I have wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember. Since beginning my walk with the Lord when I was a teenager, I felt more than a normal desire to be a mom; for me, it was a calling. I am certain Jesus has been preparing me to be Evan’s mom my entire life. In retrospect, it is crazy to see the ways He was shaping me all along so He could entrust this amazing little boy to me (and Alex).
Before Alex and I started trying to have a baby, I read every single book, article, and blog I could get my eyes on about trying to conceive, pregnancy, labor/delivery, and parenting. I wanted to do everything “right.” All you seasoned mamas are probably chuckling right now, as you should. Because as the old saying goes, “Man plans; God laughs.”
I think the only thing that went somewhat “according to plan” was being good stewards and making sure we were in a good place financially so I could be a stay at home mom when Evan arrived after my school year ended. He was due on June 20, so the timing seemed perfect. I wouldn’t even need to take maternity leave! How awesome! No docked pay from taking weeks of FMLA. It seemed perfect. Those of you who know our story, know that that is not how things went.
Let’s start at the beginning. After a year and a half of my “healthy lifestyle change” to get in shape and as healthy as I could be to have a baby, we finally started trying. So exciting! Within a few months, we got that positive test. I’ll never forget that night. I remember being so sad that whole week because three different couples announced their pregnancies that week, and I was so sure this month would be another negative test. **Side note: To anyone who has experienced infertility or miscarriage, my heart is broken for you, and I would love to pray for your journey. I cannot fathom the pain you have experienced, and I want you to know you are loved and your worth does not come from a pink line on a test.** We had planned all week to take a test on Friday night so that I would have the weekend to either be super excited or mope in my pajamas. When it came time to take the test, I tried putting it off because I wanted one more day of “maybe” since I was certain it would be negative. When those lines turned pink immediately I lost my mind. I couldn’t believe it. I’m pretty sure Alex was not sure what to do as I was running and jumping around our room like a crazy person. I even got so excited and worked up that I threw up. (Sadly, vomiting is my body’s normal reaction to extreme emotion.)
By week six of my pregnancy, “morning” sickness hit me full force. I was so sick I could barely get out of bed. That November, I think I took seven sick days because I couldn’t go more than an hour without throwing up. I felt like I was already failing at being a mom because I couldn’t keep myself hydrated or nourished at all in my entire first trimester. Even with medication, my nausea and vomiting only decreased in severity and frequency just enough for me to power through a work day to collapse on the couch in my pajamas every evening. I remember getting so annoyed with people telling me to try eating crackers before waking up, take my vitamins at night, chew gum, eat small meals, etc. I was doing all of that and taking prescription medication, wearing motion sickness bands, and sucking on anti-nausea lozenges all the time but nothing worked. When week fifteen hit and there was no improvement, I was sure my entire pregnancy would be me puking my guts out. I think I was finally able to stop taking Zofran around week 20 of my pregnancy, and things started turning around. Other than the normal aches and pains of pregnancy, things were so much easier! I figured the worst of it was over.
On March 23, 2018, we went for a follow up anatomy scan. I was 27 weeks pregnant at the time. I will never forget how I felt that day. Our OB told us that there were some “abnormalities” on his scan and that we would need to see the high risk pregnancy team for additional scans and testing. We were told that Evan’s long bones were measuring behind and his umbilical cord was missing a vessel which can cause growth issues as well. She told us that we were probably looking at some sort of genetic disorder, but that we may not know the answers until Evan was born. Our main goal with the Maternal-Fetal doctors was to monitor Evan’s health and make sure we had the safest delivery plan possible.
On March 30, we saw the Maternal-Team and met with their geneticist. She very solemnly told us that our baby was “very small” and that it was difficult to see parts of his brain that should be easily seen by ultrasound at that point in pregnancy. She explained that we could do an amniocentesis to see if Evan had one of the more common genetic disorders, but it likely would just pop up a result of an “abnormality” that would require further testing when he was born anyway. We chose not to do it because the small risk of early delivery wasn’t worth it to us. We knew that no matter what he was our son, and we would do our best to be all that he needed when he was born. A diagnosis wasn’t going to change anything for us. We did do a fetal echocardiogram and MRI because they posed no risk to the baby and could help the doctors have a better care plan when Evan was born.
When I was 30 weeks pregnant, I started showing early signs of labor and my blood pressure was too high. That coupled with Evan’s diagnosis of Intrauterine Growth Restriction and “anomalies” put me on modified bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy. So I would have to take maternity leave after all. I remember how stressed I was scrambling to make six weeks worth of lesson plans, worksheets, study guides, and tests. I had to modify the assignments I had planned for my students since I would not be the one personally grading their projects at the end of the year. That first two weeks of my “bed rest” may have been the most stressful of my entire pregnancy. Being a pregnant teacher kind of sucks. Being a teacher on maternity leave sucks even more. I never really felt like I was actually “done.” I would get emails and calls from my administrator and other teachers needing direction for my students. I even had to forward several emails from parents to my admin because my students failed to mention to their parents that I was not going to be there for the rest of the year. Bless it.
At this point, I was living in my pajamas watching way too much TV and only really leaving the house to go to my 2-3 appointments every week to monitor me and Evan. I had my blood pressure checked at every appointment (it never went down), and Evan got an ultrasound and a Non-Stress Test every week. It was necessary but exhausting. However, the best part of having a high risk pregnancy is bonus ultrasound pictures. We ended up filling the entire fridge with pictures of Evan before he was born. It was awesome.
I started dilating and having pre-term contractions pretty regularly at about 31 weeks. These are different from Braxton Hicks contractions. They are real and super annoying. For those of you who have labored before, imagine those first few hours of contractions but for four straight weeks at varying intensity and frequency but always there. That was my life. Every morning I set a goal for myself: do not have a baby today. With how small and behind Evan was and with all the question marks surrounding his health, I was terrified to add prematurity into the mix. I needed to keep him cooking as long as possible.
As much as I hated “going there,” I began preparing myself for all of the worst case scenarios. We were prepared to be in the NICU with Evan especially since it was looking more and more like he would be coming early in addition to his questionable medical needs. We were prepared for having a special needs child. We had no idea what Evan’s needs would be, but we knew his life was not going to look like what we had pictured. I even began preparing for the possibility that I would not be bringing my son home with me. With the information we had from our doctors and all the possibilities for his potential diagnoses, there was a chance that our guy wouldn’t make it. I knew that, and I knew that ignoring that possibility was not going to be healthy for me.
I remember so many people telling me story after story about how they knew this person whose doctor said “the same thing” about their child, and they were totally wrong and had a perfectly healthy baby. I feel like I heard that every other day. And, please do not take offense to this, but if you find yourself wanting to tell someone things like that when they are faced with medical uncertainty, please stop. It is not helpful at all especially when that does not end up being the case for that family. It invalidates the fear and grief that person is feeling and makes them feel like they are not allowed to process. Ignorance is not bliss. Denial is not healthy. I knew our doctors were right. I could feel it in my bones. I knew that this is what the Lord was putting before us. It was not pessimism; it was acceptance.
Aside from the mental and emotional battle we were facing, I felt like garbage 90% of the time. But I was so sure I would not develop preeclampsia even though I was getting labs for it almost weekly. The high risk doctors worked with my OB to determine that I would not go past 37 weeks if I made it that far without going into labor on my own (which wasn’t very likely). Stay tuned tomorrow for Evan’s birth story.
Spoiler alert: I did develop preeclampsia.