Hmm…well…I left off at “I’m pregnant,” but this is a series on infertility…but I do have a few things to say about this part. I know I’m probably bringing pain to some of you who are in the depths of despair just by writing about my pregnancy, and for that I’m so, so, so sorry.
I asked several different people on the team trying to knock me up if I would have a “high risk” pregnancy. I always received the same answer. “Nope! Once we get you pregnant you’re the same as everyone else.”
Awesome. I started reading books on natural birthing before my baby was bigger than a pea. I finally felt whole. I used the high tech approach to get pregnant, but after years of needles and doctors, I was going low tech all the way. Finally, I could just let my body perform the way it was meant to. Midwives, natural birthing classes. I was so excited. After years and years of excruciating endometriosis cramps, I figured I could handle contractions. We’ll never know.
At my 32-week appointment, my midwife got a look on her face. She sent me to the hospital for further testing. I was not worried. So my belly was measuring small. I was a 5-lb. baby, Alex was a 5-lb. baby. It would make sense that our baby would be a 5-lb. baby.
One little trip to the hospital. And then another. Then another. I was back in specialist land. Interuterine growth restriction (IUGR). Preeclampsia. And apparently my placenta “looked like it was 110 years old.” My blood pressure kept rising and rising, my kidneys were failing, I was getting closer and closer to stroke territory, and they were monitoring Elliott like crazy. I was at the hospital three times a week, the doctor’s office twice a week, and the outside lab several more times a week. I had to collect all of my pee, give more blood, and all of a sudden, that natural birth thing wasn’t looking so good.
The day Alex received his contract for the new job down in Georgia is the day I ended up on bedrest. I’d planned to have the baby in Georgia, but it looked like we’d be staying put in Northern Virginia for a few more months. I began pulling out all of my natural birth books, flipping to those chapters in the back that I’d skipped, the ones about c-sections and needles and everything I didn’t want. Everything I was done with.
And over and over again, these new specialists in my life were saying, “In vitro? Oh yes, those are high risk pregnancies. We just attended a conference on this. The rates of IUGR, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes are much higher in in vitro pregnancies.” I had 2 of the 3.
I wouldn’t have done anything differently. Except I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have skipped all those chapters about c-sections and spinal blocks! They kept admitting me to the hospital, assigning me a room, then releasing me. Everyone was hoping that we could keep Elliott inside me until he was a little bigger, try to make it to 37 weeks. At the rate we were going, that didn’t seem feasible.
In the hospital hooked up to machines, I felt the safest. I could see that Elliott was okay. The doctor would do an ultrasound of my placenta, which looked dead, like a placenta at 42 weeks. But by some miracle, the ultrasound would show that blood was still flowing to my baby’s brain. God’s hand has been on Elliott from the beginning. If he could survive a test tube and my scary womb, I guess a little placenta issue was nothing for him.
At home, I sat there, wondering, hoping. Scared. Sitting in bedrest all day, I had to monitor his kicks and my blood pressure. I got a stopwatch and a blood pressure monitor and made little charts. My body was trying to kill my Elliott. The girl who wasn’t supposed to get pregnant was pregnant, and my body was done with it!
April 15 was a Sunday. I was 34 weeks pregnant. I had an appointment for hospital monitoring Monday morning. They had told me that if my blood pressure got up to a certain place, or I had a headache that wouldn’t go away, that I had to come in to get the baby out before I had a stroke. All day Sunday, I took my blood pressure again and again. If I laid on one side and didn’t lift my head off of the pillow, I could keep my blood pressure just under the stroke zone. I tried not to move a muscle all day.
The next morning, I headed to the hospital and sure enough, they admitted me for the last time. My blood pressure was something like 180 over 110, and my headache would not go away.
Mom got the last seat on a plane flying standby up from Atlanta. Alex grabbed my suitcase that had been on call in the trunk of the car for weeks. They took me by myself into the surgery room while Alex went somewhere else and donned scrubs.
As they cleaned off my back and inserted the spinal block, I felt waves of fear wash over me, sobs threatening to break loose and shatter my lungs. This isn’t how it was supposed to be.
(Oh wow. I just started crying. I haven’t done that once through this whole series.) Reliving that moment has brought me back to the feeling of loss that I had as that needle went into my back. The disappointment with my broken body. Why oh why couldn’t I even do this right?
This wasn’t my plan. So many husbands brag about their wives and how strong they were through labor. Everyone’s always saying, “No drugs! She did it with no drugs!” I wanted that so badly. I don’t even know why. Maybe after all my infertility all my brokenness I just wanted to do this one thing by myself this one thing to show myself that I could.
Alex came into the room in his doctor outfit. They stretched out my arms and tied them down. (Wow. I did not expect this tonight, people. I am sobbing at my computer. Apparently I’ve hit a long lost nerve.) I felt tugging. No pain, but lots of tugging. The anesthesiologist kept me talking about my mom. Alex told me that she made it on the flight.
The doctors pull out my placenta and I can’t see it but I hear them saying that it was partially abrupted (ripped off my uterus wall, like not attached properly) and there were lots of clots behind it and it’s amazing that Elliott was getting what he needed from it and it’s a good thing they got him out.
They held him up to my face for me to see him before whisking him up to the NICU. Alex went with him and I was alone again, alone with a bunch of nurses and docs. Alone.
They wheeled me out of the surgery room and the first person I saw standing in the hallway was my mom. She’d made it just in time. Somehow everything felt better. (Sheesh. I am sobbing hard trying to type this.)
For 24 hours I was on magnesium, felt like my body was literally on fire and threw up if I ate more than an ice cube. Couldn’t see Elliott. Kept babbling about needing to talk to a lactation specialist cuz I was determined to nurse this little preemie oh God oh God oh please God please please please let me have that please let me have nursing please. Please.
The lactation specialist came and talked with me but I couldn’t even keep my eyes from crossing. I tried to nod and look like I could understand as she pulled out pumps and talked about getting milk to the NICU.
Alex and Mom would come and give me updates. God does this amazing thing with babies that are “stressed” in the womb. He accelerates their lung growth, His provision for these tiny miracles. Elliott didn’t even have to have a ventilator.
After a full day, they took me off the magnesium and I could see Elliott. The whole time I was lying there on fire staring at my swollen belly thinking, “He’s still in there. I don’t feel him kicking. Did they take him out?” I felt such a sense of loss. Drugged up barely alive momma with no baby. Where was he?
I rode the elevator up to his floor, scrubbed up, wheeled over to his little incubator, and saw his face, really saw him for the first time. My first thought was that he looked like Alex’s sister Katherine. Those beautiful wide eyes.
He was covered in wires and they carefully lifted him out and into my arms. They wouldn’t let me nurse for another full day because of the drugs in my body, but I held him against my chest.
The drugs. The c-section. It faded away. My plan. Just like with everything. Lay it down. Lay it down. The c-section, the laying down my plan, it was my first selfless act as a parent.
I spent six days in the hospital, Elliott spent ten. More lab rat stuff. At one point my incision was sprouting blood and the doctor was peering at it saying, “Hmm…I’ve never seen that before.” All I could think about was what if I lost my uterus and my frozen babies stayed stuck in their suspended state in the freezer?!?!
They ran out of places to stick my veins. At one point a doctor had to come to my room and tell me that I won’t do my son any good if I don’t make it and I needed to stop visiting him so much and rest and take care of myself first. Hard to hear.
Lay it down. Lay it down. Lay down my plan. Through that whole difficult, scary, painful time, God was stripping me down to another layer. I thought I’d given up planning with the whole road TO my pregnancy. But then once I got pregnant, I started planning again, didn’t I?
I laid down my plan. Again. And even now as Elliott is almost five, I have to keep laying it down. “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it’s the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).
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