Friday, February 18, 2011

Pregnancy, Part 2

The story of my pregnancy, continued from yesterday.

As soon as the happy news settled, it started to look like maybe the rest of my pregnancy would proceed smoothly. And then, it started. I was wrapping up the work day one afternoon, having just started my 20th week of pregnancy. All the sudden, I felt a cramping pain. Then another a few minutes later. They kept coming, as I tried to talk normally to the new hire and prayed for the last few minutes of the work day to hurry. I headed out to the car and called my doctor. He wasn’t sure if they were muscle spasms or contractions, and told me to take some Tylenol, and wait until morning. If they hadn’t stopped, I needed to come in first thing.

The next morning, I called in to work and we rushed to the doctor’s office. He confirmed that I was in preterm labor for no apparent reason. I was monitored and medicated, then sat down by the doctor. He was honest – at 20 weeks, our baby would not survive if labor progressed to birth at this point. 24 weeks is the absolute minimum age of viability, and even then survival was unlikely. If he did survive, he would spend at least five months in the NICU, and would most likely suffer lifelong health repercussions. However, he reassured us, there was no guarantee that preterm labor would lead to premature birth.

After the medication slowed the contractions, I was sent home with a prescription to take multiple times a day and instructions to remain on bed rest. Our goals were set a step at a time – first, do our best to get to 24 weeks. Then just to build one week on another, and do our best to A) keep me pregnant and B) out of the hospital.

It was an overwhelmingly helpless feeling. I was furious with my body, and felt it was failing at the one job it was truly created for. My first job as a mother was to bring my baby healthfully to term, and I wasn’t doing so well. I spent hours on Google, googling things no pregnant woman should Google. If I delivered RIGHT NOW, what would he look like? What health problems would he face? What is the actual percentage of his chance of survival? Things looked grim.

The medication they gave me helped slow but not stop the contractions. Luckily, I was not dilating or showing any other signs of impeding labor. We had several rush trips to the hospital for monitoring when the contractions would come too fast and regular, but each week brought us closer to the goal. There is some argument over whether bed rest is a necessary practice. I’m not a doctor, but I can say that for all the miserable downsides, it was worth every minute in bed to keep my son safe for one more day.

Of course, I was very lucky to have an amazing support system. Jonathan became an excellent cook, and waited on me very sweetly. My precious family kept me company during the day while Jonathan was at work, helped keep us fed, drove me to a hundred doctor’s appointments, and did a million thing to tend to mommy, daddy and baby. And several of my friends stepped up beautifully, driving all the way out to Sugar Land to bring cookies and books and blessed rainbows and sunshines of company!

I read a million books (I averaged about one every two days), slept a lot, and just relaxed with my baby. Although that time was stressful, I feel like my period of bed rest was a blessing. Yes, I lost my job, my muscle tone, and almost my mind. But I spent every minute of every day bonding uninterrupted with my son. I lay in that bed and watched my stomach wave and roll and knew he was growing bigger and stronger. Before he was born, I was his MOTHER. And while that may be true of any mother, I felt like the time separated from the world gave me what I needed to make it real. Every day, I would talk to him, I’d tell him how he was being prayed for, and how much fun we’d have once he was out – but that he needed to stay put for now (I promised him that months in the hospital would be no party!).

Towards the end of the pregnancy, my nurse flipped the switch on the ultrasound machine and gave us a glimpse of our baby in 3D. It was amazing – we could clearly see that Larkin had my fat cheeks and no chin (of course, that ended up being about all he had of mine!). And, of course, he was absolutely beautiful.

The rest of the story will continue tomorrow!

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