Yes, you read that right. 3/31/10--one year ago today--was the day that our lives got turned thoroughly upside down. I woke up feeling kind of ill...nothing serious, but just really crappy. I reasoned that since I had a week-long Outdoor School field trip the next week, I should probably take a sick day and rest up. So I called in sick, wrote up a sub plan, and went back to bed. Later in the day, I went for a long walk with Allen to meet up with a person who was buying a textbook from him. On the walk, I had a twinge of abdominal pain after running across the street. I sat down for a while and felt better. That afternoon, I happened to have a check-up with my favorite midwife, Alyssa. When she asked how I was doing, I told her about the abdominal pain and also mentioned off-handedly that a few weeks prior I had a night where I had regular contractions every 7 minutes for an hour. She asked if they were painful, but I said no. "Well, they're probably just Braxton-Hicks, but I'll check your cervix anyway."
"That'd be good...I'm supposed to go to the coast on a week-long field trip next week," I replied.
So she did the exam and when she had helped me back to a sitting position, she said, "Umm, so your cervix is dilated 3 cm, and you're still about 8 weeks away from your due date. So, I'm going to send you over to the hospital right now." I was shocked, to say the least. "Should I not go on the field trip, then?"
"Umm, yeah, I don't think you're going to be going to the coast."
Thus began a crazy 24 hours; scratch that, a crazy couple of months. We went to Willamette Falls Hospital, which adjoins the Women's Health Center (where the midwives' office is). I was hooked up to various monitors. All this time, I felt fine, mind you. Physically, anyway; mentally I was completely scattered. I was excited at the prospect of meeting my baby, but scared for her health, being 32 out of 40 weeks along. Allen was with me and he was also in a state of shock. After being hooked up to a monitor for an hour, apparently I had progressed to being about 4 cm dilated. I could feel the contractions, but they weren't really painful.
Enter Stephanie, my principal. I had called her directly upon learning that things were progressing. She asked me, "What hospital are you at?" When I told her, she said, "Okay, I'll be there in five minutes." Click. End of conversation. She dropped everything and brought me some food and books to read. It was at this point that I discovered that I couldn't stay at the hospital. Since Willamette Falls didn't have a NICU, I would have to go elsewhere. Stephanie called and made sure that OHSU was covered by our school insurance plan (it was). She had also worked there on a Masters degree so she recommended it highly. I was ambulanced off to Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU, pictured above). Bear in mind that, at this point, Allen didn't have a license and wasn't really a competent driver. Stephanie took charge. She drove Allen to our apartment and put together a bag of essentials (since we hadn't gotten to the 'packing a hospital bag' stage yet). One small problem, though: she parked in a tow-away zone. Sure enough, she got towed away. She called the tow lot and they said they wouldn't charge her if she came soon enough. So, Allen called his mom to come take them to the towing lot. Karla used the opportunity to give Allen some ill-timed advice about leaving the tap running in the bathroom so the cats could drink and eat and no one would need to go feed them. Meanwhile, I was at OHSU getting monitored and stuck with needles and given steroids to speed up Ruby's lung development and taking nipedaphine (I think) to stop the contractions, and wondering where Allen and Stephanie were. They were finally rolling out of the parking lot and towards the tow lot. When they got there (and of course, it was completely on the opposite side of town from OHSU), the man in charge told Stephanie that it was going to cost her to get her car. He did not believe her when she said that she'd been told on the phone it wouldn't cost, and he refused to give her the car until she paid him. Allen felt pretty bad at this point that she was actually having to drop some serious change all for this situation, but she brushed it off and they got on the road to OHSU. Allen was worrying that I was in labor and about to have the baby. It was late at night when he and Stephanie came into my room at OHSU. Stephanie gave me my things and told me not to worry about anything; she'd make sure everything was fine at school. She was our guardian angel that night. What other principal would do that, unbidden, for one of her teachers? She was such an advocate and champion for me always while I was working there (and even in the weeks after when I was on modified bedrest.)
Well, as you all probably know, we did not end up having a baby on March 31...or April 1...or April 2. The huge SWAT team of doctors kept saying things like, "We think it will be any day now." They said that for 13 days. Finally, they were sufficiently convinced that the baby was not coming yet, and let me do bed rest at home. I had one more false alarm a week or so later when I had to go back to OHSU because I was still shy of 35 weeks (the time at which babies born prematurely are okay without a NICU). But I stayed stuck at about 4 cm. dilated, 90% effaced for 8 weeks! Ruby ended up being born on her due date, May 24.
It was an insane time. It goes to show that you never know what a day will bring. I found out soon after getting back from the hospital that MRA did not pay for maternity leave at all. I didn't think I'd get any pay for the extra school I was missing, but I had been counting on getting something. It threw us into a serious, serious panic. Allen didn't have any work at the time and was taking classes at PCC. Now my source of income was essentially gone, and we had huge hospital bills coming our way, even with insurance. But God provided: I got onto the Oregon Health Plan, which ended up covering almost everything that my regular insurance didn't; we got onto Food stamps and WIC; we joined Gleaners (another food assistance program); people at MRA and Arbor pitched in to give us gifts of money and baby necessities; we got a new car seat for a fraction of the cost; I did some lesson planning and wrote reports from home and got some remuneration for it (hint: do not write reports with a 2 week old baby. Not cool. I am amazed that they came out coherent at all); we found out that our lease was ending sooner than we thought, and found a 2 bedroom place to live that was actually cheaper and closer to MRA, so we were able to move without breaking our lease. Everything worked out for us. It was still an exercise in faith, to be sure, but one that made us stronger.
And now, here we are, a year later. Ruby is a healthy, happy 10 month old baby. My husband is a healthy, happy 23 year old hottie. And I'm healthy and (reasonably) happy at the ripe old age of 27 (at least, my husband says I'm old.) We made it and we'll keep making it, by God's grace.
I'm tired, but I have to mention one last thing: tonight, a guy from our church came by and took some baby stuff off our hands (he and his wife are having twin girls in August!) He was saying hi to Ruby, and she waved for the first time!!! It was pretty darn adorable, and I think he felt awed that he was the first wave recipient. Cute stuff.