These are women whose lives have been put on hold.
In the final weeks of their pregnancies, they’ve suddenly found themselves ordered into total bedrest. As the long days stretch before them, they find a little relief and joy at the tip of a paint brush.
An expressive arts program for expectant mothers at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina sparks their creativity and helps ease anxiety.
The women, hospitalized during their pregnancy due to complications for themselves and/or their unborn babies, also get to socialize with each other. Soon after they enter the workroom, it's filled with happy chatter in English and Spanish. Paint and brushes break out and the artistic juices flow.
"When I get them in here, they have fun," said Martina Moore, a retired nurse and local artist who plans the monthly activity.
Moore recently guided four patients and an eager husband (family members are welcome) as they each painted and decorated a small wooden container they filled with colorful flowers. The moms-to-be painted wooden cutouts of hearts, dragons and princesses to attach to the pots if they wished. Some chose baby-boy blue paint; others pink for a girl. Some used a combination to honor their other children.
Nurse manager Jane Sherrill set up a radio for classical music in the background. Soon, a snack tray of strawberries, cheese and blueberries arrived.
Alexander, 3-year-old son of patient Yralba Tejada, bounced around the room, energetically playing with markers, a sticker book and mouthfuls of strawberries.
The brief solace is welcomed by all the patients, each adjusting to their pregnancy disruption. Nearly 10 percent of the 3.9 million babies born in the U.S. in 2016 were pre-term, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Tejada, a Dominican Republic native who lives in Winston-Salem, has been hospitalized five weeks since her membranes (amniotic sac) ruptured.
"I like the art class," said Tejada, 34. "In the beginning it was hard to get adjusted to being in the hospital. But this helps."
Sharon Nelson of Novant Health patient services, who organized the program, has helped it grow to three artists and turn it into a weekly event. It also has become mobile, giving patients who can't leave their rooms a chance to participate.
The program is one of several provided by Novant Health’s health and human services and funded by the Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center Foundation. Other offerings include music classes, life narrative interviews and writing exercises.
"It's really a vehicle," Moore said. "When the moms come in, they're usually a little quiet starting off. They really never get to see each other during the day. They'll sit here and ask each other questions and pretty soon they're exchanging room numbers."
The two-hour class only slowed briefly when a nurse popped in to measure a patient's blood-sugar level or a family member checked in via cellphone.
"Some patients will say they're not very creative, but they come here and take a lot of pride in what they've created," Sherrill said. "They'll display it in their rooms and tell the nurses 'Look what I made.' The program is really good for their emotions because a lot of them are away from their families."
Tejada said landing at the medical center was "mucho cambio," Spanish for "a lot of change."
She had planned her wedding to Walter Arce and details for the baby's arrival. Her sudden hospitalization changed all that, but didn't cancel it. Instead, Tejada and Arce were married in the hospital chapel on Sept. 8.
"I was very happy," she said. "I just was never thinking it would happen in a hospital."
Childbirth is unpredictable — but thinking through your preferences ahead of time can make you feel more confident the day of. Download our birth preparation guide.