Sidelines National Support Network
/ Volunteer Spotlight
Volunteer of the Month
Sidelines volunteer Leslie Heerman with her daughters, Beatrix and Lucie
Name: Leslie Heerman
Home: Versailles, Kentucky
Children's Names and Ages: Lucie, 12, and Beatrix, 8
"Having a high-risk pregnancy, for whatever reason, is unbelievably stressful. Being on bedrest and worrying about your unborn child and your other responsibilities is all-consuming. I believe that being able to talk about your concerns with another woman who has had a similar experience is very helpful and can relieve some of the anxiety involved."
Leslie Heerman has been a Sidelines volunteer for more than seven years. She is glad to be able to pay back some of the support shown to her during her second pregnancy.
"I wanted to pass on the generous support I received from my Sidelines buddy to another woman in a similar situation," she said. "I had first-hand knowledge of the stress, anxiety, and feeling of helplessness involved in being on bedrest with a young child at home, especially when I was hospitalized for ten weeks. Being able to talk to another woman who had been through it was comforting and encouraging. I kept thinking, if she could be in Trendelenberg for 13 weeks, I can sit here and not complain too much."
Leslie added that she has enjoyed getting to know her referrals and sharing their experiences and hopes that she has been able to give them some encouragement and support.
"Peer support is an inspired resource for women on bedrest, and I believe that Sidelines is a wonderful organization to facilitate those relationships and that it deserves wider recognition," she said.
Leslie explained that she is a "DES daughter" who had an emergency cerclage in her first pregnancy when it was discovered during amniocentesis that her cervix was shortened and funneling. (DES is the acronym for diethylstilbestrol, a synthetic estrogen once given to women and now associated with health risks in their offspring.) Fortunately, her daughter Lucie was delivered healthy at 39 weeks.
Leslie's second pregnancy, at age 43, included early bleeding and many more interventions, including a cerclage at 14 weeks, bedrest at home at 22 weeks, and admission to the hospital at 25.5 weeks. There she was put on a terbutaline pump and prepared for the early delivery that seemed imminent. "Defying all expectations, I stayed in hospital for ten weeks, went home for Christmas still pregnant, and had a c-section at 38 weeks on December 28!" Leslie said.
Leslie vividly remembers the feelings of helplessness and anxiety she experienced during that pregnancy. She worried about not being able to take care of Lucie as well as Beatrix’s health. Even small acts of generosity and kindness had an enormous impact on her—a friend ate lunch with her at the hospital on Sundays, and the nurses shared experiences or brought her knitting materials. She recalls the terrible frustration and experience of "every minute sometimes passing like an hour" as well as the real satisfaction in defying the odds and coming home with her baby, knowing that a lot of help and determination on her part made it possible.
Leslie, a non-profit employee, joined Sidelines as a volunteer in 2002. Her first referral was a young woman who was pregnant after losing twins at 21 weeks. Since then, her "buddies" have ranged from a mother whose home burned down to one whose ex-husband tried to get custody of their child, citing her as an unfit mother because she was on bedrest. She supported a mom-to-be in primitive living conditions who had computer access sporadically and one who spent her bedrest at a hospital where there was wi-fi and warm chocolate chip cookies every afternoon. She even supported one mother twice.
No matter what the situation, her advice remains the same: Be willing to ask for help.
"People are willing to help a helpless pregnant woman, even if they don't quite understand why you look fine and can't do your own laundry. If you ask, usually they will do it, and you shouldn't worry about asking," she said.
Leslie also advises each mom-to-be to remember that her time on bedrest is only a short part of her family's life, but it means everything to her baby.
"I read that in a high-risk pregnancy book, and it was very helpful to remember when I was feeling stressed about not being able to take care of my daughter, my house, my life," she said. "And if you end up in the hospital, make friends with the nurses and try to find someone to advocate for you if you cannot. I had a nurse/caseworker who was wonderful."
When Leslie has a bit of spare time, she enjoys knitting and reading. In addition, she likes to share her children’s activities of horseback riding and Irish dancing.