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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Prequel

Charlotte Amalie--

I remember sitting in the doctor's office with the trash can, because I couldn't go more than ten minutes without throwing up.

"There's medication you can take to stop the vomiting," the doctor suggested.

"I've taken it. I think I may have thrown it up," I gagged.

"You've lost 30 pounds since conception. We have to do something," the doctor pressured.

"Seriously, wait one second," I paused the conversation to empty my stomach once more. "I'll do anything at this point. What else can we try?"

"You could still terminate, you are only 14 weeks along," the doctor offered.

"I'll do anything but that," I counter-offered. And then I threw up again. It was my 37th vomit of the day. I remember because the doctor wanted me to count so I could tell her an exact number at my 2:00 appointment.

I went home that day without many options. The following week I was hospitalized for severe dehydration. After several days of many different treatments, we decided on the PICC line.

Things looked good for about three weeks. Around the 18th week of my pregnancy, I started bleeding. I went on bedrest. It wasn't long until contractions started.

"We don't have to stop these contractions. We could let the labor progress," I was told in L&D.

But I needed this pregnancy. I needed you to be OK. I needed it. So I took shots to stop the labor and prayed.

At this point I was seeing the doctor every week, with routine ultrasounds. I mentioned at my 20 week appointment that I felt a lot more pressure than I had with Caleb. I was certain that it was just the difference between a first pregnancy and a second pregnancy. When I saw the doctor's face after the internal exam, I knew my certainty was incorrect.

"You need to get over to labor and delivery right now. I'm calling an ambulance." My doctor was practically out the door before I could say, "No, no, the hospital is just across the street. I can drive."

I was wheeled up to labor and delivery. Your father was working in Norfolk and was probably more scared than I was. I was just numb. But clear as day, I remember:

"There's funneling.
Your membranes are bulging.
You're starting to dilate.
You're fluid levels are low.
There's nothing we can do.
Do you understand?
There's nothing we can do.
If I were you,
I would be worried."

I should be worried. I laid in bed at the hospital that night wondering if I would still be pregnant when I left. But I was. I didn't know for how long, another 2 weeks? Another 20? I really didn't have any idea.

I remember the snow storms. They were historic. Your father had to drive home from Norfolk to take me to the hospital because we couldn't get out of our driveway. I was leaking again. I think that's when I started to admit to myself that this was not going to end "well". I can't imagine what that drive must have been like for your Dad. Would his wife still be pregnant when he got there? Would he ever know this child?

We stopped labor again, but since we were only at 22 weeks, they sent us home once more. It wouldn't be long before that hospital became our second home; it wouldn't be long before you called it home.

The following week we went for dinner. What could be the harm in that? I would sit in the car, sit in the restaurant, sit in the car again. What I hadn't planned was having a full rupture of my membranes in between. I was totally in denial about it. I called the office and asked if I could just come in for an appointment the next day instead of going into the hospital. They told me if it didn't happen again, if I didn't have any more leaking, I could see the doctor the next morning. Before we even left the parking lot, my pants and the car were soaked.

It had happened.

This time I was "close enough" to that magical 24 week threshold that they admitted me. The nurse changed my due date in the computer, since I had had one ultrasound showing me due a few days earlier, so that I could have an extra three days.

Those three days probably saved your life. I hung out at the hospital for five days. Wonderful friends and family came to visit me. Kay even drove in the snow. And she's from Atlanta. Children colored pictures for me, acquaintances prayed for me, family coached me through the unknown. Finally, the night I turned "24 weeks" the NICU came to see us. "Hopefully you won't need us at all," Dr. Kaplan said. I couldn't remember her name after she left. Now I could tell you about her children.

Saturday evening I was cramping a lot. The nurse told me it was from being in one position all the time. She said it wasn't anything, that I should stop worrying, that I was reading into things too much. Sunday morning I woke up with severe bleeding. The day nurse, Kathleen, held my hand. She called the doctor in. She held my hand again. She told me I should call your Dad. She told me that we were going to survive this. That no matter what happened, she would make sure we got through it. She never said the word 'death' but I knew that's what she meant. That's what everyone thought.

I can't really remember what happened next. I was on drugs to stop the labor, but they weren't working. The doctor came in and told us that we needed to decide. We needed to decide if we wanted to do a C-Section (you had flipped and were now breach) or just let the labor progress without interfering. I was dilated to a two and your legs were both out. We needed to decide.

How could I choose something like that? Yes, please, take my baby 16 weeks too early. No, thank you, let my baby die in labor. Were those really my choices?

"Do the C-Section." The doctor left to get consent forms. Kathleen held my hand again. She squeezed it tightly and said, "Are you alright? You don't have to be alright. It's OK to be scared."

I've never been so scared.

Your father and I said a prayer. A prayer that no matter the outcome, we could have the strength to overcome. That no matter what your journey was, a long life or a quick return to Heaven, that we could be at peace. That we would know you had fulfilled your purpose.

The anesthesiologist interrupted the prayer. We had said all we needed to say to God and there were forms to sign. Dad looked ridiculous. Having just come from church, he was in a dress shirt and the blue paper scrubs they give to fathers in the OR. His collar and long sleeves hung out. He was annoyed that being a medical student didn't get him real scrubs. He was just trying to focus on anything but the gravity of the situation.

The C-Section was traumatic and I had to be knocked out. I remember waking up, and wondering how I should word it. How do you ask this kind of question?

"Is she alive?"

Yes, baby girl, you are alive.

More so each and every day. Thank you for showing me what living is really about.

Yours always,


  1. Whew.

    Your story makes me thankful. For my story, for you, and for Charlotte.

  2. Please tell me you are writing a book about all of this! The great thing about what you write is HOW you write it--short, sweet and to the point. No b.s. Just an honest point of view. And when you DO write this book of the incredible journey you have all been on, be sure it includes Pete's letter from when he applied for his residency. That would be a great introduction to all of this. Seriously. I love reading your blogs, and you know why? It gives me (as the nurse) a better perspective of how parents see things. And sometimes, it is exactly what I see---then there are times it is not. So, for that I say thank you!! Let me know when your book is published--I will be the first in line to buy it!!!

  3. Wow Amanda, with that one post you nailed the trauma of both of my pregnancies-- #1 was preterm labor at 20 weeks, 15 weeks of bedrest and a 35 weeker (he should have been my micropreemie); #2 was horrible bleeding, that terrible visit from the NICU, meaningless reassurance, fear that is still with me and a 25/0 weeker. Charlotte is a miracle and you are an inspiration. People tell me that I should write my story-- that it is inspirational and I internally roll my eyes but I really mean it Amanda, your story needs to be told, in your words-- I think you could just publish your blog. You have a story of strength, love and faith that needs to be shared.

  4. So, so glad you didn't listen to the Dr. and terminate the pregnancy. Even though the last 7 months have been very hard, the blessings that you & Pete have received have definately outweighed the hardship. Not only has the journey pulled the 2 of you together, it has also pulled your extended family together. For that, we are so thankful for Charlotte!
    Aunt Jenny

  5. I agree with both above. Seriously, Amanda, you could publish this. Give a Charlotte a snuggle for me. I love you both.