Two months ago, Cody and I were at a dinner party in Oakland on a Saturday night, enjoying the company of friends. Cody's pregnancy app had informed her that morning that it was the beginning of her third trimester, and the first day of what medical consensus considers "viability." But that's not at all what was on our minds that night. One moment, between dinner and dessert, we were deep in conversation, and the next we were rushing to the hospital, with no idea that we would not be going home until after there was a baby. A baby that was due in the end of May.
Now, three weeks into Spring, we have a healthy, tiny, growing, breathing, looking, smiling, crying, bubble-blowing, gas-passing, nipple-seeking, hand-waving, diaper-filling, finger-gripping, chirp-making, fuzzy-headed little baby girl. Her name is Josephina Pepper. or Josie Pepper. or just Pepper.
We are so deeply and inexpressibly grateful for the tidal outpouring of love and support that we have received from all of you, our friends and our community. In the face of the hardships and challenges of a situation that began as a medical emergency, Cody and I have been feeling so incredibly blessed and profoundly moved by the immense kindness and generosity of our friends. Josie Pepper has come a long way since she entered the world six weeks ago - heart-wrenchingly tiny, lungs only partially-developed, delicate flailing limbs and beet red skin - and it will still be another six weeks or so before she has all of the self-sustaining capabilities of a full-term newborn. But in spite of her extremely premature birth, she is healthy, and growing stronger and chubbier and more resilient by the day.
We could not have weathered the storm of these past two months without a little help from our friends. Or a lot, rather, as the case has been. The loving support you have all offered has transformed these conditions of hardship and uncertainty into what has been the greatest affirmation of life and love and community that I have ever experienced. We will forever be profoundly grateful and deeply affected by the magnanimity of our community. Not only are the proceeds from this campaign helping us to cover the not-inconsiderable hospital bills that I expect will begin to arrive soon, but they also have provided us with the means to ensure that Cody and baby get the best nutritional and supplemental support possible (undoubtedly crucial to nourishing and strengthening Pepper during the few weeks she spent in utero after the rupture); to enlist the aid and counsel of well-qualified professionals from outside the hospital system; to cover the expenses of maintaining the slightly parallel life in which we both have jobs and live in Mill Valley, and to which little Pepper will "come home" in a matter of weeks; to set aside this sacred time to stay near the hospital and be with our baby as much as possible while she grows neurons and acclimatizes to life on this bewildering planet; to enlist the treatments and services that will help Cody's body heal and return to wholeness; to mitigate the burden of expense for family members who bought last-minute cross-country tickets to come help us; and not least of all, to breathe into the spaciousness of the loving container that you have offered through your support - the achingly beautiful collective gesture that enabled us to weave together this blessed little nest around the three of us. We would not be here with our strong and vibrant baby girl in this moment of poignantly joyous celebration without you.
We Thank You, we thank you, with all of our souls and from the bottoms of our hearts. From our pasts and from our futures. Lil' Josie Pepper thanks you - wordlessly but eloquently, from the calm aware depths of her big brown eyes. She can't wait to meet you.
With Love and Gratitude,
Nick (and Cody and Pepper!)
Dear Pepper fan club! Read Cody's update on Facebook for all sorts of news about our favorite little heavyweight champion of the NICU:
Thank you so much, each of you, from the bottom of all of our hearts, the big adult ones and the itty bitty one.
Read Cody's post for all sorts of info about Baby Pepper and how they're doing:
Read Cody's beautiful, beautiful birth story here:
Baby Pepper was delivered via emergency C-section yesterday, clocking in at 2.2 pounds and 14 inches! She has black hair and a buddha's calm. The whole family is doing well, but as an extreme premie born at 26 weeks, Pepper will be in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for the next several months, likely until her due date in late May.
The incredible support from Cody's and Nick's community--as well as loving strangers--has made the last two weeks of agonizing hospital bedrest bearable. It allowed Pepper to keep growing through a critical period, giving the steroids a chance to boost her lung maturity and prepare her for delivery into the air-breathing world. And allowing her to pack on the ounces! At a whopping 2.2 pounds, she's the size of a baby born at 28 weeks instead of 26! Every ounce helps when you're a premie having to learn basic bodily functions outside the womb. Pepper is intubated and on a ventilator and likely will be for weeks, until her body learns to breath on its own and develops the instinct to swallow and all the things full-term babies are born doing already.
It will be a long haul. And over these next weeks or months, there will be many specific ways to help Cody and Nick (like finding a temporary place to live closer to the hospital!), but for now, the thing they need most--after your love sent in their direction--is financial support, freeing them from the stress of worrying about how they're going to pay for all of this, and focusing their energy where it needs to be, on how to best support Pepper through it, until the day they can finally bring her home.
Cody and Nick started calling their long-awaited baby girl Pepper when she was the size of a peppercorn. Now, at 24 weeks, she's the size of an ear of corn, and she needs our help.
On Saturday, Cody's water broke 15 weeks early, a rare pregnancy complication that poses great risks to baby Pepper. Cody has been in the hospital since then, and will likely have to remain in the hospital until Pepper is born, which we hope is at least 10 weeks from now, when Pepper is past the greatest risks for premature birth.
For the next 10 weeks, Cody will be on bed rest and doing everything she can to avoid going into labor, encourage the membranes to heal and the amniotic sac to refill, and keep Pepper growing safely inside her mama until her little lungs and eyes and all her organs are fully developed and it's safe to come out.
As you can imagine, this is an expensive as well as agonizing process. While insurance is paying the lion's share of the hospital fees, Cody and Nick will need our help to pay for costs above their policy maximum, as well as services not covered by insurance. Which is a lot, including out-of-network specialists, nutritional support, vitamin supplements, acupuncture, transportation, doula services, and living expenses and household help for these weeks or months while Cody is unable to work, Nick is juggling caretaking and the medical/insurance labyrinth along with his regular teaching job, and both of them are weathering the emotional turmoil.
We can't take away the anguish of fearing for your baby every moment of the day for weeks on end. But we can at least help alleviate the added stress of worrying about money. Cody and Nick are the most generous, kind, loving, and inspiring couple I know, who sow happiness in the lives of everyone lucky enough to meet them. Let's give back just a fraction of the goodness they add to the world and help them bring little Pepper safely into the lifetime of love waiting for her.