…she blogged again. My last post was on my 34th birthday. I’m now 36. Much has changed since then. When I last wrote a post, we were anxiously awaiting a call from the adoption agency to let us know we had been matched with a birth mother. Today, we are parents to a beautiful, strong, delightful little 16-month-old girl. But her arrival didn’t quite work out as planned…
December 6, 2014 was a normal day in every other way, except for the fact that my period was a few days late. Rather than stress about it, I went to buy a pregnancy test to put my mind at ease. Shockingly it was positive. I took another one. Still positive. And then I proceeded to lose my freaking mind. Pregnancy tests that turn out positive are supposed to be exciting and happy occasions. Because of our history of infertility and then four miscarriages, I was instead filled with dread and sadness. I crumpled in Matt’s arms, and I sobbed for a long time. We told our immediate families, but didn’t tell anyone else. We were sure we would have another miscarriage, and I just couldn’t deal with everyone again. December 30th I went to the doctor for an emergency visit because of some really heavy bleeding. They did an ultrasound, and I fully expected to see a dead baby on the screen. Instead there was a tiny little dancing fetus – perfectly healthy; heart beating. My OB watched me carefully, because of my history of miscarriage. Somehow we eventually found ourselves in uncharted territory – the second trimester! Once we reached this stage, we had to let the adoption agency know. They don’t allow “artificial twinning,” so our pregnancy meant we had to make our adoption listing inactive.
Because of my history, my OB also referred me to the Maternal Fetal Medicine doctors at our hospital. They also kept a close eye on me, and at my 20-week ultrasound at their office, we discovered that dancing baby was a little girl. We decided on her name: Hannah Jean. In the Old Testament, Hannah is a woman who is unable to have children. She prays and she prays for God to give her a child, and eventually she is blessed with her son Samuel. “For this child I prayed, and the Lord granted me what I asked of Him.” (1 Samuel 27) Jean is my mother’s middle name. Both names Hannah and Jean mean “God is Gracious,” and indeed he is – doubly gracious; grace upon grace. We were so excited to meet Hannah on or around her due date of August 13th.
MFM requires a 24-week ultrasound to perform a fetal echocardiogram to make sure the baby’s heart is forming correctly. On April 22nd, 2015, we went to the hospital for this appointment. During the ultrasound, the technician was asking me questions they had never asked before. “Have you been having cramping? Contractions? Have you been having any bleeding or discharge?” I sensed that something was wrong. The tech asked me to change, and told me she wanted to do a transvaginal ultrasound to get a closer look. As soon as the image came on the screen, I could tell something was wrong. My cervix was wide open, where at my last screening it had seemed closed. The doctor quickly came in, looked at Matt, and said, “You are going to go home, pack her the things she will need.” He looked at me an continued, “You are being admitted to the hospital right now, and you will remain here until the baby is born.”
Thanks to something I now know is called Incompetent Cervix, I was 100% effaced and 2 cm dilated at 24 weeks. The nurses in Labor and Delivery helped me understand just how dire the situation was. The Neonatologist came down from the Newborn Intensive Care Unit to explain the statistics (not good) and likelihood of survival (also not good). So I buckled in, made friends with L&D nurses, and tried to prepare myself for what could possibly be 16 weeks of hospitalization. Family and friends came to visit and pray. They sent cards and flowers and goodies. I got tons of emails and text messages letting me know we were being prayed for (literally all over the world!). As scary as it was, we were making the best of it, and trying to remain positive.
Saturday evening, May 2nd, I felt something trickling down my leg. Then it wasn’t a trickle, but more like a flow. My nurse did a swab test, and let me know that my water had broken. Cue the panic. We had an ultrasound to show us the position of the baby. Miraculously she had turned head-down. They gave me drugs to try to keep my body from contracting, but eventually they wore off and those mother-effing contractions took over. All told I was in labor for 36 hours, and at 7:36 a.m. on Monday, May 4th, 2015, Hannah Jean Swisher was born. The contractions were murder, but the delivery was quite easy. She weighed just 1 lb 10 ounces, and was only 12.75 inches long. (She was born “en caul,” meaning she was still in her gestational sac. We have since learned that this is said to be an indication of greatness.) There was a large team of people assembled to assess her, clean her, intubate her, etc. They held her up for me to look at her, and I immediately noticed that she looked like my little brother! Certainly a Kermeen baby if there ever was one. She was stable enough that I was able to hold her for just a minute before they took her to the NICU. I looked down at my baby girl, and she looked up at me with these wide eyes. I wasn’t sure if I would ever see her alive again. I wasn’t sure if she would make it. Certainly babies this small and this early don’t survive, right?
The first time I held Hannah, just moments after she was born. Our first family photo. 5/4/15
Hannah Jean at just 5 days old. It’s hard to imagine just how tiny she was, but our hands help give some perspective. 5/9/15
Somehow, whether by miracle, prayer, strength, tenacity, love, fantastic medical care, or some combination of the above, Hannah not only survived, but she THRIVED. She spent the first 117 days of her life in the NICU at Community North Hospital in Indianapolis being cared for by a superb medical team. Her doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists, even the members of the custodial team were all loving and kind and encouraging and knowledgable and they will never ever fully understand just how grateful we are for them. Hannah came home on August 29th, 2015 with no monitors, no oxygen, no nothing. Just wide eyes and healthy lungs and chubby legs – and sunglasses. It was a bright day, and that girl had never seen the sun before!
Since then it has been months of playing and snuggling and feeding and crying and rocking and reading and bathing and falling in love with a precious, miraculous gift of a girl. We are so in love with our Rainbow Baby! Even her pediatrician calls her a miracle. You would never know she was born so early! She has been developmentally caught up to her actual age since she was around 9 months old. We are so proud of her, and really are in awe of just how awesome she is.
Hannah now – age 16 months. (Yes, her eyes are two different colors. Just another thing that makes her unique!) 9/28/16
So you would think that would be enough to keep us busy, but our family update doesn’t end there. We always wished for at least two children. I love my siblings, and I couldn’t imagine Hannah not getting to have at least one sibling of her own. We figured it would take a long time to get pregnant again, if I was even able to. Somehow we ended up getting pregnant just two days after Hannah’s first birthday. (Okay, yes I know how this happens. I am fully aware of the process! I just never in a million years imagined we would get pregnant again THAT quickly.) This time with the positive pregnancy test we were just shocked. Like, SHOCKED. We went to the doctor, saw a little heartbeat on the ultrasound, and buckled in for what was sure to be an interesting pregnancy.
We learned at 13 weeks that we are having a little boy, and we have named him Henry James. My beloved great-grandmother’s name was Henrietta, and Matt’s grandfather’s name was James. We have said for 6 years that if we ever had a boy that’s what his name would be. I’m really looking forward to getting his room ready. It will be St. Louis Cardinals room – yay!
I am seeing at least one doctor every other week. I’m getting ultrasounds every visit. I got to have a cerclage placed surgically on July 25th. (McDonald stitch, for those who are interested.) A cerclage is a stitch that they place in my cervix to keep it from opening early. The doctor will remove it around the 36-week mark, and I could go into labor any time after that. The cerclage means I am on “pelvic rest” for the duration of my pregnancy (Google that. I just can’t say it.), so that’s REALLY fun (#not). Also because of my incompetent cervix, I get to have weekly progesterone shots in my butt, which hurt like hell, and make me a hormonal mess. (Hot flashes, even more zits than normal, moodiness, etc.) I’m also super-tired and wear out easily. AND I’m not allowed to do any heavy-lifting (including Hannah), so Matt has really been taking on the bulk of the housework and toddler-duty. It’s really been a lot of fun around the Swisher house the past few months! But so far, everything looks great! Henry is growing perfectly. My cervix is staying nice and long (last measured at over 5 cm – yay!) and CLOSED. Hopefully the combination of the progesterone shots and the cerclage will keep Henry cooking for quite a bit longer than Hannah did. I’m starting to feel Henry move a lot more lately too, which is fun. Hopefully Matt will be able to feel him soon. He was never able to feel Hannah move in my belly. She came too early!
Today I am at 23 weeks and 3 days. We are nearing the point in pregnancy when Hannah was born, and to say that I am a little nervous would be understating it a bit. Our NICU friends are encouraging us to just get to 30 weeks, and then they will feel better. I’m telling myself that if I can get through Thanksgiving, I will breathe a sigh of relief. Anything can happen, but I will just feel better. His due date is January 24, 2017. I would really like for him to come in 2015 though, for tax and insurance deductible reasons! 🙂
So that’s the major news around these parts. Other things have been happening with our families and friends, but I could never cover it all in this blog, nor should I really try to. Not my stories to tell, honestly. There have been moments of intense joy and intense grief in our families over the last couple years. Through it all, though, I remain confident that God is present during all of it. He celebrates with us. He grieves with us. He provides for us. He blesses us even when we don’t see it. He even keeps little blogs going when owners doing a piss-poor job of keeping them updated. May you experience God’s love a little bit today… ❤