Thursday, August 28, 2008
I had planned to post C's birth story on Monday, but since FishMama is hosting a story swap today, it seemed like the right time to do it. And so, without further ado, here's how my baby girl's very early birth came to pass...
On December 22, 2005, I was at home with my ten-month old son. I felt a little tired and achy and I attributed that to pushing myself too hard the day before trying to get last minute Christmas tasks accomplished. Right around noon, I felt some liquid and a quick check revealed that I was bleeding. My husband was working two hours away, so he called one of his sisters to go with me to the doctor's office. My biggest fear was that they would put me on bed-rest... how was I to take care of my son if I was laid up in bed? It never occurred to me that I would hear this-
"You're in labor. Three centimeters dilated and your bag of waters is bulging. You need to get to IU Hospital. We can't handle a baby so small here."
I was shocked. I was also shocked when they gave my sister-in-law directions and told us we'd get there faster if she drove rather than wait for an ambulance. What?!?!?
I called my husband and he will tell you that I was amazingly calm. So calm that he thought I was joking for a second, but quickly realized that I would never joke about such a thing. His work was far closer to the hospital than I was, so he headed over there and got me pre-registered.
It was a Thursday evening when I arrived at the city hospital. At this point, I still really believed that they would give me something to stop my labor, maybe observe me for a day, and send me on home. I fully expected to be home for Christmas. Instead, they told me that I would not be leaving the hospital until I had the baby and they were hoping to get me to hang on until at least 28 weeks. The rest of the evening passed with a series of visits from OB's, high-risk OB's, neonatologists, and developmental pediatricians. They all seemed to arrive in pairs and they all shared scary statistics with us, e.g. "If your baby is born at 24 weeks, he'll have a less than 50% chance of survival. If he does survive the birth, there's only a 40% chance he'll make it through the next 48 hours. Of the babies who DO survive, 40% will have a severe disability (e.g. blind, profoundly retarded, and unable to walk), 40% will have a moderate disability (e.g. blind, deaf, or cerebral palsy), and 20% will be considered "normal" (correctable hearing and visions problems fall in this category, as do minor developmental delays)." With every week of pregnancy that passed, the statistics got better and better. At this point, I was 23 weeks 5 days pregnant. It was a terrifying lot of information to take in.
They started me on magnesium. This is sometimes successful in halting labor. It also gives you vicious hot flashes and some nausea. Small price to pay. They also gave me antibiotics. That night, I received the first in a series of two steroid shots that can accelerate lung development in the fetus. These shots are only effective if both are administered and they have to be given 24 hours apart. I would not get the chance to have the second.
Neither my husband nor I slept much that night. It was a scary, scary time. The next day was Friday and things seemed to look up. I felt no contractions and the monitor did not pick up on any. They removed the fetal monitor because my baby (we did not know gender at this point) never showed any signs of distress. Late that afternoon, my husband headed out (with my blessing) to go give our older child his bath and put him to bed. While he was gone, a nurse helped me shower and helped me into a REAL bed. Up 'til this point, I'd been in a birthing bed.
I was so content and comfortable for the first time in days. I was also exhausted. My eyes drifted close just as my husband returned. He tiptoed inside, hoping I'd actually get some rest. Shortly after, a nurse came in and asked me to change positions. As I did, she left the room.
I felt a huge gush. I told my hubby, "I think I'm bleeding. A lot."
He lifted the sheet and quite calmly said, "I'm just going to get the the nurse, hon."
The nurse came in and within seconds, the high-risk OB was there too. They turned on a blinding light and he checked to see if my labor had progressed.
I was completely dilated. I had never felt a contraction.
Things got really wild at this point. Once again, we were swamped with teams of doctors telling us all the risks and concerns. They pointed out that the type of C-section I would need (classic- cut both ways) had many risks and a difficult recovery period. But this was my baby's best shot. I was 23 weeks 6 days pregnant at that point. An infant so tiny would find a vaginal birth traumatic... also, she was footling breech because babies haven't "turned" that early in pregnancy. The odds of our baby doing well were not good. But I signed the consent form and they whisked me off to the O.R.
You know that your surgery is really an emergency when this happens... the operating table was broken and would not lower to where the surgeons could reach me. They called for a replacement and were told it would take three minutes to get there. The head OB said, "There's no time. We'll stand on stools."
The anesthesiologist had told me he would have to put me under and intubate me because they couldn't risk having me sit up for the spinal. They feared the baby would just slide out with me being fully dilated. Once he really looked at me though, he said, "You're awfully skinny for a pregnant lady, you might be able to curl up on your side and I'll do the spinal. Then you'd be awake." And that's exactly what we did. I was so fortunate to be conscious for the birth.
There were sixteen medical personnel in the room for my C-section. They almost forgot to get my husband. Fortunately, the anesthesiologist remembered and a nurse went and retrieved him just as they were starting to cut.
My baby was born at 12:32 AM on Christmas Eve. When she was born, she cried. That might not seem remarkable, but it almost never happens with 24-weekers. The head of neonatology at the hospital later recalled, "When she was born, she actually cried, and everyone in the delivery room was silent and awed... because that just doesn't ever happen with a tiny, tiny 24-week infant." Tough cookie, my little girl.
She weighed in at 1 lb 5 oz and measured 11 3/4" long. Her footprints are the same size as my thumbprints on her birth record. She spent 3 1/2 months in the NICU of an amazing children's hospital. She's beautiful, strong, determined, and precious.
And that's how my journey of parenting one of the tiniest of miracles began...