"And once the storm is over you won't remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won't even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won't be the same person who walked in. That's what this storm's all about."
We arrived at Lurie Children's Hospital at 7:45 am for a tour of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where the baby will be moved almost immediately after birth. The lobby at this hospital is adorable - definitely set up to inspire a child's imagination. As we waited next to an oversized aquatic scene for our tour guide watching a three year old sprint past us wearing giant Incredible Hulk gloves, the neonatologist we met with a week and a half ago was coming in to start her day (unfortunately she had been caught in the rainstorm that was blanketing the city). Brian and I didn't even notice her, but she made a point to come over and ask how we were doing. As we were wrapping up our small talk, she mentioned that she was going to keep her eyes peeled for our names on the labor and delivery list and she would be sure to touch base after the baby was born. This woman is one of 32 neonatologists on staff and it is unlikely that she will be assigned to our baby, but this brief interaction once again made us feel like the team at this hospital truly cares about the families they are working with. Perhaps Brian and I have just been jaded by interactions with 'regular' doctors, and maybe all physicians focused on pediatrics share a softer quality that bolsters a compassionate bedside manner, or maybe this hospital just does an excellent job recruiting for an environment focused on cultivating comfort and healing. I'll assume the latter.
Shortly thereafter, we met with a pediatric nurse practitioner who our social worker had arranged to give us a tour of the NICU. This unit is the entire 14th floor of the hospital and every baby has a private room equipped with a rocking chair, recliner, breast pump and lovely view. While it was obvious that all the current residents were in need of special care, it didn't feel like a sad place. The main area was bright and happy, but the rooms felt calm and serene. It was helpful to see this place prior to our baby's arrival so we could 1) have a better idea of what to expect on a day-to-day basis and 2) meet some of the staff that would be taking care of our little fighter.
After our tour, we crossed over to the Galter Pavilion for a fetal non-stress test and to meet with our perinatologist again. The fetal non-stress test takes roughly 20 minutes and the goal is to measure the baby's heart rate during surges of activity. One nurse explained it that if I was to run up a flight of stairs, the doctor wants to see an increase in cardiovascular activity to mirror that activity. This is what they are trying to capture for the baby, but instead of stairs, the activity includes kicks and flips. As we waited for our name to be called, a jolly redheaded woman walked up to the reception desk, took a Tootsie Roll and then offered one to me and Brian, addressing us by our first names like we were old friends. Apparently, this was who was going to be administering our test. We followed her back to the testing room and she got me all set up (two monitors are strapped to my belly). After some small talk, I felt bad that I didn't know her name. "I'm Linda." This was our angel. The woman who Brian had initially talked to a few short weeks ago who initiated our transition from UIC to Northwestern. This was the woman who ensured that we met with all the right people. "You're the Linda?" I couldn't help but get emotional and reiterate to her what she had done for us, how she injected comfort back into our lives when we desperately needed it. I feel like I'm never going to be able to repay this woman for her kindness, so I wanted her to know how drastically she impacted our lives. We spent the rest of our time together learning about her two daughters, one who was recently married and the other who was expecting her first child. It was nice.
After hugs with Linda, we went back out to meet with the perinatologist. He walked into the room, with a medical student in tow, and immediately addressed Brian - he had just learned that Brian's injury was caused by marathon training and he himself was an avid marathoner. The doctor looked at me and said with a big smile "I promise we will get to you, but I just want to talk to your husband for a minute." They shared their war stories and he talked about how he initially hated long distance running, but had successfully completed multiple marathons (including Boston). He reassured Brian that he would get through this injury and be back at it before he knew it. Soon after, the topic of conversation moved back to the peanut in my belly and when we could expect a debut. The doctor explained that if I was showing signs of labor, we would likely want to induce this week for a more control labor and delivery. Induction when there are no signs of labor can be an arduous and unpredictable process. Considering the non-stress test results were reflective of the baby thriving in my belly, the doctor didn't see any reason to rush the process and he reiterated that he was aware of my wishes for an intervention free labor and delivery. So the plan was 1) if I was showing signs of labor, I would likely be induced in the next couple of days or 2) if I was showing little to no signs of labor, we would come back on Thursday to check again.
After a brief exam, the doctor determined the baby was still comfy and it was best to be patient - we will wait until Thursday to reevaluate. And so we will do our best to resume regular life for a few more days, anticipating our next appointment or for Baby B to decide it is time to come. If nothing has changed by Thursday, we will discuss setting an induction date for next week.
Roughly thirty-five weeks ago, our lives changed when we discovered we were going to become parents. But three weeks ago today, I think Brian and I truly became parents when we learned this news. We are no longer living for just the two of us; we are living for our child, for our family and to entrust this is God's plan for us. This time has been terrifying, humbling, exhausting, hopeful and everything in between, but Brian and I have learned more about ourselves as people and as a couple than we ever thought possible, even after almost seven years of marriage. And while we've had moments of complete and utter grief, we have made the decision to be strong and resilient for each other and for our baby - we will make it through this and we are doing our best to do it with joyful, kind hearts. We will continue to use this forum as a means to thank all of you for your love, prayers and support. Thank you especially to Lauren Garcia and Emily Vaccaro for arranging the meal train - we had our first delicious dinner tonight thanks to Karen and Patrick McNamara - baby approved.
"Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Invite one to stay."