June 6 is an anniversary date for me. June 6 marks the day that my life was changed forever.
On that day a few years ago, I was in Caldwell County. That day was to be the third day of my first jury trial. However, things went badly and the day that had begun as exciting almost became one of the most tragic days of my life. I had just turned 24 weeks pregnant that morning, and I awoke at 5:30 am. I was bleeding badly. I called 911, and then called Mike crying that I had lost the baby. The ambulance came and took me to a hospital with a wonderful nurse and a terrible doctor. The doctor informed me that I was probably going to have my baby, and because he was only 24 weeks, he would most likely die. I was terrified and alone. Mike and my family were frantically trying to drive 3 hours to get to me, and I had no idea if my baby was still alive. I remained at the hospital for an entire day, having contractions and not knowing what was going to happen. That night, I was transferred by ambulance to a hospital at home. When I arrived at midnight, I was informed by my doctor that I was going to be in the hospital on bed rest until I had my baby.
The doctor and I had very different ideas about the length of my stay. I immediately assumed that I would remain on bed rest for 16 weeks (so that I would be full term). My doctor was hoping and praying that I could remain pregnant another 4 weeks. I was informed that my child had only a 50 hance of survival, and if he did live, he would probably have bleeding on the brain among other problems. Also, a babys lungs have just started to develop at 24 weeks, so I was given steroid shots in hopes that if I went into labor, my baby would live.
This began one of the longest and most difficult ordeals of my life. I later learned that I had a placental abruption. For no known reason, part of my placenta had pulled away from my uterus and caused the bleeding. This was extremely dangerous because if it happened again, I would require an immediate emergency C-section, otherwise my baby would die due to lack of oxygen. Thus, the rules of survival were simple: I would remain in bed for the remainder of my pregnancy in the hospital. So we began the process of counting days. In the early weeks of my pregnancy, every day that I managed not to go into labor was 3 less days that my child would spend in the NICU if he survived. I also learned that if I had him at 24 weeks, and if he survived, he would probably be in the NICU for at least 3 months (my entire maternity leave). However, if I could make it to 28 weeks, the chances of survival were much better. I toured the NICU, and I saw a baby that was 25 weeks old. I was devastated.
I will not bore everyone with the details, but let me tell you that this was incredibly difficult for me. I am very active and energetic. I always feel like I have to be doing something. I am a control freak, and I want to have organization. However, my doctors had told me that I could not leave my bed for anything. I felt like a prisoner. If I remained on good behavior, and we made it to the point that things were safer, I was allowed certain privileges. After the first few days, I was allowed to get up to go to the bathroom. I was also allowed to have one shower a day, and I could stand up for that. Otherwise, I never left my bed or my room. I had no privacy because doctors and nurses were constantly coming to monitor me. I had 23 ultrasounds, and sometimes I was hooked up to the fetal heart monitors 24 hours a day. One night I became so stir crazy that the doctor allowed Mike to push me outside in a bed. We got some funny looks as Mike wheeled my bed out of the hospital and into a parking space in the parking lot.
I could go on forever with the stories of how I learned to pass my days. However, I would prefer to focus on the lessons I learned. After 12 full weeks in the hospital on bed rest, my son, Jacob, was born. At 35 weeks the doctor performed an amniocentesis which revealed that the babys lungs were developed. We decided to induce labor because there was a risk after the lungs were developed that the placenta would tear and he would die. I learned so much about life during that time. Here are a few of the lessons I learned:
1) There are many things in life that I am absolutely powerless to control or change. When I am faced with such circumstances, my only option is to respond in the most positive way that I can and to learn from the situation. I quickly learned that I could change nothing about the fact that I was in the hospital for the remainder of my pregnancy. Of course I was sad that I did not get to decorate my nursery, pick out the crib, etc. I also obsessed about the health of my baby constantly, and I worried every time he moved and the monitors could not find his tiny heartbeat. However, I quickly learned that I could not change these things. I could not change what had happened to me. I could not control whether my child lived or died. The only thing I could control was remaining in bed. So I stayed in bed for 12 weeks.
2) Sometimes we have to let others help us. I have always been independent. In the hospital, I had to buzz a nurse to bring me water. I had to send my laundry home with family to be washed. I had to ask my mother in law and my mom to buy new underwear and pajamas as I outgrew my cloths. I had to rely on someone else for everything. If I could not reach something from my bed, I had to rely on someone else to do it for me. There are times in our lives when survival requires that we allow others to help us.
3) I learned that the simple pleasures in life can bring so much joy. One of the only times that I could be alone was when I was in the shower. That was also the one time each day that I was eventually allowed to stand up. I quickly began to love this time. I would live completely in the moment. I loved to feel the water on my back- to smell the fresh scent of a new shower gel. These simple pleasures were the only things that brought me happiness on some days. I also learned that I missed the simplest pleasures. Sometimes friends were kind and brought me food. However, I wanted so badly to just walk into a restaurant, look at a menu and order for myself. I wanted to sit in the warmth of the sun. I wanted to play in my backyard with my dogs. I missed the simplest things.
4) I learned about the power of hope. While in the hospital, I often reflected on the situation my Granny Bertha was in. At that time, she had been in a bed paralyzed due to a stroke for 6 years. My heart ached for her. I realized that the difference in her situation and mine was that I had hope. I had the hope of having a healthy baby that I could hold in my arms. I had the assurance that I would be able to walk again (after all, I was lying in bed by choice). I learned that hope can allow you to endure some incredibly difficult circumstances.
5) I learned that true love is about the smallest gestures. While I was in the hospital, Mike tried to visit me everyday. He also went above and beyond the call of duty. For example, Mike brought our dogs to visit me while I was in the hospital. He also knew that I was so sad about not being able to decorate the nursery and prepare for the baby. So Mike took matters into his own hands and videoed our house. He videoed the nursery so that I could see what it looked like and so that I could feel like I had a role to play in preparing for our baby.
6) I learned that life is short, life is precious, life is something to be treasured. I know that it sounds cliché, but I truly believe this. I came so close to losing the human life that lived inside of me. I was desperate to do anything to keep my child alive. When he was born healthy, it changed my perspective on everything. I left the hospital completely changed. I was determined to try to find joy in the small things in life (sometimes in the shower, I still remember those days in the hospital when a shower was all that I had to look forward to). I have also been determined to treasure every moment. I learned that life is delicate, and life is to be treasured. I evaluated my life and found that I was not satisfied in my job so I quit. I quit with no other job, and this was totally out of character for me. However, I knew from my experience that life was too precious to waste on things that did not make me happy, improve me as a person, or fulfill me in some way. I still try to live each day with this in mind. Of course I still get depressed, everyone does. But each time I see a baby, or look at my babies, I think about the miracle that happened in my life. I do not want to waste a minute of my life or my childrens lives on matters that do not deserve my time and energy.
7) I learned that the worst circumstances often force us to grow in wisdom and mature. When Jacob was born healthy, I was terrified to take him home. After months of being monitored every day, and seeing a doctor every day, I had become accustomed to having constant reassurance that he was alive and healthy. When I came home, I was terrified that something would happen to him. I also had a long road ahead with regard to my own physical and emotional recovery after being in bed so long. However, now, when I look back, I realize that what was probably the worst and scariest event of my life had a profound impact on every decision that I have made since that day. When I look at my son, I know that he is a walking, talking miracle. I know that he is precious, and he could just as easily never have been in my life. He teaches me something every day, and he reminds me that life is to be enjoyed. Of course there will be sadness and pain, but he reminds me to laugh. He reminds me to enjoy the moment. He reminds me that worry often accomplishes nothing and wastes my time. He reminds me that I am a strong person, and that I can be selfless. He reminds me that even if I make mistakes in my life, I have done one thing right. I am proud of my son, and I am proud of the sacrifices I made to have him.
Do I spoil my kids? Yes. Do I take too many pictures of them (10,000 plus and counting)? Yes. Do I regret a minute of the time that I spent in bed waiting for the incredible gift of my son? No. I would do it again? In a minute.