Isabel's story is already a story of strength, love, and compassion.
It all began with trying to get pregnant! We struggled more than we had hoped, and soon decided that IVF was the best route. Jennifer's fallopian tubes did not fair well with the endometriosis that she has long struggled with, so by-passing them all together was the best route forward. Here begins months of hormonal prep work. Shots and medications multiple times a day, then the egg retrieval (which can be (and was) very painful for many days after for woman with Endo), then more rounds of shots, and finally, the egg implant day arrived! The morning of, we woke up to plumes of smoke billowing towards us....we soon learned it was a forest fire, and that we were going to need to evacuate our home. We packed up everything we could think of, and trekked everyone (Jennifer's parents, 2 dogs, Lily (our 15 yr old), Charlie (our 2 yr. old), and the two of us) in a caravan of vehicles off to Mike's office, hoping that it was far enough from the fires to be safe. Mike and Jennifer dropped everyone off and had to head up to the city for implantation! Leaving everyone in the midst of all of that was quite the decision, but we knew they would be safe for some time there, and we had one shot at getting the implant done! Months of hormone therapy were involved and we didn't have the option to cancel.
Once the doctor had finished, she said that everything looked great, and "now you need to just go home and rest for a few days." HA! Jennifer explained that we had just evacuated our home.....you can imagine the look on the doctors face! We're sure she doesn't hear that often! Anyway, back in the car, down to Mike's office, the sky is getting darker and oranger, and the visibility was getting worse and worse. By the time we got back to the office, we knew that we had to pack everyone up and leave....again. Thank goodness for family on the other side of the mountains! Jennifer's aunt and uncle came to the rescue and let us camp at their house for a week! We won't get into the specifics here (as there is much more to this part of the story) but sufficient to say, we were extremely blessed, and the fires did not make it to our home, so eventually we were able to pack up and head back!
Then came the waiting (and a continuation of the shots and meds for hormone therapy)....and the waiting,..... and FINALLY going to the doctor and being told that Izzy was in fact going to be joining our family!!!
11 WEEKS 4 days
We have arrived at November 8th, the birthday party of our two sweet nieces, which involved some fun yard games....as you may all know, with games, outdoors and fun to be had, Jennifer is not one to sit on the sidelines. Lo and behold, she could feel that something wasn't quite right, then starting cramping, and asked Mike to take her home.....by the time they had gotten home, she had started significantly bleeding. Mike's mom rushed over to watch Charlie, and we went to the emergency room....for 7 hours. Due to COVID, Mike spent that 7 hours in the parking lot, and Jennifer spent it alone in various parts of the hospital, expecting she might loose little Izzy at any moment. Finally around 1:15am, a doctor came in and let Jennifer know there was nothing that anyone could do, but that she should go home and expect to loose the baby.
We went in for several doctors appointments the next couple weeks for monitoring.....baby always looked great, and the bleed was getting slightly smaller, but was continued to be called a "significant continuous bleed." We were still being given the looks of sympathy by doctors and ultrasound technicians that saw the size of it....which was not super encouraging. We learned that bleeds are much more common in IVF patients.
Jennifer immediately went on modified bed rest (which means that she was in bed, would sometimes eat with the family at dinner, but go back to bed immediately after, etc). Mike's family and a few friends stepped in during that time and helped to get us through by making meals, picking up kids, etc (here it must be noted that his sister Holly is a saint! We could never have gotten this far without her). Then a week later, Mike had a cyst on his neck blow up to a huge size, and needed to go in to remove it surgically.....so the day before Thanksgiving, Mike had part of his hyoid bone, and part of his tongue cut out....Jennifer was in bed....and little Charlie was running around having no idea why his parents were not getting out of bed. Thank goodness for Mike's mom and sister stepping in and getting food and taking care of Charlie during that time (thankfully, Lily was at her moms house that week, so she didn't feel quite as affected by it all). To add some fun to things, Jennifer started bleeding again (another trip to urgent care) and continued to bleed for 10 days. Finally the feeding subsided a bit.....just in time for Mike to start going back to work, just shy of 2 weeks after the surgery. It took a good 4-6 weeks for Mike to feel significantly better, and even more time to feel he had actually adapted to the new way of swallowing.
WEEK 15 + 4 days
Some bleeding (mostly old blood it seemed) in the morning, so the doctors had us go in for another ultrasound. Baby continued looking great, was growing on track, and THIS TIME, the bleed was looking encouraging in it's shrinking! It was still being called a continuous bleed, but was significantly reduced. We went home feeling hope!
Over the next few weeks, we noticed a direct link to Jennifer's activity level, and any bleeding, so we continued keeping her in bed as much as seemed reasonable.
WEEK 17 + 6 days
More spotting (darker, older blood)....by this time, we had started getting used to it, but the doctors had us come in anyway....this time simply doing a heart rate check. Izzy sounded great, but with all we'd been going through, it drove Mike to distraction that they didn't simply wheel the ultrasound machine and check her!
WEEK 19 + 0 days
Mike's birthday led to an unwelcomed gushing of fresh blood, so off Jennifer was rushed yet again to the doctors office. This time, she talked Mike into going to work (as we'd starting getting used to these scares) so Jennifer's mom took her in. This time, Jennifer's cervix was bleeding. Apparently, the scar tissue around her cervix doesn't have the elasticity desirable during pregnancy, so it was bleeding from the swelling that is quite natural during pregnancy. Feeling much relived, though slightly annoyed, Jennifer went home and continued to bleed less and less over the next 5 days.
WEEK 19 + 5 days
The bleeding was finally looking like it was slowing down, so Jennifer was taking a welcomed day to actually get some things done.....staying seated, but making small trips to things like the restroom, and the table for lunch. Early afternoon little Izzy was squishing herself about as low as you could get into Jennifer's pelvis, creating some pretty serious discomfort....took Jennifer's breath away! She kept saying that Isabel seemed to be trying to get out! She meant it as a joke of course, but it was no longer funny when about 8:45 that evening her water broke. Jennifer called the advice nurse and the nurse told her to go to the emergency room, and gave her condolences. Jennifer's parents came over immediately so someone was in the house while little Charlie was sleeping, and Jennifer and Mike rushed to the emergency room. Once there, they did a number of tests that all seemed inconclusive because the bit of blood that was still winding down from the cervical bleed was confusing the results.
While still waiting for test results in the hospital, Jennifer got a call from her dad, letting her know that she needed to go onto this website for a group called Little Heart Beats....a support group for women who have experienced Pprom (premature prelabor rupture of membranes). There were stories of little ones making it through! There were even stories of babies that had NO amniotic fluid that had survived and were healthy! Don't get us wrong, there were more stories of loss than of success, but we learned there was hope!
They measured the fluids, which measured at 14.5 (normal is 5-22), so the baby still had plenty of fluid. Ultimately we were sent home and told to go into the doctor first thing in the morning and get check out again, as the hospital we were at wasn't equipped to do anything for us anyway. Despite the tests being inconclusive, Jennifer and Mike were quite sure that it was amniotic fluid, as Jennifer continued to leak fluid the remainder of the night.