Sunday, December 23, 2012

Tales of a Pre-Term Laborer


By Maura

Life never seems to let us down in the surprise department, good bad or otherwise. Just a couple of weeks after receiving the wonderful surprise that I am having a son, I got a not so nice one thrown my way. 

My little man in 3-D
I was about 400 miles away from home, enjoying a nice long holiday weekend with my in-laws in Ohio. Somewhere between too much pumpkin pie, Black Friday shopping and chopping down our Christmas tree, my body decided to throw my easy pregnancy a curve ball. I was having stabbing pains in my lower abdomen, followed by waves of cramping pain.

My self-diagnosis led me to a bad UTI and I tried to flush it out with the usual excessive amounts of water and cranberry. After quite a few hours of pain, and no relief from the water, I decided to make my way to the emergency room.  The closest ER ended up not being the right place for us, but we were told that there was no bladder infection and that my cervix was soft and effaced; we were advised to head downtown to the Labor and Delivery triage. At this stage in the game I was becoming increasingly nervous, but was happily clinging to ignorance to stay calm.

 
The second hospital was waiting for me and I was thankfully seen right away. The doctor advised I would be kept in the hospital overnight for observation and so I could see the high risk pregnancy physician the following day.  They started me on a magnesium drip, IV fluids and the most fun part, a catheter. I was also given a shot that is designed to help the baby’s lungs in the event that birth should occur.

At this point I am 23 weeks pregnant with our tiny baby boy. We were advised that he is barely considered a viable fetus, and the likelihood of survival outside the womb is incredibly low. The list of possible complications if he did survive is endless.  Needless to say, we do not want our baby to be born this soon, and now the fear hits us hard. The gravity of the situation is slowly, and sadly, beginning to set in.

After I am hooked up to fluid lines and monitors and family has arrived, a nurse comes in to see me with some documents to sign. Without so much as a brief explanation, she hands me a pen and reviews the various forms; authorizations for a vaginal birth and epidural, permission to release the baby’s birth to the local press, whether or not my husband wants to cut the umbilical cord. 

Within a few short hours I had gone from bladder infection to birth plans, and was trying my hardest to be strong and not burst into tears. I felt like a spotlight was shining on me, I was the center of attention, hoping I was taking enough to time to understand what was happening, and ultimately doing what was best for my little family. I was scared, confused, and in a considerable amount of pain. My sister-in-law was the most reassuring voice, letting us know that the forms were standard and asking the nurse the questions that were stuck in my throat.

While I had never been in this particular hospital, it does hold some history for my family. My grandmother taught nursing there in the 1940’s, as well she and my grandfather were the only couple ever married in the chapel there. And in 1977 that was the birth place of my baby’s father; the karma was good, and I reached out in prayer to my grandmother for help and strength.

I spent the first evening sleeping in 10 minute intervals, feeling every contraction and counting the minutes in between, praying and hoping that each one had gotten further apart. My contractions had remained 2-3 minutes apart since my arrival, due to this lack of change another drug was prescribed to try and stop them. I noticed the improvement throughout the evening, and by morning was excited to hear that they had spaced; the contractions were no longer regular and the time between each one was increasing.

Our baby’s heart was strong and his movement was regular throughout this ordeal, which was wildly reassuring. The whooshing sounds of his heart became a familiar and comforting background noise in my otherwise uncomfortable surroundings.

The following morning we made our way to see the doctor. I was woozy from the medication and carefully put in the wheelchair. The ride over felt like a roller coaster, which was apparently too much for me, and I had a little fainting spell. I woke about a minute later to the worried face of my sweet husband, but all was well. The doctor examined my cervix and let us know how serious the situation was. I was effaced and my cervix was funneled, it had also shortened to about half the size it should be. The only thing between the baby and possible delivery was a very thin membrane. 

The course of action was to completely stop the contractions, and he advised I would be on strict bed rest until I delivered. I should plan to stay in the hospital for a couple of more days, and would be back the following day to check on my body’s progress.

The next two days were filled with promise and good news. Much to the doctors’ surprise, they were able to stop the harmful contractions. My cervix continued to thicken and by day three was back to a normal length. My original prescription for bed rest, which included a maximum of 2 hours on my feet per day and no stairs, was a little less likely. The doctors advised us to immediately see my regular doctor once we arrived back home and see what she had to say. They felt that based on the improvements I may eventually have my bed rest lifted completely.

My in-laws had hoped we would stick around for awhile after being released from the hospital. Everyone was relieved with the improvements, but we still didn’t know what caused the contractions to start and a six hour drive home was worrisome. The doctors there were adamant in their insistence that we get in the car and head straight back to Chicago. We needed to take advantage of the fact that things were going well. It really hit home for both of us when they stated that if our baby was born there we could plan on at least a 9 month hospital stay for the little guy. It was definitely time to go home.

We made it safely back without issue (and lots of napping for me!). We have been to our local doctor a few times, everything still looks great and baby boy is growing at a healthy pace. By the first of the year I should be able to go back to my normal work and daily routine. I do have contractions every day and still have to time them, but fortunately they have been spaced far enough apart that there is no cause for concern.

I am so grateful for everyone throughout my entire experience. The nursing staff was kind and professional, my family has been there for me every step of the way, and my friends have been a source of comfort and support. Now let’s just hope this little guy stays on the inside for a few more months!!

You can contact Maura by sending an email to mumblingmommy@mumblingmommy.com.

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