Here’s our story, in brief.
I’ve had five pregnancies and as a result, three amazing children. If you do the math, that means I’ve also experienced the pain of two miscarriages. Our first miscarriage was my first pregnancy. Which was its own kind of devastating.
I think for most women that second you find out you’re pregnant, that you’re going to be a mother, there is an immediate shift in the universe.
Maybe nobody else sees it or feels it. But you do, because you know you have this wonderful little secret within you. You have another life inside you. And in that split second, your mind fast forwards to the pregnancy ahead, the birth of a sweet baby and the journey of parenthood that lies in front of you.
Or at least that’s how it works for me.
So when it was all taken away with 5 short words, ‘Im sorry there’s no heartbeat’, everything I had looked forward to was gone as quickly as it came.
And despite the fact I know the statistics of miscarriage and that there’s nothing I could’ve done to prevent it, I was still left searching for an answer. I was still left wondering what was wrong with me.
And for a long while I walked around feeling very, very empty.
So when we found out I was expecting with Matthew it was an equal mix of all consuming joy and fear. My pregnancy was uncomplicated and as normal as pregnancy can be. And then I went into pre-term labor at 33 weeks while at work. Rick happened to be on that night as well and
brought forced me up to Labor and Delivery after I told him I was having contractions every 5-6 minutes. But I was sure they were braxton hicks. And it was just because I was tired from being on my feet all night. Except that I was actively dilating. And that’s a problem.
The hospital we work at doesn’t have NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) so I was transferred by ambulance to the University of Minnesota, where I was given some medication to stop contractions. We spent a couple days there with no further changes and discharged.
And exactly one week later I woke up to contractions. I had them all day, but we went about our business. By the end of the day my contractions were back to 5 minutes apart and I was breathing through them, but I was not going to be that girl who keeps going back to the hospital until I walked out with a baby!
Rick wanted to skip our last child birth class and bring me to the hospital. But, I was determined to make it to the last class. After all, however else was I going to learn to take care of a baby?!
We made it to the class, but halfway through he forced me back to L&D where my water broke a mere 30 minutes later. It was a good thing our classes were at the hospital we worked at.
And once again we were shipped out to a hospital with NICU.
The second ambulance ride was more terrifying, maybe because we were full lights and sirens or maybe because I knew this time I was surely going to have a baby. Our Matthew was born the next day at 34 weeks and 5 days. He came out crying, right along with his parents, and besides being premature he was holding his own.
He needed to be in the NICU to learn how to eat (even being a late term preemie, he still hadn’t developed his suck reflex), to be able to regulate his body temperature, he required IVs for preventative antibiotics and nutrition, a feeding tube, and supplemental oxygen because he had a hard time keeping his oxygen levels up.
I spent hours sitting in a chair next to his isolate, holding him as often as I could. And despite the overwhelming environment we were in, those early days together are some of my most cherished memories.
But the thing about NICU is, you never know how long you’re there for. And while there are a lot of difficult parts of NICU, that for me was the hardest. In hindsight, it was only two weeks. A far cry from other NICU babies. But at the time, I didn’t know that. And so each day we were there felt like an eternity.
I left the hospital on day 8 of Matthew’s life; without him. By that time I had spent a total of 11 nights in a hospital, or most of February. I was overwhelmed and the right choice at that time was to go home. Don’t underestimate that because it was the right choice, it was an easy choice. I remember we pulled into our driveway and I just sat in our car sobbing until Rick had to come around and help me out.
I felt helpless. I felt I had failed. And I was exhausted.
It was my first lesson in parenting. You need to take care of yourself in order to take care of your children.
And it was a gut wrenching lesson.
It was never lost on me that we were the lucky ones. Matthew was overall healthy. And thriving. Not all NICU families get to experience a road as easy as ours and my heart hurts for those families.
Our little guy with oxygen and feeding tube, snoozing in mama’s arms.
Then, when Matthew was nearly 5 months old, we got a little surprise. We were pregnant! There was more joy and fear again, only I think this time it was more to the tune of…we are going to have babies 14 months apart. Whoa.
And as intimidating as that sounded, we embraced it with arms wide open. Unfortunately, that pregnancy ended in a miscarriage as well. It’s funny how you can miss something, or someone, who only existed within you for such a short period of time. And while I’ll never forget what should’ve been my due dates for those pregnancies, or wonder what little persons those babies would’ve became, I’ll never wish to change what was the inevitable.
Because that would mean I wouldn’t have the children I do today.
Then when Matthew was 8.5 months old, we got yet another little surprise. Care to take a guess?
9 months later Mollie was born. She was a text book pregnancy. And then, an hour after we brought our beautiful girl home, she stopped breathing.
I had set her in a swing, one of those reclined cradle swings and went to sit in a chair across the room from her. Less than a minute passed when I had looked her way and realized she wasn’t breathing. Her face was a deep red, quickly becoming purple. I screamed for Rick to call 911 and the world went fuzzy around me. My head was a roaring buzz and my only thought was please, baby, breathe.
I have yet to find the right words to describe that kind of fear.
Maybe there aren’t any.
But I needed to do something. And fast. So I grabbed Mollie and ran up the stairs with her, thinking that maybe I needed to clear her airway and knew I had a suction bulb in her room. I don’t recall my feet even hitting the steps. I suctioned her mouth first and nothing.
Her lips were blue and when I close my eyes, I can still picture the shade perfectly. I suctioned her nose, then mouth again, and this time she started making little gasps. Soon those gasps turned into cries and she was breathing.
I think that was when I started breathing again too.
The paramedics arrived shortly after and we were loaded into the ambulance. Our third ambulance ride in less than a year and half. Three ambulance rides too many.
We spent four days in NICU with her as well. I was scared for my baby and angry we were back in the NICU. We were supposed to have it easy this time. How selfish of me to think that when I look back. We were the lucky ones, but in that particular moment, I was having a hard time remembering that.
Getting her first, and hopefully last, lumbar puncture.
Mollie went through a battery of tests, all of which were normal. And she’s never experienced an episode at all close to that again. Despite that, I still find myself holding my breath when I check on her while she’s asleep. I recently asked Rick if that will ever go away, we agreed it probably wouldn’t.
Sporting her scalp IV
She is a love in our lives which cannot be measured.
Every night I pray with my children. And every night I thank God for my children. It is not lost on me just how very lucky we are.