by Megan Ueckert
Pregnant with my perfect little twins, I was put on hospital bed rest after learning my daughter’s sac had ruptured at only 21 weeks of pregnancy. I spent the first few nights in a labor and delivery room where the nurses kept telling us the next few days were critical, almost like a mantra, we heard this over and over, not fully understanding what that meant.
I quickly learned that the pain I felt in my back before making my way to the hospital were contractions and they needed to stop so I didn’t go into labor. That night, the nurse practitioner from the NICU came to visit with us. He couldn’t offer much guidance as to what my hospital stay would look like or what the next steps were, just instilled in us the importance of making it first past the next three days without any further contractions and then to the next milestone of the critical 23-week mark. I tried to ask questions to better understand what was so important about the 23-week mark, but he was consistent in advising to take one day at a time and we would have conversations throughout the way as we hit milestones.
Although he had a very calm demeanor, I think I started to realize the medical situation was serious, although it still hadn’t crossed my mind that my twins wouldn’t make it. The first few nights were terrible. I was so scared and not really understanding what was going on with my body as I continued to feel the painful contractions.
Joe, my 6’4 husband, slept in the hospital room with me on a small reclining chair that folded out to somewhat resemble a bed and woke up to every sound I made, in fear of the worst. I obeyed all the doctor’s orders and prayed a lot and thankfully made it past that first week. I was then moved into another room into antepartum where I was planning to stay until I delivered the babies hopefully not for another 3 at the earliest. Joe went back to work, so I laid in the bed, only getting up to use the restroom. I felt a little depressed but tried to make a routine to follow to give me a feeling of purpose each day.
I would wake up and watch the news for an hour, and then I would read a book for a few hours, then I would talk to a family member or friend on the phone, and then I would watch TV for a couple of hours before Joe came back up to the hospital to eat dinner with me, then I would go to sleep by 10.
This reminded me of when I joined the Air Force and was in basic training for 6 months with a broken leg, when I should have graduated after 6 weeks, and how I wanted to be anywhere other than where I was and the mental and physical daily demands I endured.
Until now, that was one of the most difficult times in my life. As people constantly tried to be sympathetic and tell me they don’t know how I’m doing it, I would just tell myself that this is a cakewalk compared to my time in basic training. Besides, I would do anything for my babies! I kept a calendar near my bed where I could keep track of what day of the week it was, but also to count down the days and to be grateful for each day I got to mark off the calendar that I was still on bedrest and pregnant.
Finally, I made it to 23 weeks pregnant. This was the huge milestone that I had prayed and prayed about. As we approached the 23-week mark, I was informed this was where the babies would be considered viable, and we could ask for lifesaving measures. If they had been born prior to this 23-week mark, they would have only received comfort care to peacefully pass away.
The morning I hit this milestone, I anxiously waited for the neonatologist over Baylor to come talk to Joe and me. Dr. Kappler entered the room, introduced herself and very matter of fact explained to us the difference between viability and quality of life. Just because the babies are now considered viable, there was no saying what their quality of life would be.
A million thoughts ran through my mind. Would they be in a vegetative state? Would they be constantly in the hospital having procedures done? Would they be in constant pain? Would they be able to have a normal life and do things like play sports, go to school, live on their own as an adult? At that point there was really no way to know what our babies’ futures would look like, but we had to make the very difficult decision of whether to have the doctors try to save their lives or to let them peacefully pass away if I were to go into labor over the next few weeks.
Joe and I discussed it and knew that we wanted to give them every chance they could get, so we asked for all life saving measures to take place whenever they were born. I remember this day being very sad and just feeling very down and Joe did too. There is a constant nagging in the back of your mind asking you if you are making the right decision and being faced with the potential reality of the challenges these children may have.
I had so many mixed emotions that day as I was happy to have at least made it to 23 weeks, but I also was scared that I would still deliver early. I didn’t know if I would really be able to handle taking care of twins that could potentially have significant health issues. Joe reassured me that we could handle whatever came our way and that God gave us these babies in whatever condition because he knows we can handle it. I’m sure we were plagued by the same fears, but we held it together for each other. I asked the doctor when are we in the clear? When can I stop holding my breath? She said never. You will always worry about your children and always wonder if they are safe and healthy until the day you die.
At that moment I realized she was right. Although what we were worrying about was different than what most new parents must think about, I will never be out of the woods and will always be worried about them. I had to remind myself that all I could do was take it one day at a time and try to make the best decisions for my children.
Megan Ueckert shares her pregnancy and NICU journey with Graham’s Foundation in a special guest series. This is part two of six.