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If you've been a reader here at illuminate, you know that our children's births are part of the story that God wants us to tell. You were our prayer warriors when the twins were born three months early and our encouragers when Ridley decided to be a Valentine's baby instead of being delivered on St. Patrick's. Because of your love for us, we love to share what we have learned in hopes of lives being changed.

Our friends over at the March of Dimes have asked our family to be this year's Wiregrass Ambassador Family for their upcoming fundraiser, March for Babies. It is an honor to share our story with our community in hope of raising money to better prevent preterm birth and have healthier babies in our city, state, and nation.  If you'd like to join us in making a difference in the lives of expecting families, please make a donation to our team page. Our goal is to raise $1,000 by the end of April and any amount that you are able to give is much appreciated!

March for Babies is at Westgate Park on April 26th and starts at 9:30 a.m. We are shooting a local PSA for the event this week so look for it on WSFA! The walk is going to be tons of fun with inflatables for the kids, good food, and other family friendly activities.  Let me know if you are coming and walk with us! :)

Since the walk is at the end of April, I'd like to highlight some reasons each week why our family is passionate about supporting March of Dimes. If you've never checked out the twins' NICU video testimony, you can find it here. Today, I'd like to share more details with you about why I chose to receive weekly hormone shots while I was pregnant with Ridley.

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One of my biggest fears after delivering the twins at 27 weeks was having another preterm delivery. I had so much shame for not being able to carry my children full-term. I felt in many ways that their prematurity was my fault and I had failed somehow as a mom. I couldn't imagine making a conscious decision to put another child through the pain that comes from being born premature: undeveloped lungs, eyes, heart, weight and more developmental struggles their first two years of life...or more. Knowing all that could happen if I delivered before 37 weeks froze my decision to have another child for a really long time.

But, the idea of having more children tugged at my heart. It was a desire of mine and Raleigh's to have a larger family and both of us couldn't help but imagine what it would be like to have another little boy or girl running around the house. After many conversations and lots of prayer, I stopped blaming myself for the twins' birth and started believing that I could have a healthy baby if I got pregnant again. Instead of living in fear, I began to hope.

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This hope led to an honest conversation with my gynecologist. I had heard from other friends who had preemies the first time around about a weekly shot that they received to help keep their baby healthy while pregnant. My doctor explained to me what the progesterone shot was and how it worked. Progesterone is a hormone that helps women while pregnant; like growing the uterus and stopping contractions. The shots would begin around 16 weeks of my pregnancy and I would receive them until 37 weeks.  They are completely safe and there are no negative side effects to the mother or child.

We did have one roadblock before I could begin the shots.  My insurance provider would not cover the shots since I had delivered twins instead of a single child. Typically, if twins are born early they are delivered around 32-37 weeks. But, since our twins came extremely early at 27 weeks, my doctor argued that I should receive the shots. After some back and forth conversations between my health care provider and insurance company, I started a generic version of the shot at 17 weeks.

I'm not going to lie; I was a chicken before my first injection.  The shot was a very thick oil and I had heard that the injection site (my back side) could potentially bruise and be sore. Thankfully, my doctor's nurse is a rock star and she helped me be brave for the first shot. I did get a little light headed afterward, but I think that was from not having a full stomach and some anxiety.  After the first shot, that didn't happen again.  As I got into a weekly routine of receiving the injections, I barely bruised and experienced little discomfort.  Take it from one chicken to another: if I can do it, so can you! :)

Since I was receiving the shot at my doctor's office each week, I got to have lots of mini appointments with my doctor which helped calm my fears tremendously. There was still no guarantee that I would deliver full term but receiving the shots as well as numerous cervical exams and ultrasounds helped me know that my baby was growing healthy and I was doing everything I could to keep him inside my tummy for as long as possible.  My care during this pregnancy was exceptional.

Still, life happens.

At 34 weeks, I went in the morning to receive my shot on Wednesday, February 12th.  I had a vaginal exam the week before and my cervix was still closed so we did not do an exam that morning. After my appointment, I went to work but decided to go home for a late lunch. When I got out of my car to walk into my house, I began to feel a trickling of water come out of me.  I thought I just had to go to the bathroom so I went but more water came out without me pushing. My water had not broken with the girls so I wasn't sure if that was what I was experiencing but it wouldn't stop so I called my doctor's office.  My nurse told me to come back in as soon as possible. I called my husband and asked him to meet me at the doctor's office because I may or may not be going into labor.

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As soon as I lay on the exam room table and my doctor examined me, my water broke. She told me that I would be delivering Ridley today.  Even though the twins had been born early, I still wasn't expecting this. I asked my doctor if he was going to be okay. She assured me that 34 weeks was much further than 27 weeks but there was a potential that he could have some breathing issues.

While getting prepped for surgery (I had a c-section with the twins and we had already decided to do this again with Ridley) and battling contractions, fear did come over me.  My mind played the what if game and I had no idea if we were about to meet a healthy baby boy or if he would be rushed to a NICU at another hospital. God gave me the best husband to calm my pre-delivery nerves.

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Soon, it was go time.  My doctor came in and talked me through the surgery.  One of our friends was the anesthesiologist and he gave me the play-by-play as to what was happening on the other side of the blue curtain.  Holding my husband's hand, I heard our baby cry as he was delivered (the twins' lungs were not developed enough to cry when they were born). I cried too. My doctor walked over to me, holding our precious baby boy and I got to see his chubby cheeks for the very first time.  He was swaddled and placed in Raleigh's arms. He weighed six pounds and two ounces and was deemed a healthy baby boy.

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Later that evening, Ridley was placed in my arms. Getting to hold my baby on the day I delivered him was the most precious gift I could have received. He was perfect.

While we were in the hospital, he passed all of his tests with flying colors.  He latched on to breastfeed and was circumcised. His only set back was not being able to regulate his temperature but we were still allowed to take him home on the day I checked out.   His whole birth experience was completely different from the twins and leaving the hospital with him was an unbelievable experience.

Even though Ridley was born five weeks early, my doctor assured me that we did everything we could to keep him inside my belly. The shots helped him grow and have a healthy birth weight. They also helped me to overcome my fears and give birth to my son. No longer did I feel shame about how my body copes with pregnancy. 

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The hormone shots not only helped Ridley grow, they also helped me overcome my fears. I know now that if I ever had another child, that he or she will probably be born premature too.  I would do the shots again in a heartbeat if I was ever pregnant again. 

I wanted to share all of this with you today because the research behind these shots was funded from the March of Dimes.  You can read more about progesterone hormone shots and gels on their website.  But, what I want you to know is that I thank the March of Dimes for giving me this option for my second pregnancy. I believe that the March of Dimes helped my pregnancy with Ridley and now I want to help them help other families too. 

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If you still have any questions about the shots, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below. Also, if you live in the Dothan area, please try to come out to our fundraiser at Big Fun on April 17th from 6-8 pm.  If you can't come or don't live nearby, you can make a donation to our team here.  

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Ridley is almost two months now and I can't imagine life without him.  I am so glad that I didn't let my fears of premature birth stop us from considering another child.  There is no guarantee that our babies will be born healthy but I thank God for the medicine that gives us hope.

Till next time, let your light shine!

Blessings, christen

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