and not on the consistent pangs in my stomach. “Where are we going, Mommy?” she asked innocently.

“We have to go back to the hospital to make sure that baby sister is okay,” I responded, praying that this would be true.

By the time we arrived at the hospital, Esteban was already there. He and I went upstairs alone, and my mom left with Abi. As soon as we walked into the birth center, all hands were on deck. A couple nurses whisked me into a room, and pulled off my clothes. They threw a johnnie on me and slapped a fetal monitor on my stomach. Why it is that when you are pregnant, all decency goes out the window, I’ll never know. I could tell that whatever was going on with me, the nurses thought it was serious, because they bustled around the room quietly, a grim expression wiped across their faces. They found the heart beat, and started the monitor for the contractions. I was having contractions every couple minutes by this point. The nurse looked at me, “Are you in pain? Those are pretty big contractions!”

“Um, yeah. I think I am,” I said, through shivers. They explained to me that they were going to start a magnesium drip in an IV to try to stop the contractions, so they whipped out a needle to stick in my hand. After a few tries they finally stuck one of my small veins and the most-horrific-medicine-ever-known-to-man started to flow into my body. Any pregnant woman (or any person for that matter) who has ever had magnesium knows exactly what I am talking about. Within a few minutes I was fairly certain that my body was on fire and that someone was spinning my uncomfortable hospital bed in circles. And my head was pounding. I closed my eyes and in walked the Doctor, who told me that he was going to do an internal exam to check my cervix. As he was finishing, Esteban and I both noticed his grim expression. I will never forget his next words.

“Well. It’s not good. There has been progression. You are 1 centimeter now, and your cervix is very soft.”

“Nooo,” I moaned and tears started streaming down my face. I could hardly wrap my mind around what was happening.

“We are going to try to stop the contractions, but I don’t know if we will be able to,” he continued. He put his hand on my knee. “I’m so sorry, but your baby is not viable, so there is nothing we can do.” I’m sure he said other things at that point, but everything else is kind of a blur. Esteban and I cried, prayed and cried some more, scared to death that we were loosing our sweet baby girl. I do remember asking the doctor when hospitals in Boston consider a baby to be “viable.” He said (and I remember this word for word), “I mean, if you were 25 weeks right now, I would put you on an ambulance and send you to Beth Israel. But you’re only 22 weeks, so there is nothing I can do.” He left the room and the nurse came in, a look of pity in her eyes. I looked at her and asked her when hospitals in Boston would take babies. She looked me straight in the eyes and said quietly, “There are some that will save a baby at 23 and a half weeks.” A sliver of hope. I was 22 weeks and 6 days. Tomorrow I would be 23 weeks. I just had to make it to tomorrow, and then maybe someone would consider my case.

We spent the rest of that day crying and praying, praying and crying. We listened to our baby’s heartbeat and cried, felt her kicks and imagined how we were going to tell Abi that her baby sister was gone. I was heartbroken thinking about how heartbroken she would be. They ended up giving me another medicine by mouth to stop the contractions, Inducin, and eventually, the contractions slowed and finally stopped. More hope. The doctor continued to give us a pretty grim prognosis, explaining that it was probably just the medication that was stopping the contractions, and they may start again once I stopped it. At the end of the night, he explained that the plan would be to discharge me the following day, since there was nothing they could do for the baby. Some of our friends and family were horrified, telling us that we needed to demand being transferred to a hospital in Boston, etc… Throughout this process, it was amazing how God gave Esteban and I a like-mind about every decision we had to make. We both were devastated that Friday, but something also gave us peace. We both felt a “wait-and-see” that day. In that moment, we were okay. In that moment, our baby was safe, her heart was beating, and her home was intact. In that moment, there was still a chance. And so we held on to that chance, and decided that we would see what tomorrow would bring.

Saturday, August 9th

A year ago today, the first thing the nurse said to me was, “You are 23 weeks! Congratulations! That’s a big deal!” I smiled, and chose to rejoice in this victory. Esteban and I thanked God for one more day with our baby girl. The plan was, at that point, to send me home that afternoon, and I would remain on strict bed rest until either I got worse, or until I was full term. I would be lying if I said that I was not terrified of this. You see, I was coming to the end of the medications they were giving me to stop the contractions and I was terrified of starting to feel them again. The doctor had changed that day and Dr. K. was a kind and understanding woman, who I could tell from the beginning felt sad about our situation. That whole morning, I was uneasy, worried and restless. I knew that I was probably going home, but something just didn’t feel right. I prayed all day that the contractions wouldn’t come back. Once the time came to turn off the medicine, my body started shaking uncontrollably. I knew I had to calm down, since my stress could cause more contractions, so I kept taking deep breaths, willing my body to be at peace. Finally I was able to close my eyes and rest and in that moment, Dr. K. came in and told us that she had started to do a little more research, because she wanted to be sure that there was really nothing else that she could do for us, and she decided to call one of the doctors at Beth Israel. She said that when she explained our situation to them, the doctor there said, “No, she has options. You need to tell her that she has options.” More hope. She gave us a quick overview of all the problems that a baby born at 23 weeks could have, and told us that if we were interested in trying to save our baby, that she would have the neonatologist on call come and talk to us about the chances of survival, etc… We both said “Yes!” as we breathed relief into the air. Dr. K. smiled. “I knew you guys were going to say that!”

Just a few minutes later we were talking to the neonatologist on call about our tiny baby’s chances of survival if she were to be born today. She would have about a 20% chance of survival and about a 10% chance of survival and being “normal.” Her lungs were not developed. When I got to Beth Israel, they would start giving me steroid shots to help mature her lungs, but she would still need to be on a ventilator at birth. She might not be breathing at all and need to be resuscitated. The oxygen that she would need to survive would probably mess up her eyes—that was why Stevie Wonder was blind—who knew?? She could be deaf. She would have a high chance of having Cerebal Palsy and a very high chance of a brain bleed that could affect her development in a big way. Her stomach would not be ready for food, and she could get something called NEC, which could kill her. She wouldn’t be able to feed by mouth for at least 10 weeks. The list went on. “But,” he said, “she is a girl, and that’s a good thing. She is a singleton, and that’s a good thing. And…” he continued, and he turned to look at Esteban, “she won’t be all white, and that is also a good thing.” Apparently black/latino girls do the best as preemies, and White boys do the worst (affectionately called “whimpy white boys). We actually laughed, a needed moment of lightness. There was hope. We felt hope. He said, “So if you want to try to save your baby despite all these things, then we will put you on an ambulance and send you to Beth Israel right now. They said they can take you. Do you guys want to take a minute and think about it?”

Esteban and I looked at each other, and I’m pretty sure that we both said the same thing at the same time, “We want to go to Boston! We don’t need to talk about it.” We knew that we were on the same page. We didn’t want our baby to suffer or to be in pain, but we knew we wanted to give her the best chance at life possible. Dr. K bounced up with a spring in her step and said she would go call Beth Israel and the ambulance. We all laughed, overjoyed that there was a chance that our girl could live. It would be a long road, but there was hope and sometimes that’s all you need.

They told me there was an ambulance that was on its way. A few minutes later, they let me know it would be a while longer because they had to send a higher level ambulance since I was pregnant—it had to be able to save 2 people, instead of just one. Ironic, isn’t it? Just a few minutes ago, they were going to send me and my “not-viable-baby” home because there was nothing they could do, and suddenly, they were thinking about how they could preserve its life.

The next couple of hours were filled with phone calls, tears and prayers of thanksgiving. The ambulance arrived and I was strapped into what felt like my seat for my next trip to outer space. Hooked up to my IV, a blood pressure machine and my catheter (did I forget to mention that glamorous part of the story?), I jolted and bounced with every bump on the road from Newburyport to Boston. (Why don’t they give ambulances better shock systems?)

I arrived at Beth Israel, and was wheeled up to the NICU. This was my first glimpse of the place that would become my home for the next 3 months. They told the EMTs that I didn’t need to go to the NICU if I hadn’t had the baby yet, and so they wheeled me up one more floor to Labor and Delivery. I signed a bunch of paperwork from my strapped down position, and they brought me into room 1. Esteban arrived shortly thereafter, since he could not ride in the ambulance. The two doctors who would become my primary doctors while I was there were there to meet me. They were well-versed and ready. I could tell they knew what they were doing and it gave me peace. They told me that they didn’t think that I would have the baby today, and that they thought that I would be okay. They said that the plan would be to continue the inducin regimen that they had started at the previous hospital, continue to give me an IV, and monitor the baby. They checked my cervix and said that I was probably a fingertip to 1 centimeter, and I cried tears of relief and joy that I had not progressed more. They told me that they were going to take out the catheter, because getting up to go to the bathroom was not going to make me have a baby (thank God). They gave me the first betamethatsone shot to help the baby’s lung development, just in case she decided to come early. But they didn’t think it would be today. They gave us such a different prognosis than the one we had heard the day before. The day before we were convinced that we would be loosing our baby girl, and today, we thought that maybe we would go on to have a full term pregnancy. The doctors at Beth Israel saw this kind of thing all the time, and they were confident, and that gave us peace.

My parents brought Abi to visit, which made us smile and laugh more than we had the whole day before. Finally, after a very long and intense day, I was wheeled down to floor 6, the anti-partum floor, where I would be “at least until Monday” was what they said. I slept comfortably that night, and we thanked God for one more day with our girl.

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A Year Ago Today~ August 7th

A year ago today I woke up tired, but feeling a little bit better than I had the night before. My stomach felt a little more at ease, and I was a little less uncomfortable. I thought that I was probably fine, but decided I would at least call the midwife once the office opened just to make sure that what I was feeling was normal. “No need to call the emergency line,” I thought. As I began to get ready for the day, I started to feel a few small contractions. “That’s so weird,” I thought. During my last pregnancy, I had hardly even had Braxton hicks contractions, even at the very end of the pregnancy. Abi was born right on time, right on her due date, so never in a million years did I think that anything was wrong. Just weird. I continued to get ready for the day, and Esteban left for work with Abi. He would drop her off at my mom’s house, since he worked close to their house. I continued to do some unpacking and get ready to go into the office. Today was my intern’s last day, so I had to be there. There were a million things to do before students started arriving in a couple weeks, so there was no way that I could stay home. And anyway, I really didn’t feel that bad. As the morning went on, I started to have a few more contractions. I kept willing them to stop. What the heck was going on??

Finally it was 8:30 and so I called into my midwife’s office. I left a message with the nurse and walked to my office. I went in, said hello to colleagues and sat at my desk. My intern, Carma, and I talked about what needed to be done that day, and we started into the many emails that had accumulated from the night before. Then my phone rang. I gave Carma a 30 second summary of what was going on, and quickly answered the phone. Walking out of the office, I soon noticed the urgency in midwife Jessica’s voice. “You’re having contractions?” she said quickly. “Well, I think so,” I said, hesitating a bit. “They were a lot worse last night, but now they feel better. They are not as frequent.”

“How far apart are they?” Jessica asked.

“Now they are pretty infrequent. I’ve had probably like 10 this morning. Last night they were like every 15-20 minutes,” I responded.

“You need to get in here. How quickly can you get here?” was the urgent response on the other line.

“Ummm. Probably like 45 minutes?” I said, my voice starting to tremble.

“I’ll be waiting for you,” Jessica said, hanging up the phone.

Later, Jessica admitted to me that she knew right when she heard the message from the nurse that I needed to get to the birth center immediately. “You are not one of my cry wolf patients. You never complain about things.” I can’t tell you how thankful I am to have been at a practice where my midwives knew me well enough to know what I, and my baby, needed that day.

I called Esteban and told him what Jessica had said. By this time, I was starting to get a little nervous, but I kept telling myself that surely everything was fine, and that Jessica was probably just being cautious. I walked back into the office and muttered something about needing to leave to poor Carma, who I think was probably quite confused by everything that was going on. I stumbled out of the office and walked briskly to my car. Esteban and I had decided that we would just meet at the hospital, since it was sort of in between his work and our home, and so I hopped into the drivers seat and drove away.

I don’t really know what I was thinking while I was driving, but I remember starting to get a little bit worried. Anyone who knows me, or anything about me, knows that I am not a worrier. I just think that worrying is a useless way to use your energy, so I really don’t do it. When I start to worry, I try to come up with some logical way to think about the situation to take away the worry. So that’s what I kept doing on that drive. Everything would be fine. I had the most textbook, normal, easy pregnancy there ever could have been with Abi. I loved being pregnant. I ran until 31 weeks. Everything would be fine.

I finally arrived at the hospital and walked up to the birth center. Esteban would be there any minute, but I thought I probably should just go up without him. Jessica was ready, waiting for me when I arrived, and they pretty quickly hooked me up to the fetal monitor to find our baby girl’s heartbeat. Remember how I said I am not a worrier? Let’s forget about that for a minute. This is when I entered into my moment of complete panic. You see, when you are only 22 weeks pregnant, your baby is still very, very tiny, and not anywhere close to the size of the babies that birth centers usually deals with. So those fetal monitors? They have a hard time picking up 22 week-heart beats. So naturally, I freaked. After about 30 seconds of sweet nurse Molly looking for our girl’s heartbeat with no luck, I burst into tears, convinced that she had passed away and that was the reason for my contractions. Beating myself up for not coming to the hospital last night. What had I been thinking? My baby!? Just in that moment, we both heard the familiar, “Woosh, thump, woosh, thump, woosh, thump” of a living baby’s heart. “Look, look, she’s right here. She’s right here.” Sweet Molly took my hand and placed it over the monitor. “Listen! She’s perfect!” She said, smiling. I awkwardly wiped by face with the other hand, not daring to move the hand that was holding the monitor that meant my baby girl was still alive. I apologized for my dramatic reaction, and sweet Molly smiled again and said not to worry. She totally understood. It happened all the time. After making sure that baby girl (who had no name at this point; remember how I was only 22 weeks pregnant?) was okay, Jessica came in and explained to me all the reasons that people usually have contractions this early—a urinary tract infection, dehydration, etc… They would check all of those things, and just check to make sure that my cervix hadn’t changed, and then they would hopefully send me on my way. She mentioned all sorts of other tests, but I was having a little bit of a hard time focusing at this point. They quickly hooked me up to an IV, because probably I was just dehydrated and that was why I had contractions.

Everything else is a little scrambled at this point, and I can’t quite remember the order of how things happened. But at some point Jessica let me know that I didn’t have a UTI, which was a serious bummer because that meant that that wasn’t the reason for the contractions. Then she did an internal exam and quietly told me that my cervix was softening—it wasn’t open, but it was “softer than it was supposed to be at 22 weeks.” You see, the cervix is supposed to be hard, long and very much closed before a woman is ready to go into labor, but my cervix for some reason was soft. That meant, Jessica told me, that the contractions had done something. She still didn’t act too worried, saying sometimes that happened, and that hopefully the contractions were just from dehydration and once they stopped, so would the softening of my cervix. She ordered an ultrasound to check the length of my cervix. This took a long time to happen, and so Esteban and I spent the day sitting in the hospital, with lots and lots of fluid draining into my arm through the IV, supposedly, and hopefully, stopping these contractions. Sometime in here Jessica came in to tell me that the Fetal Fibronectin (fFN) test was positive, which was made her “a little more worried.” This test checked for a protein that babies will give off up to 2 weeks before they are born, and sometimes it’s presence in a woman’s blood can indicate that labor is starting. I remember saying something like, “That’s not good.” Jessica told me that it doesn’t necessarily mean that the baby would be born, but that a negative test is a really good sign that she wouldn’t be. So basically, we were still in this gray area of not really knowing what was going on. Finally we had the ultrasound, which showed that my cervix was a little shorter than it should have been—2.5cm instead of 3cm. All in all, there was reason to be concerned, but not really much to do at this point, since the baby was only 22 weeks and “not viable.” Jessica said, “I don’t think you’re going to have this baby, but we need to be careful.” She put me on pretty strict bed rest and ordered me to call her if ANYTHING got worse. I remember feeling contractions as she was telling me this, and she said, “Well just call if they are really bad.” (So, another thing you should know about me. I have a hard time measuring pain. I am pretty good at blocking pain, so it’s hard for me to know what “really bad” is. This is why I arrived at the hospital pretty much ready to push with my first baby.) Needless to say, I was feeling a little worried about going home and being left the sole decider of “how bad I was feeling.” As the nurse was giving me the discharge instructions, I had to go to the bathroom pretty badly, and when I did, there was blood. Not a good sight for a pregnant lady. I came out and told sweet Molly this, and she said if it wasn’t bright red, that it was probably just from the internal exam. “Call back if it’s bright red.” I was totally confused and fairly overwhelmed at this point, and I probably thought something about wanting a color code of exactly what constituted “bright red.” I don’t think they had that.

I remember leaving the hospital with an uneasy feeling. I was still uncomfortable, still having contractions, and still felt pressure. I knew in my heart that something wasn’t right, but I think there was a huge part of me that didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t want it to be true. I wanted to go home and feel great, so I pretended that that was what was happening.

It didn’t work. That night I kept trying to pretend I felt okay, but I really didn’t. My mom brought Abi home and I sat on the couch or the bed while my mom and Esteban unpacked the house around me. I would try to get up to do something small, but every time I did, I had another contraction without fail. I tried not to say anything, but my mom kept asking me, “Are you having another one?” Somehow, Moms always know, right? Esteban kept yelling at me to sit down, and I remember sitting on the couch, closing my eyes and praying with all my heart that these awful contractions would stop. I pleaded with God to take them away, not because of the pain, but because of what I was sure they were doing to my body. As the night went on they got more intense. I started to feel them one on top of the other, and to be honest, I was terrified. I felt them in my back, just like I had when I was in labor with Abi. My heart was sure that something was not right. I slept fitfully that night, on and off, through the contractions, begging God to keep my baby girl safe.

A Year Ago Today~ August 6th

A year ago today it was the first day of RD training and we were preparing to begin another year of Residence Life. We were welcoming a new member to our team and would spend the day sitting together, sipping coffee, nibbling bagels, and sharing life stories and some of our summer’s highlights. A year ago today I remember feeling uncomfortable. I felt pressure, and strange cramps, but I chalked it up to it being my second pregnancy and I was tired. I shifted in my seat over and over trying to get comfortable, but it just wasn’t working. I thought that maybe the baby was just positioned funny and maybe she was putting extra pressure on my bladder and that was why I felt weird. I kept going to the bathroom thinking that would help. I wasn’t worried, why would I have been? I was only 22 weeks pregnant and overall, I had been feeling pretty good—it was just that I felt like the baby was really low, like really low. When I mentioned that to my midwife at the last appointment a couple weeks before, she said, “Oh, yeah, that’s totally normal during your second pregnancy! It always feels that way!” So after that, I decided not to worry about it anymore.

That afternoon I went home to our apartment filled with boxes, furniture out of place and everything out of order. We had just moved into our new apartment in Bromley Hall the day before. Abi had been staying with my parents for the past 2 nights while we worked tirelessly to move in and get settled. Well, we had moved, but we were not really settled. Esteban was supposed to pick Abi up that evening and I was dying for her to get home. I missed her terribly already, and with the busyness that was approaching with the month of August, I wanted every moment with her that I could get. I called Esteban and he was caught up at work—he would be home late, which meant that I wouldn’t really get to spend any time with Abi before she went to bed. I was upset about this, and so I think I snapped at Esteban and hung up the phone. Stressed about the state of our apartment and the busy days ahead, my patience was wearing thin—not an excuse for snapping, but such is life. I threw myself into “settling in” to our new home, and I unpacked Abi’s entire room. Then I moved on to our bedroom, but I needed to move one of the dressers from the extra bedroom into our room. After trying to move it on my own, I realized I was still feeling really uncomfortable and called a friend for help. She came over and helped me, then left, and I continued my unpacking frenzy. By this time I was really uncomfortable. I kept getting these sharp pains in my stomach, and these intense cramps, and I felt a lot of pressure in my lower pelvis. After not too long I realized that these felt an awful lot like contractions. I had had all back labor with Abi, so they felt different, but I knew when I looked at my tightening uterus that something was going on. I remembered hearing that contractions can sometimes happen when you don’t drink water, so I got myself a big glass of water and lay down. As I rested I started googling “contractions at 22 weeks.” Why does this always seem like a good idea? By the time Esteban got home with Abi I was fairly certain that I was in fact having contractions, but I still wasn’t super worried. They were happening like every 20 minutes, and I didn’t want to have to take Abi back out of the house to go to the hospital. I decided I was just tired and needed to sleep it off. I went to bed, still pretty uncomfortable, and still feeling that familiar tightening in my stomach. I never would have dreamt of what the next few days would hold for our family.

(To be continued…)

almost 5 months old~adjusted!

STATS:

8.5 months old / almost 5 months adjusted

about 12 pounds (yes, she is a peanut)

Things she loves: Her sister, her bobo (pacifier) and her thumb are probably the top 3!

Things she doesn’t love: tummy time, being rocked to sleep and being hungry are not her favorites.

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Pretty much, this little girl is the sweetest, happiest, most even tempered thing around. She is always smiling, always content–even when she is stuffy, sick and uncomfortable. And unfortunately, she has been pretty sick and pretty uncomfortable. Right after we finally made it past April 1st and flu and RSV season, Ana decided to get sick just one last time. What started as a cold quickly went to her chest and lungs and made it hard for her to breathe and even harder for her to sleep. Thankfully, we were able to keep things under control with lots of breathing treatments and saline solution, and we didn’t end up in the hospital again! Ana is so used to the nebulizer that it actually puts her to sleep, and she likes to pretend she can hold it on her own.

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Another thing she likes to try to hold all by herself is her bottle.

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Ana continues to get only breast milk in her bottles (with some extra calories added sometimes), but we have switched to doing almost all bottles instead of directly nursing. As you probably noticed, Ana is still quite the peanut, and her two significant sicknesses have not helped the cause. Even though she loved nursing, she is just not a very effective nurser. She will look around, smile at me, and then fall asleep, but will not really suck hard or long enough to keep up a good milk supply. So I have started pumping as much as I can (not that much) and we’re plowing through the deep freezer stash of milk that I had from when Ana was in the hospital. The only thing that doctors are “concerned” about at this point is Ana’s weight, and so we need to be aware of and watch it closely. So we hope that this change makes a difference in her weight gain!

Ana also just started eating real food, after 8 months of life! Despite Mommy’s hesitation, she was pretty happy about it!

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She has had oatmeal cereal and acorn squash, and the squash definitely took the prize. She LOVED it and ate every last drop!

Ana is getting stronger every day! The Occupational Therapist who works with her weekly is consistently impressed with her development and progress. She holds her toys and brings things to her mouth, reaching for everything that is around her and talks and babbles to anyone who will listen!

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She loves to stand up when you are holding her, something that her sister never did at this age!

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And she can roll from her belly to her back, and almost from her back to her belly as well! She is amazing and we are continuously in awe of this gift that God so graciously granted us!

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We remember back to the night that Ana was born, and I literally cannot believe that the smiley, vibrant girl that sits in front of me is that same tiny, fragile, very sick baby.

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God is so good.

Probably Ana’s favorite person on this earth is her sister. No matter what is going on around her, when Abi comes over to her and starts talking, Ana breaks out into this biggest smile–a smile that I think is only reserved for big sister. We love the love that they have for each other, and we pray that they would always love each other with such a deep and fierce love.

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Thank you for your continued prayers! I am always honored when people ask me about how Ana is doing. Wow! We are so humbled by everyone’s continued concern, love and care. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Through pain and suffering- A letter to my friend

To my friend, who has experienced more heartache than any Momma ever should. Your story is not mine to tell, but these words are for you.

As I sit here and try to come to grips with the awful tragedy that has caused this grief, I find myself completely at a loss. I am at a loss of words to say, to write. At a loss of prayers to pray. Just completely at a loss. I wish there was some way to step into your shoes and take your pain for you. Maybe that is a Momma thing, or maybe that’s just a normal thing, but I have never felt so much like I want to take someone’s place, ever in my life. I have an unshaking feeling that “It should have been me.” Why wasn’t it me?? Why has God asked you to walk this road again? My heart is heavy with your pain, and I find myself empty.

And then, I look at you.

 And you are full.

 You choose joy amidst suffering. Peace amidst chaos. And truth amidst lies. You have chosen to believe that God is a good God with a good plan. You have chosen to trust in His faithfulness.

 When most people would scream and curse God, you praise Him through weeping lips and on collapsed knees.

 When most people would turn away, you cling to your Savior and hope in His mercy and grace.

 When most people would drown in grief, you allow Jesus to carry you through the heartache and into a glorious new life filled with peace and hope.

You are strong because you continue to trust that God’s plan is good, even when what has happened to you makes absolutely no sense.

 You are brave because you proclaim God’s glory even through your own pain and suffering.

 You are beautiful because when those around you doubt, you point to God’s faithfulness and goodness.

 Your faith is unwavering. Your hope inspiring. And your love overwhelming. You love Jesus so much that you choose Him over everything else. He is your hope and your strong foundation, even when the world around you crumbles.

How can you do that? I don’t have words to express my admiration. My gratitude. And my deep, deep love for you.

 When I look at you, I know that God has had His hand on you since before time began, that He has been forming you, shaping you, for such a time as this. And instead of turning away, instead of questioning His purpose, you have wholeheartedly pointed to Jesus throughout the hardest time of your life. I know with every fiber of my being that God will be glorified in your life and will honor the desires of your heart. God has a better plan that He is not ready to reveal yet, and you remind me of that truth and that hope.

 Oh friend, how I wish I could take your pain away. That I could change the circumstances and make things different. But for some reason that I simply cannot begin to understand, God has asked you to walk this road again. But the beautiful thing that you have reminded me of is that He has not asked you to walk alone. In fact, He doesn’t even ask you to walk at all. He has carried you, and will continue to carry you as long as you don’t have the strength to stand on your own. You have shown me what it means to rest in that knowledge and to lean on God’s power, His sovereignty, and His comforting presence. The cry of my heart is that God would fill you up until you are brimming, that after having given so much of yourself, He would honor your faithfulness by filling your cup. And my prayer is that one day, I too can stand unfaltering on the rock of my Faith and point others to Jesus in the same way that you have pointed me to Him.

I love you.

6 months old and “back in”

6 months old; 2 months, 1 week adjusted

10 pounds even

Sweet Anamaria turned 6 months old on Valentine’s Day! How is that possible? Six months ago our lives were completely changed, our faith made stronger and our God glorified in the birth of our feisty little fighter.

Six months later, Anamaria is continuing to prove that she is feisty and that she is a fighter.

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This past week, Ana started coming down with the dreaded cold. Mommy prayed that it wasn’t RSV and Papi protectively stayed up all night watching his girl. Each day, we held our breath as we watched the congestion progress from Ana’s nose, to her throat and eventually to her chest. After only one day of serious coughing, Ana was completely hoarse, had almost no voice and sounded like a 50 year old smoker (no offense meant to anyone who smokes and is 50!). Because she has chronic lung disease and was on breathing support for so long after birth, these types of viruses effect her much more severely and much more quickly. By day 3 she was wheezing and put on an albuterol inhaler. By day 4 she was having labored breathing even with the albuterol and continuing to wheeze. That’s when we decided to take her to the Emergency Room (since it was a Sunday). Ana was admitted within an hour of arriving, due to the congestion in her chest (bronchiolitis) and her dipping oxygen levels. Every time she falls asleep she needs supplement oxygen to keep her oxygen saturation levels from dipping into the 80’s (and probably below if we let them).

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So here we are. almost 3 months out of the hospital and “back in.” Ana will most likely be here a few days while she fights off this cold. It is not RSV, which is great, but just some other virus that has turned into bronchiolitis. It’s a good reminder of why we “Isolate” during RSV season. If this is what she is like without RSV…I don’t even want to think about how bad that would be. Any type of cold or virus is really miserable for a preemie, especially one born as early as Ana.

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Really Mom, I just missed being waited on at the hospital. This is the life! 

When we are not hanging out in the Emergency Room or on the Pediatric Inpatient Floor, we like to play, snuggle, smile and laugh at big sister. Take a look…

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My favorite place to be–sleeping on my mommy

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Talking to Mommy

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Did I mention that I love my big sister? She loves to fall asleep snuggling with me in her bed. Don’t worry, my Mommy doesn’t leave me here. 🙂 

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I really love to smile. 

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And I donated all my preemie clothes to my big sister’s dolls! They fit them perfectly! 

Thanks for all your love and prayers! We’ll keep you posted on Ana’s progress in the hospital, and hopefully she’ll be out of here sooner rather than later.