Ten years ago, my family of four moved from Pennsylvania to Raleigh, and within weeks, I found out that I was pregnant with my third child. This was such an exciting time in our lives. We were now living in a new place that we loved, and we’d just found out that our family would be growing. Life was good, and seemingly perfect.
Sometime during my fourth month of pregnancy, I started to bleed. While not entirely uncommon for bleeding to occur during pregnancy, it’s obviously cause for alarm. My husband immediately drove me to the ER, and we expected to hear the worst. To our great delight, we saw a tiny heart beating away on the ultrasound, and dared to hope all would be well.
I went to my OBGYN the following day, and was given the name of a perinatologist, or high-risk obstetrician, who would be taking over my case. During the ultrasound I’d had the day before, it was noted that I had placenta previa, meaning that the placenta had implanted over my cervix, making a natural birth impossible. Oftentimes, when this condition is detected early in a pregnancy, there’s still a chance the placenta can move to a more favorable position as the baby grows, but in my case, that never happened.
I was told by the perinatologist to “take it easy”, but the bleeding episodes continued as the weeks went on. Each time it happened, I was checked to ensure the baby was okay, and each time, she was. However, when I reached my twenty-second week of pregnancy, and the bleeding had increased in both volume and frequency, I was put on bedrest.
Bedrest is awful. Keep in mind, I was home alone with my two daughters, aged one and five at the time, while my husband was at work all day. Since we’d just moved here, I had no local friends, and barely knew my neighbors. Thankfully, my parents, as well as my younger brother, all moved here shortly after we did, so I did have them to help me. And, my in-laws from Pennsylvania came to visit several times to help out.
Despite being on bedrest, and obeying those orders for the most part, the bleeding episodes continued. To top it off, at each ultrasound, I was told my baby was measuring far smaller than she should have been. Due to her very small size, I was told she likely had Down Syndrome, or possibly some form of dwarfism.
During this time, I felt trapped within my own body, entirely helpless, and quite hopeless as well. I was living a pregnancy nightmare that could end at any moment, causing me to wake up to the horror of losing my child. Finally, after having another horrible bleeding episode while I was home alone, my team of doctors decided to admit me for good until my baby was born.
I lived at the hospital for seven weeks. I can safely say that this was the worst time of my entire life. Even though I was in the hospital, I was on strict bedrest, because at this stage of the pregnancy, I could have bled out within a matter of minutes. I had a huge team of doctors and nurses caring for me, most of whom I loved. But, nights and weekends were the hardest. I refused to take the sleeping aid they offered me each night, because I felt that I needed to keep my wits about me in case I started to bleed. In addition to barely sleeping as it was, I was woken up throughout the night by nurses taking my vitals, as well as blood samples to cross match in case I started to hemorrhage at any given moment. I was exhausted, scared, and miserable. I also missed my husband and daughters terribly despite the fact that they tried to visit me each day.
My sweet, tiny baby was oblivious to all of this. Each time I had an ultrasound, she was still kicking away, full of life and vigor, though still too small for the doctors’ comfort. When I finally reached my thirty-second week of pregnancy, and had another life-threatening bleeding episode, the doctors decided my baby was safer outside of my body than within it. They delivered her via c-section. She weighed just under three pounds, but was typical in every way otherwise. She was diagnosed with IUGR, or intrauterine growth restriction, which was attributed entirely to my placental abnormality. An added bonus of this saga, is that when the doctors performed the c-section, they discovered that I also had appendicitis. Good times…
My daughter had to live in the NICU for thirty days after she was born, and only to gain weight and outgrow the typical preemie issues. I don’t remember this time in my life very well. I think being back at home, and having to care for my two older daughters, prevented me from feeling much throughout that month. My baby’s team of doctors were concerned that I wasn’t bonding with her well enough, and offered to move her via ambulance to a closer hospital, since the original one was far from my home and difficult for me to visit more than once a day. At her new location, I was easily able to go twice and day, and for longer sessions.
Once my daughter reached four pounds, I was allowed to take her home. I was terrified to care for such a small, albeit perfect, creature. I was extra vigilant and paranoid about anything that I viewed as out of the ordinary with her health, and called the overnight nurses constantly asking for advice. I felt like a first-time mom all over again!
But, time rolled on, as it’s known to do. My tiny babe grew fat and happy, and I stopped worrying so much about her. She’s a little fighter and never knew that her life, or mine, was ever in danger. Now that she’s 9-years-old, I have explained to her that she was a preemie, and she wears that title like a badge of honor. She’s still very small for her age, but she’s mighty, and I’m forever grateful to all the medical professionals who cared so well for the two of us, and allowed us to make it through such a complicated pregnancy.
I named my daughter Chayne. It means, “God is gracious”, and He most certainly is.