On September 1st, I realized that my breasts had been sore for several days. I was feeling so odd I decided to take a pregnancy test. It was a test I had had in my bathroom cabinet for two years, so when it showed positive I was in shock and disbelief. I think I had resigned myself to never experiencing the joys of motherhood.
We went out to the drugstore right away for a new test. I took it immediately. Another POSITIVE! We decided to go ahead and call our parents. After 11 years of marriage, we figured the ones who loved us most didn’t have to wait 13 weeks to hear something. There’s no way I would have been able to keep it quiet anyway.
The next day was the Friday of Labor Day weekend. I called and made an appointment with my OB’s office. They agreed to see me on the 15th of September. On Sunday the 4th, I started having some spotting after using the restroom. I had never experienced this kind of fear in my life. Was this normal? Would I lose this baby I had already shared with the world I was pregnant with? Was I really pregnant, or was this my period rearing it’s ugly head?
I didn’t sleep at all that night and the holiday was a blur. The next night I endured more sleeplessness and I eventually got up at 3am and took my shower. Then I went into work early. At 9am, I decided to call the doctor’s office. They agreed it was worth looking into and asked me to go to St. Elizabeth’s right away for blood work to check my HCG and progesterone levels.
I went home exhausted and still worried to death. At 2pm, I finally received a call from my doctor’s nurse. My progesterone level was a low 9.7, but I was definitely pregnant. Could I come in for an ultrasound by 3:30pm, and they would check to make sure everything was ok?
I agreed, and frantically called my husband with the news. I picked him up from work, and at 3:30pm on September 6th we heard our baby’s heartbeat for the first time. I cried.
It was real. We got our “baby’s first photos” and our appointment confirmation for the next week. Our estimated due date was April 27th. The baby’s size said I was 6 weeks, 5 days pregnant. I asked if my progesterone was going to be an issue or if there was anything to be done for it. I was told supplements wouldn’t be necessary.
That is the conversation I still play back in my head. Should I have pushed harder? Was the progesterone level the reason for my PROM (premature rupture of membranes)? In a pregnancy where I endured extreme fatigue, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes. I did everything asked of me. My blood pressure and blood sugar were under control. I just wish I knew what I could have done to give my son a little more baking time.
With frightening insight, I asked for my baby shower to be held in early February. I took my birthing class at 24 weeks. I figured with my medical issues I’d have to be on bed rest in that final month. I never dreamed I’d be spending it in the NICU. On February 19th, my husband turned out the light at 10:50pm. As soon as my head hit the pillow, I felt a pop. I knew what that meant. “Oh God,” I moaned and got out of bed and headed for the bathroom feeling a tell-tale gush the instant I stepped on the tile. “Oh God, Oh God. No, it’s too early.” I stared at the huge clear puddle under my feet as my husband popped up out of bed.
“That’s my water. My water broke. Oh no, no. That’s not good.” I said out load as my husband asked what to do.
I went into triage mode. “Hand me my phone, I’ll call my doctor’s office. I should lay down while I call.”
I left a message that my water broke and I was 30 weeks, 3 days gestation with the answering service. A nurse from my doctor’s office called back in about 5 minutes. In this time, I had thrown a sweatshirt over my nightgown and put on socks and shoes. I was still leaking amniotic fluid like mad. “Go to the hospital,” stated the woman on the other end of the line. “Already about to walk out the door,” I said shakily and hung up the phone.
Normally, I live 5 minutes from St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Crestview Hills. Earlier that day, my husband and his best friend had ripped all the carpet out of my house. My mother in law was gifting us with new carpet. We had at least 8 weeks before the baby would come. Plenty of time, right? So I was at her house in Cold Spring. All my husband had with him was his work clothes for the next day. Just that Friday, I had told him I got the reminder telling us to start packing our hospital bag. Oh, the irony.
I remember calling my mom and telling her I was fine and not to panic. I think I was just in shock. We took a wrong turn at St. E’s and had to turn around to find the ER. We got to the desk and I said, “I’m 30 weeks pregnant and my water broke. It’s running everywhere.”
The woman behind the desk nodded to some wheelchairs and told my husband to wheel me to emergency. It didn’t occur to me at the time how dangerous that was. Later and now it infuriates me to think what could have happened if his cord had been prolapsed or I’d been suffering from placenta issues.
Labor and Delivery at St. Elizabeth’s was a blur. Almost immediately, they gave me a steroid shot. The moments it took them to find his heartbeat on the monitor felt like hours. I hadn’t started feeling any contractions yet, but I could still feel the fluid gushing. I was just trying to hold onto my sanity. To not panic.
Someone came and said they would be taking me by ambulance to Good Samaritan in Cincinnati because St. E’s only has a level 2 NICU and we needed a level 3 for a baby of Drake’s gestational age. It suddenly became real. Oh God help me, I’m having this baby. It’s too soon.
On the ambulance ride, I just practiced my relaxation breaths from birth class. Keith wasn’t allowed to ride with me in the ambulance because the RN taking care of me from St. E’s had to go to. When we arrived at L&D at Good Sam, he was waiting at the desk. I said you made it and then they wheeled me back into a small triage room.
Within about 20 minutes of my arrival at Good Sam, I had the scare of my life. The admitting nurse rushed in the room with a look of serious concern on her face then rushed out and came back with more people. They told me the baby was distressed, and they put me on my side and on oxygen. The time until they said the horror was past seemed like hours. Keith still hadn’t been allowed in the room to see me.
After the danger passed, they finally brought Keith back and a short time later I was placed in a labor room. It was about 2am. Around 5am, I started having sharp pains. I was in denial and kept calling them gas pains. These gas pains were about 3 minutes apart, and every time I would have one. The thump, thump of the baby monitor would fade. At 6am, they finally checked me I was at 1cm, 40% effaced. By 8am, the contractions felt like they were every 30 secs. I was in misery and still be told they weren’t registering on the monitor. My husband’s aunt convinced them to check me again.
They did an ultrasound and Drake was still breech. I was now 7cm and 90% effaced. The doctor came in and told me they were going to take the baby out now, and I was being taken back for an emergency C-section. I started crying hysterically. This is what I wanted. I wanted to try to give birth. I practiced my breathing! As soon as we arrived in the OR, they started prepping me for the epidural. They had me sit on the edge of the bed and lean forward onto a nurse. When the anesthesiologist was half done, the grips of a contraction hit me. I knew I had to stay relaxed. So I did somehow. I don’t know where I found it.
Someone shouted, “Find the dad,” and everything started going numb. I was so exhausted from worry and stress and lack of sleep. I could feel the doctor rummaging around. That is the weirdest part of a c-section and something you never hear anyone mention. Then I heard a cry. He sounded like a lamb it was so faint. Not anything like the gusty newborn cries you expect to hear. But that had to be good right? I was like I heard him is he ok? But no one answered.
I was fighting to stay awake everything felt so weird. They had him back and to the left of my head and I couldn’t turn that way. Little did I know it would be 6 hours before I would finally see my son. In an incubator and hidden under wires and a CPAP mask. It would be 36 hours before I would touch him. And 4 days before I would finally hold his tiny 2lb, 14oz body. Actually, it was 2lbs, 9oz by then.
So that’s my birth story. Of course there’s more. There’s the struggle to make breast milk, and the heartrending pain of failing at that, too. The struggle to not have a nervous breakdown in the hospital lobby when you’re watching other mommies go home with their little babies cradled in their arms. Dealing with having to wait for rides to visit the NICU and then feeling like you have to have permission to look at your child let alone touch or care for him. Being told you’re lucky that you got to recover from your c-section without having to care for your baby. Or being asked how long you plan to be at the hospital because there is no one in the world who wants to sit there as long as you do. Or who understands that you’d sit there 24/7 if you could manage it.
And then it happens, 34 days after you started this journey you’re told you can take him home. You think you will have a moment’s peace without these daily drives to the hospital. But you still wake up to check his breathing. You write down his food, and cry if you accidentally sleep through a feeding time because he didn’t wake you.
You struggle with the guilt that it was your body that failed. You worry that they’ll contract RSV and end up back at the hospital. Another failure for Mom to protect and defend against the germy hordes that all want a piece of your tiny guy.
You wonder will I ever just get to enjoy anything? Or will I always feel this heaviness and fear and guilt over what should have been the happiest time of my life.