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.
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.
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.
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 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.