The First Time I Heard the Word “Preemie”

Okay, truth be told, I can’t remember.

Seriously. I knew some women who’d had their babies around 36 weeks or shortly thereafter, and I knew that it did happen on occasion, especially when it came to twins, but it was never NEVER something I really thought about.

Until I realized that I was having contractions at only 32 weeks.

And while I hoped they were Braxton Hicks, I knew they weren’t. They started in my back and circled around. They increased in intensity. And they were consistent.

While we were nervous as I called the hospital, it never really occurred to me that I might deliver early. “It’s too early,” the nurse told me over the phone. “Even if you’re in labor, it’s too early for you to deliver your baby. We’ll have to stop it. We don’t even have your file yet!”

As we made our way out to the car around 6:00AM, my husband joked “You’re driving, right?” and we both had a chuckle at the thought of me driving while having contractions.

We were still smiling as they made me pee into a cup and change into a dressing gown. We smiled up until the point that the nurse sat down on the bed next to me and took a deep breath. While I won’t repeat the words that threatened to leave my mouth, let’s just say that they weren’t positive.

Premature Labor and Delivery

“You’re dilated to a two and fully effaced. I’m not a betting woman,” she leaned in close. “But if I was, I’d say you’re having this baby today.”

This was quickly followed with:

“But you’re too early to deliver here. Our NICU can’t handle that stage of premature birth.”

And so I was packed up into an ambulance and shipped off to a Level 3 NICU. Now let’s talk about this ambulance ride.

Not only did they not even put on lights or siren for me, but I swear they hit every single bump on the road! In addition, I’m pretty sure my bum wasn’t covered, and I kept hoping that the blanket would stay put!

Oh, and then there was the part where my ambulance driver told me that he had a policy that if he had to pull over and deliver my baby, that I had to name it after him. I cautiously asked his name. “Jeff,” he responded with a smug smile.

Fortunately for me and my unborn child, I managed not to deliver on the ambulance.

I was pushed into a large delivery room with an enormous tv, pull out sofa, and enough room to house as many of my family members as I wanted to invite.

They, thankfully, removed my catheter, allowed me to get up and walk myself to the bathroom (finally), but I was still not allowed to eat or drink. Ice chips only.

I received a sonogram to ensure that my baby wasn’t in any distress. Fortunately, he wasn’t. Everything seemed fine. Except that I was in labor at 32 1/2 weeks.

Then, amazingly, the contractions eased up. We relaxed again. The word “Bedrest” was thrown around a lot by doctors, nurses, and my boss (who was wonderfully understanding, thankfully).

So we all went to sleep. Unbeknownst to me, my father turned to my mother after leaving the hospital that night and said “I think we should stay. . .I think she’s going to have him tonight.” But they went ahead and went on home. After all, the contractions had eased up.

Until I woke up at 11:00 and began rapidly calling for my nurse as I dry heaved into the trashcan from the intensity of the contractions that had suddenly come upon me.

The doctor came in, suspecting that my water had broke, and checked me. I was in tact, but was dilated to an 8. “You’re having this baby sweetie, any questions?”

Any questions? ANY QUESTIONS?????

I asked for my epidural. And they complied. . .and then they realized that he was not going to wait and I heard them arguing over whether or not to even move me into a delivery bed.

Premature Labor

They got me moved. They got me into a delivery room. And SECONDS later, my son was born. Even at 32 1/2 weeks, the child could scream. Which was a blessing.

And then, everyone disappeared. The NICU nurses took off with my husband and son, the anesthesiologist disappeared, my doctors and nurses took off to examine my placenta. . .and I was stuck there, legs still in stirrups, the epidural finally having kicked in. . .and all I could think was:

“Now is when the zombies come. . .”

Fortunately, they didn’t. :)

And my son was 100% healthy. He was breathing on his own. Had no issue with oxygen saturation. He was perfect. Just tiny. He started out at 3 lbs 13 oz and dropped to 3 lbs 4oz. Three weeks later, after moving to a lower level NICU and spending nights in the nearby Ronald McDonald house, we got to take him home at a whopping 4 lbs and attached to a heart monitor.

“Take the year off,” my doctor advised me. “If you get pregnant again within an year it will increase your chances of having another preemie.”

“Not a problem,” I told her.

“I’m serious,” she said.

“So am I! I don’t know that I want to have another kid after this!!”

But three years later, it was all I could think about.

My doctor advised me that some great advancements had been made in preventing premature labor and delivery. All I had to do was take a weekly shot from Week 16 to Week 36. 20 shots? Seemed easy enough.

But by week 30, I realized that there was a good chance I wasn’t going to go full term. I’d already lost my mucous plug, had my bloody show, and had been having contractions. I went in to the hospital one weekend and they were able to delay delivery, but only for another week.

I woke up around 2am one morning to use the bathroom. . .and as I stood up, I suddenly felt very warm. . .warm and wet.

My husband immediately sat up, as he had been doing for the past 10 weeks of my pregnancy an asked “What’s wrong?”

I was 34 weeks along and my water had just broke.

It took the hospital way too long to make that determination. The check in nurse was at the end of her shift and had very obviously had a rough night. After swabbing me 3 times, they finally determined that yes, my water had broke and I was to be admitted.

They delayed my delivery for 24 hours in order to give me 2 steroid shots to ensure my little girl’s lungs had a final boost in development. Then they pulled me off that horrible horrible magnesium sulfate and gave me pitocin. . . . . .pitocin, oh how I hate you.

I delivered a whole 25 minutes later, going from a 3 to fully dialated and delivery in that amount of time.

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While my baby girl had some additional complications (she is 100% healthy now), she need a little help taking in oxygen. And we had to be transferred for a surgical consultation. She got to experience two ambulance rides within her first week of life, and then spent another week and a half “feeding and growing” before we were able to take her home at 6 lbs with no heart monitor (thankfully).

So why did I deliver early and how can you prevent your own premature delivery?

These are great questions. And as to the first, I have no idea. No one has been able to give me a good reason as to why my body refuses to go full term. After my first son was born early, I blamed myself for a long time. The feeling of guilt was overwhelming, until I forced it out of my mind. No one knew why. And I kept reminding myself that he was healthy. He was perfect. I need to stop blaming myself.

I had some of the same feelings after my second delivery, and they were a little stronger this time. But I was more prepared to deal with them.

To learn more about preterm labor and delivery, you can check out these links:

If you’ve already experienced Preterm Labor, then I have some advice for you:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions
  • That’s what nurses and doctors are there for. Ask as many questions as you can think of. Write them down in between chats with your doctors and nurses so you don’t forget them. If you’re not comfortable with the answer you’re given, or you still don’t understand, ask for further clarification. Seriously ASK ASK ASK!!!
  • Make friends with your baby’s nurses
  • They are there to help and you want them on your side. They are one of your best resources right now. Talk to them. Befriend them. Be kind to them. They will help you learn how to take care of your incredibly little one. Learn all you can from them.
  • Don’t be afraid to take a night off and relax
  • I spent EVERY DAY by my kiddos bedside. But occasionally at night, I would allow myself to be pulled away for a nice dinner or to just relax for a little bit. (And my nurses breathed a sigh of relief as I did so.) Believe me, your child DOES need you. But they won’t notice if you’re gone for several hours to take care of yourself. And the nurses will be more than happy to fill in for you while you’re gone.
  • TALK ABOUT IT
  • Don’t hold it in. Talk to your significant other. Talk to your friends. Talk to your doctors. Talk to your nurses. Don’t let your worries and emotions build up within you. Let them out. You’ll feel so much better!
  • Call your doctor if you’re feeling too overwhelmed, depressed, or guilty
  • Postpartum depression is nothing to mess around with. Nor is it something you should be ashamed of. If you find yourself wondering whether or not you should talk to someone about it, you probably should. Call your doctor. It won’t hurt.
  • Call your doctor if you’re not healing physically like you feel you should be
  • I waited too long to call despite my worries. I allowed them to discharge me from the hospital a day early so that I could attend my daughter’s surgical consult. And my body suffered as a result. I did too much too fast. You need time to heal and if you feel as though you’re not healing, just give your doctor a call. Again, it can’t hurt.
  • Utilize your support system
  • Friends, family, loved ones, etc. Tell them how they can help you, whether it’s with prayer, kind thoughts, phone calls, visits, help at home, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
  • Read read read!
  • There are so many support groups and forums online. Avoid negative ones that tend towards name calling and absolutes. But there are some great peaceful and encouraging sites out there that will give you some great advice.
  • Love your baby(ies)
  • Love on him/her/them every chance you get. I was able to hold my son on day 2 and my daughter immediately, until they determined she needed some additional help breathing, then it was another 4 days before I could hold her again. Love them. Skin on skin or kangarooing is excelling in speeding up their recovery and development. And I fully believe it will help you heal as well. Feeling that warmth on your chest is the most beautiful and amazing feeling.
  • Share your story
  • It may take you a little while to feel comfortable, especially if your child has required some extra care at the beginning. But there are women out there who need to hear that they’re not alone, just as you need to hear it now. Sharing is a great way to offer them encouragement and support. It can go a long way in helping them recover emotionally and mentally.
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