Right from the start, Imogen Analise burst into our lives dramatically. I was giving a piano lesson at church when suddenly my stomach lurched on a summer day in August. I did a little math in my head and felt weak. Swallowing hard, I made a mental decision to leave quickly afterwards and drive to CVS to pick up a pregnancy test. My two year old son Levi and I headed that direction promptly, but about 2 miles from the store, my car made a terrible sound. My wheel would no longer turn right or left very easily, but somehow I was able to drive the next 2 miles and pull into the CVS. I parked and made some calls, while my stomach’s knots worsened. The tow truck was going to be a while, and my parents headed out to pick me up. I decided to go ahead and purchase the pregnancy test and take it inside the store’s restroom. The result blew my mind. The rush of fears and excitement were so incredibly overwhelming. By the time my parents arrived, I was a mess of tears. My mom said, “Honey, it will be okay. The car will get fixed.” To which I said, “No, you don’t understand!!! I am pregnant!!!”
Let me back up a little. The last two years feels like a whirlwind of anticipation that quickly turned to sadness. Before Levi was born, I lost a baby at 8 weeks. Then after he was born, I lost another two babies, one right after the other. One of them was almost exactly a year ago from Imogen’s birth day of February 5th. I wrote about that experience on February 7, 2015. Around 3 months later, I thought I was pregnant again but before I could even confirm it, went through another week of great pain. In my heart I felt another heartbreaking loss. I will not know for sure until I meet my lost children in Eternity. At that point, I was feeling quite resolved that I would not have another child. I started going through my bins of dolls and books that I was saving in case I would have a little girl one day. The immensity of my sadness hit me like a brick, and I fell to the floor with great sobs. Levi asked me if I was okay. I assured him that I would be, but that mommy was just very sad. I decided to give all my saved girly items to my 3 nieces. I figured it would help me be more accepting. However, after talking with my mom, I decided to just pick out a few books instead that I hoped they would enjoy.
So, when I found out that I was pregnant again, my initial excitement quickly turned to fear and dread. I did not feel much hope for the situation, to be truly honest. I prepared myself for the worst. My prayers were pleads that God would not let another baby die in my womb. I tried to trust His plan for me, but I must be real with you: it was very hard to do. Soon after I learned I was pregnant, I started bleeding. My dear friend Becca took me to the emergency room so that my husband could stay at home with Levi as he slept. We were there for most of the night waiting around for answers. They did an ultrasound, but the tech didn’t even tell me what they saw. We waited around a while longer after that for answers. I cried and cried, feeling that there was no way that this little baby was okay. The doctor came in the room and said that everything looked good. I think I was in disbelief for a few moments. My heart leaped in relief. God seemed to wrap His arms around me and remind me that He remembered my longings and cared about them.
We had a blood test done to find out if there were any chromosome problems with our little baby. This test also was able to determine the gender of the baby. We were on our way back from the zoo when we got the call from the doctor’s office. The woman on the phone was so excited. She told us that our sweet babe was a girl, and that she could hardly believe it. Looking at our family trees, she said it seemed that we should have another boy. Nope! Our darling was a girl and had no signs of chromosome issues. She was doing great! I was again in disbelief, yet overjoyed. I pulled out some of my dolls and hair bows that a few months earlier had been pulled out to be given away, and I placed them in the nursery.
My love for this little baby grew, and I allowed myself to dream again. Yet, the next few months were not easy. I was quite nauseous much of the time. I had some almost unbearable headaches almost every day of the week. My blood sugar situation quickly became a problem, even though I was not diabetic before I was pregnant. I had just gotten tested before getting pregnant due to multiple miscarriages. However, the doctors were sure I was diabetic before getting pregnant based on the numbers. (I am back to pre-pregnancy sugar numbers now that I gave birth to Imogen. No sign of diabetes.) They put me on insulin and tried to get it regulated to no avail. I felt from early on that something was just not right. My pregnancy with Levi was so enjoyable. I was miserable with Imogen. It felt like she just didn’t fit right. She did not move much around the 6th month. I hoped it was because she had less room. My ultrasounds always showed great growth and every scan seemed to be awesome. Her heartbeat was always great. Nevertheless, I was worried. I wondered if it was just because I was still nervous due to my previous miscarriages. Every ultrasound tech wondered why I would cry at each visit. I explained my fears, and they were always so encouraging. I kept telling my mom that I felt she was coming early. There was something pushing me to get everything prepared for an early arrival. I got her room ready, but then convinced myself that I was just anxious. I felt a huge battle within me.
My stress levels were very high over the last 3 months between the pregnancy health and other circumstances in my life. The doctors were concerned about this because it was causing my blood sugars to sky rocket, and insulin was not helping. The numbers fluctuated drastically. Around 5 weeks ago, I woke up and had not felt Imogen move all night. Throughout the day, I thought maybe I was just missing her dainty movements. However, by the time my husband got home, I knew I needed to call the doctor. I just had not felt a good movement that reassured me she was okay. James got Levi up from his nap and took me to the hospital. After ultrasounds and several hours of monitoring her movements and heartbeat, the doctors decided to admit me. My sugar numbers were not good. They gave me steroids just in case they needed to do an emergency c-section. This made them climb even higher. The doctors then would not let me eat anything for a good while, hoping my sugar numbers would descend. My headaches were horrific. Once they leveled out and Imogen’s heartbeat and movements seemed to show that everything was alright, they discharged me. I trusted everything was alright, but still felt she was coming early. I told a few people, “maybe at 34 or 35 weeks”. We quickly tried to get back in the swing of our usual routine, not knowing what the next few days would hold.
Less than a week later, I was 30 weeks and 5 days gestation with Imogen. I had an appointment just to check my blood sugars and listen to the heartbeat on February 4th. When I got there, the doctor asked me if I had been feeling her move better. I let her know she was moving, but her movements were still so dainty and few during the day. The doctor decided to go ahead and do an NST to monitor her heartbeat and movements. Less than an hour later, a doctor came in the room and told me based on the NST strip, I needed to go straight to the hospital. He told me it was very serious and that he wanted to prevent a stillbirth. It was very possible I may give birth that day. I immediately lost it. I felt fear that I had not felt since Levi’s birth. I prayed. I called my mom and pastor and asked for prayer. Once I arrived at the hospital, my mom was not far behind. My dad had Levi in a waiting room and James was on his way. They put Imogen on the monitor again. They did another ultrasound. Some things started looking uncertain, and they decided to send me to another room for a better ultrasound. The doctor was not pleased. It looked like there was not good flow into the umbilical cord and the placenta. It was unusual, she said, so they would keep me overnight and continue to monitor as well as do another ultrasound the next morning. At this point my blood pressure was rising steadily, and they determined I had preeclampsia. My legs and feet were so swollen that they hurt terribly. I spent the night, and we decided to let James go on to work while my parents kept Levi overnight.
The next morning’s ultrasound was quick. The doctor came in and immediately prepared me that Imogen would be delivered in the next hour. I called my husband and parents, texted some people that needed to know. It seemed to take forever to get in that operation room. I was too aware of everything. All I cared about was Imogen’s health. I wanted her to be okay. 30 weeks old….how little would she be? Would she be able to breath? I did not know what to expect. The sound of her little cry pierced my heart. The nurses and James kept reassuring me that everything was going great and that she was doing great. The NICU team worked on her while the OB docs put me back together. All I wanted was to hold my baby. They brought her over to me, and I saw her beautiful black hair and precious face. What a flood of love! She was so beautiful. So small. My cousin Jessica had come to help, and she went with me while I recovered and James went with the NICU docs to be with Imogen. I do not know how I would have gotten through those moments after James and Imogen left without Jessica. On my way to my room after recovery, they brought me by Imogen’s bed to see her. My vision was so blurry from a magnesium drip that I was unable to really focus on her and see what she looked like.
I did not get to see my little girl for an entire day after that. I was on magnesium before Imogen’s birth to help prevent cerebral palsey in her, and afterwards to tend to my preeclampsia. It was the most awful feeling. Stuck in my bed, I was counted the hours and minutes to when I would get to see Imogen again. It all became a whirlwind after that. I cannot remember every detail, but she went through a lot of stages in a several days’ time. Oxygen to a cannula for her breathing, a line through her belly button to help stabilize her blood sugar numbers, antibiotics for infection, bili lights for jaundice…..but one by one she came through and quickly became stable. She was 3 lbs 7 oz. at birth, but lost about a pound of that fairly quickly. As of today, she has gained all of that back and is now 3 lbs 8.2 oz! The last thing to check off is her bottle feeding ability. She still has a feeding tube in, but is learning how to suck, swallow and breath like a fighter. She even breast feeds fairly well, which I have been told by the nurses is very rare. She does not get much, but the fact that she gets any and even latches and sucks is HUGE.
I am so proud of my sweet Imogen Analise. She haa come through a lot of challenges. More than anything, I am grateful for this gift from God. I could never have imagined this to be possible a year ago. My heart overflows with joy. Undoubtedly, I am still very nervous about all that lies ahead. There are many challenges with a preemie baby. The schedule will be tight and keeping germs away from her is going to be extremely important. I find myself overcome by it all. Yet, God has seen us through so much before. He has given more than I deserve and has provided in more ways than I could have imagined. He proves Himself again and again. God is faithful. God is good. God is my provider. God is my deliverer.
I have had family and friends praying and checking in so much over the last few weeks. You all have brought meals, prayed with me, sent encouragement, given generously. My dear friend Desiree has been with us for week helping me get back andcforth to the hospital, caring for Levi, and cleaning our house and clothes to prepare for her home arrival. What a blessing!!! James and I are so extremely grateful. Your support and love have been helping us more than you may realize. Thank you for being the church to us. We will continue to lean on the Lord as each challenge arises, and trust that God knew all of this and has a way through it. Our dear Imogen Analise is able to be in our arms and soon will be home with us. We are overjoyed.