I had never really paid much attention to bedrest before. I didn't know anyone who was placed on bedrest and I myself had never experienced it. I had only heard the term on TV. And then one day it applied to me. I have spent a total of 21 weeks on bedrest. 8 weeks with my twin pregnancy and 13 weeks on bedrest during my final, singleton pregnancy. Today I'll share my story of bedrest with my twin pregnancy.
My introduction to bedrest was 9 weeks into my twin pregnancy in 2000. I began bleeding, and after a visit to my OB and an ultrasound I was sent home on limited bedrest and told to prepare for the loss of one or both of our babies. I was to return if things became worse. One week later we had a follow-up appointment and u/s. I was still bleeding but I was still pregnant with two babies. Two tiny heartbeats flashing on the u/s monitor. I was once again sent home, with a little more hope, but still a lot of fear. I was to continue bedrest and return in one week. We had this slow realization that this situation may last for quite some time so my mother-in-law flew from Pennsylvania to Illinois to take care of our 20 month old son Ian, as well as me so that I could rest as much as possible.
In the initial days I remember crying, feeling as though I was short changing Ian in some way and shirking my responsibility to him. The guilt was overwhelming at times. My own mom and mother-in-law reminded me of two things. One, I had to do this to hopefully save our babies.. they needed me more at that time. And two, Ian was so little, he would never remember this time in his life. I spent my days on my couch playing with Ian, watching tv and reading. Over the course of the next 5 weeks I continued to bleed, but with each new appointment we were reassured by seeing those tiny babies winning the battle against my body's attempts to reject them. After 6 weeks on the couch, lots of tears, and endless boredom the bleeding subsided and I was cleared to continue normal activity. My only limitation was to no longer lift Ian and to rest as much as possible. I was 16 weeks pregnant.
My pregnancy settled into a comfortable zone. My intense nausea was gone, the bleeding had stopped and the fear we had for weeks was finally beginning to grow into excitement at the idea of having two babies join our family. My docs had two goals, get me to gain weight and get me to 36 weeks gestation. At the time both seemed completely doable.
And then, at 23 weeks gestation my water broke. Once again our babies lives were in jeopardy. I was transported via ambulance to Lutheran General because they had a NICU equipped to care for micropreemies. I was given antibiotics to combat infection, and steroids to mature my babies' lungs. That day I added a new word to my pregnancy vocabulary; Antepartum. That tiny hallway that houses pregnant moms who require round the clock monitoring for high risk pregnancies in an attempt to save their babies. This would be my new home until my babies were born. I was 15 weeks from full term. The two most prominent emotions I remember having were fear and sadness. I was extremely fearful of losing my babies and I was so very sad because I was separated from Ian for the first time. To this day I'm not sure exactly how I worked through those emotions other than to accept my situation and move forward.
We settled into some semblance of a routine. Once again, Kirk's mom flew to Chicago to care for Ian. Kirk eventually returned to work and he and Ian would come to visit me every evening after work. Kirk's office was in the Chicago loop, forty miles west of our home. The hospital was forty-five miles north of our home. He would take the train into the city, work all day. Then take the train home, pick up Ian, and make the 45 mile drive to visit with me. And he never missed a day, making sure that Ian and I saw one another. Seeing them each day was a big reason I was able to get through each day. Ian was obsessed with A Bug's Life at the time so we would snuggle in my bed and watch that nightly. I can still recite most lines. On a few occasions Kirk would drive Ian home and then return to spend the night with me and commute to work from the hospital. He just seemed to know when I needed that time with him the most.
Kirk did his best to do whatever he could to help me get through those days. Being confined to bed meant I was unable to shower at all. I would wash myself up each morning in my bed. The hospital also gave me these special shower caps designed to wash your hair. They worked but it was nothing like being able to wash your hair each day. Being the amazing man that he is... Kirk set up a hair washing station, in my bed and would wash my hair for me every other day. I will never forget that. He also tried to make my room feel more like home. I had my pillows from home, photos of he and Ian and a steady supply of fresh flowers. He brought me Ho-Hos and Wendy's Frostys on a regular basis. And I even had two small bins of Ian's toys in my room for his daily visits. Kirk also set up a desk top computer in my room. This actually made for a good laugh at the time. The hospital administration was very confused by this and felt the need to send an inspector to be sure it was safe to be on property. Online chatting wasn't really a thing at the time. Texting didn't even exist. AOL was my only option and it was fairly new. But thankfully at least it existed so I was able to use AOLChat and chat with my Aunt Mary, who lived in Pennsylvania and was the only person I knew who had the ability to do so. I would read, watch TV, talk on the phone and wait for my daily visits with Kirk and Ian.
My day-nurse would come in for an hour each morning and hook me up to the monitor to track the girls' heart-rate. She would typically sit with me for a good portion of that time. We would talk and watch Oprah together. I had an occasional visit from friends but not often. As I said, I was 45 miles from home and all my friends had toddlers at home so getting away was hard. The cafeteria staff and I became fast friends when they realized I'd be staying for awhile. They shared a secret menu with me, reserved for longterm patients. It had some specialty items that short-stay patients never see. I think I lived on the chicken salad sandwich. It was amazing!
While it was incredibly hard being away from Ian and Kirk for so long and I would have given anything to be living life at home with them I knew that I was exactly where I needed to be. We were so afraid of losing one or both of the girls that we would do whatever it took. I would focus on one day at a time, getting ever closer to our small goals. I held tight to one statement my doctor told me: one day inside the womb is one week less in the NICU.
Unfortunately, twenty days after I was admitted to the hospital I went into labor and Hanna and Rachel were born at 25 weeks due to infection. I too, had contracted an infection and became septic. Due to my fever I was unable to see the girls for the first three days. Four days later the sepsis was under control, my fever was gone and I was discharged home. The entire situation was bittersweet. On one hand I was going home to Ian. We could snuggle, read books and for the first time, after 28 days I would be the one tucking him into bed each night. On the other hand I had to leave my very fragile, very sick babies behind. There was no celebration, no balloons or "It's a girl" sign in the front yard. Those long, lonely days in that hospital room overlooking Dempster Street were behind us, but we would never be the same. I look back now and realize that the Antepartum Unit was the beginning of a life I had never imagined would be mine.
March of Dimes fights for the health of all moms and babies. We're advocating for policies to protect them. We're working to radically improve the health care they receive. We're pioneering research to find solutions. We're empowering families with the knowledge and tools to have healthier pregnancies. By uniting communities, we're building a brighter future for us all.
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