How It Happened
2020 has been a year of many things, but I never expected it to be the year when we would have a 4th pregnancy, a 3rd living baby or a baby girl for that matter. I had mentally closed shop after Eliaz, and so when I saw the positive test results on that home pregnancy test, I was completely shocked. It wasnt the good kind of shock either. I was scared we would lose this baby like we lost Julian, like we almost lost Eliaz. My body is just not trustworthy when it comes to babies. In fact, if there is one thing I can count on is that my body will start running into dire issues past 20 weeks gestation. Sigh...
I had gone to see a hematologist at the beginning of the summer of 2020 about my mysterious blood clotting problem and he agreed that we should consider hubbs get a vasectomy. That it was just too risky to try again. I agreed 100%. Jay had consulted with a surgeon and was ready to put the surgery on the calendar.
Then came the positive pregnancy test...
From the beginning Jay + I knew there was a likelihood baby would go down the same path as Eliaz our micropreemie miracle rainbow. We were well aware of all the risks. But we hoped and prayed for the best. The scariest part about my pregnancies is that I always feel 100% fine. Other than the occasional swollen feet or fatigue, my pregnancies feel completely normal on the outside. When my uterine arteries stop allowing enough oxygen and blood flow to the placenta or the placenta becomes insufficient, there aren't any outer symptoms to alert me. The only way of knowing is through doppler ultrasounds and by looking at baby on the monitor.
Some Blood flow resistance and insufficient placenta symptoms:
- Dopplers indicating increased blood flow resistance
- Intrauterine growth restriction
- Low amniotic fluid (without leaking)
- Fetal distress (frequent abnormal heart decelerations)
By the 20 week ultrasound, my left uterine artery was showing increased resistance but my right uterine artery was fine. Baby was in the 50th percentile for growth which was really good.
By the 24 week ultrasound baby was experiencing worsened bloodflow resistance, intrauterine growth restriction, and low amniotic fluid. Three days later, baby was experiencing all of the above indicators of insufficient placenta and blood flow resistance including fetal distress. By that time I was on 24 hour monitoring and hospital bedrest.
Ariella was born on December 19, 2020 weighing 14oz. Not even a pound! She was 24 weeks and 6 days at the time of birth. If she had been born any smaller, the NICU at our hospital would not have been able to intubate her at birth becuase the breathing tube would have been too large for her body. 24 weeks is not even a viable age in many hospitals. Thankfully she was born where she was.
Ariella means "Lion of YHWH". During hospital bedrest, I read several of my favorite Psalms to her. I prayed that she be filled with the holy spirit. I prayed that she may hold on to the Father's hand through delivery and her transition to the NICU. I didnt want her to feel alone and discouraged. I needed her to know she had angels ministering to her and the power of the Father behind her.
10 Days in the NICU
She did amazingly well the first few days in the NICU. Everyday, that she was sill alive and thriving, I felt like I had to pinch myself. J + I went to visit her every single day and spent a least an hour or so with her. We wrote in our journals about how well she was doing. It even seemed she was doing better than Eliaz did during his first week in the NICU! We thought this was all amazing, but at the same time we kept our guard up. We didn't want to get complacent or feel like this meant she would overcome the NICU. We were cautiously optimistic yet bursting with joy with every tiny victory she acheived. She started her milk feeds once my milk came in and she was tolerating it well. We even got to change her tiny diaper and it was so amazing. The possibility that she would make it through the nicu grew larger in our hearts with every passing moment.
But just as this was all unfolding, her condition started to decline. It was little things here and there at first. Nothing that we hadn't experienced with Eliaz. At first it was her platelets. We started to notice she required platelets more and more frequently and on her 8th day of life her platelet count was the lowest it had ever been. I could tell the nurse was concerned by the urgency she had placed on trying to get an IV in. That day as well her belly was distended and the nurse epxressed her concerns to the neonatologist. To which the Dr. ran a series of x-rays just in case there was concern for an intestinal infection. The day went by. We called the NICU twice that night and again once more in the morning before we left to see her. Each time we were told she was stable, however her platellets had fallen again and she had gotten a second replacement intraveniously before the next day. This was concerning and we had an uneasy feeling that morning.
On the 9th day we arrived at 9am as usual but it was a very quiet ride to the hospital. The tension was palpable in the car. As soon as we arrived, our very concerned nurse came to tell us she had just tried to call. Ariella was having a "rough morning". Before we even got to wash our hands, the neonatalogist came to talk to us about Ariella's worsening condition. She kept talking and talking, then suddenly she ran to Ariella's pod and every parents nightmare started to unfold before us. The next few hours were so traumatic, I cant even express how so.
An entire army of nurses and and staff surounded Ariella. Machines I've never seen were being brought in by respiratory therapists, sonographers and radiologists. All the while Ariella had to be pumped air manually every 5-10 minutes switching off between the neonatologist and the respiratory therapist. I knew what this meant and I couldn't watch...I shurnk into the hall and sat on a rando recliner out there. Reading and praying Psalm 21, 134, 91, 94, 143. I couldnt tell which was which anymore, I just knew I needed to pray. Nurse after nurse came to give me a hug and tried to bring me into the room.
One of them said, "Ariella needs you to be by her side"
I said "Ok."
Got up and slowly walked next to my husbands side.
More pumping went on. This time less and less frequently. Was she improving? I fell in a curious love and admiration for the people keeping my daughter alive. Manually pumping air into her lungs, visibly getting tired and switching hands but not giving up. The adrenaline was visible in their face. Such a teeny tiny life, yet that didnt seem to matter to these group of people. A life was a life worth saving, no matter the size. Thank God for people like these!
How could we find ourselves in this nightmare scenario when she was doing amazingly less than 42 hours ago? WE were here now, and she needed us now. Tomorrow was not guaranteed and it would be an amazing miracle of recovery if she was still alive by the next day. I knew that then. Though I was scared, scared of tomorrow, scared of touching her, scared of being in the way in case the nurses needed access to her urgently again...Jay and I came close to her side. We held her hands and told her we were there with her. She looked into our eyes and we shared a moment together. We told her she was doing so good and we prayed with her. I realized then, I didn't want her to be in pain. She didnt look pained, but I knew I didn't want this for her. This..whatever this was..it's not what I wanted for her.
The tests from that day all came back inconclusive, but the neonatologist said she was going to assume Ariella was septic and would treat her as such. At about 3pm later that day, the doctors statistics scorched my heart. 90% chance she would not recover from this. Still I prayed, cried and prayed, then cried more. We drove home after seeing Ariella again at 6pm. Her numbers on the monitor looked like they may be improving. She was satting in the 70's again and the nurse and I were so happy. We din't know if they would last that high over night, but we went home to see our other children. We desparately needed to hug them. As soon as we got home, the NICU called. The NICU doesn't call with good news. No calls from the NICU is good news. Baby's blood labs had come back and were deteriorating rather than improving. The nurses would continue to support her with fluids and test her blood for improvement but they would call us immediatly once(not if) her heart began to decline. My mom came over in case we had to leave before the morning, she could stay and watch our toddler. Only our toddler got any sleep that night. At 4am the next day we got the dreaded call.
Ten short days to live,
Ariella Luna had,
So much more to give
Thus says the Lord
“A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children. She refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”
Thus says the Lord
“Keep your voice from weeping, and your eyes from tears, for there is a reward for your work, declares the Lord, and they shall come back from the land of the enemy. There is hope for your future, declares the Lord