As many of you know, Bug was born at 34 weeks gestation, was considered a “late preemie”, weighed 5 pounds 4 ounces, and was 19 inches long. I finally started writing his birth story when he was almost 7 months old. My friend Mindy posted an article on Facebook about Prematurity Awareness Month, which took me to the March of Dimes website. (She’s a preemie mom too – her son Wesley came much earlier than Bug did and spent an incredibly long period of time in the NICU). Incidentally, I had been waiting to write about Bug’s birth because it’s a long story, but I came across Bug’s hospital discharge papers a few days before I saw Mindy’s post, and also had just begun working on a scrapbook I started for Bug, full of his hospital pictures. Coincidence? I think not!
WARNING! I WILL SPARE NO DETAIL. THIS IS A LONG POST.
NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011:
I was feeling particularly stressed and exhausted this day from the final week of grad classes (I doubled up grad classes this session to finish my masters degree before Bug was born) and from work, teaching co-taught high school science classes. I hadn’t fully recovered from my baby shower the previous weekend and was desperately trying to organize my classroom to prepare for maternity leave, which I thought wasn’t going to start for another month. That evening, Daddy Bug and I returned from Toys R Us after finally purchasing our baby car seat/stroller combo. I actually said as we got into the car, “We have a car seat; we can have this baby anytime now!” We went to bed early, around 9pm. I even put off finishing a grad assignment so we could cuddle before sleeping.
As usual, baby was super active because I had finally stopped moving for the day. Maybe 15 minutes after retiring, I felt a snapping/popping sensation and noise that came from my abdomen. I jumped and Daddy Bug asked what was wrong. I said, “I’m leaking!” He thought I meant from my boobs, as I had been pre-lactating (is that a word?) for at least a month. I ran to the bathroom and corrected him, “I’m leaking from down there!” I sat on the toilet, the door open for the whole world to see my water breaking. (We live with my parents and both my sisters were home on spring break that week.) A lot a lot a lot of clear-ish fluid was gushing out of me and was tinged red with a little bit of blood. Daddy Bug called the doctor, and after I answered her questions, we were instructed to come to the hospital as I was experiencing PPROM (preterm premature rupture of the membranes).
I stuffed a washcloth in my undies while trying to help Daddy Bug pack a hospital bag for me, because of course we weren’t prepared! We thought we had 6 weeks to go! He woke my parents to let them know what was going on, and my sisters came upstairs to see what the commotion was, thinking we had all gone to bed. I kept saying, “It’s too soon,” all the while frantically thinking of all the things we still hadn’t done to get ready for the baby. We hadn’t pre-registered for the hospital yet! What things did I need to give birth to a baby? Do we have diapers? What stuff do you bring to the hospital anyway? Meanwhile, I was still gushing fluid and replaced the washcloth with a maxi pad. After saying goodbye to everyone, we left for the hospital.
On the way there I realized that no maxi pad, no matter how thick, was going to absorb all this fluid. I definitely leaked through my undies, pants, winter coat, and the front seat. I apologized to Daddy Bug, since it was his car, which he thought was hilarious. We prayed as we got closer to the hospital for a good health and a safe birth, and I noticed that my contractions had changed. I had been having contractions for weeks, maybe months, but nothing serious. Instead of being random, as they had been previously, they were concentrated along the front of my belly, but not painful. I knew then that we were having the baby soon and probably wouldn’t be able to stop labor. Eek!
We checked in through the ER as it was after-hours, about 10:30pm. I was still leaking fluid, this time down my legs and onto the hospital floor. We were escorted up to the maternity floor, met with a nurse and one of my OB-GYN doctors (the practice I go to has 7 I think, and I met all of them during my many check-ups). I changed into a hospital gown, leaking fluid in the delivery room, all over the bathroom and toilet in the delivery room, and eventually all over the hospital bed. No one told me how much amniotic fluid would be inside me, or rather, outside me! Should’ve stuck with the washcloth.
After setting up my IV and the baby heart monitor, I was given a dose of antibiotics as the doctors thought it was possible I had an infection that caused PPROM. (They weren’t able to figure out why it happened – no infection or anything abnormal with the amniotic sac or placenta.) I also took two massive steroid shots to the butt to mature baby’s lungs in case he came early. The doctor discussed with us that because baby was far along enough gestationally to be a late preemie, and there weren’t any underlying issues that we knew about, they wouldn’t do anything to prevent labor if it started. However, they hoped I wouldn’t go into labor right away, could move me to a non-delivery room, and would have up to a week of bed rest in the hospital. Just in case, we met with one of the NICU doctors to discuss possible live saving measures and standard preemie delivery procedures. Clearly we were ok with whatever would be necessary and signed papers saying so. Shortly after a nurse inserted a urinary catheter and put compression tights on my legs to be prepared for a bed rest hospital stay. Daddy Bug texted my parents, his parents, and a few people we worked with to let them know what was going on. He even called the substitute lines for both of us.
Bug was tricky throughout the night and into the next day by evading the heart monitor. I had to change sleeping positions each time he hid from the monitor to make sure he was ok. At one point they prepped their operating room for an emergency c-section because they were having hard time finding Bug’s heartbeat, but he was fine and they called it off.
Daddy Bug and I watched my contractions on the monitor in the delivery room, and they started to feel more focused and intense. I told the nurse I was in pain and asked for a dose of Nubane to help. It made me feel a little drunk and helped me sleep a little while, even while changing sleeping positions. Sometime before midnight I had my first cervical exam (uh, painful! I wasn’t far along enough in my pregnancy to have any of this type of exam before this point!).
Wednesday, March 9, 2011:
I woke up early in the am due to the Nubane wearing off. Owie wowie!!! After another check of my cervix (little owie), it was determined I could have an epidural. It took, what seemed like to me, a little too long for the anesthesiologist to arrive. I remember asking Daddy Bug, “Are you sure they paged him? Where is he?!?” Never in my life was I so happy to have a needle put in my body. I’ve had painful enough cramps during my period to get to the point of passing out – these were 10 million times worse. I actually had to tell the anesthesiologist to pause the placement of the epidural until a contraction passed. I couldn’t lean over the way I needed to until the contraction was over. Daddy Bug was courageous throughout the process, even with his fear of needles. I could feel the drugs working almost immediately. The anesthesiologist became my most favorite doctor in the hospital! (Funny story: he reminded me of my Uncle Chris, also an anesthesiologist, despite the fact that he was very tall, big, and black. Do you think specialties attract certain personalities?)
I was able to sleep better with the epidural working, and only woke up a few times when nurses came to take my temperature or when I needed to change positions to better find the baby’s heartbeat. Around 9am I felt an uncomfortable pressure in my very lower back that came in a rhythmic pattern. I checked the monitor and saw that the pressure came with each contraction. A nurse came to check on me and said that I was probably feeling the baby’s head. She came in because Bug’s heart rate had dropped off significantly and I needed to change positions again. Soon it disappeared, they couldn’t find it at all, and all hell broke loose.
The doctor was paged and came running, the NICU team was paged and set up the special preemie crib, and the surgical team was waiting outside the door to prepare for an emergency C-section. They had me on my hands and knees to try to get the baby’s heart rate going. (Really difficult to get on hands and knees after an epidural by the way!) When everyone was ready I was moved to my back again and the doctor told me that if I didn’t progress after 2 pushes, I was going to have the C-section, which of course reduced me to hysterical tears. I got it together and started pushing. It seemed to help the baby – they found his heart rate again, and the pushing went well enough (yeah Kegels!) that they called off the surgical team.
They said to push like I was having a bowel movement. The doctor said I was pushing correctly and doing a good job when, based on the doctor’s facial expression and the nurses frantic cleaning up of something I couldn’t see from my prone position, I’m pretty sure I pooed on the table. Yuck. But apparently normal. They decided to use a vacuum to assist the delivery and also gave me an episiotomy, which I wasn’t aware of until after Bug was born and they were sewing me up (it was a little crazy in the delivery room!) Daddy Bug and the nurses were very helpful and cheered me on through each push. I was exhausted and started groaning but the nurses said I was wasting energy I could use for pushing and to try not to. I think I pushed for about 45 minutes before Bug was born around 9:48am.
Daddy Bug didn’t get to cut the umbilical cord or put the baby on my chest like he wanted to do because the NICU team needed to check out Bug’s breathing and other vitals. While they did that I delivered the placenta and the doctor stitched up the episiotomy, and Daddy Bug got to take a picture of Bug. All the while I could hear Bug crying loud but short cries. The NICU team brought him over to us for a few minutes for cuddles and we cried exhausted, crazy, happy tears. Then they took him away to the NICU for observation and other tests because they thought he was experiencing respiratory distress syndrome, or RDS, based on how he was crying.
The room emptied out pretty quickly after that. Daddy Bug called or texted our families to let them know the good news (sorry to everyone we didn’t personally call or text, we hadn’t made our list of essential contacts yet!) and a nurse brought me a big cup of ice and a ginger ale. My mom left work early and came to visit me, as she was a little nervous from when we left the night before and stayed up most of the night unable to sleep. Daddy Bug returned from texting and making phone calls and took my mom to the NICU because he wanted to check on the baby. I was still hooked up to an IV and was waiting for the epidural to wear off, so I was alone again in my suddenly empty and quiet room…
(Go on to Part 2 to learn about Bug’s NICU journey)