It’s been just over a week, and I’ve been wanting to write this down so that I don’t forget anything. I truly believe the story starts when we got married in 2009. Matt and I did decide to wait to start a family. I really don’t think that there is right and a wrong way to begin a family together, but waiting was a good choice for us. I start there because the married relationship we developed between 2009 and 2013 is why we are holding up as well as we are. We worked on us during our first four years and the trust we’ve established has been our key for survival.
When we decide we were ready to expand our family it took a while. Not as long as I know it can take for some, but again – the strength of our relationship got us through it. August is not only a very special preemie which many of you already know, but he’s also our rainbow baby.
We found out we were pregnant on July 13th of this past year. We were so excited, but also scared because the last time we had a positive pregnancy test I miscarried around week 7. We were counting down the days to at least get past the first 8 weeks successfully and we did. My pregnancy was already being treated as high risk because of chronic hypertension that I had long before I ever became pregnant. Throughout the pregnancy things went really well. No issues with blood pressure and only a handful of times with morning sickness (all while driving…) and a very healthy active baby at every ultrasound and check up. Things started feeling quite different though after Thanksgiving.
I had been feeling a more pelvic pressure. I assumed it was normal pregnancy pains (and a whole lot of turkey) and simply declared that I was not in the “I love being pregnant” club, but still excited to do what had to be done to bring another life into this world. After a week though of no relief and then a bit of spotting I decided it was time to call the doctor.
On Tuesday, 12/9/14, I drove myself to Mass General Hospital to see a midwife. They ran some tests and checks but couldn’t confirm if anything was going on so I was sent to labor and delivery triage. The last time I was in triage was a really sad day so I was very anxious. Test results came back inconclusive which meant that my symptoms could very well be preterm labor. So I was checked for dilation – 1 cm. The baby was also checked for position – head down. Then I was hooked up to the baby heart rate and contraction monitor for about an hour to see what was going on. At this point they also made the call to give me the first round of steroids in case the baby did come. The steroids help speed along lung development, a critical organ that’s not quite done until 28 weeks gestation. I was 25 weeks 5 days on Tuesday.
An hour or so later I was checked again by the same Doctor – 2-3 cms dilated. Clearly at this point they knew way more than me about the severity of what was going on. I hadn’t taken any birthing classes yet and didn’t study up on the different dilation amounts and how they relate to how labor is progressing. I was in disbelief that it was even possible to be this early. They said I was going to be admitted and staying overnight. At that point I became so scared and called Matt to get to the hospital as soon as he could. Once admitted things got very blurry – I was given a tocolytic medication to calm my uterus and then began 48 hours of magnesium sulfate. It’s used to also slow contractions and also to protect the baby’s brain. Half way into my 48 hours I also got my other steroid shot for the full dose. Matt was here by now and it was a long 48 hours. I wasn’t allowed to eat while on the magnesium. We also had to meet with the anesthesiologist and the neonatal pediatrician to be educated and prepared should the baby come. I was still in disbelief this was even a possibility. My doctor also stopped by and it was made very clear that if this labor could be stopped, I was still not leaving the hospital until I reached at least 28 weeks gestation. Possibly longer. A baby this early would need a level 3 NICU, something not available at all hospitals. But Mass General had what was needed and they didn’t want me to go far. (I’ll also learn preterm labor can progress to delivery very quickly. Much quicker than a ride into Boston)
I was checked a few more times during the 48 hours and there was no change from the 2-3 cms of dilation, so I left labor and delivery and was sent down to the Antenatal floor around 10pm on Wednesday night. I didn’t even know antenatal was a thing! It’s basically a bunch of women trying to not have their babies. While on the antenatal floor, Matt wasn’t able to stay the night. We did, though, have a mini celebration Thursday knowing we hit the all important 26 week mark. I was also trying to wrap my brain around having to live at the hospital, in a bed, for the next two weeks.
Friday night, Matt went home and was preparing to head back to the hospital on Saturday afternoon. After a crazy week he had some things to catch up on at the house. Meanwhile, Friday night and Saturday morning I began having more cramps. (I also have to mention my day nurse got to work that morning all kinds of excited people were having babies on 12.13.14, not something you should be saying to an antenatal patient.) At first I was really scared to tell the nurse about the increased pain, but eventually called her in to check some red spotting and the cramps. She thought it was still the aftermath of being checked so many times upstairs and that the cramps were just that my baby was super active. Right after I finished lunch (about 1pm) things got really uncomfortable, so I asked the nurse to hook me back up to the monitors. A half hour on the monitors and they still did not detect contractions. The nurse still attributed the pain to the baby moving around, but I was thinking “Unless the baby has knives for feet, those are not kicks.” I tried moving around and go to the bathroom to see if that would relieve some of the pain, but after using the bathroom I “assumed the position.” I was bent over and not unbending myself. At this point, the nurse called the doctor. I’d guess it was about 1:45pm.
The Doctor on that week was so incredibly calm and nice. She checked me and said so calmly – “We’ll I’m not sure exactly how far you are, but it’s more than 6 cms, your cervix is gone, and I can feel the sac. Let’s get you upstairs to labor and delivery.” They were wheeling me to the labor and delivery floor as Matt walked in. To give you an idea on time Matt’s parking ticket for the garage said 2pm and it takes about 5 or 10 minutes to get from there to Blake 13 putting us around 2:10.
Matt and I went into the delivery room together and were met by a lot of familiar faces that we had seen over the past week. It was hard to wrap our head around exactly what was happening, but when the doctor looked me in the eye and calmly said “Today is going to be this baby’s birthday,” I all of a sudden wasn’t scared anymore. The worst part of this whole experience is that I had to be told to fight everything my body was feeling and trying to do. Preparing for birth I’d been working on the exact opposite – getting as in tune with my body as possible. Once I got the “go ahead” to listen to it again I felt in so much more control. While I was prepped for delivery the contractions rolled through – they were very very strong, but meditating each time got me through them. I didn’t want to look at anyone, so it also helped that the room was filled with so much sunshine from the huge window. The baby was constantly monitored and showed a strong heartbeat the whole time. The anesthesiologist came in to ask if I wanted an epidural, but the doctors and nurses said there wasn’t time and that I wouldn’t be able to sit still for it. Also, since it had been a few days since the magnesium treatment, they put in an IV to administer a dose prior to birth to get one more chance to add protection. That was it – I was prepped so fast, that only 3 or 4 contractions went by and then I began to deliver the baby. They asked if I wanted to push – I had no idea…. I never took a class. I remember asking someone to just tell me what to do so they said to push on the next contraction. I pushed on 4 of them. On the second my water broke (and by broke, it exploded everywhere) and on the fourth contraction I pushed 5 times and delivered my baby. I was so glad I could feel everything, it allowed me to control the pushes and even though this all happened in less than 30 minutes it felt like a gentle trip into this world. It all went so fast that I wanted to be sure the baby was ok and that I was ok down there and they assured me we were good. Then I heard the little squeaks and saw the little hat. We had an idea if it was a boy or girl. The plan the whole time was to open that present at Christmas. So the nurses kept saying to the NICU staff “they don’t know what it is!” Then I head it was a boy and immediately knew I wanted to name him August. He was delivered at 2:38pm. About 25 minutes after I climbed up on that delivery table.
After August was born The NICU (Newborn Intensive Care Unit) doctors took him immediately and prepared him for the world. He was worked on in the delivery room, then traveled to the NICU in his very special incubator. We couldn’t go with him. I needed to stay to be watched for 2 hours. Matt stayed with me and we snacked on cookies and Gatorade and couldn’t believe what just happened. The Doctor from the very beginning came in during my recovery to say what a good job I did. Matt also said he was impressed. For me the delivery was the least scary part of everything.
Preterm labor is no joke, you never think it could possibly happen to you. And now we’re starting the parenting portion of our life in the NICU.
I was brought to a floor for recovering moms who can’t have their babies with them. It’s nice of the hospital to do that. I changed into my own clothes immediately and we made our way to the NICU to meet August. He was the smallest, most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. They showed me how to open the incubator and he grabbed into my finger. It was still three more days until I finally got to hold him.
We’re on day 10 now and spending lots of time learning his care and letting him rest. It’s going to be a long bumpy road before he can come home around his due date in mid March.