**This is a detailed account of the days before Anamaria came into the world! Don’t read this if you are easily queasy, or uninterested in birth stories. It is way too long and you won’t enjoy it! I want to remember every minute of this experience so that I don’t forget what I have learned, which is why I am writing this all down!
Wednesday, August 6th~ 22 weeks, 5 days pregnant
It was the first day of training for our staff of RD’s. We spent the morning drinking coffee, eating bagels and talking about our summers and our lives. We went out to lunch, fellowshipped and laughed. I thought about how I was exactly 5 months pregnant that day. My due date was exactly 4 months away. I also felt a little funny. The baby was low; it hurt when she kicked or moved, almost like she was about to kick her way out of me or something. I actually had felt like this for a while now, but didn’t really think anything of it. I had heard that second babies usually feel low so I thought this was normal. But this day I felt uncomfortable, crampy and this baby girl was just weighing a LOT. I thought I was dehydrated, so I kept drinking. That evening I went home and started unpacking our very disorganized home. Abi was coming home that night, and I wanted her to have a room to come home to play in, so I worked tirelessly to unpack her clothes and toys and then did the same with our room. All this time, I was feeling really uncomfortable. I kept getting these weird cramps really low in my pelvis, I thought it the baby moving, stretching. I thought it was gas I thought I was thirsty. Tired maybe? By the time Esteban got home at 9 PM, I realized that they were contractions, because I could feel and see my uterus contracting with each one. I thought they might be Braxton hicks, but they hurt, so then I thought I must be dehydrated. I got water and laid down. Esteban asked if we should go to the hospital. I said what would we do with Abi. The contractions were 10 minutes apart. I slept that night, waking up every once in a while with a contraction.
My wonderful group of co-workers and I on the day this all began! This is the last picture of me pregnant!
Thursday, August 7th
I got up in the morning, got ready and went into the office. Thankfully, I live where I work so I only had to walk across campus. I was still feeling uncomfortable, and still having contractions, though they were not consistent and much less intense. By this time I had decided that I would at least call the midwife and let her know what was happening, “just to be safe.” I got to the office and told my intern that I just needed to make a quick phone call, but that everything would be fine. That surely I was overreacting. I called my OBGYN practice and the midwife called me back within a few minutes (one of the things that I love about these midwives and this practice!). I explained what had been going on to Jessica, who listened carefully and then said, “How quickly can you get here? We need to check you out if you’re having intense contractions!” So I called Esteban, who thankfully was home that day and we hopped in the car and headed to the Birth Center. I am so thankful that Jessica told me to go in that day. Later that afternoon, when I was in the hospital, she said that she knew that I wasn’t one of her “cry wolf patients” and that if I said something wasn’t right, it probably wasn’t. I’m so thankful that I was at a practice where the midwives know their patients, and know what they need. Jessica was right. Something was not right.
At the birth center they hooked me up to monitors to check the contractions and ran every test they could think of to figure out why I was contracting. I didn’t have a UTI and they gave me an IV with fluid to make sure that I wasn’t just dehydrated. The contractions eventually slowed and the plan was that I would go home on bed rest. Two things were worrisome—1) my cervix was shortening and softening (not good at only 5 months pregnant) and 2) the fetal fibronectin test came back positive, which is a protein that baby’s usually emit within 2 weeks of their birth. For these reasons, and because I was still contracting, the plan was that I would go home on bed rest and follow up with a high risk maternal fetal specialist on Monday.
We stayed home and I stayed on the couch. I kept trying to get up for short periods of time—I mean very short periods of time—and every time I did I would start to feel contractions again. My stomach was in knots. I pretended I didn’t feel them. For a couple hours, they were pretty intense and pretty frequent. I told myself I would call in the morning if they continued.
Friday morning, August 8th
I woke up feeling a little better, I thought. I got ready to go to RD training again, since we would just be sitting on a couch together. I went to the bathroom and noticed blood. I called the doctor, and the nurse initially acted like it wasn’t a big deal. I explained my situation and she said she would have the Doctor call me. I wasn’t a midwife patient anymore. I waited, and waited and waited and the doctor did not call back. So I went to a coworker’s apartment for our training meeting. After a little bit I went to the bathroom. More blood. I was starting to panic a little. I left the room and called the doctor again. This time one of the midwives called me back within 5 minutes. Lisa calmly told me to come in to the birth center just to check me out.
By the time I got to the hospital, I was having contractions every 4-5 minutes. Esteban arrived just as I did, and my mom took Abi home. As the nurses and doctors got us settled into our room we noted the urgency on their faces. The doctor checked my cervix and we noticed his grave expression.
“Things have progressed. This does not look good.”
He told us that I was 1 centimeter dilated and that it felt like there was funneling. They would do an ultrasound, measure the cervix, and give me medications to stop the contractions. “We are going to try to stop labor,” the doctor told us, “but we may not be able to. Your baby is not viable and there is nothing we can do.” He told us that no hospital in Boston would take us, since I was only 22 weeks pregnant.
“22 weeks, 6 days,” I reminded him. We asked him when the baby would be viable.
He said that it depends, but most hospitals say 24-25 weeks. I asked a nurse later and she said that some hospitals say 23.5. I found a glimmer of hope.
My contractions stopped with the magnesium, which made me feel terrible. I was hot, nauseous, drowsy and achey. We cried a lot that day, thinking we were going to lose our baby girl. We cried when we listened to her heartbeat and as we felt her kicks and squirms. We cried thinking about what we would tell her big sister, who was already so excited to meet her. We cried and we prayed that God would give us one more day.
Saturday, August 9th ~23 weeks
23 weeks. The nurse congratulated us at midnight. She told us that it was a big deal. She said that some hospitals would at least try to save the baby. After 24 hours they had to stop the mag. The doctor sat down with us and prepared us for the worst. “It doesn’t look good,” he continued to say. When they stopped the magnesium, I was petrified. I was shaking uncontrollably, scared to death that the contractions would start again, and I would deliver this baby in a hospital not equipped to care for her.
After several hours it seemed like the contractions had not really started up. I was having a few, here and there, but nothing like when I came in. A new doctor had come on and she took more time to talk with us and actually started to give us some options. I would go home on bed rest—strict bed rest—but she was talking about the possibilities of some shots, something to keep contractions away. She had been doing research all morning. Then in the afternoon she decided she would call one of her partners at Beth Israel and get their opinion. Thank you, thank you, thank you wonderfully caring doctor for taking the time to find the best care for your patient. She called and the doctor at Beth Israel told her that we had options and she should present them to us. The neonatologist came into our room with her and proceeded to give us the grim statistics of what having a baby at 23 weeks could mean—blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy, brain bleeds, severe developmental delays, less than 25% chance of survival… Did we want to try to save our baby?
“Don’t you need a moment to talk about it? To think about it?”
Esteban and I looked at each other with tears in our eyes. “No, we want to do everything we can to save our baby. We don’t care if she is blind or deaf, or if she can’t walk. We don’t want her to be in pain, we don’t want her to suffer. But we want her to have a chance.”
The doctor smiled and said she thought that was what we would say. And she told us that I would be transferred to Beth Israel, where they would prepare me for a very early delivery of this baby girl. Thank you Jesus. We cried tears of relief and prayed again for one more day. Every week the baby’s chances increased dramatically, and we wanted every day that we could get.
A few hours later I was strapped onto a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance. Something I never thought I would experience. On the bumpy ride I thought about how completely crazy this experience was. What was happening to me? I had a perfectly normal pregnancy with my first? I had a perfectly normal pregnancy up until this moment? What had gone wrong? I chose to continue to remind myself that God is good. “For you are good, for you are good, for you are good to me.” I sang that song over and over in the ambulance. The EMT must have thought I was nuts, but I figured I was 23 weeks pregnant, on a stretcher and in labor, so I had the right to do whatever I wanted.
At that point it did not matter what had happened or why it had happened. “I am here and God is good,” and that was all that really mattered in that moment.