As I left abruptly for the hospital that afternoon, I couldn’t explain how I knew, but I was certain that the next time I would be returning to my apartment I would no longer be pregnant. In fact as I locked the door, I said to my mom, “I guess we won’t be able to get the kitchen redone before our little one is born.” She thought I was crazy and assured me we were just going to the hospital as a precaution, all was well and it will get done. Technically, we were both right. I wasn't able to get my kitchen redone before my baby was born, but I was able to do it before she came home from the NICU!
I wasn’t prepared to have my baby 6 weeks early, at least on a conscious level. Many couples who struggle with infertility have preemies. Some of these couples have preemies because they are having multiples, which puts them in a higher risk category for pre-term labor. Some babies are born prematurely because of medical conditions of the baby's mother. For example, my husband was born 12 weeks early because my mother in law suffered from placenta previa. Seeing as his birth was 30 years ago, it is pretty incredible they both survived. Sometimes, there is no explanation for a woman to go into pre-term labor. I was born 6 weeks early like my daughter, but there was no genetic or medical reason why my mom went into pre-term labor. Even though we struggled to get pregnant, there had been no concerns during my pregnancy. As a matter of fact, the morning of the day I went into labor, I saw my doctor. He did an ultrasound, and besides my daughter being breech, all was well. He assured me there was time for her to turn around and have a normal delivery.
My due date was February 12th. My baby shower was scheduled for the second weekend in January and our hospital tour and birthing class was scheduled for the first weekend in January. As soon as the craziness of Christmas was over, I started panicking over everything I had to do to be ready for our baby, even though we had 7 weeks still to go. I think I knew on a subconscious level that she was coming. The week before my daughter’s unexpected arrival I started behaving feverishly. I just had to buy my nursing pajamas, bras and a robe for the hospital. I also bought a high grade breast pump, even though I hoped to nurse exclusively. My mom’s response to this was, “You don’t even know if you are going to use it!” Somehow I just felt I needed it. I also made my husband order my daughter’s dresser for her room and asked my grandma to immediately order the crib that she was so generously was going to buy for us for the shower.
After my doctor’s appointment on the day I went into labor, I went to Sears and ordered a dishwasher for our kitchen which was to be delivered the following Monday. I also picked out a paint color for our kitchen and the granite for our new counter top. A few days later we were telling our story the head doctor in the NICU while visiting our little girl. The doctor looked at my husband and said, “Your wife just HAD to have and do all of these things so early? Your wife knew this baby was coming! Next time she starts demanding you paint the kitchen to get ready for the baby, you bring her to the hospital right away!” When I first started feeling “cramps” which I would later know to be contractions, my super was in our bathroom fixing our broken toilet. Having a fixed toilet was another one of the many things I was able to cross off my list before bringing home our baby!
My “cramps” felt like they were coming a couple of times an hour. I felt compelled to call my doctor, who to my surprise told me to go straight to the hospital. I immediately called my husband at work, hysterical. He on the other hand was really calm, not realizing what I knew in my heart- this baby was coming! My mom came over and I packed my bag with all of the hospital essentials I just bought and she drove me to the hospital and stayed with me until my husband got there.
Sure enough, once I arrived at the hospital I was having regular contractions only minutes apart. The doctor thought I was dehydrated, and two bags of fluids later, the contractions were still going. And even after two shots of terbutaline, my contractions still wouldn‘t stop for long. On top of it all, my baby was kicking like crazy -- apparently she found it amusing to hear her kicks echo on the fetal monitor. This actually gave me much needed comfort because I was worried about her health and safety. An ultrasound showed my baby wasn’t in distress, but it would be better if she were not born so early. The doctor said that I needed to be admitted to the hospital to try to stop the labor, and I had a night of “magnesium sulfate” ahead of me, which I will always think fondly of as “the fire meds.” They also gave me a steroid shot to help develop my baby’s lungs.
Because I was in a shared room, my husband couldn’t stay with me that night. It was a long, long night. The magnesium sulfate made the hot flashes I got from my fertility meds seem like a breeze! It felt like my body was on fire. I would look over at the monitor every once in a while and see my contractions going strong. I mentally prepared myself as best I could that this baby was coming. I decided then her middle name would be Grace, because she would need all of the grace she could get to flourish despite her premature birth. At 5:00 am, after being at the hospital for 12 hours, the nurse came in held and my hand and said, “Honey, I’m not a doctor, but I feel in my heart that this baby has a purpose, and for whatever reason, needs to come out now.” I definitely agreed, and called my husband and told him to come back to the hospital. It turned out that the nurse was right, because an hour later the doctor checked me and I was 3 cm dilated. Because my baby was still breech, I would have to have a c-section. This baby was going to be delivered as soon as an operating room was available!
Stay tuned for a Preemie Story Part 2: Guinness, the NICU and my Sleeping Beauty