High-Risk Pregnancy, Bed Rest and a Big Dream

No two pregnancies are the same just as no two deliveries are the same. At least that was my experience. As my husband and I prepared to welcome our third child in 2015, we followed a carefully thought-out plan to give us the best chance for a full-term pregnancy and healthy delivery. With a history of preterm labor and delivery, I was considered high risk and therefore began a proactive approach to monitor for any signs of preterm labor very early in my pregnancy. The journey that began more than a year before a positive pregnancy test led to my longest pregnancy and first experience with gentle cesarean section at the Peggy V. Helmerich Women’s Health Center at Hillcrest Medical Center.  

Dr. Tracey Lakin and I discussed my history of preterm labor and delivery – my first two children were born at 30 weeks and 36 weeks gestation. We investigated the cause (never definitively determined) and explored the most recent studies and theories on prevention, and if they would be more effective for me than past methods. In addition to medical therapies available during pregnancy, I started making prenatal changes to my diet, like reducing foods that caused inflammation, and incorporating more yoga into my exercise regime to hopefully boost my odds at staying pregnant longer next time. Then it happened: we were pregnant again!

I entered this pregnancy aware, cautious and prepared. At 16 weeks gestation, I began receiving weekly progesterone shots to help reduce the risk of preterm contractions. At 20 weeks, I began a regular schedule of ultrasound screenings to look for any signs of changes in my cervix. These were at least two proactive steps taken much earlier in this pregnancy than in the previous two pregnancies. I also stopped picking up large items, even replacing my everyday purse with a smaller one. I stopped running, but continued my prenatal yoga practice. I drank at least 64 ounces of water every single day. With my previous pregnancies, dehydration kicked off preterm contractions.

At 22 weeks, I took my last trip to Texas for the Christmas holiday, armed with my complete medical file in my purse just in case. By mid-January I went in for a routine (for me) weekly appointment. In just a few short weeks, there were big changes in my cervix. At 25 weeks, I received steroid shots for the baby’s lungs and was placed on strict bed rest. By 26 weeks, I was admitted to Hillcrest Medical Center for a round of magnesium sulfate to slow down the contractions to prevent the onset of active labor. I remember taking deep yoga breaths to physically force my body to calm from the fear that this pregnancy was ending.

Everything aligned and the labor stopped. I went home knowing that I faced at least 11 more weeks of bed rest to get to my minimum goal of 37 weeks. Maybe if I made it to 37 weeks, I could make it to 38 weeks or even to 39. I had been through bed rest before and knew how to do it right to be successful.

You rely on everyone around you to care for your children, take care of our house, go to the store, fix meals and clean up from meals – even to let the dogs outside. It is mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting for everyone. Yet, my family, friends and co-workers surrounded me with support, as we all focused on one common goal – to get to 37 weeks.

By 35 weeks, I felt my shoulders drop a little more each passing day. However, as the fear of preterm delivery began to subside a new real concern grew for our daughter: she was in the breech position – feet down. With a paper-thin cervix, I was at risk of my water breaking at any moment. If that were to happen, there was a very strong risk of cord entanglement, which put our baby’s life at risk. Dr. Lakin and I both agreed it was safest to be in the hospital.

On the Labor & Delivery unit, my room shared a wall with the operating room so I was as close as possible in the event of an emergency c-section if my water broke. It was a balancing game of risk and reward. With each passing day, I wondered if I would make it as much as I felt confident that I would. No one knew for sure.

Saturday, April 11 marked 37 weeks – the day of the scheduled c-section. When you are on bed rest for 12 weeks, you have plenty of time to plan. That Friday I was going to get up for my brief five-minute shower and enjoy the last day lying on my side. Then at 5 a.m. on Friday, as I lay completely awake and still, my water broke.

I’ll never forget the nurse who held me, while I laid on my side getting the epidural. She knew I was afraid and knew not to let go of me. She kept reminding me the baby was OK. The team of nurses and anesthesia staff worked quickly to prepare me for delivery. We were all ready when Dr. Stacy Noland, the doctor on-call that morning, walked in.

At 6:04 a.m. our daughter, Andie Jane, was born following an emergency c-section. As soon as she was weighed and assessed the nurse brought her over to me and laid her on my chest for skin-to-skin right there in the operating room. Andie stayed with me not only through the “golden hour,” but for the next two days until we were discharged. My husband and I had never experienced that with our other children. It was the big dream we thought was possible when we found out I was pregnant, but worried may never happen at several points throughout my pregnancy. It was the big dream family, friends, co-workers, doctors and nurses helped us achieve – a dream that completed our family.

This blog was written by Amanda Armstrong, who works in the Marketing Department at Hillcrest HealthCare System.