Thursday, December 29, 2016

What Life Looks Like

Happy 39 weeks (gestation) to our bubba!

We have loved you for 97 days. We were scheduled to have a c-section yesterday but instead, my body forced you to come months early. No, you weren't ready, but you have made the most amazing strides. You are the strongest person that I know! Although your due date is 1 week away, we still have no idea when we'll get to bring you home. But once you are home, I refuse to kiss you any less than 1,000 times per day. I love you more than I could EVER love another little boy. Bennett, you are more than I ever knew I wanted.

To celebrate this awesome milestone (which quite frankly felt like we would never reach), I want to share the most special pictures with you. Thanks to the heart of another mama, we were given the gift of photos. Jennifer reached out and kindly offered to give us a free photo session documenting a teeny tiny piece of what NICU life looks like for us. Not pictured are the heartbreaking emotions that we sometimes feel while being NICU parents. BUT, pictured, you'll find the joyful part of the experience. I am so thankful that Jennifer captured these moments because I will F O R E V E R cherish them. I can't wait to share these amazing pictures with Bennett.

Despite this being such a difficult season, I have never felt more blessed in my 29 years of life.

Thank you all for cheering us on, and letting us share this intimate piece of life with you. The photos were taken when Bennett was 2.5 months old, and he is now almost 3.5 months old!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Yesterday's Mountain + Another Bennett Update

As if I don't already feel guilty enough for Bennett's early arrival, I continue to feel guilty each and every day for various things. One thing that I feel guilty about is the fact that I've had to act out of character (for example: speaking up when I normally wouldn't) for the past 88 days, but it's always in the best interest of Bennett. I feel guilt about being someone who I am fundamentally *not* because it feels strange.

I spent a good chunk of yesterday crying. Part of my crying episode was in the Charge Nurse's office. Honestly - God bless them for putting up with me. Even if they didn't care for me because of my outspoken nature over the past 3 months (I have no idea how they feel about me), they put up with me and they even go so far as to hug me when I need it the most. Yes, I do feel guilty about throwing a fit and complaining... but it ONLY comes from a place of genuine concern. I am a flawed, YES, but it's my child that we're talking about. I will act out of character if it means speaking up for the wishes that I have for my son's care. 

How to best explain yesterday: if I drew a picture of a mountain, that would be what my day looked like. Started out at "baseline" and slowly increased into a super excited, happy day. We had Christmas at my mom's house, and watching Kens open presents was so fun for me. Then, things got even more exciting whenever we got to the hospital to see our son. They gave us big news - which I'll share in a minute. That was the peak of the mountain. I asked the nurse, "this is a good thing, right?" And she said, "yes, this is a very good thing!" 

After our good news, accompanied by successfully breastfeeding Bennett, I told hubby he could pick up Kens and head home to get her down for bed. I stayed at the hospital. Things slowly went downhill and I ended the day very upset (hence the beginning of this post). I won't go into detail about how things played out, because I don't want it to seem like I'm bad mouthing anyone. I'm not! It's just that things played out much more differently than I expected. Thankfully, the nurses assured me that I'm not the first person to be "shocked" (think culture shock) by the new environment. I'll talk about the new environment in the next paragraph. Honestly, I blame part of my emotional breakdowns on the lack of sleep. I usually get two naps overnight. My naps usually last 2-3 hours at a time. So, essentially I get 4-6 hours of (interrupted) sleep per night. While at the hospital yesterday, I FELL ASLEEP IN THE CHAIR. For like 30 minutes. That is also extremely out of my character. I've always been a light sleeper, but not these days. 

Anyways, the new environment is our good news! And it IS good news even though Monday ended with some uncertainty. Our new environment is the Continued Care Nursery. This new room is specifically for "feeder and grower" babies who are closer to discharge. We're still in the NICU; it's just a different room. Now, there's really NO telling when Bennett will be discharged. I know that it definitely won't be before Christmas. Maybe, Lord Willing, it will be by New Years. His due date is January 5th, so even if it's around his Due Date, I'm okay with that. We won't have our primary nurse anymore, which is heartbreaking, because she is like family! But the Charge Nurse put my fears at ease and assured me that Bennett would still receive excellent care! 

But you guys. This really is great news. We are 38 weeks adjusted this week and we're SO CLOSE TO GOING HOME. It could be just a matter of weeks now. 

I am on pins and needles to get baby boy home. I have washed all of Bennett's clothes, his crib sheet (even though, let's be honest, I will probably hold him 24/7), picked out his going home outfit (thanks Linzy!) and day dreamed about our BORING but united days at home.

A few Bennett updates include:

1) Our angel is 6 proud pounds. I am sincerely so impressed by his hard work!

2) Apparently Bennett was diagnosed with Chronic Lung Disease. I really can't tell you too much about this, because I don't know much about it. From what I understand, babies can outgrow it and he was given that diagnosis because of his prematurity and need for oxygen.

3) Speaking of his breathing, Bennett is doing REALLY GOOD. He stays on room air (21%) at 1 liter of flow, and consistently has good saturations. I believe he will be weaned down on his liter flow sometime this week. Please be in prayer for him!

4) Regarding Bennett's feeds, he gets 45mL every three hours. He is on half breastmilk and half formula. The purpose of the half & half is to reduce the amount of fluids that he's getting, yet to increase the amount of calories he's on (see: they want to make him gain weight on a smaller feed size). Read the next update below to understand why they don't want to increase his fluids. Also regarding his feed, he usually takes half a bottle at a time. The rest has to be gavaged into his NG tube. He has taken a full bottle a couple of times. We are still working on our stamina! I have breastfed a couple times, and that is going great! But I still am not totally sure if I want to jump on the breastfeeding wagon. I think I've finally gotten into the pumping groove and I may stick strictly with that.

5) Poor baby Bennett has Thrush (from some frozen milk he was given of mine, while I had Thrush), so he gets Nystatin a few times per shift. Bennett is also on a diuretic to help keep excessive fluids out of his little body, which helps him in many areas as he grows and learns! The diuretic is why he's on half formula & half breastmilk.

6) In thinking futuristically, we will be having a Sip N See for everyone to meet baby Bennett around March or April. Bennett will be 6 months old in March (but you can think of him as a 2 month old) so I figure he will be bigger and stronger then. I may push the Sip N See off until April since that's when flu/RSV season typically ends. We were blessed with hand-me-downs while Kensie Grace was little (thanks to our old neighbor and great friend, Meghann) but now we need some things for Bubba. When Bennett comes home, we plan to buy the necessities, but if you had a desire to gift something, our registry is online HERE. This comment is not a plead for gifts, but rather just making it public instead of messaging everyone the link who asks for it! We also appreciate sweet cards, hugs, food, and more than anything: prayers.

7) Bonus update: Bennett met Santa and no tears were shed ;-) HOW PERFECT IS BUBBA??? Thanks to our amazing NICU for making sure we still get to appropriately celebrate holidays. Can you believe we've spent Halloween, Thanksgiving, and now Christmas in the NICU? Let's get baby Bennett home before New Years so we don't have to add that to our list!

To make things very uncomplicated, we just ask for prayers that Bennett would have complete health, learn to breathe on his own, and learn to eat on his own
Last - thank you to everyone for supporting us emotionally. I am still working on things. The hardest part is letting go of my biological desire to care for my son 100% and having to entrust his care into strangers. There are no words to explain the stabbing pain in my heart each time I walk away from Bennett's bedside. If you have an extra prayer to give away, I would love prayers for my broken heart. I fall deeper in love with Bennett every minute that passes, and each day is harder than the last to leave him in the hospital. Love you all!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Happy December + Bennett is 35 Weeks Corrected!

**Please note: I wrote this post on 12/1/16, but now that it's after midnight, it's going to show it was published a day later.**

I can't believe that my little boy is 35 weeks old corrected today (meaning that if he were still in my belly, I'd be 35 weeks pregnant; but as you know, he came 10 weeks ago and we're still 5 weeks from our due date). I am so thankful to finally be in December because, LORD WILLING, we will be bringing Bennett home sometime this month. Finally. The doctors are hopeful that he'll be home by Christmas, however no one can truly say. They think he'll need another good 4 weeks in the NICU, and Christmas is 3 weeks away, so who knows. My heart is telling me that it may be just a little bit after Christmas; maybe we can aim to have Bennett home by New Years Eve. Ultimately, Bennett has to work really hard to figure out how to breathe on his own and eat on his own. More on that in a minute.
Look, I totally get it: people have had *way* longer stays in the NICU than we've had, or are projected to have. Sixty-nine days down, and _(?)_ days to go. But I don't think you can really compare baby to baby; our journey is unique to Bennett Jimmie. There isn't another Bennett. Speaking of comparing, until today, I was 100% oblivious to other babies nearby. I hadn't even given those other precious souls a thought. Somehow, something shifted in me; maybe the monotony of it all. My tunnel vision wasn't as tight and I began to see the larger picture around me.

How is it possible that people can come and go so gosh darn quickly in the NICU while we're still hanging tight? I mean, there was literally one baby at the bedside next to us, then they were gone. The very next day the same thing happened. I was so confused. Did I miss something?

Reality set in and I came to the understanding that my baby boy has a different purpose than their baby. And their baby has a different purpose than the cutie clear across the room. There really is no comparison. The Lord is going to use each baby in the NICU for His glory and I just have to take a sip of that realization without letting the jealousy take over. Yes, I said it. Jealousy. I was feeling jealous and even started crying right there on the spot in my Kangaroo chair while holding Bennett.

It was weird to be hit with jealousy all of a sudden because I wasn't expecting to feel that way. Maybe it was the loud, full-term-sounding baby cry that set me off. Or the fact that I'm running on 4 hours of sleep (rather, "naps") per night and am irritable. Or maybe it's because the enemy knows I'm an easy target. Either way, I felt jealous for the first time in 69 days. No one could've prepared me for the plethora of emotions I would feel while being a NICU mama.

And you know what else I wasn't prepared for? How hard feeding would be. Complete honesty here: I just assumed breathing would be the hardest thing for Bennett. And while he's not 100% on his own, he's very slowly learning more each day. Feeding, on the other hand, is a struggle. Apparently it's all very normal, but I get a little discouraged. The feeding isn't all on him; it's on me too. I have to learn his cues.

It's all very sad that he has to work double just to do something most full-term babies know quite well. When we had Kensington, the thought of, "will she know how to eat" never occurred to me. And for Bennett, he is trying SO hard, and the question of, "will he learn how to eat today?" crosses my mind.

One thing that I've realized is that I am getting to see the beauty in two sides to nearly everything about our kids. One kid was an (obviously medicated) c-section while the other was an unmedicated natural delivery. One kid was born 4 days early, and the other was born 4 months early. One kid was formula fed, and the other kid was breastfed. I could go on and on. I guess the point that I'm making is that I have perspective. A new perspective that I certainly couldn't have understood until this point.

I have good days and bad days (still). Honestly, most days are good days; really good days because of the MIRACULOUS progress Bennett has made. But other days are harder and I resort to buying a cake for my Pity Party of 1. Not literally, but you get the point.

Here's where I'm at: we're on our last lap but I was tired like 3 laps ago. Essentially, I am tired of 1) asking for help, 2) driving 2 hours per day, and 3) worrying sick about my baby boy continually. I need, now more than ever, for others to be patient, supportive and encouraging. Oh and I need others not to expect too much of me right now, because they will be highly disappointed. I am being very selfish with my time, and I'm not willing to give any extra 5 minutes away.

Last thing: you can see by my public Facebook posts & photos of Bennett how happy I've been lately; his progress makes it easy to be happy and hopeful. However, the reality is that I'm not always "good". Please don't take this blog post as a complaint or being a Debbie Downer, because that's not what it is. This blog post is just to show that my emotions fluctuate often (according to my OB and other medical professionals that I've talked to, what I'm describing is very normal for being in our situation), but I'm still holding tight to the promise that Christ gave me.

And now, this guy, because CUTE.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

In The Very Middle

*Fair warning: this post may include TMI for some readers. Read at your own discretion.*

It is such a strange thing; the two different lives that I have. One life in the walls of our newly built home, and one life with monitors, dinging, and the typical hospital smell.

The most difficult part has been doing "normal" activities without Bennett. Like going to Kensington's music class. Or Ross, Kensie and I going grocery shopping. Or Kensie and I having lunch with daddy at work. It feels so wrong. Parents shouldn't be without their child. Leaving the hospital each time doesn't get any easier.

I suppose that being a NICU mom wasn't enough hospital time for my body, because I will be spending more time there here in the near future.

Oh geez. Where to begin? Let's just say that my body is being super dramatic in the most strange ways.

First, right after Bennett was born, I got my flu shot. Seems harmless right? I've gotten the flu shot every year, not to mention, being an IVF mama, I've taken my fair share of injections. It's no big deal. But this time was different. The moment the pharmacist stuck the needle in my arm, I knew. I knew that he butchered it so badly and I would be paying the price. It felt wrong immediately.

Fast forward to one month later (which was approx. 2 weeks ago), I scheduled an appointment to meet with my PCP about the unbearable pain. He sent me home with arm/shoulder exercises to do and if there was no improvement two weeks later (now), then we'd go forward with more aggressive steps. Well, I just learned that he wants to do an ultrasound on my arm, possibly an MRI, and physical therapy too.

Unbelievable. Over a flu shot. I couldn't be more irritated that I put my trust in someone (the terrible pharmacist) who knew absolutely nothing about what they were doing.

As if my arm pain wasn't bad enough (it's miserable), my body decided why not add a D&C to the mix? That's right, I will be getting a D&C this Friday. This procedure is typically for patients who are going through a miscarriage and need assistance in getting all of the remnants out of the uterus. Mind you: I just had my baby boy 8 weeks ago. There was no miscarriage inside my uterus. However, my body thinks otherwise. After delivering baby boy 8 weeks ago, some things got left behind. That turned into bleeding which got worse by the day. Over the last week, it's scary how much blood loss I've had. I'll spare you the details.

Lesson learned: I still don't the control that my Type A personality wishes I did.

The part that makes this story still have a happy ending is the truly miraculous progress that my baby boy has been making. Despite feeling like my body is "broken", I look at baby Bennett and realize how miraculous my body really is. I carried a perfectly healthy baby boy for 25 weeks and now-a-days, he is learning and growing before my very eyes.

As of this Friday (the same day of my D&C), we will be 7 weeks away from our official due date and Bennett just has to learn to breathe and eat all on his own, plus be at least 4lbs - which we are almost to! I can hardly believe that I am in the VERY MIDDLE of surviving a storm that I didn't even know I could walk through. Honestly. It feels very surreal to know that I'm smack dab in the middle of it.

It's not lost upon me the magnitude of that statement.

Until 6 months ago, we were in a one of those phases of life where everything was just peachy keen. I knew based on scripture and my past trials that there would eventually come a day, though, when life wasn't so easy. Alas here we are. And we will get through it by your prayers and God's mercy.

If anything, my prayer life has been strengthened. And my thanksgiving has been strengthened. Some days, I will literally hang over Bennett's bed and repeat, "thank you Lord" over, and over, and over, and over again. It's an emotion in my heart, that is so deep, I have no other way to express it except by giving thanks to the God who grew Bennett into the viable baby who is now thriving.

And boy, is my guy handsome or what?
As of last night, Bennett was 1681g (3lbs 11.2oz), in the 20's for his oxygen need, got his feeding tube moved to his nose so we could breast/bottle feed, and has been managing his body temperature like a pro in his cute little crib! What a joy it is to be Bennett's mama.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Bennett's Birth Story

Seems so wild to think that just a week after I wrote this blog post, I would be delivering our baby BOY! Yes, we were totally surprised by so many aspects of his September birth, but the fact that it was a boy gave the day a dose of joy in the midst of a lot of fear surrounding his early arrival. Today's blog post is my baby boy's birth story, plus a few other things that should be noted about my pregnancy/his birth! I am elated to share all of this with y'all.

I wrote this blog post in a specific order; you may be confused if you skip around. Also, this has a lot of TMI that some may find uncomfortable to read. Furthermore, there is a lot of text here. Please forgive the spelling and grammar mishaps.

There were a lot of tears shed while writing this post, so thank you for letting me share a piece of my soul with you.

My prayer before getting pregnancy with Baby #2
The prayer that I had for our second baby was pretty simple: I wanted him or her to have a story to share with the world; a testimony. I even have blogging proof that I wanted this really early on (much before we conceived Bennett). Go here & read the last paragraph.

TLDR? Here's what I wrote word-for-word. "My prayer about our second child is that God would give him or her a story, much like a story that He has given to Ross, Kensie, and I. Whatever which way we add a second child to our home, I want that." Who knew that 9 months later, my prayer would be answered?

I listen to a lot of Matt Chandler podcasts and one thing he says a lot is that things rarely work out how we think they will. So true. When I prayed the prayer about our second baby having a story, I would have never in a million years picture it to look like what our reality is. I thought that when I was praying that prayer, maybe 1) I would get pregnant naturally, or maybe 2) We would have twins, or maybe 3) something completely different; but I DID NOT think a premature baby could be something in our future.

There's no choice at this point, other than for me to cling to what I prayed for and trust that the Lord will be doing something miraculous through Bennett's story.

His name
During my pregnancy, we decided on names very early on. I even had two monogrammed outfits made - one for a boy & one for a girl. We were not planning to find out the gender of the baby until their birth day. And for the record, we are keeping the little girl's outfit *just in case* God decides to throw us a curve ball so I will not be sharing her name. Anyways, we didn't share either names with the public (only close friends & family knew both names) because we wanted to make our second pregnancy special in multiple ways. We decided on the name Bennett Jimmie Skinner for a boy.

One day during our pregnancy, I told Ross that I had heard the name Bennett and that if we had a boy, I liked the sound of it. Oddly, when I told him that, he said that he had heard that name for the first time that very same day. To make matters more interesting, a few days later we went to Walgreens on the way to a birthday party for a last minute gift. Lo and behold, outside of the Walgreens entry doors was a sign that said Bennett. It was a construction company's sign; the construction company is Bennett Construction. You can google it if you want to see for yourself that it is a local company in our area.

Later, when I was googling what Bennett meant, turns out that the meaning is, "blessed." That could not be more true. After we had our first pregnancy (which was completely easy and problem-free), we had no idea if we would have any more pregnancies. Thankfully, when we learned we were pregnant for a second time, we wanted the name to be meaningful - which is exactly why we love Bennett's name so much.

As for Bennett's middle name, we wanted the first born baby boy in our family (if we did have a boy, which obviously we did) to have a family name. We felt like Jimmie (Hubby's dad's name) would be the perfect middle name for our son and a way to honor Bennett's paternal granddad.

Bennett's pregnancy
As with our first pregnancy, we used IVF to conceive Bennett. You can read this post if you want to know more of the background details to getting pregnant with our baby boy.

With IVF pregnancies, you essentially have to take several hormones to trick your body into thinking that you've ovulated. The hormone protocol that I was on was to take birth control, estrace, lupron, and progesterone. The main hormone to sustain the pregnancy (which also is necessary before the placenta really takes over) is progesterone. Progesterone is taken as an intermuscular injection. I took progesterone through week 14 with Kensington, but with Bennett's pregnancy, I took it until 16 weeks because the doctor forgot to tell me to wean sooner. You can't just quit progesterone cold turkey (well you could, but it's not advised) so I just stayed on it a hair longer. I see now, how important those extra two weeks of progesterone were, even though it wasn't obvious at the time to my doctor or myself.

Towards the beginning of my pregnancy (around 8.5 weeks), I was told by my OB that I had a "blood spot" in my uterus. At first, the doctor made it seem like that's where the other baby was (the other embryo which did not take - we had implanted two embryos to get pregnant with Bennett), but we later came to know this "spot" as a subchorionic hematoma (SCH). To this day, I still don't exactly know how the SCH got there. My doc wasn't super concerned at the time. Those type of things typically resolve on their own.

On Thursday, July 21st, I took my last progesterone injection. I was excited to say goodbye to progesterone because the injection is rather painful after taking it for months & months. I actually think I have some nerve damage near the injection sites even as I write this; my bum is totally numb in areas.

By Saturday the 23rd, roughly 48 hours after my last injection, I started having brown discharge. Brown isn't necessarily a bad thing because it means that it is old blood. Red is much worse of a problem to have. I made the assumption that my body was just confused because I had been on hormones since February; I was scared and upset, but I still felt like everything was fine. The discharge really only lasted that day. The next day (Sunday), things seemed back to normal.

On Monday the 25th, I had discharge again in the same color, but I wasn't as content about it this time. I scheduled an appointment with my OB. On Wednesday, July 27, I saw my doctor and he said that I had marginal placenta previa. I was to be on pevlic rest (a modified bed rest) until further notice. Placenta Previa is when the placenta is covering all or part of the cervix (meaning that you wouldn't be able to push a baby out). The issue usually resolves on it's own, especially if caught early. However, one effect of the placenta previa is bleeding. My doctor attributed my discharge to the placenta previa.

I don't exactly remember the date that I started having bright red bleeding, but it was definitely within a week or two of my initial brown discharge. Each doctor that I saw attributed it to either the SCH or the marginal placenta previa. One doctor even said that I had minor bleeding outside of my cervix but they didn't know what the cause of that was.

So essentially, I bled from 16 weeks onward (and obviously it's still happening since I just had a baby). TMI... I warned you.

At the last anatomy scan that I had on September 14, the doctor, who is different than my OB, said that my SCH had completely resolved and that my placenta was completely out of the way.

I immediately sent my primary OB doctor an email and asked him why I was still bleeding. He said that, "there is now a blood clot (hematoma) that is present." There was no way I could possibly have been more confused at this point. One doctor said everything was resolved and my doctor was implying a new clot was present. I felt misunderstood, sad, mad, confused and unheard. Around the time of my anatomy scan on September 14th, I also started to have blood clots come out. Both my mom and my MIL are nurses, so I would send them pictures and we all felt a bit confused. I didn't have any answers as to what was happening.

A few days later, we unexpectedly began the laboring process.

Sunday, September 18
Ross & I were staying at a hotel in a little ole town outside of Dallas/Ft. Worth for a friends wedding. The wedding was on Saturday September 17, and we ended up leaving the wedding around 9pm because 1) Kensington was tired and 2) I felt "off". I knew I needed to rest.

After wrestling with discomfort for the few hours we were in the hotel room, I finally got the courage to text my mom at 2:09am some of the scariest words ever: "I'm scared that I'm having contractions." Before I woke Ross up, I needed to know what my mom thought I should do. Moms are like that; you always need them for advice or encouragement.

The conversation with mom went from, "we're going to drive back home to get to hospital there" to "we will be heading to the closest hospital possible." I woke Ross. I knew what was happening. By 2:45am, we were minutes away from a small hospital in Cleburne, TX. I was terrified and in a lot of pain.

When we got checked into our room at Labor & Delivery around 3am, I was immediately put on monitors to track contractions and to check on baby's heartbeat, and I was also checked to see if I had dilated. The look on the nurse's face said it all. Not only was I having contractions fairly close together, but I had indeed already started to dilate. I was dilated to a "loose" 1.

At this point, I am 24 weeks & 3 days pregnant. I'm at a hospital that cannot deliver babies so premature. The doctor advised the nurses to start an IV on me for magnesium and to give me the steroids to help develop the baby's lungs. For the steroids to be successful, they are given intramuscularly 12 hours apart from each other. I also had a catheter put in, and I've decided that I've had way too many of those for only being 29 years old. The plan was to remain on magnesium for 24 hours so that I could get both doses of the steroids.

I had heard the horror stories about magnesium before. I knew that I wasn't going to like it. But I also knew I had to do whatever was best for my baby. Magnesium is said to calm the contractions, but it is also supposed to help give the baby some added protection in the event that they were born prematurely. My first experience with magnesium was absolutely not a pleasant one, but from my perspective, I only had to do it for 24 hours so I had time on my side. (But seriously, a loading dose of magnesium was horrible. Absolutely horrible.)

The doctor did advise that if contractions didn't slow, we would be flight lifted to a Ft. Worth hospital for delivery.

Monday, September 19
Sometime on Monday morning, around 9:30am, I got the catheter taken out and the magnesium drip stopped. I remained on the monitors to ensure that the contractions had calmed down and that our baby was happy. Our goal for the day was that my contractions would hold off long enough for us to drive home.

Praise the Lord, we were discharged around noon and allowed to head home. My contractions never fully stopped but they had slowed down quite a bit. I emailed my primary OB doctor and he said to remain on bed rest until I see him the following week. He also advised that if contractions started to pick up again, I needed to head straight to the hospital about 45 minutes away from our house since they had a great NICU & my primary hospital didn't have the same capabilities.

We were home by 3:15pm from Cleburne, TX and I immediately took a shower and rested on the couch and bed for the remainder of the night. I (think) that I believed this baby was going to hold off until I was full term, assuming I stayed on bed rest... but I also was worrying continually about "what if."

Tuesday, September 20
It was 2:30am (not even 12 hours since we had been home) and the very last thing that I wanted was to wake my husband up again and tell him that I was contracting. So what did I do? I went and talked to my mother-in-law (who was staying the night with us, since she had watched Kensington while we were in the Cleburne hospital). I had just passed a clot; I told her that I wasn't sure if I was contracting again. I didn't know what the right thing was to do. See how important moms & mother-in-laws are?

By 3am, I was waking my husband up and telling him that we needed to go to the hospital 45 minutes away. I was definitely contracting again.

We were in the triage room by 4am at the hospital and my contractions were extremely painful. I was breathing through them the best way I knew how. I was crying. I was not prepared for this. When they checked me, I was still dilated to a 1, but my contractions were fairly close together. I also started to have an increase in blood clots.

The doctors kept saying that they needed my body to "declare" preterm labor. Within a couple of hours, I knew in my heart what was happening. I went from being 1cm dilated to 3cm dilated. I think the doctors finally realized I needed some assistance.

They moved me into a labor & delivery room, started the magnesium drip again, and an antibiotic drip for Group B Strep to protect the baby in case I delivered (they only did this as a precaution; they didn't know at the time that I was immune). This second experience with magnesium was more painful than the first. For whatever reason, my IV burned so badly. Still, I knew what was necessary to protect the baby.

It should also be noted that from my stay in Cleburne to my stay in the hospital near our house, I was rarely allowed to eat. For several days, I would only be allowed to eat ice chips. I had never been so hungry in my life!

Wednesday, September 21
Not a very exciting day, as I remained on magnesium and antibiotics.

Thursday, September 22
I don't remember the exact time, but in the early morning, I was eventually taken off the magnesium and antibiotics to give my body a break and to see what was going to happen. Like I mentioned before, the magnesium slows things down as much as possible. That being said, I never once stopped contracting. I was in a lot of pain for several days of contractions, but I remember feeling much more comfortable by this time.

The doctors suggested moving me to an antepartum room around 10am where I'd be more comfortable. The bed was amazing, I got to eat a real meal, and I had a lot of hope for our second baby to hold off. I even let my mom and hubby have a break from hospital life and I spent some alone time in my room, just relaxing (no TV, phone or reading... I just relaxed as best as I could).

Unfortunately, by1:30pm a lot changed in the short period that I was in the antepartum room. Contractions picked up. By 3pm, the doctors suggested getting back on magnesium. When they said this, I completely broke down.

I don't know if I can put into words exactly what I was feeling but the best way I could put it was that I felt depressed, hopeless, and scared. The word magnesium push me over the top. I vividly remember thinking, "is it my time to meet Jesus?" I cry now just thinking about it. The magnesium was such a horrible experience that I dreaded it. It messed with me mentally and physically. Mentally while on mag, I was thinking horrible thoughts. I was thinking selfish thoughts (although I wouldn't have said that at the time). I was in an extremely bad place. In 29 years of life, I don't remember feeling so low. And as I write this, I'm crying because as broken as I was, I now have to live with the fact that I was extremely selfish during a time when my baby needed me to fight more for him or her. I had 100% given up.

If I'm being transparent, the things that were said in that antepartum room are things that I never would've imagined saying before. I said things out loud like, "I'm done being pregnant." And, "I do not want to get back on magnesium again." And "I'm the patient here too - not just the baby!"


And now I live with that.

I would have never guessed that someone like me who was desperate enough for babies to pursue IVF (costing us more than $15,000) would go so far as to say things like that. When I say that I was depressed and hopeless, I meant it.

The doctor, my mom, and Ross all convinced me that I had to do what was best for the baby, even though it wasn't what I wanted. I reluctantly got back on the magnesium drip. By 6:15pm, I went from being 3cm dilated to 5cm dilated, and the baby was engaged. Doctors and nurses moved me from the antepartum room back into a labor & delivery room.

That night, my mom and Ross knew how depressed I was. Not to mention, I hadn't gotten to see my daughter very much at all, and that was hard on me. I felt like I was failing in so many ways, including not being there for Kensington. Around Kensington's bedtime, I got a little piece of happiness when my baby girl got to come see me at the hospital.
In this picture, I was completely broken, but happy enough to take a picture with Kensington. My right arm is being held up by my chest because the magnesium drip was so painful; I couldn't move my hand. It is also the last picture that I took while still pregnant with Bennett. It's the three of us in the picture, one last time before I would be birthing our son (but I didn't know it then).

Friday, September 23 - Bennett's Birthday
Around 8:45am, the doctors were making their rounds and I knew I wanted off the magnesium, so I asked them. They agreed that we would get off the mag and see what happened next. In my heart, I knew. I absolutely knew what was coming. I selfishly didn't care. My thought was: this baby is going to come soon, and by me getting off magnesium, I will give my body the opportunity to progress further. Women can absolutely increase in contractions while on magnesium enough to have a baby, but in general, the magnesium does slow things down.

By 9:45am I was off the mag. I ate some food and relaxed.

Not even 4 hours later, an intense back pain started out of nowhere. Back labor. It was 1:30pm and I told the nurse. She wasn't buying that it was back labor and gave me tylenol. She did hook me up to the monitors though, so we could make sure baby was okay, and to keep track of my contractions.

My mom and Ross immediately said that we needed to start magnesium again. I wouldn't listen to it. I did, however, compromise and I asked the nurse to check my dilation and do an ultrasound to make sure the baby was still head down.

Around 3:30pm, I was dilated to about a 6 and the baby was confirmed to be head down. Because of this, we decided I needed to get back on the magnesium. This time, I was compliant. I knew the baby was coming soon. Our NICU doctors explained that it's very important to be on magnesium while birthing a premature baby because it contributes to their health in a few different ways.

The contractions continued to get worse and worse. I kept asking for an epidural but the doctors told me that wasn't going to be doable since they were worried about me bleeding out. Mind you, I had been bleeding since 16 weeks pregnant. According to doctors, my levels were not well enough to qualify for an epidural.

The only thing I knew to do was breathe through the pain as best as I could. The fear and tears took over. I had never been so scared in my life. Not only to have a natural birth, but also because I was hours away from having a baby that shouldn't (in my mind) be coming this early in the pregnancy.

From this point forward, I don't remember too much. My mom, dad, and Ross are all in the room and their concern is all I kept hearing, but the doctors weren't paying too much attention it felt.

Around 5pm, I was between 7-8cm dilated. Then by 5:45, I was between 8-9cm dilated. Doctors started to prep for delivery.

The next thing I remember is the doctors asking me to scoot to the end of the bed. There also had to be at least 10 people in the room. The delivery was imminent and our baby was going to need assistance, so we had several people from the NICU team, plus many other doctors/nurses.

Being a premature baby, 8-9cm dilated is enough room to get the baby out. The only thing I really remember is having my eyes wired shut and 3 unmedicated pushes. Between each push, I did not think another push would be possible. I was absolutely terrified and in so much pain. I was shaking and felt every emotion that you can think of.

The baby was born at 25 weeks & 1 day. Someone said, "it's a boy" and I cried. I couldn't stop crying. I couldn't believe it. I had a son. Bennett Jimmie Skinner was born at 6:08 via VBAC, weighing 2lbs even at 11.25 inches. I never got to see him or touch him while he was in the labor & delivery room; he was immediately prepared and rushed to the NICU.
I do remember delivering my placenta. That's when we got our answer. The answer that I desperately wished the doctors could've told me during my pregnancy. Placenta Abruption. Albeit minor, this was the cause of the bleeding and preterm labor.

I met my son an hour or two later in the NICU department. I don't really remember the first meeting because I was crying so much. Nothing could have prepared me for the pain that I would feel. I wish I could write this and tell you that I felt joyful seeing him for the first time, but the truth is that the NICU terrified me, his small frail body made me feel like a failure, and every selfish thought that I had while laboring for 6 days straight made me feel so much shame.

Those emotions... I still carry them. I don't want to. I know the biblical answer is that I was never meant to carry burdens like shame and guilt. But I still carry them anyways. I am extremely flawed.

Instead of asking God to remove those burdens off me (which feels selfish in & of itself), I focus my entire being on asking God to heal Bennett. Daily, I ask Jesus to please make Bennett comfortable, please keep him safe, please let him never feel alone, and Lord please heal him.

Lord knows that if there were any way, I would take it all back. I would, at the very least, ask that God would give me the pain that Bennett feels while he's in the NICU. I want to take it all away from him and have him well. While I was selfishly complaining and crying in the hospital, my mom and Ross kept saying that if they could take on the pain themselves (from my experience with magnesium), they would. But I knew that wasn't possible. And although I know it's not possible, I would ask that God would give me all of Bennett's pain and take it away from him.

Having Bennett has completely humbled me in ways that I didn't even know were necessary. In his life thus far, he has given me a new perspective. God knows that I have a lot of work ahead of me. I feel fragile, unpredictable with my emotions, and completely ill equipped to proceed forward. But I have to for Bennett. I owe him everything.

Loving Bennett as been one of the most rewarding but scariest things that I've ever felt. I've come to see, that despite my flaws, guilt, and shame, that Bennett encompasses what joy looks like. There aren't enough words in the English dictionary for me to accurately say how much I love him. I keep saying him that "I love him so deep" because I don't even know what else to say. I don't think that life would be worth living without having had him. The Lord knew, far before I did, how much I needed a son. God knew that I would love him deeper than any other person could, so He gave Bennett to me. I am indebted to Jesus for giving Ross, Kensington and I the sweetest baby boy on earth.

As emotional as I've been lately, I also couldn't possibly feel more blessed by this 2 pound baby boy. This moment right here. It will be in my memory forever. I'm crying again because there's absolutely no words for how special it was to hold my baby boy for the first time today.

Random facts about Bennett's birth & pregnancy
1) Although I didn't know it during my pregnancy, I was being prepared for Bennett's eventual early delivery in two different ways: feelings of peace and a glimpse of what NICU life looks like.

From the very first doctor appointment with my OB and each appointment onward, I always blurted out, "I have a peace over this pregnancy." Never once did I understand why, in the moment, that I was saying those words since I truly never had anything to worry about (especially at the beginning of the pregnancy) until the bleeding started. But the Lord put those words on my tongue to proclaim and I said it, almost in a robotic fashion during each OB appointment.

Another way that I was being prepared, although I also never understood (or really noticed), was during my pregnancy, I was always drawn to stories of babies who were born early. On my personal Facebook page, before Bennett was born, I shared this Stand for Life story and this sweet video. I was touched enough by both of them to share them with my Facebook friends. Weeks after sharing both, we are now in a situation very similar to both stories!

2) God gave me a vision that has not actually come to fruition how I imagined, but I'm believing it means something. Around the time that my bleeding started, I remember always seeing an image in my head of Kensington holding an average size baby on a hospital couch. I assumed this meant that our baby would go to their due date, but I now see that it can mean something completely different - like maybe it's a promise from God that he has made Kensington a big sister even if it looks differently than I expected. Or maybe it means something else! I am not going to worry about the tiny details, but rather focus on that vision which God gave me.

3) A pretty neat fact about our family is that each of us (Ross, me, Kensington, & now Bennett) were all born on Fridays. Too neat not to share :)

4) On 9/23/14, two embryos were put into my body (1 of which later grew big and strong to become Kensington). Well, exactly two years after that happened, our second baby (Bennett) was born! Who knew that September 23rd could have such a special meaning for us. I would have NEVER imagined having two babies so close in age - but it's what I always wanted for as long as I could remember.