Last June, I went into preterm labor (before 37 weeks pregnant). I didn't know that was what was happening to me until I went to the Regency Hospital in my hometown and the doctor told me so. He said the baby would likely not survive if we chose to have him, and if we wanted to be aggressive about saving him I could be flown to a hospital 30 miles away.
Less than an hour later Jeff was driving as fast as he could to get to the hospital in Orlando, and I was en route by helicopter. I was drugged up on magnesium sulfate which made me feel like my skin was burning from the inside out. To make matters worse I was flying in a helicopter that was more like a fishbowl with no A/C. The paramedics that were with me were sweating through their flight suits. I felt bad for them. I also physically felt bad, and I kept telling myself "Don't pass out, we're almost to the hospital..." In hindsight, it may have been the perfect place to pass out seeing I had medical professionals with me.
Once I got to the hospital I was rushed to the labor and delivery floor where the doctors did an ultrasound and saw that the baby was ok. The Mag (magnesium) was working and my contractions had stopped, but I was already 70% effaced (translation: there wasn't much barrier between my baby and birth). I was so hot and thirsty. Jeff was by my side keeping a wet wash cloth on my forehead. He kept asking the doctor if I could have water and hours later he finally allowed me to eat some ice chips. Around midnight I was allowed to eat, but anything I ate I threw up.
The rest of the night I tried to rest. I had electronic monitors on my stomach to monitor my contractions and the baby's heart rate. Since Jonathan was so little at that point (I was 23 weeks along), he kept moving away from the monitor and the nurse would have to come back and and readjust it. Whenever I had to get up to use the bathroom, I had to wake Jeff up, have him help me unplug myself from the monitors and pull my IV cart with me.
Once the doctor felt sure I was not on the verge of delivering a baby, I was moved to the high-risk unit, for women who, for whatever reason, were in danger of having a baby. The room we were in was the size of a shoebox. There were much bigger, nicer rooms we were told, but they were all occupied and as soon as one became available we would be moved. Jeff had to sleep in a recliner that reclined only to a 45 degree angle, so he had to sleep with his feet propped up on the bed as there was no room in our tiny room for an air mattress or cot.
I did pretty well in that tiny room. I had contractions still, but they were not strong and my cervix was holding strong. I had a medicine pump in my leg which is basically a needle attached to what looked like a pager (like what was cool before cell phones). I kept the pager clipped to my hospital-issued underwear (those are SO sexy) and the needle was always in my thigh. It gave me medicine every so often to keep the contractions away.
After a couple of days we were awakened to the wonderful news that we would be movin' on up to the east side, ie the new high-risk rooms. These rooms were spacious, had wonderful views, mini fridges and a lot of them had their own bathrooms (with showers!) But wouldn't you know it, I went into labor not long after we were moved to our beautiful room. So back to L&D we went, and if I remember correctly I was back on the Mag.
Hours later, once I was cleared again, we were at the bottom rung of the high risk rooms, and went right back to our shoebox. It was only a day until we were moved to a better room, so we were thankful for that.
Once we got back to our nice room, we settled in. I had my mom bring me a bunch of snacks for the mini fridge and got all my books and stuff situated in my bed-side table. I was in it for the long-haul and had made it to 24 weeks (which is the "edge of viability" - the earliest a baby can be born and have a fair chance of survival).
A few days later I awoke with a lot of pelvic pressure and feeling like I had to pee all the time. The nurse thought I had a UTI so she was going to test me. Jeff was preparing to head home as he had to prepare to lead worship at church. I had a feeling that it wasn't a UTI and that something might be wrong (although I had no contractions for over 24 hours), so the nurse told Jeff to stay until a doctor could examine me. A short time later, the doctor came in and did a pelvic exam. "I'm not sure, but I think I feel the baby's head... Yes, that's a head. She's 4 centimeters dilated."
That was it. I was being rushed back to L&D with the nurse loudly announcing to everyone "WE HAVE A 24 WEEKER!" She kept telling me how remarkable it was that I was so calm and I thought "Why wouldn't I be?" I wasn't having contractions, was in no pain, and thought they'd probably put me back on the Mag and things would go back to normal.
About an hour after they moved me to L&D, the contractions were hurting. I was gripping the side of the bed and couldn't talk when they came on. The nurses were acting like it was no big deal, so I was trying not to freak out although I knew this was very different from the other times I had been to L&D. After about 15 minutes of the painful contractions I informed the nurse I was either going to puke or mess the bed because of the intense pressure I was feeling. Her advice was "Don't push." "Yeah right!" I thought. My mom and Jeff were with me trying to keep me calm until the doctor could come see me. I started feeling like I had to push or I'd die, so I did and my water burst. Once that happened Jeff ran out into the hallway to get a nurse.
After my water broke, I felt immediate relief and the contractions stopped. Nonetheless, Jeff was suited up in his paper suit and we were being taken to the operating room. The doctor did an ultrasound and saw I was dilated to 6 centimeters, and Jonathan's head was barely 5 cm. "This baby is coming, you're going to have to push." I couldn't bear to open my eyes. I was hyperventilating and can remember the nurse telling me, "Blow out the candle...in through your nose out through your mouth...blow out the candle." I wanted to hit her. I didn't want to face that I had failed at staying pregnant and I certainly didn't want to deliver my baby 16 weeks before he was due. But I pushed when they told me to, I think it was 3 times. Once he was born I remember Jeff telling me to open my eyes and see my son. I didn't want to. I didn't want any of that to be happening because it was a sure death sentence for my first child. But I did. I heard him whimper once and then they passed him through what looked like a drive through window into the NICU. The nurses all remarked how great it was that he made a tiny noise.
I remember Jeff saying, "Praise God!" once Jonathan came out. I thought to myself "Why is he saying that? This is a horrible situation."
I laid on the table in a daze while the doctors and nurses did whatever they had to do to me. I tried to block everything out. I felt ashamed and like a failure.
About an hour or so later I was put in a wheelchair and taken to the NICU to see my son, Jonathan, which means "gift from God". I had never seen anything so tiny and helpless as he laid there squirming, IVs running through his tiny body, eyes fused shut. I didn't have much experience with newborns, but I knew they weren't supposed to look like that.
Later we were put in our new room on the maternity floor. I could hear babies being rolled up and down the hallway, where their mothers were waiting in their rooms to nurse their little bundles of joy and cuddle with them. I, on the other hand, got cozy with a breast pump and waited for the visit from the neonatologist.
The news was grim: Jonathan was born at less than 2 pounds with an E. Coli infection in his bloodstream, and it may or may not be in his spinal fluid and brain. His lungs were severely underdeveloped. In short, he was very sick and all things considered the outlook was not good. The doctor told us he would know more if Jonathan survived the next 48 hours.
Until I was discharged from the hospital a couple of days later, I would pump and Jeff and I would take the milk down to the NICU where it would be put in a freezer for if and when Jonathan was ready to tolerate it. We spent a lot of time by his incubator praying for him and crying, but trying to be strong in front of our family, who was as distraught as we were. I can remember one day in the cafeteria with my mom where I finally broke down crying, saying "I should still be pregnant. It isn't fair that he is struggling to live. He should still be safe inside me." I had to be reminded that he was sick inside of me and had he not been born, he might have died.
The day I was discharged, we were blessed to have a room at the Ronald McDonald House to go to, so we were only a block away. I had been at the hospital for a week already, though, so we had a lot of stuff to take with us. I had been given flowers and an "It's a Boy!" balloon, which was tied to the wheelchair. As I was being wheeled out with all my stuff and my balloon, I tried to avoid all the looks that asked "Where is the baby?"
I cried driving the block from the hospital to the McDonald House because we were leaving our baby behind in a medical institution, and there was no body and no amount of money that could get him out.
116 days later, we were finally able to bring him home with us. We had dreamed of that day for so long, and a few times we thought death would claim our son before we had the chance to bring him home. But thank God for saving our son. Jonathan has lived up to his name in every sense; God has truly given us such a great gift.
|Jonathan the day he was born, and now at 20 months old.|
Tomorrow morning around 8:30 we will meet our second son, Isaac. I'm not sure what his birth story will be like, but God is faithful and he is good; I have high hopes.
If you want to read more in detail about Jonathan's hospital stay, click on the CaringBridge link at the top of the page.