HOCKEY & A BABY (PART I)
I am going to share my labor and delivery story in two posts. It lasted 5 days so it can only be told completely if broken up into two segments. This is raw and uncensored. If you’re uncomfortable with talks of blood and the sort, this entry might not be for you. Although its fairly common, I share our story because its rather unfamiliar territory to the average person until this nightmare comes knocking at their door.
It was Saturday, December 10th and we were having a quiet morning. Our Christmas tree and decorations were up and we were excited about going to our first hockey game together later that evening. I was 6 months pregnant and feeling excellent because my belly was finally starting to show! My pregnancy so far had been smooth as butter. Barely any nausea, eating a balanced diet, light occasional workouts and even quite a bit of traveling which was signed off by my doctor. We also just had Jed’s fetal anatomy ultrasound where we got to see how perfectly he was developing. We began buying his room decorations and were also starting to plan what I was hoping would be an epic baby shower. We were two ecstatic parents enjoying all the firsts of expecting a baby!
That Saturday at around 10 AM, I started feeling what seemed like very mild menstrual cramps. As a side note, I get uncontrollable, crying-in-fetal-position-type cramps that only 800 mg of ibuprofen and a heating pad can ease up. I guess because the cramps I was feeling were so mild I turned to Google and read a lot about “growing pains” and Braxton Hicks contractions. I thought that perhaps my belly was finally stretching and getting bigger and this was just the pain associated with that. “Maybe they’re fake contractions,” I thought. “But these can’t be– they barely even hurt,” so I went about my day.
The “cramps” continued all day. It was now 6 pm and I was having them every hour for maybe 15 seconds but they were getting stronger. My husband, Jeffrey, asked if I wanted to call my doctor or go to the hospital but I wasn’t really worried so I declined. We both got dressed, hopped in the car and started heading to our first hockey game. While we were in the car, during one of my “cramps,” I realized I hadn’t been feeling little Jed kicking and moving as much as he usually does. This little boy was so active that I had been feeling him in my belly since 4 months gestation. I started to worry now and think that maybe something was wrong. If we had made it to the hockey game and something were to be wrong, we’d be a good hour away from my OBGYN and hospital. All of these circumstances got me nervous and Jeffrey was insisting so I dialed my doctor.
While on the phone with him, I started to cry in fear that maybe something was wrong. He told me that more than likely it was what I was assuming– Braxton Hicks or maybe even dehydration. He told me that although everything was probably okay, to be on the safe side and calm any fears, I should come in to the hospital and get checked out. He told me he’d have the nurses waiting for me and that if anything, he’d be on call. Jeffrey turned the car around and our hockey game outing had now turned into a hospital visit.
I was remaining calm and optimistic. When I walked into the hospital, the nurses had me filling out paperwork while asking me some questions. “Have you drank enough water today?” was one of them. “No, not really. I think I only had 2 bottles of water all day,” I responded. “Oh honey, you’re probably just dehydrated. That will cause the contractions. You just need some fluids and you should be alright!” Okay, great. They handed me a hospital gown and asked if I had experienced any bleeding. “Nope!” Thank God because that would’ve really freaked me out. Well, God works in mysterious ways because when I went to the bathroom to put on my hospital gown, I now had light bleeding. “Calm Cristina” immediately turned into “panicking Cristina.” The nurses told me again that there’s no need to worry. These things can happen and are not a cause for immediate alarm. After all, I was in the hospital, the best place to be in this situation.
I will never forget how the situation escalated. My nurse put my IV in and was keeping me calm as the ultrasound technician was taking a look. She was so sweet and positive and just kept talking to me about dehydration and how I’ll feel better after all of this. Out of the corner of my eye I kept noticing more people coming into the room. There were now two techs looking at my ultrasound and another doctor saying she wanted to check my cervix.
The calm I was feeling initially from everyone was slowly starting to feel a little more chaotic. I turned to my nurse and asked “What’s going on?” She looked at me, now with a worried look on her face and said “It looks like you’re in preterm labor”.
What!? How could this happen?
Apparently what I had been feeling all day were not “cramps,” they were contractions. My cervix was paper thin and I was already 2 cm dilated. Jed was head down, ready for delivery. He was so incredibly low that they could almost feel his head. My water hadn’t broken yet though, which was the only positive.
Panic. Pure panic. I grabbed Jeffrey’s hand in complete fear as I cried and shook uncontrollably. “Were we going to lose our baby boy? If he came out today, would he even survive? I don’t know what happens to babies born this early. Why is this happening to us?” So many daunting questions racing through my mind.
My OBGYN arrived which brought me both more fear and comfort. Fear because I knew him being there only attested to the severity of the situation (as he was on call and at home when this began), yet comfort because I trusted him entirely with our son and knew we’d be in the best of hands. He sat by my bedside and confirmed all that was happening. He explained to me that the goal now was to stop my contractions, halt the labor and keep Jed in my belly for as long as possible. They started me on magnesium and warned that it would make me feel horrible.
One of the main goals of stalling labor for as long as possible is to be able to administer two crucial rounds of steroids into the patient. These steroids promote development of a baby’s lungs so that if he/she were to be born early, their chance of breathing and survival would be exponentially greater. These steroids can only be given once every 24 hours though, hence the need to keep stalling labor. Now that we were in this situation, we went into survival mode. All of our long-term plans now turned into short-term goals to ensure the best possible outcome for our son.
I told my husband we needed at least 48 hours before Jed can come out to ensure he received both rounds of steroids. This was now goal number one. All of our focus was on the next forty-eight.
Meanwhile, my doctor told me that if Jed were to come early, he could deliver him with ease; no problem. But my hospital (Mercy Hospital) didn’t have a Level 3 NICU capable of caring for a baby Jed’s size. That meant that if I gave birth at Mercy, Jed and I would be separated immediately as he would be rushed via ambulance to a hospital where he would have the best chance of survival. Because of this, my doctor felt it was best to have me transferred already to a hospital that was prepared to welcome and immediately care for Jed if I were to deliver. He arranged a transfer and at around 12:30 AM, Sunday December 11th, we arrived at Jackson Memorial Hospital/Holtz Children’s Hospital via ambulance. It was my first ambulance ride ever but I was too drugged to remember much else aside from the sirens and the fact that there were hurricane-force winds or something of that sort that night.
To summarize the next 4 days, my water broke later that Sunday. Thankfully, Jed held on and was able to get get both rounds of steroids. I remained on magnesium and my labor and contractions came to a stop. I was put on bed rest until I would deliver and had to sleep with monitors on to make sure Jed’s heartbeat stayed strong. Eventually I was taken off of the magnesium (thank God because it really makes you feel horrible and constantly hot) and now it was a waiting game. I would remain in the hospital, not able to sleep in my own bed, until Jed decided to come. Whether it was 2 days from then or 2 months, I wasn’t going to experience pregnancy at home anymore.
The doctors told me the next goal would be to make it to 29 weeks gestation which would greatly increase his chances of survival. One of the NICU fellows came to my bedside to brief me on what to expect with a micro-preemie baby. He bluntly told me that Jed’s chances were roughly 60%. This number jumps close to 100% by 29 weeks. I was also told that should I make it to week 34, they’d deliver him then and not wait until full-term. I was only 24 weeks. Could I really be here for 10 entire weeks? The idea was overwhelming but I was ready to do whatever I had to do for my son.
Between monitors, vital checks, nurses poking and doctors probing me, I barely slept. I also grew nervous as every time I would urinate, I had hints of blood. The doctors said this was normal but that if I were to have larger amounts of bleeding, I would need to call them immediately. This caused me to panic every time I would urinate, to the point that I would shake uncontrollably. It seemed like the amount of blood was increasing and I was starting to feel uneasy.
The catheter they put in me had to be removed after my water broke due to risk of infection. This was good for me but a nightmare for my husband as I would wake him up every other hour to position the pail under me to pee. The IV plus all the water the doctors recommended I drank had me going often. Add the fact that Jed was on my bladder and I found myself going every other hour. At around 3 AM, Thursday December 15th, Jeffrey helped me with the bed pail. But this time I felt as if I had pushed something out, something more than just urine. I immediately panicked and asked Jeffrey if there was blood. He said yes, but not to panic. He called the doctors and within 2 minutes, I was being prepared for transfer back down to the labor and delivery ward. I later found out that what came out of me was a golf ball-sized blood clot. Joy (sarcasm).
Upon doing another ultrasound, it seemed that what was causing my bleeding was an abrasion on my placenta. I don’t like talks of placental rupture or detachment so this immediately put me on edge. I suddenly went from wanting to keep Jed in my belly as long as possible to wanting him out, for his and my safety. I remember looking at my husband and telling him “I want him to come today.” To my surprise, he smiled and said, “Me too”. God gave us peace that day to accept that our son was to be born at just 24 weeks and 6 days and that he would be okay. We knew he was ready and I wasn’t scared anymore. I was ready to give birth.
When the doctors came in with worried faces, not really sure how to break the news to us, we stopped them and said we didn’t want to prolong delivery anymore. We were ready. They basically sighed with relief that we had accepted this and were okay with it and they smiled and went on about what great attitudes we had about the matter.
Next thing you know, Pitocin is on it’s way, epidural is going in and the contractions are getting closer together. The rush, the fright, the anxiety and excitement fight for dominance within me but all I could think of is meeting our boy!
Just because I always like to end every post on a positive note and with something to strengthen your faith, here we are today enjoying brunch with our son, now almost 6 months old (a little over 2 adjusted). To think how different our lives were 6 months ago. It gets better, my friends, it gets better.