A year ago today, on August 12th, I went into labor for the second time in a week, at only 23 weeks, 3 days pregnant. But before I tell you that part of the story, let’s go back, just a couple of days…
Sunday, August 10th
A year ago, on August 10th, it was the first day that I had really felt well since this whole ordeal began several days earlier. I was not having contractions, and that made me feel good. I was still taking the oral medication, inducin, and would be until the following morning. At this point, the plan was that I would remain at the hospital at least through Monday, when the indicuin regimen was completed. I would have an ultrasound on Monday to check the baby and the length of my cervix, and as long as everything remained stable, I would be able to go home the next day. To say that I was not worried about going home would be a complete lie. Of course, there was a big part of me that hoped and wanted to be able to go home and stay home until I was able to deliver and bring home a chunky, full term baby. But there was also a sort of peace in remaining at the hospital, where I knew they would be able to intervene if I needed it at any moment.
I remember the conversation with Dr. Y. and Dr. S. early that morning when they came in during their rounds. They were smiling and positive. They told me the plan and said, “You are not our most impressive case. You are not going to have a baby at 23 weeks!” This made me breath a sigh of relief as I hoped they were right. My nurse came in and checked our baby girl’s heart beat every hour or so, and every time she was strong and healthy. Remember, when a baby is only 23 weeks, they are still pretty little, so they can still move around quite a bit. Our little one gained quite the reputation among the nurses while we were there because of her feisty personality. She would either kick the Doppler or wiggle her way away from it every time one of the nurses tried to listen to her. She did not like to be pressed on! This made us smile every time, as we grew to know and love our sweet girl more with every listen.
The rest of the day was filled with visits from family and friends, surprise drinks from Starbucks and 3 more gourmet hospital meals. Our church lifted us up in corporate prayer and we spent the day feeling overwhelmed by the amount of love and support we were receiving. We talked about how we would survive 4 more months of bed rest with a 3 year old at home, and went to sleep feeling more positive than we had in the past few days combined.
Monday, August 11th
A year ago, on August 11th, I woke up still feeling good, but with an overhanging sense of anxiety about the possibility that I might be going home. I wanted to be home with Abi…no I longed to be home with Abi, but I was fairly nervous about what would happen once I stopped the inducin. The last time I stopped the medication, my contractions started right away, so I was worried that that was going to happen again. But Abi’s birthday was on Thursday, and I was already feel sick to my stomach, thinking about the fact that I could miss it. The plan that morning in rounds was that I would get an ultrasound later that morning, but they also let me know that I would not be going home that day, because they realized that I actually wouldn’t be done with the inducin until that night, and they could not discharge me still on it. Dr. Y said, “Hopefully you’ll be home tomorrow!” I told her that I was actually a little bit relieved to know that I would be staying at the hospital that day, and that I would rather make sure that everything was really stable before I went home. Dr. Y also let me know that they had asked for a couple of people from the NICU to come down and talk with us, just in case our baby decided to come early.
The Chief Neonatologist and one of his residents came down to talk with us about what our baby’s chances would be for survival and what her life would look like once she was born. Talk about a “this-has-to-be-a-bad-nightmare” conversation. At the end of it, what I knew was that #1) I needed to keep Ana inside of me for as many weeks as I could, and #2) No matter which way this game was played, we were going to be connected to this hospital for a very long time. I became obsessed with making it to 27 weeks, since at that point, babies have a much higher chance of success, especially compared to the 20% we were hearing for our current 23-week mark. The Doctor talked about brain bleeds and cerebral palsy, NEC and a long, long hospital stay. He told us (and I remember this as clear as if it were yesterday) that we would most likely be in the hospital until New Years Day and possible longer. Despite all of this, we told him the same thing we had told Dr. P at the other hospital. If she was born this week, we wanted them to do everything they could to save her, within reasonable limits, so that she would not live in pain or discomfort. But we wanted them to save her. Seriously, I just couldn’t even believe we were doing this. I had read about preemies, and seen one on Grey’s Anatomy–wasn’t there a baby born at like 23 weeks? What did she look like? I started to google and ready everything I could about preemies, and I learned that there was a thing called “micro-preemies.” You can be smaller than a preemie?? Everything kind of felt like a dream. Like it couldn’t possibly be real. Little did we know just how real it would very quickly get.
Finally at almost 5:00 by the time they came to get me for my ultrasound. I was wheeled upin my glamorous johnnie and 3 sizes too big hospital socks up to the seventh floor and into the High Risk Maternal Fetal Medicine Wing. “I never thought I would find myself here,” I thought to myself. I hopped (or more like slowly, and probably awkwardly, slid) onto the ultrasound table. Suddenly, my arms and legs started to shake, and pretty soon, my whole body was shaking. Apparently I was more nervous about this ultrasound than I first thought. I apologized to the technician and Esteban tried his best to get me to calm down. Finally I did, and the tech lathered my belly up with that infamous warm goo, and we started the process. There are a lot of specifics that I don’t remember about this ultrasound, but I do remember that I had to go to the bathroom in the middle of it because my bladder was apparently exploding (Beth Israel didn’t believe I needed a catheter, so I got that removed right when I arrived—thank GOD!), and that baby girl was doing well, but was still head up. She had been that way since I was at the previous hospital. I can’t remember exactly how long my cervix was, but I think it was somewhere around 2 or 2.5 cm, so not much different than it had been when I left the first hospital, if at all. This was pretty much good news, except we really needed baby girl to flip and be head down. We returned to our rooms feeling cautiously hopeful of what the next day would bring.
Tuesday, August 12th
A year ago today, I woke up to the doctors coming in to round on me. They asked me how I was feeling and I told them I felt alright. I had taken my last dose of inducin and I was wary of what the day would bring. I honestly don’t remember all that much about that morning, but we decided that Esteban would go to work, at least for a few hours, since he hadn’t been there at all since this whole thing started. A friend from church came and sat with me and brought me coffee, and we looked at magazines, chatted and laughed. It was a good morning. Sometime in the late morning or early afternoon, I started to not feel so good. I was having some small contractions, even though I willed it to not be true. I went to the bathroom, and noticed a huge blood clot, which totally freaked me out. I called for the nurse and told her that I was having contractions and bleeding. They hooked me up to the monitor and agreed that I was in fact contracting. I cried, devastated with disappointment in my body’s inability to do what it was supposed to be doing for my baby girl. None of the doctors were around, so a Physician’s Assistant came in who was not too familiar with my case. She said that they needed to do an internal exam, and everything after that happened very quickly. I remember being thrown back into the laying position and preparing myself for yet another uncomfortable exam. I hardly flinched and she said, “It’s not good. You are 3 centimeters.” I remember crying, and moaning, “Noooo.” Why was this happening? The Physician’s Assistant said they had to get me up to Labor and Delivery ASAP, and they rushed in a stretcher and quickly moved me off of my bed and into the stretcher, leaving a basketball sized, dark red stain in my place. I gasped when I looked, and the nurses rushed to get it cleaned up and out of my sight. The PA was rushing, feeling the urgency of the situation, and they literally were running down the hall pushing me. This was not doing much to calm my anxiety, as I tried to explain to them that my husband was at work and I needed to call him. We arrived at the elevator and one of the nurses yelled, “HOLD THE ELEVATOR! EMERGENCY!” By this time, my entire body was shaking uncontrollably, and I had to close my eyes to keep my head from spinning. Somewhere deep in my heart I know I begged God to spare my baby, but my mind was racing. As they wheeled me into the Delivery room, Delivery room #2, I remember looking up at the ceiling and asking God for help.
And God answered me.
In an audible voice, I heard God say, “It’s going to be okay.”
And all of a sudden, I started to be able to think.
Somehow I got in touch with Esteban, and with a trembling voice, told him that he needed to get here now. When he did, he was pacing the room. Stressed, worried, anxious–any adjective you can think of to describe a man whose wife is looking like death blown over and whose 23 week baby girl is seriously threatening to make an appearance. I calmly told him that it would be alright. I knew that, for today, we were going to be okay.
The doctors came in and bustled around. Checking hearbeats, and ultrasounds, trying to decide if my water had broken or not. One doctor said it had, and the other later said it hadn’t. They all told us that since the baby was breech, there was a very high chance that she would be strangled by the cord when the cord came out first—a cord prolapse—but that they would not recommend a c-section at this time since she was so very tiny, and probably wouldn’t survive anyway. A C-section would mean a scar up and down my belly and would impact my long term reproductive health. We had already had this conversation theoretically several times before, but now it was real time. Esteban was sick with stress over the decision. But I was at peace. I knew somehow that it was going to be okay, and by some miracle (because it really had to have been a miracle), I was able to trust God enough to say, “Ok. I don’t want a C-section.” That meant, that I didn’t want them to rush to do a C-section if my baby was in distress. That meant, that I didn’t want 24/7 fetal monitoring, because even if the baby’s heartrate dropped, they would not do anything. Saying that now, sounds totally absurd. But in that moment, in my heart, it made sense. I had a peace that God was holding my baby in the palm of His hand, and I trusted that she wasn’t going to be born today.
They hooked me up to magnesium, that God-awful drug again, both to stop the contractions and because if a baby is born so early, the magnesium just before birth helps their neurological development and prevents brain bleeds. And I felt like I was on fire, and dry heaved all day long. You can’t eat while you take this medicine, and it makes you feel horribly nauseous. And if you know me, you know that hunger and nausea is a terrible combination, so I threw up nothing for hours. Miserable.
I convinced them to let me take a half-round of inducin, since that was the only thing that had stopped the contractions. I took that and my magnesium, and looked like a hot mess for the next 24 hours. I couldn’t get up to go to the bathroom, but I didn’t want a catheter, so Esteban had to help me use a bed pan. Talk about true love and glamour all wrapped up in one. I was dirty and hungry and nauseous and so, so tired. The magnesium also gave me a horrendous headache, so I spent most of the day sleeping. Later that night, I was a little more awake, and we decided to watch some TV. My contractions had stopped and I was feeling much more stable. We ended up watching way too many episodes of the Big Bang Theory and it was perfect. Light, funny, and it gave us a sense of normal. Also that day, we learned that some friends had had their first baby, and it brought me so much joy to know that. It was a glimpse of hope, of things going right, and it brightened the day for both of us. What a gift.
We stayed up in Labor and Delivery that night, my sweet husband sleeping folded over on a chair next to me. He did not leave my side for a second and every meal I had to force him to eat. This was also the day we started listening to “Vivir es Cristo” by Jonathan and Sarah Jerez, as we realized that we needed to rest our hope in Christ and fix our eyes on Him. He had a plan that was far greater than our plan, and we asked that He would use this to bring Himself glory. We listened to this soundtrack over and over, praying it fervently every time.
This day was filled with fear, uncertainty, pain, discomfort, frustration, disappointment, devastation. But God also brought peace, joy, hope, strength, faith and trust that could only have come from him. By our own strength, we would have been a complete mess. But by His strength. By His strength we had made it just one more day.
23 weeks, 4 days…here we come.