Hi there, I feel it important to share with you what has been going on for the last 6 months. This is so you can better understand the pause in blogs, break from working, and what God has been doing in my family. So, heads-up, this blog is more of an update.
As many of you know, I found out this past January that I was pregnant. Our family was so excited! My husband and 3 kids had been talking about how badly they wanted a new addition – and finally it was a reality! All of their reactions to the news were priceless! They were completely overflowing with joy!
I have had 3 uneventful pregnancies in the past and did not expect there to be anything different with this one. I was terribly wrong. During the first trimester I was so sick and literally on the couch for 5 weeks unable to function. Finally, after the first trimester had passed, I started to get back to “normal” – still a little off but not uncommon for being pregnant.
Then, around 15-16 weeks, I started to have some odd symptoms. I spoke with my doctor and, although different than my last pregnancies, the symptoms were not alarming. At 17-18 weeks, I started to feel as though I could not hold my bladder. I had an ultrasound coming up at 19 weeks so my husband and I decided that if my symptoms got worse, we would go in early. Otherwise, we would wait for the scheduled appointment. Well, the night before the appointment I started spotting. I have never had spotting/bleeding with the first 3 pregnancies. Since the ultrasound was the next day, we decided we would discuss this with the doctor then.
On April 19th, we had the ultrasound. As soon as I saw our baby, I knew it was not good. There was NO fluid around our sweet baby! I started to cry. My husband tried his best to comfort me but was also in shock himself. Our doctor went on to explain that my membranes had ruptured (my water broke) and that was the leaking I had been experiencing. This is called Preterm Premature Rupture of Membranes (PPROM). This is a huge problem because the fluid is what aides in the development of the intestines, kidneys, and most importantly the lungs. Hypoplastic lungs are a common issue with babies who have experienced PPROM and is the number one cause of death. The fluid also provides room for the baby to move and a cushion for the cord.
We were given less than a 50/50 chance that our baby would survive. I was put on modified bedrest with a plan to be admitted to the hospital at 23 weeks – if we made it that far. At that point they would do their protocol consisting of steroid shots to try to mature our baby’s lungs, antibiotics due to the increased risk of infection, magnesium for brain protection, and tocolytics to stop/prolong labor. The goal was to stay pregnant until 34 weeks and at that point they would delivery baby via c-section.
Immediately, we began asking any and every one to pray for our baby. Our house church family got a meal train going and I did not break doctor’s orders. I stayed either in my bed or on the couch. My family and I prayed and prayed. This sweet baby was already having such a rough entrance into this world. Although they did not know why my water broke, I could not help but to feel as though I failed my baby. My body was supposed to protect and comfort this miracle for 9 months but it didn’t.
On May 5th we had an anatomy scan scheduled. In the beginning, we wanted the sex of our baby to be a surprise, but now we wanted to know so we could pray for our baby by name. Thankfully we were able to find out and we were having another girl – Abigail Grace Noel Churchman! We prayed for her constantly.
I would be 23 weeks on May 14th and on the 13th we packed our bags in preparation for a very long hospital stay. That night I woke up around 1:30am in terrible pain. The pain would not subside so my husband called the squad and let my doctor know what was going on. It was expected that I was experiencing a prolonged contraction and was possibly in active labor. As I was escorted out to the ambulance my other 3 children were terrified and my youngest crying.
That pain last for 30 minutes! By the time I reached the hospital it had finally subsided. Thankfully, I was not in active labor and there were no changes with my cervix. We started the protocol of steroids, antibiotics, magnesium, and tocolytics. Our goal was to stay pregnant until 34 weeks. On May 24th my mom and oldest son came to visit me. It was my husband’s first day back to work after Abigail and I finally stabilized and got out of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). I got up to use the bathroom and knew something was not right. The nurse had just walked into my room and I told her I wanted to be put onto the monitor. We found Abigail’s heartbeat right away and it was rather high for her. Before we knew it she had a decel (where her heartrate dropped too low) and then we could not find it again. They called a code green and rushed me to the operating room. I remember the look of terror on my son’s face as they whisked me past him.
Once in the operating room they found her heartbeat but after doing a speculum exam realized there was a lot of blood and it was presumed my placenta was detaching from the wall of my uterus. Thankfully my husband was only working 6 minutes away and got to the hospital before they had to start the operation. They proceeded with the c-section – I was 24 weeks and 4 days. I was told Abigail’s APGAR scores were 1, 7, and 9 – that was excellent! I was also told that the procedure could not have gone any smoother. I praised God! This was such a scary experience; it was comforting knowing it had gone so well – better than any of the doctors expected it to go.
I will never forget getting to see my sweet baby for the first time. In the incubator and under all the tubes and wires, there was our precious little 15 ounce 10 ¼ inch miracle – our Abigail. I was immediately in love with her. But my heart was troubled because of her fragile state. We worked with the nurses to do cares (changing her diaper, temperature, etc) and my husband absolutely rocked it. He just jumped right in, even when I was scared to. And boy did she LOVE her daddy! When he would do her care, he would just talk and talk to her. Her oxygen would jump up and she would kick her little legs in excitement. Despite all the odds being stacked against her she absolutely rocked the first 50 hours of her life.
However, things shifted after that. Her oxygen levels would not stay up and on Saturday, May 28th, I was called up to the NICU. The ventilation tube had shifted down and her left lung had collapsed. They were finally able to get the tube in the right place and her lung immediately reinflated. However, all the machines were at max levels but her oxygen saturation, which ideally should be in the 90% range, was in the 20’s-40’s. She remained this way for hours. We were devastated. They told my husband and I to call in our family to come meet her and asked us what life saving measures we would want to have preformed if her heart stopped. This was such a hard thing to think about and decide. She was so little and fragile. We were literally putting all of our hope and trust in the Lord knowing that He loved her more than we ever could and wanted what was best for her. The concern after having such low oxygen levels for so long was the strain it causes on the heart, slowing down and eventually stopping.
Abigail was not having that though. She was such a fighter. She kept on going for another 2 days. The next evening, I was able to hold her. I held her for four beautiful hours. I prayed over her. I told her how much I love her, how much Jesus loves her. I gently stroked her cheek. I sang worship songs to her. And I bitterly wept when I had to give her back. Then, on May 31st at 5:30 AM the NICU called our room and said “you need to get up here now”. I ran. It had happened. Her heart rate had dropped into the 30’s and it was not coming back up. They quickly rushed her into my arms for skin to skin. I held my sweet Abigail again. I kissed her. I told her again how much I love her and how much Jesus loves her. I told her it was ok, that as much as I wanted her here with us, that Jesus would take care of her until we could be together again. I held her and I wept. Long after her last breath, I held her and wept.
My husband and I have never felt such a deep pain in our lives. My heart breaks that my sweet baby is no longer here on this earth. My body grieves not being able to care for her, nurse her, and do all the other maternal instincts I had been prepped to do. A part of me is dead. I will never be the same. I am so completely torn to want to be with her in paradise but wanting to be here to continue taking care of my other children and husband. Somehow I have to continue living with this separation, until the day that I am called home or Jesus calls us into the air with Him.
I had never seen such a small casket before. No one should ever have to bury their baby/child. That is not the way God intended it to be. But I serve a God who knows this pain. Many people ask why God does not do something about the intense pain and suffering in this world. But He has! Through His son Jesus, we are saved. We are all on a sinking ship called sin – this world. Through Jesus’ selfless sacrifice, we are given the free opportunity to get into His lifeboat and not sink. But it is a choice and to not choose is in fact a choice!
Thanks to our amazing God and His perfect love, I will go to my sweet Abigail one day – because I have made a choice to enter into Jesus’ lifeboat. Our separation is a “see you later” not a “goodbye” and I praise God for that!
Despite the gut-wrenching pain and suffering our family has experienced; we give our praise to God because He is worthy. I encourage you to consider joining me in the lifeboat. It is truly the ONLY hope we have in this world.
I do not know what my blogs will look like moving forward. I will obviously at times address health but I want to leave room for the Holy Spirit to move. Before anything (being a wife, mom, healthcare provider, etc) I am a Christian and I want my life to always be dedicated to His will. So know that there is an intentionality founded in prayer and submission behind each blog.
Thank you all for your prayers, support, and patience.
Laura Churchman, CPNP, CTP, HHC
Founder of Healing from the Root