24 Hours

The first day of our little girl’s life was very eventful. It began at 1:33am with Luna Bell being born, but not being able to breath on her own she was intubated and rushed to the NICU. She had chest tubes to drain the fluid from around her lungs and IV’s and monitors on every part of her 4 lbs 15 oz, 12.6 inch body. Kevin spent the night with her, curled up in a chair in a small NICU room, keeping an eye on our little girl. He texted me with updates, while I learned how to pump breastmilk, and texted friends and family to let them know Luna Bell had arrived. As they monitored her and did tests, the NICU doctors had many discussions with the neonatologists at Seattle Children’s Hospital, and it was decided that Luna Bell would be moved to Children’s via ambulance. A very serious doctor and Kevin came to my room to let me know what they wanted to do, and get my consent. Of course I gave it after they tried to explain the treatment they had planned for her, but my exhausted mind and body that hadn’t rested since the afternoon before, couldn’t seem to grasp what they were telling me.

Because I had just had a c-section not even 12 hours earlier, I couldn’t go with her. It had already been decided weeks ago, that anywhere she had to go, Kevin would go with her and I would follow as soon as I could, but we reiterated that to each other, and Kevin said that of course he would go with her. And as Kevin and I watched the nearly 2 hour process of getting Luna Bell ready to be moved, I was trying to be strong on the outside, but inside I was falling apart. My daughter was hooked up to monitors and IV’s, she had a tube down her throat with air being pushed into her tiny, fragile lungs to keep her alive. She had tubes in the sides of her chest to relieve the fluid that had formed around them in utero, and she was medicated into sedation to keep her comfortable and calm. And each of those monitors and tubes and IV’s had to be switched over to a mobile incubator so she could go on the first car ride of her life. One that they needed to make in about 10 minutes, because of the generator that powered the incubator and monitors and most importantly the ventilator keeping my daughter alive. The plans they had for her at Children’s were serious. They planned to put her on ECMO. https://www.chop.edu/treatments/extracorporeal-membrane-oxygenation-ecmo And as I watched the amazing transport team get her ready, I was forced to acknowledge that this may be the last time I would see my Luna Bell, my miracle baby, alive.

I sat in a wheel chair, Kevin sat in a chair that a very kind and helpful nurse got for him. He drank tea, I drank some ice water and we hardly spoke. What could either of us say? We were watching our little girl get ready for a trip that she might not survive, and if she did, she would be put on a machine that could save her life, or just be a rest stop on the way to the end. I was forcing myself to be positive, and while he may have been doing the same, Kevin came across confident that she would survive the ambulance ride and the ECMO would help her lungs heal and give her the best chance of survival, because she absolutely would survive and come home with us.

The nurse came over to tell us that the transport team was getting very close to having Luna Bell ready for the trip. Kevin and I held hands and kissed and he reassured me everything was going to be ok, that he would be there every step of the way and that he would let me know how things are going as soon as there was something to report. We went over to the transport incubator as they completed switching over the power, and stated they needed to go now. I told my little girl I loved her, for what might be the last time, kissed Kevin and they were gone.

I sat in the hallway, trying not to cry as a really kind nurse asked if she could take me back to my room.

Once I was back in my room, the enormity of the situation finally hit me. I cried. I cried that my little girl was suffering like this, that she might not make it, that if she did make it through the first 24 hours she would probably have a long road of healing in front of her, that I hadn’t even held her yet, that Kevin had to do this alone, that I had to do this alone, and that I still hadn’t slept.

About 10 minutes after Kevin left with Luna Bell, he texted me that they had made it to Children’s safely. And about 15 minutes after that, he called me to tell me that they weren’t going to do ECMO after all. Our girl was sick, but not that sick. They were going to re-intubate her so that the tube was more stable and they were putting together a plan for her. By the time I got there to see her the next day, they should have a better idea of the kind of care she would need.

Knowing that she was safely at Children’t Hospital, that Kevin was with her and that there literally was nothing I could do from my own hospital bed, I finally took a nap. It was short nap, soon interrupted by a kind, well meaning nurse who came in with water, medicine, and a little help pumping my breastmilk. This was the first I had slept in about 24 hours, but somehow it seemed impossible to sleep, when down the street, my daughter was struggling to stay alive.

Soon my mom and step-dad arrived. And no matter how old I get, there are times when I just want my mom. After a visit and catching them up on the latest, they headed for the hotel room. I was left alone again, trying to stay focused on getting myself physically ready to leave the hospital the next day, but wishing that I was with Luna Bell and Kevin. I finally was feeling the day. The pain of the surgery, the exhaustion of being awake for so long, feeling hungry and a little nauseous all at the same time, and longing to hold my daughter but also wishing that I could sleep forever.

At Seattle Children’s Hospital, they were taking amazing care of not only Luna Bell, but Kevin as well. They had set him up with a room just a floor up from our baby, and I would be able to join him there the next day and stay there for at least a few nights. Kevin’s cousin showed up to see Luna Bell and take Kevin out for a much needed dinner and a little breath of fresh air. Once Kevin was back with Luna Bell he called to let me know she was doing ok and that he couldn’t wait for me to be there the next day. As difficult as it was to be away from my daughter and Kevin, knowing that they were together was a huge comfort.

I fell asleep for a little while and woke up to a text coming through my phone. Luna Bell was doing well, and Kevin was visiting her after he had a little sleep as well. He told me he loved me and to go back to sleep, things were ok. I agreed to try to get some more sleep, but before I did, I looked at the time. 1:33am. She had made it the first 24 hours.

Hey There With The Pretty Face…

The morning that Kevin and found out that I was pregnant, he set about making me a healthy breakfast. But first, music. The first song that he played was “Mr. Blue Sky” by ELO. A line stood out to both of us and we danced in the kitchen while the eggs cooked.

Now here we were, months later, on our way to the hospital to have our baby. Calls were made to mom’s to let them know we were on our way to have a baby, their grandchild, texts were sent to a couple of friends and I hoped that my water wouldn’t completely break, or Kevin’s car would be flooded!

We arrived at University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle, WA at about 9pm. Kevin grabbed a wheelchair in the parking garage and got me to the front door, where security was more than happy to point the way to the elevator to the 6th floor. We headed up to Labor & Delivery where a nurse was waiting for me and the sweet lady at the front desk welcomed me back! They got me to a room to do a quick check to make sure that my water was indeed breaking. When I stood up out of the wheelchair and water went everywhere, the nurse said “yep, you’re water broke! Change into a gown and we’ll take you to your room!” And with that, it was confirmed – we were having this baby soon.

Getting set up in a room where you are waiting for the single most important, most incredible, most terrifying moment of your life is strange. I still look back at that night and some things are a blur, but I remember getting set up on a big bed, getting all the monitors strapped to my belly and getting an IV started. I remember what seemed like gallons of amniotic fluid soaking the bed every few minutes and the most patient nurse in the world changing my bedding and making me comfortable and bringing me cheese and crackers and bringing Kevin Ginger Ale. I remember talking with the doctor about what might happen that night. It was decided that if I could have this baby vaginally, we would try for that, and if there were complications or labor was lasting too long, we would go back to the original plan of a c-section. We texted our mom’s and friends to let them know I was set up at the hospital and around 10:30pm things picked up speed.

I began to have contractions. The real kind. The kind that made all of those false labor contractions seems like a just really bad cramps. This is where I direct my next statement to all the ladies who have had contractions…What. The. Actual. Hell???? Holy shit. Seriously. My contractions started at and stayed at every two minutes until my daughter was born. All the years of yoga and dealing with mild panic attacks taught me to breath through things, so that helped a lot as did Kevin holding my hand, and encouraging me. But they were coming fast and furious and when the nurse asked if I wanted an epidural, I jumped at the chance! As of an earlier check I still had not begun to dilate.

The two most amazing men came into my room. The anesthesiologists. Medicine is an amazing thing, my friends. They set me up on the edge of the bed, monitors still strapped to my belly, and Kevin sitting in front of me holding my hands. The contractions were getting stronger and there was massive pressure building in my back. It was difficult for the anesthesiologists to get the needle in my back to get the epidural started between these mounting contractions, but they finally managed to get it started. As they did so, the pressure in my back gave way, there was a pop and a gush of fluid that almost took out Kevin’s silver Dr. Marten boots. There was blood in the fluid and the monitor indicated that the baby’s heart beat was slowing. The doctors got me on all fours – a spectacularly elegant position – and check my cervix. I had dilated 5 centimeters in less than 90 minutes. The doctor said that she was concerned about the baby being in distress and that we needed to do that c-section that we had talked about earlier. We needed to do it now! They threw a sheet over my partially naked, still on all fours figure. And the nurse threw a package at Kevin, told him to change and she would be right back for him. We said our ” I love you’s” and he promised to be right behind me and the team rolled me down the hall. I was scared, excited, nervous, kind of humiliated and as I rolled by another soon-to-be-mom, I said “good luck tonight” and looked into her nervous eyes “you’ll do awesome”. She said “good luck to you too!” in an unsure voice and that was the last I saw her. Sometimes I wonder how her night went. Did she have an easy delivery? Was her baby healthy? Did she have a boy or girl? Does she remember me?

In the OR they moved me from the bed to an operating table. My contractions were still coming strong, but the epidural was starting to set in. There was an urgency in the need for the epidural to take full effect and the anesthesiologists took turns poking my legs, hips, and sides to see if I was numb enough to get my c-section under way.

Kevin was in the room all of a sudden, holding my hand, kissing my forehead. It looked like this was the night we become parents! I asked him what time it was, and if I remember it was sometime after midnight. It was Sunday, November 18th. 34 Weeks, 3 Days.

I reminded Kevin of everything we had talked about over the past few weeks. If our little girl needed to be intubated to help her breath, Kevin was to go with her. If she went to the NICU, he was to go with her. Basically, if our baby was going to be away from me, Kevin was to go everywhere with her. He promised to stay with her – and keep me in the loop with everything that was going on with her.

Our team of doctors and nurses was finally ready, as was I. The baby was staying stable, but it was time to get her out into the world. Kevin held my hand, kissed my forehead and kept reassuring me, as much as himself, that everything was going to be ok. The anesthesiologists took turns making sure I was ok and the doctor got started. The only way I can describe having surgery while awake, but numb, is a little like being probed. Were there two hands in there or 12? After a few minutes of cutting and tugging and pulling and Kevin peeking over the drape a time or two, the doctor said the drape could be dropped…it was time to meet my daughter.

And then, all of a sudden, there she was.

From the pictures, I saw that she was covered in all the regular things that newborns are covered in, but the moment I saw her face, I heard the words of the ELO song Kevin played the morning we found out we were going to have a baby. All I could see was my beautiful little girl. My Luna Bell Everleigh. We had picked her name the day we found out I was pregnant, even before we knew she was a girl. She was destined to be born at night. A new moon for our world to orbit. Our little girl was finally here.

She was beautiful, but so incredibly pissed off. She was trying to get that first breath of fresh operating room air, but her little lungs would not expand enough for that to happen. The doctors rubbed her sternum to see if they could get her to breath, and she thought that kicking her little feet and waving her fists would help, but nothing was working. I was scared, and tried to encourage her, hoping that my reassuring mommy voice would help her. But after a few second of trying to get her to breath, they said they were taking her next door to be intubated. I told Kevin to go with them, as he was standing up to do just that. He kissed me. Told me he wouldn’t leave her side and that he would call or text me or come back to my room as soon as there was any news to give.

As difficult as it was to watch them take my tiny little girl away from me, knowing that Kevin was with her comforted me. He wouldn’t let anything happen to her, and he would let me know what was going on as soon as he could.

As the doctors stitched me up, tears ran down my cheeks. Tears from being so tired. From being pure emotions – fear, happiness, love. Tears because I couldn’t hold my newly born daughter in my arms. Tears because our families weren’t there to share in welcoming this new little human to the world. Mostly tears because my little girl needed help. A lot of help. I willed every god and every good thing in the universe to help Luna Bell. Please help her make it through this night. Please help her be able to breath. Please just keep her alive so that I could see her beautiful face one more time. Adrenalin started to course through my veins. Tiredness was replaced by strength, pain was replaced by a little euphoria that all the weight was off of my belly now, and my little girl had been born and well, lets be honest, the epidural was still hanging on pretty good and that was making me very happy! I waited for Kevin to call or text me from the NICU and soon I heard from him. Luna Bell was doing ok, but had been intubated, chest tubes placed to drain the fluid off of her lungs, and she was on medication to keep her calm and the doctors and nurses were taking good care of her. My nurse told me that she had heard from the NICU and as soon as Luna Bell was stable I would be able to go down and visit her.

Kevin came back up to see me and see how I was doing and soon it was time to go visit our little girl. I was still a little numb from the epidural, but I got into the wheel chair and the nurse rolled me down to the NICU.

As they took me into my daughters small room, all I heard was the hum of the ventilator and the beeps of the monitors and all I could see were tubes and wires and bags and the incubator. Somewhere in there was my daughter. They rolled me closer to the incubator, and there she was. Small, skinny but kind of puffy from the fluid she was retaining, but beautiful. Kevin went to the other side and we both put our hands into the incubator and put our fingers near her hands and she grabbed into them tightly. She was really here. She had made it into the world and she was fighting and trying to be strong. As I looked at Kevin and we then looked at our daughter, my heart filled. It filled with love for this little girl, for the family we had created, and hope that she was going to be ok. Maybe not right away, but soon. And then we would get to hold her, and take her home. It wouldn’t be long before we took her home, right? I hoped for the future as I gazed at my perfect little girl, and whispered the words that came into my mind the moment I saw her earlier that night, “Hey there with the pretty face, welcome to the human race.”

34 Weeks

At 31 weeks and 1 day, I woke up feeling strange. When I went to the bathroom there was a little pink discharge and while I was in the shower I began to feel what felt like contractions. After a quick call to the nursing line and labor and delivery at UW, I was instructed to come in to get checked out. After getting checked out, getting hooked up to monitors for myself and the baby I was told that my contractions were probably just false labor, but they were going to keep an eye on me. Later in the day it was decided that they would do an amnio reduction to relieve some of the weight and hopefully reduce the possibility that I would go into labor even more prematurely than necessary. Not to go into too many details, but they took off 2 liters of fluid…2 liters. As I watched containers be filled with my amniotic fluid I couldn’t believe that I was carrying around that much extra fluid. After watching me overnight to make sure that I didn’t go into labor and that the contractions didn’t cause me to dilate and that they stopped, I got to go home. I felt better than I had in a couple of weeks and hoped that this would delay the possibility of going into labor early and make the next few weeks a lot more comfortable.

During the next couple of weeks, we had a fetal echocardiogram to make sure Baby Bean’s heart was strong and perfect. And fortunately, it was. I also had an echocardiogram to make sure my heart was strong and healthy as well. Everything was checking out, but the hydrops was still a big concern and a c-section was scheduled for December 6th. I called my mom to tell her to plan to be there for the c-section and we also told Kevin’s mom, sister and brother so everyone would be prepared.

The week of November 8th I spoke with my doctor and we agreed that we could do one more amnio reduction and hopefully that would hold me out for a few more weeks. It was scheduled for Sunday, November 11th.

November 10th was Kevin’s niece’s 1st birthday party. It was amazing to see her turning one, and I loved watching her trying to open her presents, and everyone showering her with love on her big day. I was pretty uncomfortable and found a place on the couch where I was comfortable as long as I didn’t move too much. The next day we went in for my amnio reduction and another 1 1/2 liters was taken off of my large belly. By the end of the day, I was exhausted, yet hopeful that I would be ok and I could hang onto our Belly Bean for just a little bit longer. I was at 33 weeks and 3 days.

On Tuesday, November 13th, I went in for my regular ultrasound-which showed that the amniotic fluid that had been reduced had re-accumulated, and then some- a doctor’s visit and Non Stress Test (Monitoring of the baby’s movements, my blood pressure and heart rate of both of us. My blood pressure, which is never high, was high, and the doctor was concerned about preeclampsia, so they admitted me to the hospital. Damn. This is not how this was supposed to go. Kevin went home to get some sleep and to get my somewhat packed “go bag” so I would have some of my own things. I woke up Wednesday morning to contractions again. This time I was scared. It was too soon. Kevin wasn’t there and I wasn’t ready. Thankfully as the day worn on, my contractions stopped and I didn’t start to dilate. I was in the hospital for observation until Friday, until my blood pressure remained normal for a couple of days and the contractions didn’t start up again. They gave me the second round of steroids to help Belly Bean’s lungs develop more quickly as it was still possible that I would go into labor soon-ish. They also had me meet with an anesthesiologist to talk about the epidural as well as sign all the content paperwork for a c-section, so that when the day came, we would be ready. I went home, anxious to take a shower, sleep in my own bed and hopefully take care of myself and Belly Bean long enough to keep her in for a few more weeks. At this point, we had reached the 34 week, 1 day mark. Making it to our goal felt like a great accomplishment, but I knew that staying pregnant past this point was going to be a challenge, but one I was up to if it meant keeping my baby safe and warm and growing for a little while longer.

Saturday morning I needed to run out for a few things at the drug store down the street. I wanted to put my “go bag” back together over the weekend and be ready for the big day. On my way back to the apartment, it became very clear that my short legs/large belly combo was no longer conducive to driving! I came to the quick conclusion that if I was going to continue to work either Kevin was going to have to drive me to and from work – or – Uber and Lyft were going to get one of their best customers of the year.

Taking a shower proved to be an exhausting chore. I looked at myself in the steamy bathroom mirror and barely recognized the woman standing there. My belly was HUGE. My face and shoulders and arms looked like the sheer weight of my belly was pulling down all the muscle and skin and what little fat I had. My cheekbones were very prominent and not in the “contour” “I’ve got amazing cheek bones” way – more the “I haven’t eaten in a month and maybe had a drug problem” way. I hadn’t seen my feet for at least 2 months and only fit into one pair of Converse low-tops. My legs were swollen and numb and in pain all at the same time from the 20 minutes I stood in the shower. And my eyes were tired. The kind of tired I had never been able to achieve over all my 40 years of insomnia.

“I don’t know how much longer I can do this. It’s November 17th and my c-section isn’t scheduled until December 6th. Can my body keep this up? There is no way I can go back to work. How am I supposed to do this?” I asked all of these questions to the woman in the mirror and she had no answers. I told myself that I could and would do whatever it took to keep my girl safe. She would come when she came and as of today, I was 34 weeks and 2 days along. It was going to be ok. I talked to my baby and the woman in the mirror and hoped that somehow I could conjure up all the love and positivity to keep her safe and keep my pregnancy going in a way that wouldn’t kill me or at least wouldn’t make me wish I could be in a coma for the rest of it.

To get my mind off everything, Kevin and I went over to his mom’s to visit her and his sister, Meghan, niece Quinn (who had just celebrated her first birthday) and his brother Keegan. We talked and laughed and I watched Kevin play with Quinn. Several times Quinn tried to sit on my lap, as she would usually do, but tonight I had no lap left. I had knees. That was all that was visible while I sat. The distraction was just what I needed and I felt better than I had all day. At 8pm, I stood up to go to the bathroom and felt a strange sensation. I went into the bathroom, pulled down my pants and made the discovery that my water had begun to break. So I guess I had the answers to all my questions to the woman in the steamy bathroom mirror; I wouldn’t have to do this much longer, I didn’t have to figure out how to get my body to keep this going and I wouldn’t have to be put in a coma to finish this out. I wouldn’t have to do any of that, because I was having a baby…tonight! We had made it to 34 weeks and 2 days.

Bliss and a Monkey-wrench

Getting past our little scare was relatively easy. My growing belly, the movement and kicks we felt each day, the fact that; now moms reading this, please try not to hate me too much, I hadn’t experienced any morning sickness or aversion to any foods or most smells, and the fact that we found out that we were having a girl as expected, everything was pretty blissful. I was due December 27th and after a talk with my doctor, we planned an induction for December 21st so that we would all be home by Christmas and avoid having our daughter share her birthday with a major holiday as well as avoid the bare bones staff at the hospital during the week of Christmas. Somehow, having an actual date to plan for made things much more real and satisfied the little bit of OCD and major planner in me. We told everyone when we were expecting to have our baby, all the while keeping it a secret that we were having a daughter.

We began shopping for her and putting together our baby registry and I traded in my two door coup that I leased when I thought I was never going to have a child to drive around. We stopped by one of our favorite stores, Lush, for some lotions and potions and got some great advise on a massage lotion bar for my growing belly. And when we left, we found a note and a gift congratulating us on our new baby! It was that generous gesture that will keep us going back to Lush forever.

When you stop for all the best lotions and potions and come out with a Therapy Massage Bar that kept all stretch marks at bay and some Sleepy lotion that works like a sleeping pill without the hangover. https://www.lushusa.com/body/massage-bars/therapy/03865.html

We were floating on a wave of bliss as Summer started to draw to a close and fall was on the horizon. Feeling good, strong, and excited for this massive adventure we were on, I was excited by every movement and kick and every inch that my belly grew. I was feeling comfortable in the fact that this miracle baby was growing perfectly and was going to be a beautiful, healthy little person and had forgotten any worry I may have had. Rounding out a year of many concerts of our favorite bands, I couldn’t help but see my favorite band, Foo Fighters, one more time. It was the third time in 11 months that we had seen them, and the only concert we didn’t travel for. It might be one of the last big nights we would have out, so we jumped, carefully, at the chance. While I sang along with every song, my Belly Bean became more and more active until she finally mastered her first drum solo on my pelvis. I grabbed Kevin’s hands, put them to my belly and said “Babe, I think you finally have your drummer!” As soon as the song was over, she settled down a little until the concert ended, as it always does, with “Everlong”. This is my song. This was always my song. And when Kevin and I first started dating, we were talking about music and he asked me, ” What song do I remind you of?” I immediately said “Everlong” without even thinking and from then on, it’s been our song. My Belly Bean moved around as Kevin and I kissed and shared the moment. The fact that our she was there to share that moment was one I will never forget. Looking back, I should have focused a little more on the possibility that she chose the songs she did to be the most active, because she knew something we didn’t. In a few weeks my 29 week ultrasound and check up would go from exciting and “regular” to a day that I would never forget.

Four weeks earlier the ultrasound had shown very minor pleural effusions (fluid around the baby’s lungs), but on this day the ultrasound showed that those effusions had grown. This is a condition called hydrops. https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=hydrops-fetalis-90-P02374

My doctors were now much more concerned and they referred me to the University of Washington Medical Center’s Materal Fetal Medicine specialist. They were serious about transferring my care to UW, and I began to understand how serious this was when UW called me a couple of hours later to come in the next day.

The next day Kevin and I spent around 5 hours having a very thorough ultrasound, meeting with a doctor, seeing a genetic specialist and having an amniocentesis.  By the end of the day, we had heard more information than we could process. The one thing we heard loud and clear was that our little girl was in trouble. Her prognosis wasn’t clear, and we were told to prepare ourselves for anything from perfectly healthy to needing immediate intubation to the possibility that she may not survive at all. Also, one of the side effects of hydrops was the fact that I was accumulating a lot more amniotic fluid than normal, and that was making me a pretty big and a little more uncomfortable than I would normally be at 29 weeks along. My heart broke into a million pieces at the thought that my miracle baby, the product of an amazing love, and a baby that was so wanted, may not even have a chance to take her first breath. Kevin assured me that even if our girl had problems when she was born, she was strong, we were strong, and the three of us would come through this. The annoying thing about Kevin is that he is usually right. It is really annoying, but amazingly reassuring.

We agreed that we wouldn’t tell our family and friends until we knew more; with the exception of my mom. I suggested that maybe we cancel our baby shower that was scheduled for about a week and a half later. Thankfully Kevin was completely against that idea. He reminded me that our little girl was coming home. Maybe not a day or two after she was born, but she would be coming home and we needed to celebrate and be ready for her upcoming arrival. He was right, of course, and we had a beautiful baby shower! All of our friends and family were there to celebrate us and our Baby Bean. And while we basked in the love we held the knowledge that our little girl might be in for a rough start.

The next week we had another ultrasound and nothing had changed. The concerns remained that her lungs might not develop completely before we was born, that even if the lung tissue did develop as much as possible, the pressure that the fluid put on the lungs might damage the tissue and make it stiff, making it difficult for the lungs to expand and take in air after she was born and even after the fluid was drained off the lungs. We spoke with a neonatologist and she was amazing. Gentle, kind, knowledgeable and patient with all of our questions. Kevin, being the sponge of all knowledge and having a quick mind when it comes to science and anatomy, asked a lot of amazing questions. I sat listening, and acknowledging the conversation, but I was quiet. The doctor asked Kevin if he had any more questions and then turned to me. “Do you have any questions?” I took a breath and tried to stabilize my voice, and she stopped me, “I can tell you the answer to your question, and the answer is no.”

The tears welled up in my eyes and started to spill over onto my cheeks. A concerned Kevin asked “What was the question? Are you ok, babe?” And I let him in on what the doctor knew, that I wanted to know if my age (44) had anything to do with what was going on with my daughter. The doctor reassured us that my age had nothing to do with this. Sometimes it’s a genetic marker or a deficiency in something, and sometimes they never really know what causes hydrops, it just happens. It happens to 20 year old women and 45 year old women and everyone in between. And there is nothing that I did to cause this. While it was still very scary that this was happening, there was some comfort in knowing that I didn’t cause this.

So, there it was. Our daughter had hydrops. We didn’t know what caused it or why it was happening, we just needed to take care of me and her, watch her like a hawk, and get her and especially her lungs, to grow as much as possible before she makes her appearance. I was told that if we could make it to 34 weeks, that would be great. And if I could make it further, that would be even better. If the situation with the amniotic fluid became too much to handle, they could do a reduction, but it wasn’t something we could do more than once or twice, and it wasn’t a quick procedure. And the option to do a procedure to drain the fluid off the baby’s lungs was basically a non option. We had as much information as we could possibly have until she made her debut, and now I just had to get her to 34 weeks, let her lungs develop as much as possible and then see what our path would be from there.

As we drove home from the hospital, a familiar song played. It was the Foo Fighters tune that Belly Bean had played drums on at the concert. Now I knew why she chose this song. She knew something I didn’t, that there was about to be something thrown into our relatively easy pregnancy and lives, and something was a “Monkeywrench”.

The Reassuring Kick

Somehow, while pregnant, I believed that I would instinctively remember every moment of my pregnancy; when and where every little moment occurred, but sadly, somehow, with the amnesia that follows childbirth, so go some of the details of the most intense moments of my life. I do remember that first flutter of my growing baby, I remember the way my belly felt as it grew (that slight tugging on the muscles and skin; and I instantly knew why pregnant women rub their belly’s-because it feels soooo good on those stretching muscles) I remember sitting at my desk at work and feeling that first real kick. That first solid hello from my little one! With excitement, I texted Kevin to tell him that our little one is now kicking “hello”! He was thrilled! And now, we had a way to tell that our baby is alive and well and thriving, without the help of an ultrasound. Every time the baby would kick, Kevin would try to feel it from the outside. He could hardly wait for the day when he could feel our little Bean move around, and when it finally happened, the wait was totally worth it! And the first time we saw movement across my belly, we laughed through our tears of joy. Soon, BellyBean’s activity became an everyday occurrence, and we felt reassured with every movement and every kick that our little one was growing healthy and strong.

Each ultrasound showed that we were correct in our assumptions that BellyBean was growing exactly on track. I was due December 27th and my OBGYN, in an effort to keep me from having a Christmas baby and so that she would be the one on call at the hospital to deliver my baby, we set my induction for Friday, December 21st–if I made it that far, because this baby was growing fast.

Full Disclosure: I am 5 feet tall. Some doctors or nurses may try to sell you on the actual fact that I am 4’11.5”, but that just isn’t true. I’m 5 feet tall. At the time I got pregnant, I weighed about 92 pound. Please save all the “weight shaming” and comments that I really should have or should be eating more. I’ve heard all the short, skinny girl comments possible: “well you just ever grow, did you?” “do you ever eat?” “I wish I was skinny like you…” “where do you find clothes you fit you, the kids section?” ” how can you possibly be healthy, being so skinny?” “You need a cheeseburger.”

My answers progressively get shorter with each year of age. I don’t find I need to explain myself. I don’t need to tell people that “everyone in my family is short. My mom is 72 and skinny too. I have a fast metabolism. No, I find clothes that fit just fine and they aren’t from the kids section. And I’m very healthy, thanks. And I had a cheeseburger last night.” My answers came down to pretty much; “nope. yeah. not really the problem you would think it is. I’m very healthy-how about you?”

If you have ever been pregnant before, or had a parter that has been; you understand when I tell you that once you become pregnant, the outside world does not respect your personal space, autonomy or privacy any longer. I work at a doctor’s office, and many of our patients are regulars, every 4-6 weeks or every few months. While 90% of them were happy for me, excited for regular updates and filled me in on stories of their own kids or grandkids, there was the 10%. Ahhhh, the 10%. Can I be honest? These people were assholes. Rude, invasive, know-it-all assholes. Because I’m fairly small, and my growing baby was hitting all the growth milestones perfectly, I was showing very quickly and getting bigger by the day. And I was all belly. The 10% would regularly ask if I was sure I wasn’t having twins. Was I actually farther along than I thought? Was the baby freakishly big? How big is the baby’s dad? And my answers started out as, “no, just one. No, I’m (insert however far along I was). No, the baby is right on track. And not really, dad is 5′ 10″.” Towards the end of my pregnancy, my answers got more aggressive: “Wow, I don’t know. I should ask my doctors if I”m having twins, it’s never come up. And, I might be farther along than I thought. You obviously know my body better than I do, so I should talk to my doctors and see if you are right. And one woman was particularly awful in her line of questioning, so I responded “Well, if the dad is who I think it is, he’s not a giant.”

Then there were the women, and a couple of men, who found it appropriate to grab my every growing belly. A couple of people that I knew did so, caught themselves and asked if it was ok. Then there was the lady in the grocery store, around my age, who exclaimed “OMG- you’re pregnant! How cute!”, and then reached for my belly. Using the shopping cart as a shield, I stepped behind it and gave her a “touch me and die” look. I don’t want you touching my belly or my baby once he or she is out here in the world. I don’t know you!

In saying all of this, I want to remind you, dear reader, or maybe inform you for the first time, that pregnant women are still people. They are not some freak show or member of a petting zoo, and unless they invite your touch, criticism or advise, please, please keep it to yourself. Share stories of when you or your partner were pregnant, share the wondrous stories of your grandchildren, but save the horror stories or tales of sick children for a later…much later date. Women who are pregnant are doing their best to stay healthy, learn how to deal with their ever-changing bodies, and protect the little life they are creating. They are too busy creating an ear or an eyeball to worry about what you think of how they look or what they should be eating, or if they should still be working. The first couple of times you offer unsolicited advice, you may get a kind response, but after that, you may get an answer resembling a kick.

Not Everything is Black and White

At nine and a half weeks along, I had my first ultrasound. That magical moment I saw that little bean growing in my belly. Right there in black and white. In that moment, I understood this unexpected surprise was real. My eyes welled up at the joy of this amazing blessing and I couldn’t wait to tell Kevin about it, as he was unable to be there. I walked out clutching the first pictures of my little one and still couldn’t believe that this actually happening to me!

I went back to work and during lunch my phone rang. It was my doctor. I answered excited and nervous, and totally unprepared for what I heard.

I was nine and a half weeks along as I thought and the size of my growing baby was right on track. However there was something that caused concern. In measuring everything the radiologist noticed that the nuchal fold, which is at the nape of the neck, was thicker than normal. It could be nothing or it could mean that there were come chromosomal issues with the baby. After all…I was considered a geriatric mother. Anyone over 32 is, apparently. And that, quite frankly, is bullshit! Yes, I was 44, so that definitely put me as an older mom, but to call me geriatric is just mean!! I knew the chances of something being wrong with the baby were higher due to my age, but to hear that something could actually be wrong was jarring.

A week or two later I met with a specialist for older moms and babies who may be facing some issues. He suggested a blood test that would show if there were any chromosomal abnormalities with the baby. Kevin and I agreed to do that, and though we were scared, we decided that unless there was something so wrong with the baby that he or she would have no quality of life at all, we would be having this baby no matter what.

About 10 days later the tests came back; and with the exception of some anomaly on the X chromosome, everything was perfectly normal. The doctor said that we could do an amniocentesis to see exactly what the anomaly was, but we decided not to take the extra risk. In 4 weeks, at our next ultrasound, the nuchal fold thickness was gone and we were looking at a very healthy baby who was growing perfectly.

On Father’s Day, we made the announcement to all, that we were pregnant. We had felt an outpouring of love and excitement from all of our family and friends. And with that, this thing was real. My belly was growing, I was starting to make plans for my baby registry and maternity leave, and all the things that all moms-to-be do, but all the while I had a little something in the back of my head that was bugging me about that anomaly on the test. I hoped everything was ok. And then I somehow convinced myself that everything was. Besides, what could possibly be wrong?

Not So Broken After All

I came home from work one evening in early May, to a giant hug from Kevin. Had he gotten stronger, was my bra too tight or am I getting my period, because my boobs hurt from that hug.

Huh, that was weird.

We had made plans to go to dinner, so we headed out to a restaurant and proceeded to have a really great dinner. During dinner, one of us brought up that we would like to see Avengers: Infinity War that had recently been release. I checked for showtimes and the movie theater next to the restaurant had seats available. We saw the movie and on the way home had a lively discussion about it and our now shared hate for that dumbass, Quill, aka Douchelord. We went to bed feeling happy with our date night.

The next day at work, around 10:30am, I suddenly felt really sick. Not enough to actually vomit, but I felt sweaty, dizzy, and my stomach hurt. I texted Kevin to see if he was feeling alright, thinking maybe something I ate the night before wasn’t agreeing with me. He was fine, so I thought it was just me and that maybe I was getting the flu-which wasn’t even going around. I continued to feel sick all day, even to the point of thinking maybe I should see a doctor. Then around 8:30 that night, as quickly as it had come on, the sick feeling left.

Ok, again, that was weird.

The next few days I felt fine, but I started to think about when my last period was and I couldn’t come up with even a week, much less a day. I thought it should be coming anytime now, so I bought a box of tampons, and waited.

May 12, 2018-the day before Mother’s Day. I was in Target and as I walked down the main drag, looking at things on the endcaps, I walked by the aisle with pregnancy tests visible. I slowed down to a stop and turned down the aisle. I stood there for a minute taking in the purple and pink boxes, some with pictures of tests with visible lines; one line for not pregnant, two for yes. Digital test that actually say the words “pregnant” or “not pregnant”. I thought back to the disappointing tests I had taken in the 20’s, and almost couldn’t believe that at 44 I was now considering setting myself up for one more likely disappointment. There was no way that I could possibly be pregnant, not at this stage in my life. Why would I even think that I could be? The tender breasts, the day of feeling like death-warmed-over, and the probably missed or very late period all held up a big neon sign that said “YOU’RE PREGNANT”. So, convinced that I would jinx myself and wake up to a period, I bought a box of two pregnancy test. And I bought the expensive ones. The digital ones that would tell me, in words not lines or hieroglyphics if I was pregnant or not.

That night Kevin and I babysat his nearly 6 month old niece, Quinn, while his sister went out for dinner and a movie as a pre-Mother’s Day night out. We were playing and having a great time. He loves that little girl and is so great with her, and I was enjoying watching the two of them together. As Quinn began to settle a little bit, I asked Kevin “what would you do if I got pregnant? I know we talk about it sometimes, and you say you would be thrilled, but in all honesty, how would you feel?” He responded the way every woman wants their guy to respond “Babe, I’d be so happy. It would be awesome.”

Sunday. May 13th, 2018. Mother’s Day: I woke up ready to discover I had started my period. But nope, that had not happened. Ok, so I guess I have to take this test.

I read the directions; because you know there are at least a dozen ways to pee on a stick, and completed the test, I put the test in a drawer in the bathroom, and set my timer for 3 minutes. I proceeded to pluck a few stay eyebrow hairs, pull my hair into a pony tail and tidy up the counter space. When the timer went off, I braced myself for bad news, opened the drawer, pulled out the test and saw the word:


My breath got sucked out of my lungs. I stood there, staring, waiting for the word “NOT” to be added to the screen. And after about five minutes more, I started to believe. Instead of coming up with a fun way to tell Kevin, I put the test in the pocket of my cozy, purple robe and walked into the bedroom where Kevin had just woken up a few minutes before.

“I have something to tell you.”


“Yeah, I’m pregnant.”

“FUCK OFF!! You are not! Wait, are you? NO! You can’t be!”

I took the test out of my pocket and showed it to him.

“Yes I am pregnant.”


He grabbed me and hugged me and neither of knew what to do. We just kept hugging and kissing and jumping around until he reminded me that I was pregnant.

He got me a glass of water and started to make breakfast and we spent the rest of the day telling our mom’s, Kevin’s brother, sister and cousin, that we were going to have a baby and shifing between “oh my god” and “holy shit” we’re having a baby!!

We discussed baby names and watched Ail Wong’s Netflix special “Hard Knock Wife” which freaked us both out, and made us laugh a little too hard to hide the fear we were feeling from the other person. (If you haven’t watched this special, do it now. NOW! No wait! Read the rest of the entry first, THEN watch it!)

Later that night Kevin said “see babe, you’re not broken. You were just waiting to have a baby with the right person”. I teared up at that. After nearly 20 years of feeling like I was broken, damaged, not a full woman; one moment, one day, changed everything. I was not as broken or damaged as I thought I was. All the disappointments of the past faded away. I was finally going to be one of those pregnant ladies waddling around, eating all day and picking out nursery themes while reading books that were supposed to make me feel prepared, but only freaked me out. How can this possibly be? Oh my god, I’m actually going to be a mom. Whoa…I’m going to be a mom.

Best Mother’s Day Ever…for now.

Why Do You Want To Be With ME?

I had met a man while I was still married and working at a massage therapy school. We instantly had chemistry and had the most fascinating conversation about everything from Nirvana to Bernie Sanders. He was younger than me…much younger…20 years younger. He was jealous that I had seen Nirvana and I was jealous that he had the guts to backpack to California and Mexico at the age of 19 and seemed to have lived at least 4 of my lifetimes by the time he was 21. While he was a student we had brief conversations here and there, and after a few months, I left that job and I heard that he left school soon after due to some family issues that needed his attention.

We followed each other on Facebook and commented here and there, but a few months later he texted me out of the blue to ask if I was going to be at concert that he at. That began months of texting and a couple of meet ups for drinks and conversation. When my marriage was over, we met for drinks and began the most surprising and amazing love affair that I could imagine. I had never felt the things that he made me feel. I had never experienced that overwhelming, passionate, “they make movies about this kind of love” love before, and it was just that-overwhelming. He told me that he had been in love with me since the day we met. He wanted to spend his life with me. He said things that I had only fantasized about hearing a man say to me. The fact that he was younger than me, gorgeous, could have anyone he wanted, and had his whole life ahead of him, made me suspicious – why is he spending his time with me? So I asked him: “Why do you want to be with me?”

He began to tell me all the reasons he wanted to be with me. And for the first time in my life I had someone see me. Really see me. See the things that I didn’t like about myself as interesting and powerful. See the strength that I had as something rare and amazing. See my age as a benefit, not a curse. He didn’t see me as broken, or damaged. It was my scars that made me beautiful. To finally have someone treat me as if he had found a treasure was unnerving. It was unexpected to find this depth in someone relatively young, and to this day, I still find it difficult to believe everything he says about me. But the scars aren’t so fresh anymore, and the tremendous self doubt is ebbing, and I’m starting to believe.

Beginning a new life with someone so amazing was exciting and scary and at times uncertain. I had already told him that I may be unable to have children, so if that is something he couldn’t live without, he needed to be honest with me and with himself. I had someone take the choice to have children away from me, and I found it hard to forgive. I didn’t want to be the reason for a sense of loss or missing out or pain, down the road. He assured me that he was ok with not having children and floated the idea of possibly adopting someday. And then he said something that would be prophetic-“maybe you weren’t the reason you didn’t get pregnant. And maybe if it’s right, you’ll get pregnant.” I blew that idea off, but the thought was now in my head. Maybe it wasn’t me that was “broken”. Maybe we could have a child. Maybe.

We moved in together and reveled in our new life together. He met my family and friends-who loved him- and he went back to finish massage therapy school. We started to think about trips we wanted to go on and goals we had for the future. Then on Mother’s Day 2018, Kevin and I got the surprise of our lives and EVERYTHING changed.

The Road That Brought Me Here

Growing up, I dreamed of being a mom. I wanted to be the TV version of a wife, mother and neighbor; living in the perfect house, married to the perfect guy with the perfect job that would support our family, and the perfect 2.5 kids and a dog. I carried that vision with me until I was 20 or 21, as I watched some of my friends get married and start families. The image of the perfect family with the seemingly perfect bank account that would allow a woman to be a stay at home mom if she wanted to became a little harder to see as the reality of the cost of things started to hit home.

I got married at 22 to a man that I thought would be a “secure” bet. He was a couple of years older than I was, he seemed pretty stable, personality wise, and he had long term goals for a career. He was training to become a fire fighter while working a full time job, and met that goal after about 3 years when he was hired on with our local fire department. We immediately began trying to get pregnant. After a year of trying, I saw an OBGYN who voiced some concern that I had a heart murmur…that began a nearly 18 month long path from a diagnosis of pulmonary stenosis, a congenital condition that had gone undiagnosed, to open heart surgery and recovery, after which I was finally given the green light to start trying to get pregnant again. I was excited to start trying and believed that I would now easily get pregnant, but after another year and much frustration, I was still not pregnant.

Over that year, my husband seemed to conveniently have to work, had a migraine, or was too busy or tired to be a part of the process of getting pregnant. And he decided to go back to school for nursing because he was no longer happy with his chosen career of fire fighter. After much discussion we ended up selling our house, and decided to move from Spokane, WA to Portland, OR so that he would have more opportunities for nursing school. Gone was the security of a well paying job and a home and a place that I was familiar with. So after about 15 months of erratically trying to get pregnant, we put the possibility of having a baby on the back burner until he was done with school and we were in a better place financially and more time and all those things one tells themselves when they are forced to give something up or are not in a place to make that dream happen. That was 2003.

Fast forward 10 years. Ten years of believing that I was unable to get pregnant, and telling a million people that we just didn’t have kids because we never got around to it, or sometimes I would just say “we tried and it never happened”, but believing that I was broken somehow because I never got pregnant. After 10 years in Portland, minus a miserable 10 months in Missoula, MT, and years of my husband being in school and getting his LPN but never finishing his RN, multiple disappointments, a cancer battle (his), a suspected affair (his), and a disintegrating marriage, we chose to move to Seattle, WA in December of 2013. The opportunities were better here, for him, and I was trying to do anything to hold the scraps of our marriage together. After a year and a half of doing things that interested him when he had time off, and being the understanding wife when he worked long hours and weekends, and listening to him complain about everything to do with his job…the job he uprooted our lives and plans and dreams for – on top of the previous 10 years – I had reached capacity. I told him things had to change. We needed counseling, I needed him to acknowledge how he had hurt me in the past and I needed him to fight for me. I waited for him to consent to counseling with me, and waiting for him to do something, anything to get me to stay, and it never happened. So, I started making plans to leave. The last year and a half we were basically living separate lives and living as roommates.

In May of 2017 I finally told him that I was leaving. I had a move out date scheduled, I had a place to live arranged, and I was already going through all of my stuff, getting rid of things I didn’t need anymore, getting ready to move. When I told him I was leaving, he reacted the way I’m told a lot of men do; surprised. WTF? You’re seriously surprised? You have to be kidding me. I’ve been as clear as I could be about what I needed from you and been distancing myself from you for about a year and a half now, but you’re surprised? Ok. Well, I’m sorry to surprise you, buddy, but I’m done and gone. And so, in June of 2017, I left. And that was the beginning of the greatest adventure of my life.