“You can never make Jennifer do anything she doesn’t want to do.”
These words were uttered more than once by my former obstetrician. He was absolutely right, with one exception.
While spending months on bedrest was never in my birth plan, I found myself flat on my back (or rather, my left side) a few times over the course of my pregnancies. With so many hours logged in bed, I reached crossword puzzle expert status and received a doctorate in word finds! I watched every show on HGTV (twice!) I was the bedrest queen.
With Katie, I hemorrhaged at 18 weeks. I spent that pregnancy in and out of the hospital with many stints of bedrest at home. Evan’s pregnancy came with preterm labor, hospital bedrest, and a NICU stay after his birth at 34 weeks. My next three pregnancies were practically picture perfect. Then an incompetent cervix wreaked havoc causing the worst loss I could possibly imagine.
Pregnant for one last time, I was armed with a cerclage and a positive attitude. Still, this pregnancy was not without complications. At 22 weeks, I was admitted to a room with a beautiful view.
My stay came with constant monitoring and late night snacks. I never knew how much I’d look forward to graham crackers and apple juice while binging on Netflix. Betamethasone shots strengthened my son’s lungs and gave me such a rosy glow. Seriously, my cheeks were on fire! I was doing so well, my doctor let my husband wheel me outside so I could feel the sun on my face.
Discharge day felt like such an accomplishment. At almost 24 weeks, I could finish my bedrest at home. Snuggling with my babies 24/7 was the perfect medicine.
Three days later, I found myself back at the hospital. After a long day in triage, I was finally going to be transferred to a room. Small talk with my nurse was a pleasant distraction as I was wheeled down to my new home for possibly the rest of my pregnancy. At 24 weeks, I still had some time to go. Little did I know how soon I would deliver.
It was a feeling I knew all too well. The small popping sensation followed by the enveloping warmth came as a shock to me. This was not how this day was supposed to end.
The nurses moved quickly around me. A kind face appeared next to me saying, “There was a baby born here at 23 weeks who survived.” The other nurses corroborated her story. They had cared for his mother.
There was hope ... hope and magnesium sulfate.
Suddenly the room reached 100 degrees or was that my imagination? Cold compresses were on my forehead without my asking. I didn’t care what I needed to go through. At this point you could literally set me on fire if it meant my baby would survive. I imagined the medicine dripping from my IV and coursing through my veins was covering my uterus with a protective shield. I willed my cervix to stay closed.
We weren’t in the clear but after a few hours no contractions were detected and we could hear a strong heartbeat. For five days, I felt like Wonder Woman every time the fetal monitor was strapped on and I could hear that glorious sound. Every hour I could maintain this pregnancy was a small victory for me.
At 24 weeks and 5 days, the early signs of labor started. Again, the doctors tried delay the inevitable as we waited for my bloodwork to come back. The pills they brought me every 20 minutes made it feel like my heart was beating in my ears. When it was time to deliver, I couldn’t admit defeat. The first time I looked at my boy, all 1 pound 8 ounces of him, I knew he inherited my fighting spirit.
He became my superhero.