Saturday, November 19, 2011

My pregnancy had been quite uneventful, and I'd considered myself to be quite lucky to have had a relatively easy time of it. Then, on January 25, 2011, while out to dinner on a business trip 300 miles from home, I started feeling sharp pain in my hips. I wrote it off as relatively common round ligament pain. When I got back to my hotel, I even filled up the bathtub, thinking that everything would be better after a warm bath. Then, I noticed that I had just a tiny bit of spotting. I decided to drive myself to the hospital to get things checked out. I called my OB back home and my husband – we all agreed that I’d probably be monitored for awhile and sent home with instructions to take it easy for awhile.

I got to the hospital at about 9:30 at night. By that point, I knew something was wrong. I told the admitting nurse, “I think I’m having contractions,” and they wheeled me over to L&D. At first, everyone in L&D seemed to think that what I was experiencing was no big deal. Probably just Braxton Hicks contractions. Then, at about 10pm, they did a cervical check. I was 4cm dilated and my bag of waters was bulging. I remember the OB saying, “at 4cm dilated with a bulging bag of waters, you could still hold out for awhile. You’ll be on bedrest for a long time though.” Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to happen.

A ferning test soon revealed that my water had broken, and, 15 minutes later, I was 6cm dilated. I barely had time to call my husband to tell him to start the 5 hour drive from our house to the hospital before I was wheeled into the delivery room. I remember asking, “Am I going to have a c-section?” and the OB replied, “No. If you were going to have a c-section, we’d be wheeling you into the operating room.” I remember thinking to myself at this point: WTF? I’ve never been to this hospital before! How am I supposed to know the difference between the ceiling of the delivery room and the ceiling of the operating room? That’s all I’m looking at at this point... It’s amazing the stuff that was going through my head during this whole process. I was extremely lucky that my son had been head down for weeks (he had been kicking me in my ribs for awhile). I didn’t automatically have to have a c-section.

It starts to get hazy at this point, but I can remember the OB asking me what my plan for pain was. I said, “I’d hoped to have an unmedicated birth,” and the L&D nurse said from somewhere behind my head, “at this point, I think she can handle it!” I had to be 8cm dilated or more by that point. I started shaking, and I asked the nurse if I was in transition, and she replied, “That could be it.”

I was at a smaller (but still very good) hospital, so there wasn’t a full-time neonatologist there. They had one on call, and I remember being told several times that she was “10 minutes away.” At the time, I remember thinking that they were lying to me. I knew they were trying to keep me calm. But, regardless, I had to hold out to deliver my son until the neonatologist arrived. I HAD TO.

I didn’t remember it until weeks later, but, at some point during this whole process, they started to get worried about my baby’s heartbeat. His heartbeat had always been hard to find, but it was dropping when I would have a contraction. They gave me an oxygen mask, and then there was talk of me needing to deliver him as quickly as possible.

It must have been after they gave me oxygen that the OB broke my water. The first time only resulted in a little gush of fluid, and then the second attempt ended up with amniotic fluid everywhere. I was surprised then how much fluid there was. After she broke my water, things slowed down. My contractions slowed way down during transition. Logically, I knew that was somewhat expected, but, at the time, I thought She just broke my water! Now I have to deliver! But my contractions are gone! What if this was all a false alarm and she could have stopped my labor? Now I have no choice! Nothing could have been done to stop the labor, but it certainly crossed my mind at that point.

I have no idea if I was 10cm dilated or not when I started pushing. I don’t ever remember having the “urge to push” that you hear about. It was never a physical thing – it was a mental thing. I NEEDED to get my baby out. The OB told me that we were in a rush to get him out, so that became my obsession. I pushed a couple of times. Then, the OB asked if it was okay to give me an episiotomy because it would help get him out faster, and I consented. I hadn’t wanted an episiotomy (it was even on my birth plan that I didn’t want one, as if that mattered at this point), but everything changed when I was having my son. Luckily, I never had any complications from it, and it healed fine.

After just a few pushes (I have no idea how many. 5?), Zach was born. He let out a little wail before the medical team descended on him to stabilize his breathing and get him started on the ventilator. The neonatologist had arrived by this point, so she worked hard to stabilize him. He was on a warming bed, and I could see her working frantically from the other side of the room. The bed was beeping a loud solid tone, and the nurse kept saying to me, “It’s okay, that’s just the bed. It’s okay, that’s just the bed. That’s totally normal.” I vaguely remember delivering the placenta and the OB stitching me up.

They brought Zach to me to hold briefly before they took him down to the NICU (the hospital where I delivered had a NICU where they could stabilize him, but it wasn’t equipped to have a 26-weeker stay there). I remember holding him and thinking to myself They’re letting me hold him in case he dies. What an awful thing to think, and that thought stuck with me for weeks. Still does. One of the L&D nurses had an iPhone, and she used it to take a bunch of pictures of everything – I obviously didn’t have a camera on my business trip. She took the very first pictures of my little guy. He was 2lb 8oz and 15 inches long at birth. Both of these were in the 97th percentile, and he was so big that there were some questions as to whether my due date was wrong. It wasn’t (it’d been confirmed with a dating ultrasound) - we were just very fortunate.

I have no idea how I got to the recovery room, but I got there somehow. Later, when my sister arrived (coincidentally, she lives about 2 hours from the hospital where I delivered), we were able to go to the hospitals NICU to see Zach. There was a nurse holding IV lines in his umbilical cord, which seemed strange to me. I got to touch him for the very first time, but I was too numb to feel much emotion at that point. It wasn’t until MUCH MUCH later that I could say that I fell in love with my son.

While in recovery, the neonatologist came to see me. She had a little post-it note with Zach’s length, weight, and birth time (11:38pm). I still have it. I have no idea what she said to me, but I remember that she projected a sort of “wait and see” attitude. She wasn’t overly optimistic or pessimistic – she just said that we’d know more later. I said to her, “I have a friend who had a 24-weeker that didn’t make it. I know we’re in for a possible honeymoon period, and things might get worse after that.” She agreed. She was very caring and concerned, and I’ll never forget her.

I saw Zach one more time that night. He was packed up in a transport isolette, and they wheeled him to my room so I could see him before he was transferred. I looked at him a bit, and then thought Why are they still here? They need to leave so they can get him to the good hospital. I think the transport team was surprised that I wasn’t more emotional. I was truly in shock. Later, I was diagnosed with PTSD, and the L&D experience were a big reason why.

My husband made it to the hospital at about 4am, and my parents arrived a few hours after that. My husband and I lived in a hotel for the 70 days our son was in the NICU, and we had a very uneventful all-day drive to bring him home on April 6, 2011. Our NICU stay was extremely easy for a baby born that early. He was only on the vent for a few days,brain then spent the rest of the time on the CPAP, high flow nasal canula, and regular canula. He had a grade 1 brain bleed that resolved on its own a few weeks later. No other issues. He had to coordinate his suck-swallow-breathe rhythm and learn to breathe on his own before we were discharged, and we never had any complications. He was sent home on oxygen with his feeds, and we discontinued that a few weeks after he got home.

Today, Zach is a thriving almost-10-month-old. He’s learning to crawl and is an incredibly happy baby. He’s been followed closely by his pediatrician, the local NICU, and the local Early Intervention program. He’s never had any delays or required any therapy. While he isn’t completely caught up yet, he will be very soon. We’ve been incredibly fortunate.     


Precious and priceless so lovable too, the world’s sweetest littlest miracle is, a baby like you.

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