Ernest Hemingway:

As Ernest Hemingway once said...
'All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.'

Monday, March 16, 2009

March 16, 2008

Our lives were turned upside-down one year ago today. I was 19 1/2 weeks pregnant. Hubby was brewing a batch of coffee stout in the kitchen before dinner, and I decided to take a bubble bath. Upon getting out of the bath I noticed a strange, watery discharge. I wrote it off until it happened again in the bedroom, going completely through my underwear. Gross, and definitely unusual. I called my OB and his office said to go to labor & delivery because it was Sunday and there was no way to tell what was going on over the phone.

We went, expecting to get checked out, maybe an ultrasound (we'd only had one at 9 weeks and only I got to see it), then be sent on our merry way. We were grossly unprepared.

L&D determined that the discharge was amniotic fluid, thus concluding that my bag of waters had broken. pPROM - preterm, premature rupture of membranes. I was confused. Isn't that usually a big gush? Not a few drops. It could be a small break, though. Either way, not good. I was hooked up to a contraction monitor and it detected activity. Contractions. Seemingly alarming ones. I noticed them, but they weren't awful.

The resident told us we'd probably have the baby that night. When water breaks and contractions are happening, it's definitely not good. She prepared us that when a baby is born at this point it won't live. It might take a breath or two, but that's it. She even had an NICU doctor come and talk to us.

They gave us a moment alone. We cried. I don't think the gravity of the situation had even hit me yet at that point. How can a baby be born at 20 weeks? Actually, I think technically anything before 20 weeks is still considered a miscarriage, even if the babe actually takes a few breaths when born. It was incredibly surreal. I don't think I could get past the fact that the baby was completely fine. It was my body failing. Everything was totally fine other than the contractions (which didn't hurt, but were registering on the machine) and the presence of amniotic fluid on my cervix.

We didn't know the gender, but we talked about what we would name the baby. We decided on Lee, which was my maiden name, because it would work for a boy or a girl. We were so innocent. We didn't know anyone who had lost a baby due to premature labor. We barely even knew what that was.

It was a long night. The contractions lasted all night long, some worse than others. I was pumped full of IV fluid as well as water, and didn't sleep well 1. because my body was failing my baby and was going to kill it even though as of now it was perfectly fine and 2. I had to pee every ten minutes. My parents came for a while, then we sent them home.

We had a great nurse. I remember her name to this day. She had a 'good feeling' about us. She'd seen many moms whose water had broken go on to deliver perfectly healthy babies. She pumped me full of water, and made me more comfortable. It meant a lot.

In the morning things were the same, only my contractions had all but stopped. My doc came by, and of course, gave us a grim outlook. A maternal fetal medicine doc came by too and did the same. We had a 10% chance of carrying the baby to term. If we could make it past a week without an infection (commonly happens with broken water) things would look better, but for now it was bad. It was so hard. The baby was totally fine. My contractions had stopped, and there wasn't any more leaking. But still doctor after doctor warned us not to get too comfortable, that our baby would most likely be born and die.

Another resident came in and told us if it were him in this situation he'd choose to end the pregnancy. Of course we couldn't do that at St. John's, but another hospital would do it. The baby, if it made it to viability, would most likely have lung problems, and problems with its legs and arms, just to start. With little fluid there isn't much room to move and grow properly. We were devastated, but ultimately decided of course we couldn't do that. I think he upset us the most. Looking back I'm a bit miffed he came in there and did that to us. We never even had an abnormal amount of fluid.

We had a few visitors. My poor sister, who was 18 weeks pregnant at the time, came by. I felt so bad for her - at that point we both gave up our happy, normal pregnancies, me for obvious reasons, her because all innocence was lost. She knew what could happen, and I'm sure worried about it for a while. She couldn't even speak. She could only hug me with tears running down her face.

We had another ultrasound before being moved to the antepartum floor. It was great again, normal amounts of fluid, babe was fine. We had so many people come by and prepare us. We were told that best case scenario, if we made it past a week, we'd be sent home and I would be on bedrest. Then at 24 weeks, when baby was viable (but still extremely critical), I'd come back to the hospital for the remainder of my pregnancy so they could monitor things and give me steroids to help develop the baby's lungs if labor seemed imminent. So many different nurses came by. They helped prepare me for the later hospital stay.

We had to call work, which was hard for me. I had to prepare my bosses that I'd most likely not be back until after the baby was born. They were so great and understanding - I work for a couple of really good guys. I called my close friends too. My best friend in Chicago was so great. She sent me so many care packages while I was home on bedrest, and brought her daughter over to visit. I'm a lucky girl.

We stayed for 4 days, and our scan on the last day was just as good. Baby was totally normal, fluid looked great. Our high-risk specialist was pleased, but still very cautious. We were to go home, take my temperature every few hours, and watch for signs of infection. I was put on moderate bed rest, which ended up being couch rest really. I could get up to shower, make my lunch, and use the bathroom, but other than that I was to take it easy. Luckily I'm very good at being lazy. I offered to work from home, but my bosses wouldn't hear of it. I'm so grateful for disability insurance - if you don't have it, get it. It's so important. I don't know how we would have coped without it.

Those first few weeks were scary. I had a tiny temperature (totally normal fluctuation, but still) a few times and freaked out, of course. A few times I thought that was it, I was at the end. But we kept on trucking. I did so much research on the internet, and found out that vitamins C and E can help strengthen the bag of waters, so I started taking those (after talking to my doc of course). We had an ultrasound every week for a month to make sure the fluid was okay, and every time it was. I think my docs would have released me from bedrest except for a bout of contractions again around 22-23 weeks. I was put on some meds to control them, but really, they lasted the entire pregnancy. I think I spent the last half of my pregnancy timing contractions.

Our families and friends were so wonderful. My mom and dad came once a week to clean, do laundry, and have lunch with me. My sisters came by to visit, and hubby was awesome. He cooked, took care of me and the hound, and never complained once.

I was on moderate bedrest for 3 months. I remember my older sister asking me my goals for the pregnancy. How long would I like her to stay inside? I said 28 weeks. If we made it that far I'd be happy. 28 weeks came and went. Then 32, then 34, and so on. At 34 weeks I was allowed to go back to work part-time, which was nice, if only to take my mind off of things.

She ended up entering the world at just over 39 weeks (after weeks of pre-labor, I swear). Quickly. My water broke for real at 2:30, and she was born at 8:01. The Beezer isn't one to do anything slowly, we've since found out.

It's surreal to look at my gorgeous baby girl and remember what happened. Almost as though it happened in another life. Sometimes I think about that dumb resident who advised us to terminate. What if we had listened to him? I think our doctor would have talked us out of it, especially in light of the fact that she never had low levels of fluid, but still. It's horrifying to think about.

I've read so many stories without our great ending. Babies born too soon, lives changed forever. I honestly can't imagine anything worse, except for losing a baby at term. Now that I know what can happen, and what does happen, it makes everything so much more real. I really had no idea back then, and it's probably best that I didn't. We are so lucky. I know that every time I see her amazing face. I'm so glad my sister didn't have to deal with it too, if I had lost Beezer. How different our lives would be today if she had a healthy baby girl and we didn't. Oh my gosh, it's devastating to think about. I can't think about it too much.

It's funny though. Despite the life-altering glitch, I loved being pregnant. I actually loved sitting my big butt on the couch all day. Maybe it was easier because I knew I was doing it for someone else, not me. Probably not. I'm lazy. And proud of it. Well not so much anymore, babies cure you of that real fast.

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