Julie Levine's son.
Julie Levine's son.

Lessons learned when I was pregnant and fate dealt me a scary hand

I was home when the contractions began. It was early evening. I was 26 weeks pregnant.

I thought it was nothing and told my hubby it was nothing, but took myself to urgent care at the hospital just in case. After the nurse examined me and informed me that I was 5 centimeters dilated, I was immediately admitted. I stayed there, in the hospital, on full bed rest for an entire week while the doctors tried to stop my contractions. We had a 19-month-old at home.

Two neonatal intensive care unit doctors sat by my bed sometime during that week. They prepared me for the complications that my baby might have if she/he was born premature, which, they thought, was likely. What they said to me, I’m not entirely sure (it was a blur), but I knew it wasn’t good.

A few days later, I did some research. Besides being underweight at 2 pounds, babies born at 26 weeks (six months) might suffer from breathing and eating problems, heart defects, anemia, kidney problems, nervous system problems, seizures and more. We had just started to narrow down a few boy and girl names, as we had chosen to wait to find out the sex. Preterm labor was not part of my plan.

At the end of the week, my contractions had abated, and dilation was stable, so they discharged me. The doctor put me on strict bed rest at home for the remaining term of my pregnancy. (I was allowed to get up to use the bathroom and shower briefly, but that was it.) I lay in bed all day, ate my meals in bed, read books in bed and watched too much bad TV.

Preterm labor was not part of my plan.

My hubby bought a big cooler, brought it up to our bedroom, and continuously filled it with food. My sister sent me hand puppets to play with our daughter while in bed. Friends and family came to visit, bringing home-cooked meals, books and magazines. I had a visitor almost daily, which helped break up the long days. Family that wasn’t able to travel called, and that helped, too. Neighbors ran errands for us.

Somehow, I made it to week 32, and then week 35 (eight months). At 39 weeks, the doctor released me from bed rest. I was sure I would go into labor the day he let me get out of bed, but the baby had other ideas. At 39½ weeks, I was induced.

A few days before Thanksgiving, our son was born, healthy, at 7½ pounds and with a full head of hair. He turned 17 this year and is now officially the tallest one in our family. Kind and smart, he knows so many things about so many things.

Recently, I was reflecting on my time on bed rest and realized that there were some essential parenting lessons I learned then that still hold true today. I learned that it’s OK to rely on others for help. In fact, I’m not sure I could have gotten through bed rest without the assistance of good friends and family (and the doctors, of course) — and today, I still count on that support. It’s cliche, but it really does take a village to raise kids.

I have also come to learn that I can’t manage or control our children’s lives any more than I could manage or control the timing of when our son was born. Especially now that our kids have entered the young adult phase, they need to make their own decisions on their own time when they are ready, and not according to my plan or how I see things for them. (Though I must admit, I’m still working on this one.)

I learned to have patience, lots and lots of patience and, having faith, too, I now know is important. And, lastly, my time on bed rest wasn’t easy, but I made sure that every day I took time to appreciate all the blessings in my life — a daily practice I still do to this day.

Julie Levine

Julie Levine is a writer who lives in San Francisco.