26 weeks, 6 days

After three weeks in the hospital, three close calls of going into preterm labor, three rounds of magnesium sulfate for 12-24 hours each, and one more steroid shot for the babies’ lungs, I went into preterm labor officially at 26 weeks and 6 days. The contractions had come back and I could feel finally feel them, and feel them pretty consistently. My water had broken a couple days prior, so it was only a matter of time.

The whole thing was surreal. I’d had a feeling that the time was coming. That as much as I wanted to make it to 40 weeks, or even 34, something in me knew they were coming before that. But when the moment came I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t ready. This wasn’t supposed to be the time.

I’d wanted to have a vaginal delivery, but Baby B was breech and, because they were younger than 32 weeks, they would not deliver the baby breech, due to hospital policy. The risk is too great to attempt at that age. Part of me wondered if, after delivering Baby A (who was head down) Baby B would turn around, but the uncertainty was too much for me, especially knowing that if he didn’t turn I’d have to be whisked away for an emergency c-section. After lots of consideration I just opted for a c-section for both of them. That was a hard decision to make, but I felt it was the right decision, and every time I think about it, I’d still make the same decision, given all the variables at the time.

An entire cascade of events happened the morning of the delivery, from me reporting my increased contractions, to finding out I was 7cm dilated, to the actual c-section delivery. It was overwhelming. I was so nervous and anxious I was making myself ill. Luckily I had my midwife, my doula, and one of my friends who had just happened to stay with me that night at the hospital. The three of them helped me come to terms with what was happening, and I found the strength give the go ahead for the c-section.

Given their age, just shy of 27 weeks, we didn’t expect the babies to cry or move much when they were delivered. But when Baby A came out, he came out screaming. Everyone rejoiced and all I could do was cry out of happiness. He sounded so alive. When Baby B was delivered, he screamed as well. Their screaming brought me so much joy and relief. My midwife was crying as well, and reporting to me what was happening with the babies as they were being taken care of and prepped for the NICU. They were moving and kicking and just so full of energy. They were both around 2 lbs (Baby A a little less, Baby B a little more).

They were ok.

In the weeks since, I have thought a lot about 26 weeks and 6 days. Some days I lament the fact that I couldn’t make it farther than 26 weeks and 6 days. That my body wasn’t able to do the one thing I had dreamed about for so long. That I couldn’t carry the babies as long as they needed. Some days I feel like my body failed me and that I failed the babies. Some days I miss being pregnant, especially because I should still be pregnant. I’m supposed to be pregnant right now. My babies should be with me, in utero, not away from me in the NICU…Some days are very hard for these reasons.

Other days I feel like it was a feat that I made it to 26 weeks and 6 days. The fact that after being told at 16 weeks that my cervix was extremely short and that I should be prepared for delivering at any moment…the fact that I made it almost 11 more weeks seems amazing. My body carried those babies almost 11 weeks more than the doctors thought I could. My body carried them to the threshold of viability and beyond. Four doctors, at separate times, told me that what happened was a miracle. That, being honest, they didn’t think I would even make it to viability, which was 24 weeks. That the fact that I was dilated to 4 cm, and stayed that way for almost 2 weeks was completely unexpected. Every time they came to check in on me during rounds they were always so excited and happy that I was still pregnant. They genuinely couldn’t believe it. My midwife, who is honestly one of the most positive people I have ever met, told me that while she hoped I’d make it past when I first entered the hospital at 23 weeks 5 days, she genuinely wasn’t sure how long I would go, that sometimes she was unsure I’d make it much past that. She tells me often that this was my doing – the babies being born at 26 weeks 6 days and not before was all my doing. The babies being born at 26 weeks 6 days and doing well in the NICU was all my doing. Some of the doctors have also told me this. On these days I don’t feel so bad, and actually feel good about things.

So now I am a NICU mom. Transitioning into the role of NICU mom has been challenging, and there is a long road ahead for the babies and me, but I am glad that we made it as far as we did in the pregnancy. For how things could have been, I am glad we made it to 26 weeks 6 days.

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Reimagining a Life…? Explain.

After spending a long time looking at and reading a lot of TTC/motherhood/parenthood blogs and not often seeing me or my path represented, I decided I wanted to start a blog to chronicle, or just share my thoughts on this journey of becoming a single mother by choice, as a black, queer, ciswoman.

So, why the title “Reimagining a Life?” Well, frankly, what I originally wanted was taken (isn’t this always the case?). I only mention this because the original title (which was just these words, rearranged) I felt made it a bit clearer what I was going for. But this current configuration still works, it just requires a bit more explanation.

I have decided to become a single mother, by choice, and I am 100% ok with that. Ok in that, I was never tied to the idea of having children with a partner. I’ve always wanted children. When I was younger and I imagined having kids, it was usually just me and the kids. I did not often envision me doing this with a partner. I did envision myself having a partner one day, but, interestingly, the two imagined futures rarely overlapped. I’m sure this could be analyzed a number of different ways; I have spent time doing just that. I grew up with single mother for most of my childhood. Many of the women in my family were single mothers. Some of my friends were being raised by single mothers. It was not out of the norm or unusual. It just was. Just like all the other family configurations I saw: kids raised by two, opposite sex parents. Kids raised by a solo father. Kids raised by a grandparent, or two. Kids raised by another family member, etc. I think seeing the varied family configurations led me to conceive of family structures as not predicated on relationship status.

Now, I’d be lying that, once I got to the point in my life where having kids seemed feasible, I didn’t think about it in terms of a two-parent situation. I was looking for and wanted to be in a long-term relationship. That was my priority. But after my last relationship ended I realized a large part of my disappointment was that I’d have to wait even longer to have kids (as it was something me and that person had discussed and were starting to plan for). I was struck by that realization, and realized that something didn’t seem right about that. I wanted a relationship, yes. But I also wanted kids. Further still, why was I feeling like the former must precede the latter, given how I felt about families?

I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t see the benefit of having a child with someone else, with being in a relationship. It would just be foolish not to. Some things can be easier with more than one person. But this is true for a number of things in life. For some people, having that relationship in place, with those assumed benefits, is necessary for having kids. For some people, it isn’t. And that’s ok. There are benefits to both scenarios, and drawbacks to both. Such is life.

I’ve spent the past couple years trying to create the life I want to live. Among other things in my life, being a mother is something I’ve always desired. It’s a journey I’ve always known I would embark on. It’s a journey I welcome in and of itself. So why not actualize this reimagined future, this reimagined life? Not as in me taking my life and reimagining outcomes, but, rather, conceiving of a life in general (read: abstract), re-imagined and free from general, societal expectations of what a family should look like. Actualization through embodied reimagining. A reimagining that disrupts what is presumed necessary to embark on the journey to and through motherhood.