Archive for the ‘Pregnancy’ Category

Playing Pregnant

December 3rd, 2017

I remember it clearly.

My mother drawing the hopscotch board on the driveway in sidewalk chalk. Drawing it properly – with a big square at the center, diagonal lines dividing it into four equal triangles numbered 4 through 7.

My mother, showing us how to hop on one foot and then on two. One. Two-three. Four. Five-six. Seven. Eight-nine. Ten. One last hop across the line.

My mother, showing us the tricky part. Throw the beanbag on a number. Hop across, skipping that number. One. Two. Four. Five-six. Seven. Eight-nine. Ten. Hop across the line. Returning to pick up the fallen beanbag. Ten. Nine-eight. Seven. Six-five. Balance on one leg on four while picking up the beanbag on three. Now two. One. Hop to return to the starting line.

I was five. Anna was six. Joshua was almost four. This was our homeschool P.E.

As clearly as I remember it, one detail escaped my notice.

Thankfully, it didn’t escape my father’s notice. He took a series of pictures, which made plain upon later inspection what my memory does not.

My mother taught her four oldest children to play hopscotch while heavily pregnant with baby number 5 – at least eight months pregnant with baby number 5.

If pregnancy slowed her down, we didn’t know it. Pregnancy was part of her life, and of our lives by extension. We had no idea that pregnancy meant altering much of anything.

Maybe the relative ease (at least to all outward appearances) with which my mother carried and bore her children influenced my early desire to have a whole slew of children myself. Certainly her example made me confident that healthy pregnancy, natural childbirth, safe homebirth was possible. After all, she had seven healthy pregnancies, seven natural childbirths, five safe homebirths (the other two were planned hospital births).

And then I had two pregnancies that were anything but healthy. I had two births that were about as far from natural as you can get. I had a month’s worth of hospitalization between the two births.

Our maternal fetal specialist told us he didn’t see any reason why we shouldn’t continue to have more children – but that we should expect similar outcomes each time. We should expect preeclampsia, preterm delivery, NICU stays.

And so we did. I wrestled with the idea of hoping for a normal pregnancy for a while before deciding that the specialist was right. Better to expect the most probable circumstances and be pleasantly surprised if things don’t turn out that way than to set myself up for disappointment by hoping for an improbability.

And then we passed the point where we had been hospitalized with Tirzah Mae. We passed the point where Tirzah Mae was born. We passed the point where we were hospitalized with Louis. We passed the point where Louis was born. I was more pregnant than I’d ever been.

Then I was term.

And then, today, just shy of thirty-nine weeks, over eight-and-a-half months pregnant, I stood with my preschool Sunday school class and led them in singing:

“Hallelu- Hallelu- Hallelu – Hallelujah
Praise ye the Lord
Hallelu- Hallelu- Hallelu – Hallelujah
Praise ye the Lord
Praise ye the Lord
Praise ye the Lord
Praise ye the Lord
Praise ye the Lord”

The gals who had been visiting at the desk outside our classroom’s big window turned around to watch as I squatted down low to the ground on each “Hallelu” and popped up with my hands in the air for each “Praise ye the Lord.”

And I thought of my mother, eight and a half months pregnant, teaching my siblings and me how to play hopscotch. And I rejoiced, thankful that I’ve now been able to experience what I never imagined, on this side of preeclampsia, I’d be able to experience: a perfectly healthy pregnancy.

39 weeks pregnant and still playing with the kids.

Any day now Sometime next month

November 21st, 2017

With my other pregnancies, I was reticent to make predictions about when baby was coming. I told my due date with Tirzah Mae (Christmas Day is a pretty spectacular due date), but always immediately clarified “so we’re expecting the baby to come around the New Year.”

Louis was due July 31, and the last thing I wanted was for people to get “due in July” in their heads and therefore get impatient and start asking me when the baby’s coming too soon. I told everyone I was due at the beginning of August.

Left to themselves, many babies go past the due date. I myself went two weeks past. And that’s just fine. “Late” generally means “not yet ready to face the outside world”.

And I was (and always have been) determined to let my babies choose their birthdays.

But after two babies born prematurely due to severe preeclampsia, and with our maternal-fetal specialist telling us we should expect a recurrence, I gave up on obscuring my due date. After all, it’s not like I’ve ever gotten close enough to the due date to feel pressured.

I haven’t scheduled anything besides doctor’s appointments for two months now, because I expected to go to the hospital for bedrest at any time. For two months now, my fellow Sunday School teachers have been telling me they’re hoping to see me again next week – explicitly or implicitly expressing their hopes that I not have a baby just yet.

And every week for the past two months, I show up to Sunday school or Bible study and see the relief on all my friends’ faces. I’m here. I’m still pregnant. Friends and acquaintances, all of whom have been praying, catch my eye and we share a look of rejoicing, thankful for God’s grace in prolonging this pregnancy.

And then, yesterday, I reached 37 weeks. Term.

The baby can come now, at any time.

Now that we’re term, “stay pregnant” doesn’t apply.

We have. We are. And now the baby can come, whenever he chooses.

After two months of expecting the baby to arrive at any time, of praying the baby won’t, of counting down first to “more pregnant than I’ve ever been” and then to “term”, it’s time to switch gears.

Now that everyone knows it’s only three weeks until that magical “due date”, now that everyone knows we’re term, now it’s time to switch gears.

For months, it’s been “any day now” I expected my health to head south – now I need to adjust to “could be another five weeks”.

Because I still believe it best for baby to choose his own birthday. And I don’t want my excitement over making it to term to rob this little one of his final fetal triumph – that of initiating this amazing process we call “childbirth”.

36 week selfie

November 13th, 2017

36 week selfie
Me this morning, at 36 weeks. (Also, a really dirty mirror. This picture actually convinced me to clean the mirror today.)

New to me as I experience 36 weeks for the first time:

  • I look pregnant. Undeniably pregnant. Not “could-just-be-android-obesity.” Pregnant.
  • My pelvis feels like it has a hinge in the middle front (because it does!) My body is preparing to birth a baby.
  • Movements at 36 weeks and however big this baby is are way different than movements at 32 or 34 weeks and ~3.5 lbs.
  • I can’t for a moment forget that I’m pregnant. Whether it’s kicks or Braxton Hicks or not being able to reach my feet, I am constantly aware that I am pregnant.
  • Did you catch that, folks? I’m pregnant! I’m STILL PREGNANT! Despite the increasing discomfort, the euphoria at that constant reminder has not faded.

That said, please continue to pray for me. Pray that I would fix my eyes upon Christ and praise him whatever may come. As I approach term, still healthy, I find myself becoming more and more excited at the prospect of having a normal birth. But with the excitement comes fear. What if I get my hopes up for a term pregnancy, for spontaneous labor, for a successful VBA2C… only to have them dashed? A friend encouraged me to set my hope in Christ rather than in a specific birth – and while I know that is the absolute best advice anyone could give, it’s easier to assent to it mentally than to put it into practice.

Christmas is coming!

November 6th, 2017

Given my pregnancy history, I rather expected to be welcoming a new little one into the outside world in October or early November – and of spending the next month or so in the NICU, as we did with our other two.

All attention was focused on getting our house ready to certify for foster care before the baby came (we’re getting close to being ready, but we’re also getting close enough to baby coming that I don’t want to schedule to have the state come and visit us.) But, because of this, I’ve barely given thought to things like… Christmas.

But now we’re getting closer and closer to term and are still completely healthy (I had warning signs at least a month in advance of the other children’s deliveries), which means I’m coming to realize that I may well indeed be having a baby during advent. Which means that if I want to put on any sort of Christmas for my family, I’d better kick myself into gear *before* the baby comes.

So I’m busy planning and baking and buying and sewing, because Christmas is coming and so is this baby!

Last week, I bought all my baking supplies and made fruitcake. I worked up a pattern and a muslin of Tirzah Mae’s Christmas nightie. I found my pattern for size 12 month jammies for Louis. I purchased the kids’ Saint Nicholas Day stocking stuffers. I started putting in requests (on delay) for Christmas picture books from the library. I finished Louis’s stocking so the new baby can lay claim to the “baby” one. And I’ve prioritized the rest of my preparations so I can *try* to make sure the most important things are done before the baby comes.

Because with the way this pregnancy is going so far? It doesn’t look like I’m going to have time to prepare Christmas after baby comes. Because, dear reader, it looks like I might actually go to term!

A Most Extraordinarily Ordinary Day

November 2nd, 2017

I woke up this morning at 0545, when my bedside light turned on. I kissed my husband before he left for work and lazed just a while in bed, rejoicing in how autumn has encouraged my children to sleep just a little later in the mornings. But finally, I needed to start the day, so I sat up and took my blood pressure. It was 104/65.

When I was at this point in my pregnancy with Louis (34 weeks, 3 days), a nurse woke me up to take my blood pressure before she went off shift. It was greater than 160/110, just as it had been on the overnight check.

After breakfast and morning chores, I got the kids packed up and we headed out to library storytime, where we sang songs and listened to stories and played a little game. Afterward, we played in the children’s area while I chatted with a few other moms about breastfeeding while pregnant and whether tandem breastfeeding might increase the baby’s risk of allergies (conclusion? probably not).

At that time during my pregnancy with Louis? Our maternal-fetal specialist came into my room to tell me that we needed to have our baby sooner rather than later.

After a quick lunch on the go, the kids and I headed to ALDI to do our grocery shopping. The lady behind me in line commented on how brave I was to have three so close together. We packed up our groceries and headed home. We got stuck behind a train and I scrolled through Facebook while we waited.

At that time during my pregnancy with Louis? We did a external version, attempting to rotate Louis to head down so I could begin an induction for a hoped-for vaginal birth after cesarean. We got him head down, but his feet were down too – and as soon as our maternal-fetal specialist’s hands were off my abdomen, Louis popped back into the transverse position he’d been favoring for most of our pregnancy. We began preparations for a repeat c-section.

This afternoon, the kids and I finished our lunch at the dining room table before settling in for a “rest time”. I read a chapter of a novel, a chapter of a birthing book. I scrolled through Facebook some more. After Daniel got home from work, I sat on the couch with him and my children. We talked about our days, about what we’ve read. The baby kicked his sister and brother, who were crawling all over me.

At that time during my pregnancy with Louis? Extra nurses were called in to hook up extra IVs – most of my veins were already blown from my past four days in the hospital. Other technicians came by to hook up heart monitors. A catheter was inserted. My robe was cut up my back to allow the anesthesiologist access to my spine. I curled in a fetal position for a spinal. My abdomen was cut. The terse words “meconium staining” were spoken. My son was born silent. The awful sound of suctioning and, at last, a cry.

I rose from the couch to change Louis’s diaper. Washed my hands. Started cooking supper. Rejoicing all the way that I was officially more pregnant than I had ever been before.

Today was a most extraordinarily ordinary day.

Thank you, Lord.


September 19th, 2017

Reading the mommy blogs and the Facebook posts from pregnant women, you can get the impression that there’s a certain universality of experience for all mothers. Sure, there are often-bitter differences: medicated or unmedicated childbirth, vaginal or cesarean, breastfeeding or formula feeding, cloth diapers or disposable, cosleeping or cry-it-out. The list goes on and on. But all mothers can agree: the time will come when you feel SO PREGNANT you just CAN’T WAIT for this baby to be BORN ALREADY!

And surely this is a common experience for many mothers. Pregnancy can be uncomfortable, as can other people’s comments on your pregnancy. The restrictions (warranted or unwarranted) on pregnant women can feel stifling. Many women are eager to sleep on their stomachs, to reach their toes, to eat yummy soft cheeses, and to experience relief from the ubiquitous lower-back-ache.

But some of us, we mothers of preemies who persist in getting pregnant, have a different experience.

I think I can understand how normal women feel, how impatient they become with the waiting, the comments, the ungainliness of a heavily pregnant frame. But I can’t imagine ever feeling so pregnant, so eager for my pregnancy to end.

Instead, I tease about inducing at 44 weeks, about making up for lost womb-time.

I have two countdowns on my telephone: the one, a preset in the “pregnancy mode” for my period tracker, tells me how many days there are until my EDD (expected due date); the other, of my own creation, tells me how many days I have until I’m more pregnant than I’ve ever been before.

34 weeks and 3 days.

That’s the most of pregnancy I’ve experienced. And I’ve always spent the last few weeks of pregnancy in bed or severely limited, willing just one more week, one more day, sometimes even one more hour before the doctor comes in to tell me that it’s time.

It’s not time, my heart screams, even as my head nods and my voice tells him I’m ready to start the induction (or, in Louis’s case, to try to turn him so we can start an induction instead of another section).

As my due date tells me I’m nearing the last third of my pregnancy, my personal countdown reminds me that any day now my blood pressure could start rising, I could start putting on water weight in earnest, I could start spilling protein in my urine. Any day now, I could go on bed rest.

The road map is impressed on my mind: If things progressed like they did with Tirzah Mae… If things progressed like they did with Louis… But the differences between my pregnancies with Tirzah Mae and Louis also remind me that progressing differently doesn’t mean IT isn’t going to happen. I still could be preeclamptic.

Now, as the numbers on my countdowns slip lower and lower, I whisper my wishes to the Father who knows all things and who ordains all things for his glory: Lord, if it’s your will… let this pregnancy go to term.

-7 days

-14 days

-21 days

-28 days

-35 days

-40 days

I don’t want this pregnancy to end.

Only one patient

May 16th, 2017

Childbirth stories never fail to pique my interest. Birth has been a passion of mine since I was young, reading my mom’s copy of Rahimah Baldwin’s Special Delivery. But since I’ve become a mother, my interest in childbirth stories has only increased.

So when the headline “Focus On Infants During Childbirth Leaves U.S. Moms In Danger” showed up in my newsreader, I clicked through to NPR’s report. And when I finally got the time to read the whole thing (it took several sittings because, hello, newly pregnant mother of a toddler and an infant), the story hit home in a way I wish it hadn’t.

The statistics are nothing new for me. The United States does a terrible job of keeping pregnant and postpartum women alive when compared to the rest of the developed world. I knew that. But this is a story with a face. The face of a woman with preeclampsia, with HELLP syndrome – a woman with what I had. A woman who died, leaving her baby behind.

There were warning signs. Signs that weren’t heeded. There were lots of opportunities to save her life. But when she or her husband suggested that preeclampsia might be the problem, they were pooh-poohed. And she died.

The text of the article hinted at rather than driving home the point the headline made: “Focus on Infants during Childbirth Leaves U.S. Moms in Danger” – but I couldn’t help but relive my own experiences.

When I think back to my hospitalizations with Tirzah Mae and Louis, one of the hardest things for me to deal with was how the focus shifted from me to the babies the moment they were born. Before they were born, I was the patient. The nurses checked on me hourly. Every care was taken to keep my blood pressure low and to keep the baby inside me healthy.

But once they were born, it was as if a switch was flipped. Never mind that I had the exact same (life-threatening) condition I’d had before the babies were born (now with major abdominal surgery added on top of it). I was no longer carrying a baby, so I would be just fine. My baby was the important one. It was as if only one of us could be the patient. My turn was over and it was the baby’s turn.

Thankfully, with Tirzah Mae, I started improving after her birth and continued to improve.

With Louis, a medical error – a resident forgetting to prescribe me my blood pressure meds when he discharged me on a Friday afternoon four days postpartum – could have meant my death. By the grace of God, I took my blood pressure that Saturday afternoon just as I had every day of my pregnancy since my morning blood pressures had started to rise near the beginning of the third trimester. My blood pressure was at critical levels.

Rather than going to the hospital to hold and feed my baby on his fifth day on the outside, I traveled to the hospital for another purpose – to live to hold and feed my baby again. I spent hours in the ER getting one dose after another after another of IV labatelol. It took five doses to get my blood pressure back down.

I’m not angry with the nurses, with the doctors, not even with the resident who failed to prescribe me a blood pressure med on discharge. But I am angry with a system that only considers a woman’s health important inasmuch as the baby is kept healthy. Why can there only be one patient?

Is it not just as important that these babies we rightly fight to keep alive and well in our NICUs have mothers who are alive to care for and love them?

Why must there only be one patient?

Snapshot: A Splendid Surprise

April 9th, 2017

Positive Pregnancy Test

Coming December 2017, Lord willing.

The Difference a Robe Makes

August 10th, 2016

The section was scheduled for 3:30 pm. Preparations began.

But first, I needed to get into a hospital gown.

So far, I had refused a hospital gown every time, opting to wear my own robe (for admission and overnights) or my own honest-to-goodness clothes (for days). Wearing my own clothes made me feel human, made me feel autonomous, made me feel myself.

Now, though, I was preparing for what was, for me, the least human, least autonomous, least ME procedure.

I was preparing for a repeat c-section.

And the nurse was waiting for me to change into a hospital gown.

Meeting Louis after recovery

I briefly considered whether it was worth it to fight.

My carefully crafted birth plan, intended for my VBAC attempt, was worthless at this point.

I had worked so hard to be reasonable in my birth plan. I gave my wishes, yes, accepting that there were circumstances under which those wouldn’t be possible or reasonable. Even as I wrote of the interventions I didn’t want, I could think of at least one scenario in which I would accept each one. My biggest request was that I be involved in every step of the process. I wasn’t going to give blanket consent to anything. I wanted to give my own consent every time a line was placed, a medication given, a monitor hooked on.

And now I’d just given consent to the one thing I’d worked so hard to avoid. A repeat c-section. With that, I’d given consent to be hooked to a machine, to be laid flat on my back, to be anesthetized. All those things I’d hoped to avoid this time around? I’d just given consent to go ahead with them.

They were necessary.

The hospital gown was not.

I decided to hold my ground.

I was going to wear my own robe.

My nurse pushed back. “I don’t want to ruin your beautiful robe,” she said. “It’s not going to make it out of the c-section in any condition to wear it again.”

“That’s fine.” I insisted. “I bought this robe for 99 cents at a used store ten years ago. It’s served me well. I don’t care if it’s ruined.”

After a couple more almost identical back and forths, she relented. I would keep my robe on.

They wheeled me into the operating room and the first thing I heard was another nurse calling out, “Somebody get this woman a gown.”

She was peeved, it seemed, that no one had bothered to properly prepare me for surgery.

But my nurse stood firm. “She doesn’t want to wear a gown. She’s quite adamant on that point.”

The anesthetist gave a sigh. “I need to access her back,” she told my nurse. “I need a sterile field to place the spinal.”

I chose to ignore how the anesthetist had been acting as if I weren’t there, weren’t my own person.

I was my own person. That was exactly what the robe represented to me at that point.

I spoke directly to the anesthetist. “Cut it.”

“But, but, your beautiful robe.”

“CUT IT.” I didn’t shout, but I was firm.

I was wearing this robe to surgery, one way or another. The robe was of no import – being able to wear it was of the highest import.

Snuggling with Tirzah Mae after Louis was born

My nurse found some scissors, lifted the back of my robe. “I’m trying to cut as straight and as careful as I can. Maybe you can sew it back up after you’re done.”

I appreciated the effort, but it really wasn’t important. I’d already said that I didn’t care whether the robe was ruined. I really didn’t. The important thing was that somehow, in this birth that was so far from what I wanted, I remain me. The robe let me do that.

I’m sure it’s difficult, on the other side of the operating table, to understand why patients make what seem like such unreasonable demands.

How difficult is it to put on a hospital gown? Not at all. Why can’t she just do as she’s told, follow procedures? Doesn’t she understand how difficult it is to work around a robe that doesn’t have access to the back?

No, I didn’t understand, until you told my nurse, how valuable access to my back is for you.

But please, try to understand my side.

For you, this is just another day at work, albeit one in which you’re dealing with a difficult patient. For me, this is a day when something I’ve been working for for the past 20 months slips from my hands. This is a day when my life is in danger, my baby’s life in danger. When I’m forced to deliver my baby six weeks early via surgery.

For you, the robe is a nuisance. For me, the robe is the last thing that keeps me myself.

I’m so thankful for my nurse. Even though she didn’t understand why it was important, once she understood THAT it was important, she advocated for me.

She may never know (but I do) what a difference a robe makes.

Skydiving, C-sections, and Control

August 5th, 2016

A little over five years ago, I jumped out of an airplane.

It’s never been something I particularly wanted to do – adrenaline is not my thing. But a couple of friends (who didn’t know each other but both knew me) wanted to go – and one of them had scheduled a dive. So I signed up too – and brought my other friend along.

Preparing to jump

I was nervous leading up to it, but I wasn’t scared. We’d be diving tandem – hooked to an instructor who would do all the hard work. We could just relax and enjoy the ride. Which is exactly what I did.

A little over a month ago, I had a repeat c-section.

It’s never been something I particularly wanted to do – in fact, I did everything in my power to avoid it. I exercised faithfully, I ate like an angel, I took a baby aspirin. When Louis wasn’t in position, I contorted myself into funny positions in an effort to get him head down. When that didn’t work, I had our maternal-fetal specialist do an external version – trying to manually reposition Louis using his hands on the outside of my belly. When that didn’t work, I had no choice.

We scheduled a c-section for 3:30.

I wasn’t particularly nervous, or particularly scared. I’d done this before and made it already.

But then the spinal anesthesia took effect and the anesthesiologist asked me to wiggle my toes and lift my legs.

I couldn’t.

It was exactly what was supposed to happen. I wasn’t supposed to be in control of my lower body. If I were, I would be able to feel as they cut into my abdomen and lifted my baby out. I knew that.

But that didn’t keep me from freaking out.

I had lost control.

As I told my skydiving story, I wrote of the one fearful moment – the moment when my instructor loosened the straps between us so I wasn’t in direct contact with his body.

“He told me he would be loosening the connections that held us. I’d drop a bit lower, so inches would separate our bodies.

Now, here, I felt a glimmer of fear. I knew it would be safe, I knew I’d still be attached. But it wouldn’t be the same. Once he’d lowered me, I wouldn’t be able to feel his presence. Would I be able to make it without that sure sensory feedback reminding me that I was safe?

I would choose to trust, I told myself–and so I did.”

I had the same choice to make when my legs no longer followed my commands.

I wasn’t in control, didn’t have the sensory feedback telling me that my body was there, that my baby was there. I had to choose to trust that God was there and that my body still obeyed His commands.

I repeated the affirmation over and over in my head as I willfully relaxed the muscles I could feel:

“I and my baby are fearfully and wonderfully made.
God sees us and knows us.”

I’d chosen my relaxation phrases carefully, wanting to fix my mind on unchanging truth rather than fickle probabilities.

No “I trust my body” or “My body knows how to birth” for me. I knew that my body could fail. I knew that, while most bodies know how to birth, not all do.

I had determined beforehand to fix my trust in God instead of in my body.

But when I couldn’t control my legs?

I had to determine it all again.

My first glimpse of Louis

My relaxation music, playing from the phone beside my ear, reminded me of the truth:

“Be still my soul, the Lord is at thy side
With patience bear the cross of grief or pain
Leave to thy God to order and provide
Through every change He faithful will remain
Be still my soul, thy best, thy heav’nly Friend
Through thorny ways, leads to a joyful end.”

I chose to trust when I lost control – and God was more than capable to guide and sustain.

I know y’all are just dying to revisit my skydiving story now – so I’ll make it easy for you. Part 1: Geared Up, Part 2: Missed Opportunities, or I’ve always wanted to fly, Part 3: The Jump, and Part 4: Safely Falling.

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