Almost But Not Yet

This past Sunday/Father’s Day Chet was 34 weeks and 5 days along, the exact gestation Ginny was when she passed away. Chet moved a lot for me that day which gave me such peace of mind. God did comfort me on that day as he promised (RE: Waiting).

Tuesday I was 35 weeks and officially more pregnant than I have ever been. It felt good to hit that milestone…. then I started having contractions at around 6:30pm. Seriously!? I tracked them for a couple hours. They were painless but coming pretty consistently at between 7 and 12 minutes, so we called the after-hours line. The doctor told me to come in to be monitored since I’m only 35 weeks and high-risk. She said to be sure to bring the hospital bags. I thought to myself, “Well I made it one day further.” 

Daniel and I arrived at the hospital around 9:30pm. Thankfully we were both allowed in since I was going to Labor and Delivery Unit. They screened us, took our temperatures, and gave me a mask. Daniel kept his homemade mask. We made our way up to the Labor and Delivery floor where we hadn’t been since giving birth to Ginny. It looked the same except for a new wall of plexiglass. 

They took us into a triage room and started monitoring my contractions and Chet’s heart rate. It was clear I was having contractions every few minutes. Chet’s heartbeat looked great! My cervix was checked for dilation while they took swabs to check for any infection that could cause preterm labor. I was 2 cm dilated! Daniel and I looked at each other in shock behind the masks. They told me to drink a bunch of water and they would come back to check again in a couple hours. Two hours later, I was 3cm dilated! They decided to admit me to the antepartum unit. 

Prior to being admitted, I had to test negative for COVID-19. I was given one of those nasty nasal swabs. It was unpleasant but didn’t last long. It does feel like it touches your brain! Unsurprisingly my test came back negative. That meant that we don’t have to wear masks in the hospital room when we were by ourselves, but once a person comes in, we had to put masks back on. 

I was given an IV and quickly pumped with fluids. I was given one of two steroid shots to help Chet’s lungs mature in case he is on his way early. The next would be given in 24 hours, so we knew we would be at the hospital at least that much longer. We then moved to the antepartum unit. Chet and I continued to be monitored. I was checked again at 2am and had thankfully stayed at 3cm. I didn’t sleep much at all. Contractions kept coming, more intense but less consistent. Was Baby Chet coming today? Would my labor stop, and we’d be sent home? Would I be in limbo being monitored there for days?

In the morning, I was taken to get an ultrasound. Daniel couldn’t come with me. It was surreal to walk the halls of the hospital to the ultrasound clinic where we found out Ginny had died… in a gown and socks. The waiting room and halls were dark as it was still before normal hours. Everything was just different enough to keep from triggering anxiety. I tried not to think too hard about where I was. A sweet sonographer brought me into the room. I got to see Chet’s cute face again. The sonographer pointed out that he has lots of hair! We saw him squirm and take practice breaths. She measured him as well as the fluid around him. She said he is measuring an estimated 7.5 lbs! The average baby at 35 weeks measures around 5 lbs. He’s continuing to grow A LOT! 

I returned to the room and got to bring Daniel a couple of cute profile pictures. Before long, a team of MFM doctors came to our room. Since UNC is a teaching hospital, there was an attending doctor, a fellow, a resident, and an intern – all women. They explained that Chet looks great on the ultrasound and that he is indeed a big baby. They also explained that my amniotic fluid levels had increased even more from my ultrasound 3 weeks ago. They suspected that, even though I passed my glucose test several weeks earlier, I may have developed late gestational diabetes. This would explain Chet’s big size and the extra fluid. They would be monitoring my blood sugar after each meal. They explained that if Chet was born at 35 weeks, he would likely not have long term health problems but may have trouble with blood sugar and jaundice, both treatable. He may have to spend a little time in the NICU. They said they’d come back later to check my cervix again to see if labor was progressing. If labor stops progressing, they would send me home the next day after I get my second steroid shot. As the doctors were leaving, I told them that because of our loss, my mind is always trying to evaluate whether Chet is safer inside or outside. They said that they were doing the same thing, weighing all the risks. 

Throughout the day I felt nervous not knowing whether we would get to meet our boy sooner or later. Again, I have to hand over my need for control, my need to know everything, and my need to plan. I’m just not in control. 

My cervix remained unchanged and contractions became fewer and less predictable. It seemed that the IV fluids were working to help calm my body down. My blood sugar tests came back good, so gestational diabetes is not the cause of too much amniotic fluid. We still don’t know what the cause of there being excess fluid. We are praying that there is no actual problem and that Chet will be born healthy. I was then given the second steroid shot. On Thursday morning we saw the doctors again who said that Chet looks great on the monitor and they would send me home. I will be having some extra doctor appointments for the rest of the pregnancy, starting on Monday. 

I feel good that we got so much monitoring and Chet is doing great. I am also reassured that I got the steroid shots to strengthen his lungs if he does come early. I am happy to be home and to give Chet a little more time to mature. 

Having said that, I feel more than ever that holding my baby still feels at an arms reach. Even after having had contractions and gone to the hospital, it is hard to believe this will actually happen. We left the hospital with him still in my belly. We keep getting closer and closer but not actually getting there. I know we will get there; it just feels hard to believe sometimes. I fight my unbelief to hope for the day (maybe soon?) when we bring Chet home from the hospital. I can’t wait! 

Father’s Day

Daniel constantly impresses me and blesses me. He is an incredible father. He loves so well. His love for me, Ginny, and Chet reminds me that we are loved by God; so often it feels like God loves us through Daniel. I’m thrilled Chet will be raised by him, by someone with such a good heart…

  • He’s the father of two but has yet to see either child look up at him. 
  • He bravely cut an umbilical cord blackened by death and still has hope to cut a living cord.
  • He gets asked, “How’s Aimee?” 50 times for every one time he gets asked, “How are you?”.
  • He receives advice to be strong for me while knowing I need him to be broken with me.
  • He wants to fix things more than anything but knows he can’t. He still tries. 
  • He is always looking for ways to improve himself and better serve me. 
  • He is ready to take me to the hospital at a moment’s notice. He’s ready to face anything together. 
  • He mourns all the father-daughter experiences he is missing with Ginny. 
  • He is eager to have all the father-son experiences with Chet (starting with watching Game 7 of the 2016 World Series). 
  • He read The Hobbit aloud to Chet as soon as he learned Chet could hear in the womb.
  • Even though he isn’t allowed at doctor’s appointments, he sits right outside in the car for moral support. He wants to be as close as possible. 
  • He held his daughter’s body and wept.
  • He never left my side. 
  • He is filled with grief and love and hope and fear and sorrow and kindness and bravery and joy and laughter.  
  • He is a wonderful father.

Father’s Day can be complicated and difficult for bereaved dads. Loss fathers don’t get the sympathy and concern that loss mothers do. But they carry their grief and trauma and sorrow along with the weight of the mother’s pain on their shoulders. They deserve to be loved, supported, and honored on Father’s Day. 

Happy Father’s Day, Daniel! Thank you for being the best dad to Ginny and Chet and the best partner to me! 

Monitoring

Since we don’t know exactly what caused Ginny’s death, often this pregnancy feels like I’m in the middle of a monster movie sequel. It feels like a movie that never actually shows the monster, so I am free to let my imagination go wild. Will the monster show it’s face during this pregnancy? Will it appear suddenly or is it hiding and plotting? 

During this pregnancy I’m mostly concerned about Chet’s health, but at each appointment I’m also searching for more evidence about what happened to Ginny.  I get each new doctor’s perspective. I look for clues in each ultrasound. Thanks to additional monitoring, I do have more clues. 

In a previous blog I mentioned that in Ginny’s anatomy scan, they saw an intrauterine band. Ultrasounds during this pregnancy have shown that I don’t actually have an intrauterine band, but I do have a uterine septum, a divide in my uterus. The top of my uterus has two compartments that join at the bottom. When we realized this at an ultrasound this pregnancy, I asked the doctors if that could have contributed to Ginny’s death. They said it usually causes miscarriages, not stillbirths. They said it could have been the cause but there is no way of knowing. I wondered if perhaps the placenta had grown up on the septum and didn’t get the needed blood flow. I wasn’t going to get a confirmation. 

In a later ultrasound, I asked a different doctor if it looked like Chet’s placenta could grow onto the septum. She replied, “Oh it’s already way up in there”. I asked if there could be a reduced blood supply because of it. She said they would tell that by the baby’s growth. If the baby was happy, the placenta is happy. My baby is growing so all looks good, but we will need to monitor closely, as we are already doing.

At the ultrasound last week, we got to see Chet’s cute little face again! He has continued growing, and they estimate he is 5lbs now! But they also detected a slight excess of amniotic fluid. The doctors proceeded to list several issues that could cause this. Then they said none of those issues were possible in my case based off of previous test results. They said there may be nothing wrong and I may have extra fluid for no known reason. They recommended close monitoring, as we are already doing.

Now I have three things that push me into high risk category and deserve additional monitoring. But Chet is growing! He looks great so far and is moving a lot. That gives me so much hope, but does not ease all my fears.

As I try to stay as aware as possible during this pregnancy, I feel like I can’t trust my motherly instincts. My instincts didn’t alert me when Ginny was dying. And now that I’m that pregnant again, my fear just tells me to get the baby out ASAP. It isn’t safe! I know that’s not true right now, but my instinct tells me it is true. 

Sometimes all of this makes me feel so anxious. I get anxious for appointments. I get anxious as I think through different scenarios again and again. I get anxious as I have memories of Ginny’s death again and again. It does sometimes feel like there is a monster lurking around the corner. Do I think I have a chance at capturing it or killing it or even just escaping? 

During these moments of anxiousness, I have go back to an eternal mindset. I need to change my perspective again. Although the medical advice and monitoring are important,  I know that even if I had all the information in the world, I’m not in control. Even if all signs pointed to a good or bad outcome, it really can’t be known ahead of time. I have to remind myself that I am not the creator and sustainer of life. I have to trust God. The fact that Chet is growing well does give me hope, but I have hope beyond that. I have hope in heaven and restoration beyond this time, and God is with us. As much as I’d like to have control, reminding myself of this truth does help me exhale. It eases my anxiety a bit. I have to remind myself of this daily, sometimes hourly. 

“So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives growth.” 1 Corinthians 3:7 

“For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’” Isaiah 41:13

Man of Sorrows

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:3-6

We live in a broken world. There is evil in the world. There is grief, pain, and injustice. Sometimes it hits us in the face. Sometimes it kills us. 

It hit Jesus in the face, and it killed Jesus. That’s why he is called the Man of Sorrows. His life was full of adversity. Plots to end his life started from his birth. He was a refugee. He wasn’t taken seriously. He was hated for questioning authority. He was hated for hanging out with shady people. He was hated for helping the wrong people at the wrong time. He was hated for speaking the truth. He didn’t feel safe in the city. He was a threat to the powers that be. He was beaten. He was murdered by authorities without a fair trial. He deserved none of that. It was injustice and evil that brought him to death. 

On the cross, he bore the blame of all our iniquity and transgressions. He carried all our sin, sorrow, afflictions. Because of this he is well acquainted with our grief. He has experienced our suffering. He knows the pain. His heart breaks with ours. 

“For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” 2 Corinthians 1:5

But the death he experienced did not get the final word. The power of God overcame death. The power of God brought healing. 

And when Jesus left Earth again after being resurrected, He didn’t leave us alone. He left a Helper, the Holy Spirit. 

“I tell you the truth; it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” John 16:7-8

The Holy Spirit is with us and empowers us with the power of God to also overcome evil.  We do have the power through the Holy Spirit to change the world. We have the power to overcome darkness, inequality, injustice, violence, and fear. We have the power to comfort and help each other in our suffering. Through the Holy Spirit, we can bring more of heaven here. We can bring justice, peace, and love. We can change the world by loving our neighbors. 

We need to stop, be quiet, and listen. Listen to the Holy Spirit, listen to the Word, listen to the brothers and sisters around you with an open heart. When you get a nudging from the Holy Spirit on what to say or do, follow it! 

“For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Luke 12:12

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there his no law.” Galatians 5:22

We are not alone in our suffering. 

The Man of Sorrows is acquainted with our grief. 

He is broken hearted. 

He empowers us by giving us the Helper. 

Listen.

Love.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

Title: Man of Sorrows, Artist: Unknown Artist 15th Century