I wrote my last update at what I thought was the “half-way” point of my pregnancy. All I can think is how thankful I am that I had the chance to write out my thoughts on the blog when I did. I can’t believe that just 3 weeks after I wrote that, Lucille Carolyn Hickson made her debut into our lives.
On December 15th, Rob and I met for what we thought would be a quick 24-week check up with my OB during our lunch break. I was technically 23 weeks and 5 days pregnant at that time. After a short meeting with the OB, she did a physical exam and within minutes everything changed. She became quite serious, told me to remain still lying down, and slowly explained that I was 4 cm dilated and that the membrane with our baby was already starting to come out into the birth canal. She let us know that I would be admitted to the hospital immediately and would most likely not be leaving until our baby was born.
How do you swallow that information? As she continued to talk and make the point that this was a very severe situation, we couldn’t fully understand the depth of what was going on, and the mere shock that I had been experiencing no symptoms but was now being told that we were at extremely high risk of delivering our baby at any minute was enough to bring us to tears. My mind was swirling, my first thought was we need to pray. As soon as my OB left the room, we texted close family and friends asking for prayer, and we sat there waiting for the next step.
Within an hour, I was admitted to the hospital and we found ourselves face to face with a team of the hospital’s finest physicians standing before us. My OB, along with the High Risk Doctor and a NICU Fellow, explained to me and Rob what was going on with our baby and what “choices” lay before us. (At this time, we didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl, so we just kept referring to "the baby".) The OB spoke first. She explained that having a baby this early would be extremely risky and a long and grueling journey lie ahead. She told us in no uncertain terms, that our baby had a 1/3 chance of not surviving at all, a 1/3 chance of surviving and having severe life-long disabilities, and a 1/3 chance of having no disabilities or very minor disabilities that would still allow for a “normal” and healthy life. She then proceeded to tell us that in the State of New York, parents have the right to terminate a pregnancy up to 26 weeks, and that we should consider that option as well. She assured us that everyone would completely understand if we chose to go that route and that although we could take some time to discuss, we would need to decide as soon as possible. With that, she let the next doctor speak, so up next it was the High Risk Doctor’s turn. She let us know that if we decided to continue with the pregnancy, I would start to get treated right away to assist in getting the contractions under control and I would be given a cocktail of medications to help the baby's development too. While she was talking to me, I was already connected to a monitor for my contractions and for the baby’s heartbeat. The High Risk Doctor couldn’t believe that I was not feeling any of the contractions that were coming up on the monitor which were coming in about every 1 to 2 minutes. Lastly, the NICU Fellow spoke to us to discuss what it would look like once our baby was born and admitted to the NICU. She explained that the NICU staff would do everything they could to care for our baby and provide an environment for her to grow and hopefully thrive. She mentioned the statistics that our OB also shared, so we fully understood that the odds were stacked against our little family to be, but she sounded the most optimistic and hopeful. Once again the team looked at us with empathetic eyes letting us know we could take a minute to discuss if we would like to continue with the pregnancy.
We told them that there was nothing to discuss and that we would be continuing with the pregnancy.
Immediately the room swirled into action. The nurse tried unsuccessfully to get an IV in my left hand, and then my right hand. An anesthesiologist was called in to try again, and he was able to get it on my right hand pretty quickly . I was given a steroid shot in my hip to help with the baby’s lung development. I was given magnesium for the baby’s brain, and indomethacin for my contractions to subside. The magnesium was given to me in a bolus dosage for the first 30 minutes (which means I got A WHOLE LOT OF IT at once), and it was extremely uncomfortable. I felt like the room was spinning, I was hot all over from the inside out, even my tears felt scalding hot as I cried. Once I got all of the medications necessary, the room started to empty of the swarm of people, and Robby and I hunkered down and tried our best to settle in. We had no idea how long we would be in the hospital before our baby was born, so we made arrangements for our friends to look after Bess and we just tried to wrap our heads around everything, hoping and praying that I could stay pregnant for as long as possible.
23 Weeks, 6 Days. December 16th, 2014.
During the next couple of days, we were seen by a social worker, a chaplain, nurses every hour or so, checking my vitals, and drawing blood for tests, residents, the high risk doctor and my OB. I had a bedside sonogram when I was admitted the day before, where they tried to estimate the weight of the baby. The baby seemed big, 750 grams… so they ordered a real ultrasound, which meant I would have to be wheeled to the other side of the hospital wing to be examined. The exam showed that the baby was indeed about 750 grams, so that was encouraging to know we were on the big side! They also found that I had excess amiontic fluid, which could be due to an infection or due to a developmental issue with the baby. They could see from the ultrasound that the baby was swallowing and peeing just fine, so they were not concerned about that and found it to be “remarkable”. They were also testing me for infection already, so it did not seem very likely that that was the reason behind it. To this day, we still don’t know what caused me to go into preterm labor. The same doctor who had just said that the baby was remarkable, then explained to us once again that we were well within our right to consider not continuing with the pregnancy. It was devastating to hear this yet again, but we just listened and said that we would be continuing with the pregnancy.
24 Weeks. December 17th, 2014.
I remember that this day was not very eventful except that we had a lot of visits from friends. During one of those visits, Rob was at work for just a couple of hours, he might have even been on his way back to the hospital. My OB came by to check on me and was very serious. She wanted to make sure that I understood just how critical our situation was, she compared it to having a feather floating in the air, with the whole team doing everything they could to keep it in the air knowing it could hit the ground any second. She emphasized again what a difficult journey we would have if we continued with the pregnancy and that I was well within my right to end the pregnancy. I simply said I understood. All I was thinking was that I wished she would leave, and that I wished Robby was there. Most of all though, I wish I had said, “I do understand… this is the third time that I have been told the same thing. Do you understand that we are continuing with the pregnancy now?” It was another blow. I had the fetal monitor on (I called it the baby heartbeat monitor), and I just clung to that lullaby sound of our baby’s heart thumping with life inside of me.
24 Weeks, 1 Day. December 18th, 2014.
Just after the shift change that morning, I woke up because our new nurse came in to introduce herself. She asked if I was ready to have the baby heartbeat monitor placed on me so they could monitor the baby for about 20 minutes. Every time they did that, I had to stay very still until they got a good read for 20 minutes straight. Since it had taken about 2 hours the day before, I thought it would be better if we got a start on that after I had time to wake up, go to the bathroom (on bed rest! no fun!) and had breakfast. She agreed, and started to leave. I saw the time was 7:45am, and I began to turn to my right side to go back to sleep for another half hour or so. And then as I turned, my water broke. It just spilled out of me like a water balloon deflating. I could not stop saying, “Oh no, my water broke, my water broke, my water broke.” That got Robby awake in no time! Our nurse went to get the team of doctors and it probably took no more then 5-10 minutes to get them all in the room, meanwhile my water was still spilling out everywhere. The High Risk doctor we had seen each day came in, as did the Anesthesiologist and the OB that was on call (which as weird as it sounds, I am so grateful it wasn't our OB). It was our first time meeting this OB. We will never forget her. She was amazing. She was exactly who we needed in that room with us.
They did a bedside sonogram and told us that the baby was now breech, probably due to the water breaking. Due to our baby's age and now the position being breech, I was told that I would now have to have a "Classic" C-section with a vertical incision to my uterus. (This also means that from now on, I will always have to have the same procedure done when I have a baby, and it will have to be sometime between 36-37 weeks to prevent uterine rupture). The Anesthesiologist explained that I would either be under general anesthesia or get a "super" epidural where I would have no feeling from my torso down to my toes. They set up the baby heartbeat monitor again, and noticed that every time I had a contraction, the baby seemed to go into distress. I was having contractions every ten minutes or so. After this happened a third time, the OB made the decision, it was time to have the C-section. She looked at me and Robby and with a confident smile, and a squeeze to my shoulder, she said, “you guys are going to become parents today!” It was the boost of encouragement we needed in the midst of the swirling room of people. Rob looked at me in the eyes and said – “Remember, the baby’s lungs haven’t fully developed, we might not hear the baby, but that’s okay”. He went to get a hospital gown on, and I got prepped for the C-Section and was given the super epidural so I was able to be awake and alert during the procedure.
At 9:17am, our sweet baby was born. The first thing I heard from the doctor was, “Big Baby”! Even though she was only 750 grams, or 1lb, 11 oz, and 12 1/2 inches long, this was considered big for a 24-weeker! Next, the second doctor said, “they don’t know what they’re having, let them know”, and so she told us, “It’s a girl!” Our Lucille Carolyn Hickson was here! And then we heard it… a faint little cry. Was that our daughter? Another faint little cry made its way from the table in the corner, to our ears, and tears of joy welled up in our eyes, because we knew that meant our little fighter was breathing on her own! I will never forget that sweet little sound of life.
My postpartum days in the hospital were filled with so many emotions. I would be crying one second, and then laughing the next, pressing down on my incision because I was sore from the C-Section. At one point I burst into tears because I didn’t know what to request for lunch because I hadn’t seen a menu! That poor food services employee didn’t know what to do with me! Several times, I would be taking a nap and would wake up with the sensation that I was still pregnant. It was hard, I missed feeling Lucie inside of me. It was hard to balance being thankful that she was alive, and doing as well as she possibly could be doing under the extremely difficult circumstances, while at the same time feeling a deep sense of loss. We were constantly encouraged with texts and calls from friends and families, praying for us and cheering Lucie on. We clung to those encouragements for dear life. I felt like with every breath, I was grasping on to the Lord in prayer for the health of our sweet baby who was fighting for her life in the NICU. It was intense. Painful moments were accompanied by deep comfort from our Heavenly Father. He did not abandon us for even a moment, we knew He was with us throughout each and every step. I mentioned in my last post that Robby and I grew a lot during the time we were trying to get pregnant… “Through a season of about 19 months, Rob and I tried, waited, trusted, waited and trusted some more, that God's timing in this would be perfect. And it honestly has been. And I don't say this lightly, as if waiting was easy, and as if trusting God was easy. We grew a lot through the season of waiting. Growth can be so hard, and growth can be really painful, but the result can be so beautiful. I don't mean the result of pregnancy, I mean the result of greater trust in the Lord, and the gratefulness I feel to have grown closer to God and to Rob through this season.” These words are more true now than they were when I wrote them last fall.
Since the day I was admitted to the hospital, this verse has come to mind repeatedly, encouraging us of the promise that God is at work, even when we don’t understand the situation, and we can trust Him to see us through, for our good and for His glory: "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). Recently, we were also extremely encouraged by the promises in this verse: "Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!" (Psalm 126:5). Thank you so much for coming along side of us during this time, and for keeping us in your prayers. You will never be able to know just how much it has meant to us and how it has helped us, even today.