Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ferns and a Harrowing Time

Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother's womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things. 
Ecclesiastes 11:5, NLT

If I was in a more playful mood, I'd have y'all do a guessing game about what's in the above photo....

But I'm not feeling jovial, so I'll just tell you: that is a photograph of a microscope slide. On the slide is a drop of amniotic fluid. My amniotic fluid, to be exact. Be prepared, this may be a Too Much Information post for some people...

Thirteen days ago, on June 2,  my water broke when I was at 28.5 weeks (actually, the day after I posted on our family trip to the park)

We have been using a free-standing birthing center for care this pregnancy and last. I called the midwife that morning to report my water having broken, and she urged me to head downtown to the hospital with the best Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, just in case. And so we did.

After observation and a few hours of contractions, which then settled away, we were sent home, primarily because they were unable to document the amniotic fluid loss. One way they do this is by swabbing a slide with the fluid, letting it dry, then viewing it under a microscope. If leafy, fernlike patterns appear, that indicates amniotic fluid. Though they tried four times, no one could spy ferns on the slides containing my fluid.

Home we went, to wait and see, and to be open to other possible reasons for fluid leaks - bladder issues, infection, and who knows what. We decided that bedrest was wisest, so I began camping out on the couch, with the idea being to reduce the amount of loss of fluid.

Visited the midwives at the birthing center the following Monday after Saturday's (inconclusive) hospital visit. At the Center, they looked for all the same things and came out with essentially the same non-conclusive answers - nothing proving loss of amniotic fluid. They also performed an ultrasound to check levels visually and all looked well. So we went home from there awaiting lab result to rule out bacterial infection as a cause of the fluid problems.

And meanwhile, I leaked still.

So BB, thinking out loud says, ˆWonder if we could catch some of the fluid and test it under the kids' microscope, see if we get the 'ferning' unique to amniotic fluid?" I was skeptical, a bit embarrassed, to be honest, but ah, that curious husband. Gotta love him!

I gave him his sample in a Dixie cup. He swabbed the slide. We waited, we looked, And wonder of wonders:

Ferns. Beautiful, delicate, snowflake-like ferns!

After another late evening issue with fluid rushes, we were back in the hospital in the wee hours of this past Friday morning. Once again, I produced nothing they could test.

BB showed them his ferning picture - taken with his iPhone over the lens of AH's microscope - and the nurse agreed it was amniotic fluid. But....home we went again. Fluid levels looked good on ultrasound, so that was a happy, though ironic plus.

Cried my eyes out once in our car in the parking deck. Concerned for the baby, not entirely sure how to live life with broken heart really hurt over all the inconclusiveness. As we walked to the car silent, hand in hand, prayers began to rise from my overwhelmed heart - God, help me trust that this mystery, these elusive results are gifts from Your hands. This hurts my heart, God. I want to turn to blame or to raw raging emotion or to food, but there is really Only You. And that is how it should be. Oh, help!

After the long cry, we returned home at 330am to Mrs. M, who came to be with the kids while we were at the hospital. Then, off to bed for 4 hours of sleep.

Providentially, a friend had already offered to take the big four away for an afternoon of fun with her children, so they were off by midmorning, leaving us with the two little ones. We used the time to grab much needed groceries and a good nap afterwards for all of us.

That weekend was ALL REST. And continued leaking. Midwives said come in this week and let's check fluid levels by ultrasound again. Took a fluid sample with us for the birthing center to test.

Aha! Ferns! And aha! Reduced fluid levels compared to the week before. Not good signs, of course, but conclusive ones. So then it was lots of calls from the midwives to the hospital doctors, during which it was decided we'd go back there and be evaluated again.

Upon arrival, we were glad to have the doctor himself with us calling the shots and making the evaluations. Some of those, ahem, evaluations were awfully uncomfortable, and in the end appeared to be heading toward the inconclusive result we've seen more often than not. No positive ferning test. But the next thing to do is check fluid levels by ultrasound again, though it had been done hours earlier at the birthing center (I'd also had loss between the Center and arriving at the hospital, which is a solid half hour drive from our home without traffic).

Doc looks and looks inside my womb and declares: There are no measurable fluid pockets in your uterus, Mrs. B. Aha. Wow.

Needless to say, this got the ball rolling for me to be admitted here. The plan was to administer 2 steroid shots over 2 days' time to help the baby's lungs mature. I am 30.5 weeks - which is a wonderful milestone for viability, but not for strong, independent lungs. I'm on lots of preventative antibiotics to protect baby and me from infections since his perfect little water balloon world is no longer in tact.

So our thinking at that point yesterday was to settle in here and wait for delivery, hoping to make it at least until 34 weeks...hopefully to or past 36, even. BB and I were scurrying to work out the logistics of the kids and everything that needed to be planned, cancelled, re-worked, etc etc....

Then I began to have bleeding. Ugh.

This led the doctor to be concerned over possible placental abruption, so he moved me back to Labor and Delivery, just so they could monitor me more closely.

Then I started contracting. Went on to have 6-7 hours of steady contractions. Everyone was preparing for the possibility of delivering a 3 pound range baby last night whether naturally or by c-section. That would all depend on whether labor progressed minus baby distress or not. Non-progression combined with baby distress  = c-section.

So many prayers - ours and countless others: God! For wisdom, help, protection, peace! Tears, hot tears, heart racing, so unsure of things....will baby keep thriving, labor keep advancing, and we welcome our tiny premature (unnamed!) son this way? Will it get risky, distressy, will we need to opt for c-section? Don't know, don't know...

Was quite a harrowing evening. Doctor was very attentive, very calm, honest.

Hours pass - me a ball of nerves, to say the least, crying out the the Lord: Oh, for the grace to rest in You and in this plan! Help me glorify you by trusting You and not being afraid. You are good and Your wisdom is above mine.

But don't think I was calm and cool. My heart rate was up, my cheeks were red. It was a battle.

And then.

The contractions slowed. The bleeding eased. Baby stayed stable through it all. We've come up with silly names for our boy: Captain Oblivious would be one. He seems content to live in a too-low fluid level environment, even during the stress of contractions. He is unfazed by the reality of the scary bleeding and potential placenta problem. We have also thought we could call him TROUBLE or Stinker.

I've never had any complications in pregnancy. This is quite a whole new world to us.

We are praising God for all of it. Not saying that we enjoy it all or wish it to be so, but He is sovereign and wise and so loving. It's amazing that for now the big labor and delivery scare went away. That's a huge, tender mercy.

Things can turn on a dime, though. So fast.

Our prayers are these:

-we want God to have His glory in it all...that we'd have hearts that want His will over our own happiness and comfort, so that Jesus is lifted up and He calls people to Himself through all this upsetting stuff...

-we obviously, desperately want a healthy, thriving son out of all this, too! Pray his little lungs mature quickly and well, that his weight bulks up, that he endures in utero stresses with strength. My evaluation of his general personality during this pregnancy has been feisty. He needs that now, yes?

-pray this apparent abruption doesn't worsen. If it does not, it appears that we could let Baby stay inside longer...we (the drs and nurses) need such sensitive wisdom and knowledge to discern if the placental issue is changing or not and what to do if so...

-peace, trust, rest in helps me to remember the suffering Jesus endured so I could have peace with God...the death He took for me, in obedience to the Father's perfect plan. May I be like Jesus. Oh for grace, more grace!

And so many thanks to Him now, for all the tender mercies rained down...

(including the prayers of countless people - thank you! and for those so sweetly helping with our kids and home and all those's been an unpredictable, whirlwind experience so far...)


  1. Hah! Captain Oblivious... he's definitely that, but I'm thankful that he seems so unruffled by all the goings on.

    Still praying.

  2. Praying as you requested that the Lord would be glorified.

  3. Beth, Beth, Beth - I was shaking as I read your post, so worried you were going to tell us that the baby was not ok. Oh, Beth. I will pray so hard for you and your dear ones in the way you requested. I do so want God to be glorified in this situation and I do so want you to have your sweet sweet little boy! xoxoxoxo.

  4. Even when you're sleeping (or trying to), we'll be petitioning God from our side of the globe. Nothing takes God by surprise Beth. xo

  5. I had to scroll to the end so see if you did indeed have your boy early!! What a scare. But like Nelle said, "Nothing takes God by surprise." Hold on. Stay strong. Rest in his grace.

    Love ya friend!

  6. Checking in to see if all is well. Glad to see it of yesterday, at least. Love that last picture of the ferns. It looks like the moon. Beauty even in scary stuff. There's a lesson about God in there somewhere.