Please help Sara and Mike as they face the financial burden of hospital bedrest and the premature delivery at 27 weeks and 2 days of their second child, Penelope.
To tell Sara and Mike's story, I have to start with the story of their first child, who left us on November 27, 2016.
On August 2, 2016 Sara and Mike found out that they were expecting their first child. They passed the weeks in state of elation, experiencing the normal pregancy milestones until they went in for their 20 week scan to find out whether they would be having a boy or girl. The baby was moving around so much that they didn't have to wait but a minute to see his "boy parts!" The excitment of that moment passed quickly as the celebration gave way to worry. The tech had seen something off on the scan. The tight lipped tech sent them upstairs, where Sara was diagnosed with an "incompetent cervix" or "cervical insufficiency". Bascially, this meant that her weak cervical tissue was causing her cervix to thin and open too soon putting her at risk of giving birth too early.
Sara was placed on bedrest and sent home, but a few days later, she was back in the hosptial. Her water had started to leak due to a high tear. So, she was placed on strict bedrest at the hospital, and she and Mike held out for a miracle that their baby boy would stay inside her womb for another few weeks. At which point he would be 23 weeks and there was a slight chance that he could survive without being inside his mother's womb. Sara and Mike settled into the hospital, hoping and praying for a "boring" stay. Boring was good, after all. Boring meant nothing was happening, and nothing was the best we could hope for.
Family and friends visited them in the hospital and everyone prayed for their miracle. Yet, all the prayers and positive thoughts couldn't keep the pain of loss away. After about a week on bedrest, Sara went into labor and gave birth to a beautiful and perfect in every way baby boy on November 27, 2016. Sara and Mike's son was still-born at just shy of 22 weeks. He had Mike's chipmunk-y cheeks, twenty long little fingers and toes, archy little eyebrows, and he was tall, go figure! That was the most heartbreaking and cruel part of the ordeal. Their son was perfectly healthy and likely would have continued to grow and thrive had he been able to stay in his mother's womb to full term.
Sara and Mike named their son Milo, and although the baby would never take a breath on Earth, he will stay in our hearts and minds forever.
BABY GIRL'S STORY
Here, we have to fast forward a bit, past the months of grief after loss and past the rebuilding of their lives with a hole in their hearts. In the Spring, about five months after losing Milo, Sara discovered she was pregnant again. It was a surprising and unexpected turn of events for Sara and Mike as well as the rest of our family, but as my dad said, "Babies are always a blessing." Sara and Mike's second child is due December 29, 2017.
Of course, this second pregnancy raised all sorts of fears and anxiety. How would it go this time? Sara's wonderful doctors worked with her to constantly ensure the safety and viability of her pregnancy. At about 12 weeks, a cerclage was inserted, a procedure in which stitches are used to close the cervix during pregnancy to help prevent pregnancy loss or premature birth. Week after week of check ups with her regular doctor and appointments with a maternal fetal medicine doctor, every indication was that the pregnancy was progressing well and as normal as could be under the circumnstances. Eventually, Sara and Mike announced they would be having a baby girl. They moved into an apartment, began to plan the nursery, and started to prepare everything they would need to bring a baby into the world.
On Wednesday, September 27, Sara left work, feeling that some of the symptoms she had been experiencing weren't quite normal, and went straight to the hospital. After a quick examination, the doctor informed her that her cervix had begun to dilate. She was 26 weeks and 5 days pregnant. Events happened quickly from there. She was sent to Rush University Medical Center in Chicago where doctors began to prepare the baby for premature birth, while simultaneously trying to stabilize Sara and prevent her from going into active labor. Steroids to aid in delvoloping the baby's lungs to their fullest capacity, magnesium to protect the baby's brain, medicine to stop her tiny but persistent contractions, and on and on went the list of actions the doctors took.
After stabilizing Sara and the baby, the team of doctors could do nothing more than let nature take its course and prepare the baby for the possibility of premature birth. There is no secret formula that prevents premature labor, and they had to be prepared for a delivery at any moment, whether it be that day or in five weeks. While we had hoped delivery would happen later rather than sooner, after only three full days on bedrest, Sara went into labor and Penelope Joy was welcomed into the world by her mother, father, and an entire team of doctors and nurses. Born at 27 weeks and 2 days, Penelope weighs 2 pounds and 5 ounces. She and her mother are doing incredibly well so far, though we are told that it will likely be a rollercoaster of ups and downs. For now, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. Penelope will have to stay at the hospital until she is full term which means that she will likely be in the hospital for three months.
WHY SARA AND MIKE NEED YOUR HELP
Like any young couple, Sara and Mike have bills. There are your every day expenses like student loans, car payments, and rent, but because of Sara's hospitalization during her first pregnancy and the MFM doctor's visits during this pregnancy, a stack of medical bills has already piled up and they will continue to grow as Sara's pregancy progresses and after delivery.
Sara works as a retail manager, and while she loves her job, her coworkers, and her company culture, there are two main obstacles that have arisen.
First, her medical insurance doesn't cover everything (which will be a shock to no one). The sky high cost of healthcare make affording a normal pregnancy and delivery a challenge for any family. Add in prolonged periods of hospitalization, visits to specialists, and extra ultrasounds, and you've already found yourself thousands in debt.
Second, Sara has already used up almost all of her short-term disability (AKA maternity leave) for a 365 day period. She is currently waiting to find out if she will be approved for more disability because of the exceptional circumnstances. In the case of approval, she'll take home a fraction of her regular pay. You can imagine how the loss of any amount of her wages will be a huge obstacle on what will be a long road to having a healthy baby girl and a debt free life.
Beyond the medical bills themselves, there is the cost of Mike and Sara's travel to and from the hospital. All that gas and parking adds up quickly.
WHAT IS "CERVICAL INSUFFICIENCY"?
Before Sara was diagnosed at her 20-week scan with Milo, neither she nor the rest of our family knew anything about cervical insufficiency. Yet, 1 in 10 women have this disorder. We have also heard the term "incompetent cervix" used, but many doctors comment that this term is out of date and has a negative connotation. With this disorder, weak cervical tissue causes the cervix to soften, shorten, and open earlier than normal, which causes or contributes to premature birth or the loss of an otherwise healthy pregnancy. Cervical insufficiency makes it extremely difficult to carry a child to term. There is no cure; however, there are preventative measures that can be taken such as the use of the cerclage, a stitch used to close the cervix during pregancy, but it's not fail proof, and women with this condition often experience multiple losses.
FROM OUR FAMILY TO YOURS, WE THANK YOU
Your contribution, no matter how big or how small, will have a huge impact on Sara and Mike's life. At this point, we will do anything that we can do to lower their level of stress and keep them all as happy and healthy as possible as we prepare to meet Baby Girl Havlicek.
A few people have contacted me stating that they preferred to mail in a donation rather than donate through the website. If anyone else would prefer to do that, please message me and I can share the mailing address.