To many couples, when their baby reaches that 6 month mark it is small celebration for making it half way through their first year of life as a family. For my wife, Morgan, and I, it was likely more of a sigh of relief before the celebrating. To say we had a trying time starting a family would be one of the largest understatements anyone could ever make. We are truly blessed to have our healthy baby girl, Charlotte, but getting to this point was beyond stressful.
Wanting a Family
Morgan and I got married in 2017 and we both knew at some time we wanted to be parents, start a family of our own and help to shape them into being the best versions of each of us. We started thinking about having children in late 2018, early 2019. As we tried and tried, we weren’t successful so we reached out to medical help and with a little nudge, we were lucky enough in August of 2019, Morgan woke up one morning, took a test and surprised me at work with lunch and the results. We were over the moon with the good news and with a possible due date of May 4th, we immediately started to make all the Star Wars related name jokes for the baby.
It was early on in the pregnancy that we talked about genders and names and tried to limit our list of what felt like hundreds of names to a list of 10 each. We decided to wait to find out the gender in the hospital when they baby made their appearance rather than early. Granted, I was stubborn enough to wait but at some point, Morgan said that if she found out early she was okay with that and started to try to read every ultrasound picture she could but to no avail. The months went on, the baby got bigger and we started to plan the nursery out, pick out some clothes and learn how to install a car seat. Not to mention the “excitement” of a birthing class or two and some videos I am happy to never have to watch again!
Little did we know that in March of 2020, the world would shut down. The fear of COVID and the risk of serious health issues caused businesses to close their doors for some times, medical offices and hospitals to limit patients and a general uncertainty flooded every choice being made. While I settled in to my first week of working at home, Morgan still had to go into her office due to the nature of her job.
Our First Child
On March 24, 2020, Morgan came home from work a little early feeling some pretty strong contractions. While we knew at 34 weeks pregnant, it would be too early to go into labor, we timed them out and called over to the doctor’s office to ask what we should do for the night. Based on the timing of the contractions and the hesitation to send anyone to the hospital, they asked us to stay home and if the contractions were still there in the morning to go to the doctor’s office instead. What came next was the worst 24 hours of our lives.
Neither of us slept well that night, Morgan was still moaning and groaning in pain and I was trying my best to console her in between bouts of sleep. When the sun was up, we decided to go to the doctor and as she walked to the bathroom, her water broke. We had a flood of emotions at that point and rather than the doctor, off to the hospital we went with the knowledge that, “We are going to be parents today!” At labor and delivery they check us in, move us into a room and get all the monitors ready. They place a heart monitor over Morgan’s stomach for the baby and a minute or two passes and the heart monitor seems to not be working so they go and grab a second. No such luck with that one either. At that point, an ultrasound tech comes in and starts to scan Morgan’s belly. All we all see is nothing but black on the monitor. The flood of excitement is gone and we all realize what is going on now. My legs got weak and I broke out in cold sweats and had to sit down, Morgan started to cry hysterically and the nurses all looked as sad as I had ever seen anyone. The baby was gone.
When Morgan’s water broke that morning, the placenta had torn due to a blood clot and the lack of oxygen to the baby took it away from us before there was ever a chance. However, with the stillbirth and age of the fetus, Morgan still had to go through the process of childbirth without any of the joy that comes from bringing a baby into the world. It was a long day of crying, talking to family and friends, more crying and general depression that took over March 25, 2020. Finally, near the end of the night and having watched the entire Harry Potter marathon on the tv in the hospital room, Morgan finished giving birth to our baby. The doctor and nurses cleaned off the baby and handed it to us in a blanket and a pink hat. We looked at each other and said, “It’s a girl.” Only for the nurse to quickly let us know, that it is actually a boy but his head was too big for the blue hat. A quick moment of levity in an awful day since we both know we have very large heads. Theodore Gleich was with us and gone before we could ever love him to the degree he deserved. We hold him in our hearts and think about him often and are lucky enough to have a memorial tree to visit and watch grow each year. There is nothing harder than ordering an urn and picking up the ashes of your first baby.
Recovering From Loss
The healing was difficult both physically and emotionally. As well, with the world closed due to COVID, there was only so much that could be done to distract us from the pain we were both feeling. We closed the door to the nursery, tucked all of the baby items away and leaned on our friends and family to help get us through this time. Obviously, we did and while we still had sad days for Teddy trying to see how many hours we could go without crying, we never lost faith in trying again and the care and love we had for one another.
It took some time for us to decide what we wanted to do to try again but we still knew we wanted to be parents. Fast forward to February of 2021 and there was no surprise lunch this time but a healthy mix of worry and optimism with another positive pregnancy test. It was going to be a long 9 months with this pregnancy. We still did not have many concrete answers on what happened and of course, we had no idea if it could or would again. However, we had planned to do everything we could to enjoy the pregnancy. We would figure out the gender, we would pick a name, we would do some maternity photos. We were going to play the game to have all the experiences we could and just enjoy the pregnancy and even planned and took a babymoon together to Hawaii to allow me to eat and drink everything I wanted while Morgan could only dream of having a Mai Tai.
Yet, here we were again, July 31, 2021 I went to play golf with friends for a bachelor party. 36 holes of golf later I get home, take a quick shower and Morgan and I go to dinner with some friends. She heads to sleep and I stay up to watch the end of the Olympics golf coverage, which with multiple playoff holes became very exciting! Finally turning off the tv at 1:00am, I roll over and to go to sleep. No more than a few minutes later Morgan got up to go to the bathroom, a special treat for pregnant women to go numerous times each night. She comes rushing back into the room, “I’m bleeding, we need to go to the hospital!” Welcome back to the fear and panic of pregnancy. This is different from last time but at 26 weeks and 5 days, while viable, this is a tiny baby in there.
Off to the Hospital
We get to the hospital, the door is locked of course so we have to walk to the Emergency Room entrance. Morgan is scared, I am scared and we are now speed walking around a hospital to just get inside to then get to labor and delivery as fast as humanly possible. Again, they check us in, they move us into a room, grab the heart monitor and we wait for a heartbeat sound. In the end, it was likely 10-20 seconds but it felt like hours until there was the “thud thud” of our baby girl’s heartbeat. Tears of panic turned into tears of joy that we didn’t suffer the same fate as last time. Both of us still exhausted and me working on maybe 5 minutes of sleep waited and waited for a doctor to get in, check on us and let us know the next course of action. With the baby still so small, the plan was to give her the shot for her lungs, have Morgan stay at the hospital for 4 days, a week, a month, whatever it would take and however long she could to give the baby more time to grow. Little did we know that our child would continue to have her own schedule.
As we talked to the doctors and nurses in the morning hours, after a little nap, we were learning the process of the C-section that would have to occur due to this. There are three types of these C-sections: Scheduled, emergency and crash. A scheduled C-section is just that, you get to come to the hospital as planned, go through the process and not feel rushed. A emergency C-section has more of a rushed feeling because something could be wrong and they need to get into surgery rather quick. A crash C-section is basically the most scary of the three and it means that the mom or baby is in distress and the baby needs to come out immediately.
Well sure enough, as the nurse is explaining this to us at 10:50am on August 1, 2021, the babies heartrate drops from 140 to 90. The room is instantly flooded with nurses, paperwork is being signed, doctors arrive and a call to have an operating room prepped takes place. As we all fly out the doors and down the hall towards the operating room, tears falling yet again, I am forced to wait in the hallway outside of the OR with the last thing I hear is my crying wife tell me she loves me as the doors close behind her.
A screen in the hall at the nurse’s station with a heartrate for OR2 was showing me the babies heartrate. It was an eternity of waiting and at some point, the heartrate flat lined to 0 making me scared beyond any measure that we lost the baby or my wife. Instead, there is a little chime that rings when a baby is born at Renown and hearing that along with a nurse coming out to tell me that was for me and everyone is okay gave me such a moment of relief. The baby came out minutes later and was rushed to the NICU and myself along with her doctor talked along the walk going over everything about the baby. I watched as she was hooked up to monitors, a breathing tube inserted and saw that she was no bigger than the size of my hand almost.
Knowing she was safe, I rushed back towards the operating room area to wait for my wife. After 30 minutes she can into the recovery area where I got to hug her, let her know that everything was okay and that our little baby girl was being taken care of by everyone. Charlotte Lily Gleich was born at 26 weeks and 5 days on August 1, 2021 at 11:11am. She was supposed to be due on November 2nd and we had a scheduled induction date for October 17th. We spent 4 days in that hospital, going to the NICU as much as possible to see our baby before finally being discharged to go home for Morgan to recover more. It was the second time we went to the hospital and came home without our baby.
Every day we would go to the hospital. Sometimes, mostly the weekend, we would go multiple times to see her, touch and eventually get to hold our baby. We watched her be fed through a feeding tube and eventually through a bottle. We saw her grow on the outside and require less and less oxygen to breathe until she wanted to do it on her own. Our little girl is a fighter. Many of the babies that size in the NICU require oxygen to go home, extra monitors and extra days and weeks of time being supervised. On October 15th we stayed the night with our baby for the first time at the hospital. It was our job to feed her, change her and monitor her. She wasn’t hooked up to any devices or machines and it was the first time of many that I felt being a parent met making sure your child is alive every 30 minutes. She didn’t quite eat to the level that the doctors wanted so we stayed an extra night in which she did much better. On October 17, 2021, the same day she was supposed to be born through a scheduled induction, Charlotte came home. It was the slowest and safest I have ever driven a car in my life.
She spent 77 days in the NICU growing and fighting. Morgan and I watched her grow from slightly bigger than our hand to a normal sized baby over that time. We were at the hospital every night to feed her, hold her, changes her, whatever we could do we did. She now spends every day with us cuddling, smiling and becoming her own little person. She is a wonderful little person and we are lucky that she has been checked by numerous doctors and seemingly is in perfect health other than simply being tiny still. It was a proud moment during the month of February in 2022 when she broke the 12 pound barrier after being born at 2lbs and 1oz. She eats wonderfully, she has a strong set of pipes on her and is developing just like she is supposed to now. She put us through hell but she is worth every minute of time spent at the NICU and having her in our lives has been nothing short of magical.
Relief at Last
Going through the pain of the loss with Teddy and the fear of the unknown with Charlotte has made us understand just how hard it is to get pregnant and stay pregnant. Do I still wish we had gone to the hospital on that fateful day in 2020, of course, but I know I cannot change what happened. All I know is that it is better to trust my gut when it comes to pregnancy and it is what we will continue to do if we are fortunate enough to have this journey for a third time. For now, I can’t wait to see what Charlotte does, who she becomes and how her little personality develops. As we learned from the start, she already acts on her own schedule so at least I know she will be a chip off the old block and make us proud to be her parents. We will never forget what happened in the pass but our optimism for the future will forever remain strong.