When we first learned I was pregnant with our first child, I immediately slipped into blissful daydreams of eating whatever I wanted, endless foot rubs, and showing off my beautiful growing belly. I couldn’t wait! I was so blissfully ignorant, and it turns out, so, so wrong. I had no idea that the next nine months were going to be some of the hardest, most stressful and challenging months of my entire life.
Being an older new mom I knew there were higher risks during pregnancy, so when I made it safely all the way to 6 months, I couldn’t help feeling like I was kickin ass at this pregnancy thing. On the morning of my 24th week, I even did a little victory dance. So far I was sailing through, and being pregnant was everything I’d hoped (i.e., I was eating everything I wanted).
That triumphant feeling didn’t last. The same afternoon as my victory dance, I started bleeding at work – so badly I thought I peed my pants at first (which wasn’t totally unusual at this point). Through my panic and tears I rushed to the emergency room and braced myself for the worst possible news. After several exams and a lot of probing, we were told that my cervix was thin and soft – around 1.5 cm (average cervical length during pregnancy is around 4 cm), and I was having contractions every 5-10 minutes…in other words, I was ready to go into labor. Wtf?!
I was rushed by ambulance to another hospital nearby that had the capability to take newborns under 30 weeks. I was scared out of my mind, having no idea what to expect or how I got here. Wasn’t I just dancing that morning? What had I done wrong? It turns out I had an incompetent cervix and an irritable uterus (you have got to be fucking kidding me – guaranteed way to make me feel incompetent and irritable), but my new doctor was able to keep me from going into labor – for now. And even though it wasn’t my fault (it was just how my body was built), I felt like an absolute failure – as a woman, and even more so as a mother. AND HE WASN’T EVEN BORN YET! Wasn’t that supposed to come later?
The good news was there was still a chance I could carry our sweet boy to full term. After 10 days of being laid up in the hospital, being heavily medicated (to stop the contractions, thank you irritable uterus) and being poked with needles within an inch of my life, I was sent home with strict bedrest orders. I had to take meds around the clock and literally lay flat on my back to keep him in as long as possible, but I was ready and willing to do whatever it took. I was told that every day he was still inside me, equaled two days in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). No pressure, right?
When you hear bedrest, you might think how amazing it would be to lay around all day, be waited on, and binge watch hours of Netflix. And even better, no working, no cleaning, no cooking, no laundry – wait, that does sound pretty amazing!
And it was. For about a week.
After I’d read every baby book twice, caught up on every show, brought Amazon’s stock up with my spending (thank you Amazon Prime) and yep, attempted knitting…not only was I bored out of my mind, I was going bat-shit crazy and growing more anxious and depressed by the day. Was I moving too much? Was that another contraction or just a cramp? I couldn’t help feeling lonely, angry, and so, so scared. The days turned into weeks, and while every night felt like another huge victory, every morning felt like another day in jail. It was mentally draining.
Raul, my family and friends were so incredibly selfless and wonderful, trying to help with everything, but not only was I not accepting their help (I didn’t want to put people out – and truthfully, delegating has never been my strong point), but I was also becoming resentful that they could come and go as they pleased while I was stuck in bed! Basically, I was a pain in the ass to be around. Raul was a saint – and has more patience in his pinky finger than I do in my whole body – but even he was starting to not like me. And I can’t say I blamed him, at this point I didn’t even like me very much. But I just couldn’t help feeling worthless and jealous of everyone’s busy lives.
I was having a major pity party and feeling really sorry for myself – why did this happen to me? What could I have done differently? I couldn’t plan a baby shower, I couldn’t start nesting and getting his room ready – I was even upset that I couldn’t show off my cute belly (though let’s be real, I was about as cute as a beached whale).
I was so focused on all the things I couldn’t do, I started to lose sight of what I was doing – you know, that small task of saving our sons life! Why couldn’t I see that I was already a super mom? Around my 5th week in bed (I was 31 weeks along now), I woke up and realized I needed to pull my head out of my ass and shift my focus into a more positive place or we definitely weren’t going to make it to 40 weeks. I had to accept this and turn my situation around for the better. Everyone kept telling me how strong I was, how brave I was, how this was only a moment in time and how worth it would be…and for the first time, I started to listen to their annoying words of wisdom.
At 34 weeks pregnant, 8 weeks after I was sent home from the hospital, Nico was born 6 weeks early. Even though he still had to live in the NICU for a few weeks to develop just a little bit more, he was otherwise perfect and so, so precious. The relief and joy we felt was so huge, I was already starting to forget what I (okay, we) had just gone through to get him here. Looking back to that time in our lives, I now know that I could and would do it all over again, but not without keeping a few very important things in mind…
- Keep your eye on the prize – Remember this is only temporary! Yes, those 8 weeks felt more like 18 weeks, but moms, in the big picture, it really is just a short moment in time. I look back to those months, and it’s already becoming a distant memory. Don’t get me wrong…it was one of the hardest, most challenging times of my life, and one that I’ll never fully forget, but it came and then it went. And you guys, as soon as it’s over, the very best part begins. You finally get to meet your sweet baby, and it will be that much sweeter, I can promise you that.
- Take advantage of the downtime – As hard as it is, take advantage of bed jail and get as much rest and sleep as possible. As soon as your little one is here, I promise you that sleep will also be a distant memory. Oh, and you’ll be back to cleaning, cooking, laundry and all those fun errands you thought you missed so much.
- Accept help – for anything and everything!! Your loved ones, your mom tribe, your neighbors – they care about you and truly want to help and be there for you…wouldn’t you feel the same way if the roles were reversed? They may have wanted to kill me, but in all fairness, I wanted to kill them too, and if you can’t depend on your family and friends, who can you depend on?
- Stay positive and don’t be so hard on yourself – It will help get you through those less positive moments. It’s so okay to feel scared and to feel sad, but try not to spend too much time there. Cut yourself some slack and remember you’re already being the best mom you can possibly be.
Nico is now healthy as a horse (and eats like one too) – he has completely caught up to his age group, thriving in every area, discovering new abilities and testing my patience every day. Even though I didn’t get to experience the pregnancy I had always envisioned, I now know that everyone’s journey is different. And whatever difficulties you might experience during those nine months, know that they are nothing compared to the pure joy that comes when your sweet baby finally arrives.