I had checked into the hospital on June 25th after my mucus plug had spontaneously fallen out. A speculative exam had revealed that I was 3 cm dilated with a bulging water sac. At only 24 weeks this was very bad news and serious business. That night things got even scarier as contractions picked up and came as close as two minutes apart. The nurse on duty that night explained for a baby as small as mine was, I only needed to be 6 cm dilated to deliver. Praise God, He mercifully stopped labor by the means of lots of magnesium sulfate and indocin.
Each day that my body had cooperated without further progression was cause for praise. The neonatologists had told us our very first night that every day in the womb was two less in the NICU. This was a very encouraging statistic! Two weeks had passed without any contractions. I was beginning to think that I'd make it to at least the 32 week mark. But it was not to be.
That Monday morning I mentioned to the nurse that I thought I might have felt some abdominal twinges. "It's probably nothing," I assured her. "Just thought I'd mention it."
"Well, let's put the contraction monitor on you and just check it out," she chirped brightly. She wrapped the itchy band around my little belly and left.
Twenty minutes later she returned. "We are picking up definite contractions. The doctor has ordered ultrasound up so that we can take a look."
My heart sank. I called Niall, and within 15 minutes he was by my side. Long story short, I was back in labor, and all of the "privileges" I had earned were revoked- showering, the bedside commode, even just sitting up. Catheter was reinserted, mag was put back through my I.V, a liquid only diet prescribed, and I was miserable. At this point the very real possibility that I could deliver a very little baby didn't hit home. I'm embarrassed to admit that all I could think about was my own extreme discomfort.
Tuesday morning they hoped to wean me off the drugs, thinking my contractions should've stopped. I was very excited at the prospect of eating something and maybe having the wretched catheter removed. Unfortunately every time they tried to wean, my contractions picked up. It was a tumultuous couple of days for Niall and I. We went from the dread assurance that I would deliver, to thinking my body would hold out, and back again each time circumstances improved or worsened.
Wednesday found me at the end of my rope- the catheter was burning, I had a full-fledged urinary tract infection, my mind was a sleepy foggy mess from the mag, and all that I wanted was a bagel. All of a sudden I felt warm and wet. "Niall, the catheter is leaking! It's awful! Can you please check?"
He flipped up the sheet. Silence.
"Niall, is the catheter leaking? This is so gross!"
"Umm... it's not the catheter. You are bleeding."
Oh. Our eyes met in silent terror. We rang for the nurse. The test strip confirmed it- amniotic fluid. My "bulging" membranes had finally reached their bursting point.
The Doctor checked me and found I was about 5 cm. "It's D-Day," he announced. Just like that, the drugs were stopped. To my chagrin the catheter had to stay in, just in case of an emergency-C.
My wonderful nurse Jill knew that I wanted to do things as naturally as possible. She gently explained that at this gestational age babies sometimes would just "fall" right out. Nurses from the NICU and a Neonatologist would attend my birth, so the room would be full of people. The baby would be rushed out of the room immediately after birth. Not quite the scene I had envisioned or hoped for.
For two days, every time that they had tried to wean my medication, contractions had picked up. Ironically, now that they were completely gone, the contractions stopped entirely. We were playing the waiting game. Niall and I nervously grinned and squeezed each others hands, but to be honest we weren't too emotional after the roller coaster we'd been riding since Monday. We Googled and Youtubed for info on what a 27 week old baby would look like. What we should expect. What lay in store on our uncertain road ahead.
I'd meant to read up on labor. Stacks of good titles sat on my night stand. It seemed like a good third trimester activity, but I never got that far. At this point I could not bring myself to mentally preparing for labor. All that I cared about was what extreme prematurity would mean for my daughter. It consumed me- how could I best take care of her? What would she need? Would she be okay?
Four hours later, we were still waiting. Five hours- nothing. Not even a twinge. Just more wetness. I was still bleeding. The nurse came in and checked. Two minutes later she came back with the doctor. He checked me. "You haven't had any cervical progression, but you are still bleeding. At this point we have to assume that your placenta is tearing. We need to get you into the O.R for a C-section, stat."
My absolute worst fear in the world was realized at that moment. From the very beginning of my pregnancy I'd begged God to never let me have a C-section. Yet here I was. Niall squeezed my hand and gave me a kiss. They wheeled me out. I only remember the first few minutes in the O.R, then they knocked me out. After hours of waiting, things were suddenly moving way too fast.
I woke up an hour or so later, blurry, but desperate to know what had happened. S had come, weighing 1 lb. 15 oz. It was a great relief to hear how close to 2 pounds she was, as babies over that weight tend to fare better. She had cried when she came out. Niall had seen her as they wheeled her into the NICU. He had been shocked, stunned, awed... horrified? Words can't quite fully capture the feeling of first meeting a baby so small.
This is how my daughter was born. This was the beginning of our NICU life. And despite the fear, the shock, the frightening unknown- we made it through, all three of us. Praise God for His indescribably grace in Christ.