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Hospital Bed Rest

For the last 11 weeks, I’ve had a one-track mind. My baby is literally the only thing in the world that matters. Three weeks ago, that feeling intensified, and now I know with full certainty, that feeling will never go away.

On April 20 at 2 a.m., I got up to use the restroom. When I got back in bed, I noticed that my underwear were damp. I woke up my husband to tell him, and he advised me to change, and see what happened. I got up, changed and got back in bed. Same story– damp underwear.

We called our doctor who asked us to head to the hospital for tests. Shortly after arriving, it was discovered that I was leaking amniotic fluid. The hours that followed were some of the most terrifying and uncomfortable hours of my life. I was admitted to the hospital, given an IV with magnesium sulfate, IV antibiotics and a steroid injection. Doctors told me I would not be leaving until the baby arrived. I was certain that delivery wasn’t far away.

At this time, I was 26 weeks and 6 days along.

The next day, I felt like I had been hit by a train. The medicine made me feel like I had the flu and I was completely exhausted (both mentally and physically). But nurses said my contractions stopped and the signs of labor were gone.

My head was spinning, and all I could think about was my baby. “Will she come this week?” “How small will she be?” “Will she need to be intubated?” “How long will she be in the NICU?” “Will she live?”

That day, a doctor from the NICU came down to talk with us. He answered a lot of the questions that were still swarming through my head and confirmed several of my fears. At 27 weeks, our baby would have a fighting chance, and she had a better chance than babies born at 24, 25 or 26 weeks. However, doctors still wanted to get her to 28 weeks, with the ultimate goal of 34 weeks.

When I heard this goal, I felt completely helpless. How was this possible if I was leaking amniotic fluid? How could I possibly make it that much longer?

I had been on bed rest since 19 weeks. Doctors kept telling me that the goal was 26 weeks. I did everything in my power to make it that long, and I did! I even made it one week further than that goal. I knew I wasn’t out of the woods, but I figured doctors would be pleased with my progress and the baby would have a much better outlook. When I heard 34, I felt like my journey was starting all over again, and I didn’t know if I had the strength to carry on.

In the days that followed, I felt like a shell of my former self. I couldn’t stand the thought of being trapped in the hospital for 7 weeks, not knowing when labor would decide to start again. Deep down, I knew hospital bed rest would be best for the baby, but I wanted my life back. I felt like a prisoner with no escape. I looked out of my window and saw people coming and going: pregnant women walking to their doctor’s appointments, new dad’s carrying flowers and balloons into the hospital and families holding healthy babies. Seeing this was crippling. I cried. A lot. I couldn’t stand the thought of my baby girl, in the NICU, hooked up to machines with tubes coming out of her mouth. I thought back to the last 8 weeks of bed rest, and it felt like it was all for nothing.

Then, one day, I was talking to a nurse and she told me, “Bed rest isn’t fun, but you have one chance to sit here and grow that baby.” For some reason, that really sunk in. It didn’t matter where I was or what I was doing, my job was to grow this baby. I knew it would be hard to be stuck in the hospital, but I needed to set that aside and focus on what was important.

Three weeks have passed since that conversation, and I’m happy to report that I am now 30 weeks and 1 day. I still have one month ahead, and it still feels unattainable. Each day is a struggle, but I have a new attitude. Don’t get me wrong, I still have bad days and the tears do come; however, my overall outlook is getting better each day.

I hope to be able to update you with more positive news as my journey continues, but for now, I just pray for four more weeks and a healthy baby.

Return to Work

It’s something that many women are faced with every day, returning to work after maternity leave.

In the beginning stages of pregnancy, I looked forward to eight weeks of maternity leave. I had plans for how I would spend it, and knew it would include a lot of sleep and watching TV. I knew it would be hard, but I also knew I would probably get to a point where I would itch to get back to work.

I’ve always been a work-oriented person. From washing dishes in my parents restaurant as a preteen to working countless hours as a journalist in my twenties, I always found satisfaction in knowing that I had accomplished something. I loved the feeling of seeing my bank account balance grow every other Friday. I felt comfort knowing that I could put some money away each paycheck to save for my future. Work always felt like a game that I was trying to win each day, depending on the amount and quality of projects I completed.

That all changed when I had my daughter.

Nora was born at 33 weeks and had an extended stay in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). There were days when I left the hospital in tears, knowing that she would be alone until I returned in the morning. I yearned to curl up in a blanket and snuggle her, but couldn’t because she was hooked up to monitors with wires strung in different directions. I wanted to sing silly songs and make faces with her, but didn’t because I wasn’t sure when a doctor or nurse would walk in and find me strange. Most importantly, I wanted to take her home.

So when we got to leave, after more than 30 days in the NICU, I didn’t want to let go.

I spent hours with her, asleep on my chest. I smiled when she cried at 2:30 a.m., hoping for something to eat. Although, we had difficulties with nursing, I got emotional every time she latched and started feeding. She was all mine, and no one could take her away from me. I was, and still am, completely obsessed with her.

That’s why, it was so difficult yesterday, when I had to leave her for the first time to return to work.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy my job. As I mentioned before, I thoroughly enjoy work. But, my priorities in life have completed changed.

I wonder how many other mothers struggle with this decision as much as I am.

Does anyone else feel selfish? Because I do. I know society makes it difficult to live on a single income. Staying home would be tough for us, financially. But, is it really impossible? Or is it me? Do I really need to live in the house I live in and drive the car that I drive? Do I really need the clothes that I wear and the possessions in my home? Is it essential to my happiness to have an Amazon Prime Membership so I can repeatedly ship junk to my house overnight? Junk that will probably end up in a garage sale next year. OR — can I cut out the crap, and stay home to raise my daughter?

These are the thoughts that have been circling around in my head for the past several weeks. Is it selfish for me to go back to work when I am missing so much valuable time with my daughter? Time that I will NEVER get back. Will she feel my absence? Will it affect our relationship in the future? Or is it healthy for her to be exposed to a different environment while I’m at work? Is eight hours a day really going to hurt? Am I choosing possessions over my daughter? Or am I working to give her the quality of life she will someday appreciate?

I guess these are all questions I can’t answer. Maybe it will take time for the guilt to melt away. Or maybe I will find a way to cope. For now, the guilt is strong and I feel for every mother who has ever been faced with this decision. But, I will push on, log my hours and count down the minutes until I can get home to hold her in my arms again.

What the heck is a cerclage?

The day that my first cervical cerclage was placed is mostly a blur, but I will do my best to recount my experience.

I had spent the previous night in the hospital, hooked up to IV antibiotics. At that point, the doctors weren’t sure why my cervix spontaneously opened.

They mentioned two possibilities.

One: I had cervical insufficiency, which caused my cervix to shorten and begin dilating. After my cervix dilated, contractions began and labor started.

Two: I had an infection in my uterus, which caused the contractions to start. That, in turn, caused my cervix to open and labor to begin.

If it was option two, doctors wanted to make sure the infection was cleared before placing the cerclage and “sewing the infection inside my uterus.” This meant that I had to wait a full 24 hours to allow the antibiotic to run its course before doctors could perform the surgery.

Doctors were also monitoring my contractions. They started me on a drug called Indomethacin, which was meant to calm my uterus and stop the contractions.

Thankfully, both the antibiotics and the Indomethacin seemed to work.

The morning of my procedure, my contractions had slowed down enough to at least attempt the procedure.

My husband and I prayed the whole night, but I woke up that morning with little hope that this “cerclage” thing would actually work. If there was money on the line, I think everyone involved (including my family and the doctors) would have bet against us.

I remember repeatedly asking the nurses what the procedure was called. I had never heard the word “cerclage,” and I didn’t really understand what it was. All I knew was that this was the one thing that could possibly save my baby.

After doing some quick research, I learned that the cerclage was basically a band that would be placed around my cervix to keep it shut. The procedure actually seemed pretty simple and minimally invasive. I later learned that if caught early enough, it’s a fairly stress-free process and can help mothers carry their babies to full term. Unfortunately, it wasn’t caught early enough and we had a lot of things working against us.

For one, waiting for my contractions to stop also gave my cervix more time to dilate. At the time of my procedure, doctors tell me I was almost four centimeters dilated. Because of the wide opening, my membranes (bag of “water”) were exposed.

The doctor who was set to perform the procedure came in to walk us through the plan. He explain that he would would need to carefully push the bag back up without rupturing it, pull my cervix shut and then place the band around it to secure it in place.

Even then, he wasn’t sure the cerclage would hold. He explained the risks and the low probability of success and gave us the choice to accept or decline the cerclage.

We, of course, accepted. Without this, our child would not survive.

Knowing the risks associated with the procedure, I went under anesthesia thinking that the bag would surely rupture and I would wake up to an empty tummy and a lifetime of trying to forget the whole horrible experience.

Thankfully, God sent me an angel. To say this doctor is talented is an understatement. This man is my hero. For more than one reason, I will never forget him. I will never be able to thank enough him for what he did for our family that day.

I woke up from the procedure in a recovery bay, and all I could focus on was an intense urge to urinate. Apparently, a catheter was placed during the surgery and though my bladder was empty, it felt as if it were about to explode. Nurses gave me medicine through my IV that was intended to help with the discomfort, but it took way to long to take effect.

The good news: The cerclage had be successfully placed. The bad news: No-one knew how long it would hold. The doctor told us it could be hours, days or even months.

And so, again, we began praying more than we’ve ever prayed in our lives. Prayers that were answered, but not without a few more bumps in the road…

Motherhood.

So here I am. Tired, mentally drained, smelling like rotten milk. My nails are broken, legs unshaved and I’m pretty sure I forgot to put deodorant on today.

Motherhood.

You’ve been there right? If not, you certainly know someone who has. You’ve seen the memes on Facebook. You’ve read about it in a book. You’ve maybe even seen that episode of Sex and the City when Miranda becomes a new mom and has a meltdown because she hasn’t had a hair appointment in months. Then, Samantha gives up her appointment and spends the day with the baby so Miranda can have an hour of normalcy.

Motherhood.

It punched me in the gut at 3 a.m. on a Thursday morning, after 15 weeks of bed rest.

I obviously knew it was coming, but I spent so much time putting it off that I didn’t actually think much about what was coming next.

When I was diagnosed with cervical insufficiency at 19 weeks pregnant and put on bed rest, my main focus for the next 15 weeks was keeping my baby in my belly. Every day, I would walk on eggshells, making sure I didn’t do anything to strenuous or stressful that would cause her to arrive early. I counted my steps to ensure I didn’t get too much exercise. I watched what I ate to make sure I didn’t have something that would cause me to suddenly go into labor. I was even afraid to take long showers, in fear that my water would break while I was standing too long or trying to bend over to shave my legs. It was a dicey 15 weeks, and it seemed to last forever; however, I spent so much time trying to stay pregnant, that I didn’t really think about … motherhood.

It started for me at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, June 5. My amniotic fluid had technically been leaking for 7 weeks, but that night the small leak turned into gushes. By 1 a.m., the contractions started and by 3 a.m., they were less than one minute apart. The baby was breach so my husband and I were taken to the operating room for an emergency caesarean section. Nora Renee Dahl arrived at 3:33 a.m. She was 33.4 weeks and weighed 5 pounds 4 ounces.

I saw her for a second before she was transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). My husband joined her as the doctors “put me back together,” following the delivery. This, by the way, is something no one talks about and nothing can prepare you for. I felt like there was an earthquake in my stomach as the doctors stretched and pulled everything back to where it was supposed to be.

Once they stitched me up, nurses led me to recovery, where I immediately started pumping and I feel like I haven’t stopped since. Who knew it would be so hard to feed a baby?

Motherhood.

It’s been 30 days. My little miracle is still in the NICU, working on eating. Each day, I try to breastfeed her every three hours. She usually takes a little, but nurses give her the rest through a feeding tube. When this process is over, I have to pump the rest, in order to keep my supply up for when she starts eating more. Before I know it, it’s time to feed her again.

Motherhood.

It’s harder than I ever imagined, but it’s the best job I’ve ever had.

If you would have talked to me ten years ago, I probably would have told you that kids were not in my future. I would have been a sophomore in college, and I had my mind set on becoming an anchor for a large market television station. I looked up to “career women,” and didn’t have a desire to become a mother. I was completely content with the idea of being the cool aunt.

I’m glad I changed my mind. I’m glad I realized that I could have a career and a family. It doesn’t have to be “either” “or”.

Even after everything I’ve been through and knowing the challenges that still lie ahead, I can’t imagine my life without my little girl. Every time I hold her, my heart bursts. Every time she cries and I soothe her, I feel accomplished. Every time I look at her, I feel complete.

Motherhood.

Hump Day

Today is a Wednesday, which would usually mean “hump day,” or half way through the work week. On a typical day, I would be at the office, finishing up my last project for the day before heading to the gym and then home to make dinner for my husband.

The best part of my day was walking through the door and seeing my two tiny dogs. They would bark at me, begging for attention. I’d hand them each a treat and smother them with hugs. I was sure it was their favorite part of the day, as well.

Then, I would switch on a Netflix show and get started on dinner– having full conversations with my furry friends.

It has been nearly three months (85 days) since I’ve performed this ritual. 85 days since I’ve felt that pure joy.

Right now, I’m sitting in a hospital room, listening to the radio and the “action” in the hallway as nurses wheel another new mother to the operating room for a c-section. I’ve been here since April 20, more than one month. In that month, I leave my room three to four times a day for short walks. On nice days, I will ask my husband to wheel me outside for fresh air, but we cannot leave the hospital’s campus.

I feel like a prisoner.

I’m currently 31 weeks and 3 days pregnant. I’ve been diagnosed with insufficient/incompetent cervix, along with premature rupture of membranes (PPROM) and gestational diabetes. The doctors would like to get me to 34 weeks, before scheduling an induction to deliver my baby.

Since I’ve been here, I’ve seen countless women come and go. I’ve seen healthy babies wheeled past me. I’ve heard their cries coming from other rooms. As I look out the window of my room, I see relatives walking in with gifts and balloons. I see new dads, carrying all the necessities to bring their baby home and new moms who are plump, happy and ready to welcome their new ones to the world.

It takes all of my might to keep it together. All of my emotional stamina to prevent myself from breaking down. While all of this normalcy is happening around me, I feel trapped in a nightmare. It’s crippling to think that I still have to endure this for three more weeks. It’s straight out depressing to think that, after all this, I’ll have to sit back and watch my baby continue to grow in the NICU.

For any new mothers who are nearing 40 weeks or who recently delivered and brought your baby home the next day, please don’t take it for granted. Appreciate every moment, and know that you are one of the lucky ones.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to pray for the best possible outcome– as I pray for the day when I can meet my little one and, hopefully, bring her home.

The “Perfect Pregnancy”

My husband and I found out I was pregnant very early on. After years of dating, countless moves, job changes, and a blissful honeymoon phase of marriage, we had finally purchased a house and started trying to expand our family. After the second month of trying, I bought a pregnancy test as early as I could– even before my missed period. When the test read “positive,” I felt an overwhelming sense of joy, excitement and terror.

Before I continue, I should tell you a little about myself. I’m a type A personality, who is an overachiever and people pleaser. I’m very motivated in my professional and personal life, and I don’t like to do things “half-way.” If this means staying hours late for work or putting in time on the weekends, no problem. Does someone need the perfect sweet treat to bring to work or a party? I’m your girl. Will I spend a little extra money to make sure I give a memorable gift at Christmas? Absolutely. And… lets not even get started on my house when I’m expecting company. (Please always schedule your visits to the Dahl House. We need at least two days for a deep clean… even if we just did one.)

Now, lets flash back to the morning I found out I was pregnant. Naturally, I knew I would do this the right way. One-hundred percent. No shortcuts. No cheating.

We had waiting six years, and we planned for this so I was ready to tackle this thing head on.

After I broke the news to my hubby, I bought “What to Expect When Your Expecting,” and “Pregnancy Tips: What NOT to Eat,” downloaded two apps and immediately started surfing the web for best meals and workouts for a healthy pregnancy.

In the weeks that followed, I quickly realized that experiencing the “perfect pregnancy” was going to be tough. The culprit? One word– nausea. From Week 6 to Week 16, I had morning sickness that lasted from sunrise to sunset. Even so, I continued my normal routine, only missing work a few days due to the unbearable urge to throw up. I continued to picked my meals as healthy as I could stomach, and even hit the gym for brisk walks as often as possible. It was tough, but the phrase, “This is not for me, this is for the baby,” is what kept me pushing.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t perfect. But I was doing the absolute best I could do, every day.

When I neared 18 weeks, and the nausea was subsiding, I felt on top of the world. I felt a sense of renewal. I had more energy. I was eating healthier than ever and hitting the gym. I was certain that my little one would enter the world with a plate full of vegetables, ready to run a marathon.

Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, God had another plan for us. Somewhere in the world, a woman would experience the perfect pregnancy, but that woman would not be me.

The Scariest Day of My Life

I’m not sure it will help for me to recount this day, but as I sit here on bed rest at 25 weeks and 4 days, the release seems like a good idea.

My unexpected experience with pregnancy started on February 27, 2019. I was just 19 weeks pregnant with my first baby.

I woke up that Wednesday, and started getting ready for work. This was a usual routine for me. My husband was already awake. As I stood in the bathroom, he was in the kitchen eating breakfast and getting ready to leave for the day.

Shortly after he left, I started feeling cramps in my abdomen. The cramps started to intensify, and I also noticed light bleeding after using the restroom.

I texted my sister, who is a Registered Nurse, and asked her if I should call the doctor. I hated the idea of bothering the doctor for something that was of no concern. My sister advised me to call my OBGYN to talk with a nurse.

I called a left a message and waited for a call back. At this point, the pain was not getting better and I felt my stomach start to contract. Feeling ill, I decided to text my boss and call in sick for work.

Not moments later, I started to feel pressure in my vaginal area. I decided to use the restroom again, and started experiencing a sensation similar to wearing a tampon. It felt to me as if that tampon was trying to make its way out. Since, this wasn’t normal, I inserted my finger into my vagina and instantly noticed something wasn’t right. My finger came in contact with an object which felt like a water balloon.

I instantly called the physician’s office in tears, demanding to talk with a doctor. After some push back, I convinced the nurse to let me come in to the office to be examined by a Physician Assistant. The nurse was sure that I was experiencing symptoms of a UTI, but I knew otherwise.

I frantically called my mom, who rushed me to the office. After an hour visit and multiple people telling us that I was experiencing a UTI, I finally got an exam from the PA. As soon as the PA started her physical examination, she realized that her original assessment was incorrect. I was not experiencing symptoms of a UTI.

After running further scans, doctors came to the conclusion that my cervix was dilated and part of my membranes were bulging.

I was referred to a larger medical facility, where perinatal specialists confirmed that my cervix was dilated to almost four centimeters and my baby would likely need to be delivered early.

As the specialists gave me my options, my world stopped. An unimaginable amount of fear and pain overcame me as my dreams of a baby seemed to be crashing down. The empty nursery I was looking forward to decorating, the announcement photos I was planning to print that week, dreams of becoming a mother and hopes of sharing unconditional love with child. In that moment, everything seemed to be coming to an end.

After discussing my very bleak options, my husband and I elected to undergo an emergency cervical cerclage procedure. During the minimally invasive procedure, a surgeon would push the membranes back up, place a band around my cervix and pull the cervix shut. I was scheduled for a morning surgery, and doctors explained that the surgery was risky and the outcome may not be in our favor.

As I went to bed that night, my mind was racing. I was crushed and terrified at what would happen next. Of the thoughts I had that night, not many were positive or hopeful. I’m not sure how, but I managed to fall asleep.

At that point, I had no idea that the hardest day of my life was coming to an end and my long and difficult journey was just beginning.

Preterm

Thanks for joining me.

My name is Kristin Dahl and I live in Nebraska. In October 2018, my husband and I found out that we were expecting our first child. I cannot describe the joy we felt as we started to prepare for the life-changing experience of parenthood.

However, there was no way we could have predicted how hard it would be for us to get there.

At just 19 weeks, I went into preterm labor. I was rushed to a hospital, where it was discovered that I was four centimeters dilated and my amniotic membranes were bulging. I underwent an emergency procedure, where a surgeon placed a cerclage around my cervix. I was also given medication to stop my contractions.

In the weeks that followed, my husband and I were sent on an emotional roller coster that we will never forget.

This blog will recount my experience, as we continued to hold out hope for a healthy baby.

Continue reading “Preterm”

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