Well, it’s time to dust off the ol’ blog for a very special edition. After a whirlwind past 10 days, I found myself wishing I had some way to capture all the memories, thoughts, emotions, and pictures of our birth journey and then I remembered…oh yeah, I have a blog!
So, here goes nothing:
The week of July 15th started out like most of our summer has been–me working, kids playing, Ben out in the barn, and all of us enjoying some pool time when I wrapped up my work day. I had been working triple-time, especially at night since I couldn’t sleep anyways, to get ahead on all of my work tasks, propelled my some anxious vibe I had to have everything ready to go, just in case, so I was looking forward to a lighter week of work.
On Tuesday, I had a midwife appointment and Ada tagged along with me and we squeezed in some mother-daughter time in Frankenmuth. She got to do the ultrasound on the baby and we did some fun shopping, sight-seeing, and ice-cream eating together and even though I was so exhausted, I was so grateful to have some bonding time in with her before my scheduled induction on August 14th.
Everything looked great at the appointment and because my midwife was leaving Thursday for a work trip, I jokingly asked her what I should do if something happened while she was gone. Seeing as I was only 34 and 5 weeks however, we just chuckled and she reminded me that anyone on the team would do a great job, which of course I knew. We made a plan for my next appointment, when I would be full-term.
Wednesday I woke up feeling downright grumpy. Ben and I both noticed that the baby seemed to have dropped considerably lower and the resulting discomfort made me want to cry–I said several times that morning that I couldn’t imagine doing this another whole month. My mom was scheduled to come over to make the strawberry freezer jam that we make every year and I had been putting off all summer because the thought of standing over a boiling pot of pectin in the heat with my huge pregnant body sounded awful, but she had the strawberries and she was ready to go.
Despite my best efforts to put it off again, she talked me into it. “You’ll feel so much better if it’s just done,” she urged me. And knowing she was right, I agreed to have her come over, spent a good 20 minutes slumped on the couch complaining about how miserable I was, then got up, and we worked all afternoon with the kids making 18,000 jars of freezer jam. (That’s an exaggeration, but still, it was a lot.)
When we finished, I was completely exhausted, miserable, and my feet were swollen to epic proportions. I wrapped up some more work and we all took a much-needed swim in the pool. I was super uncomfortable all night and ended up going to bed pretty early.
At 2:30 AM, I woke up, like I normally do for my early bathroom break, lumbered to the bathroom, thinking how awful I felt every step of the way, used the toilet, then realized that I was staring at what looked like gallons and gallons of blood.
I blinked, not comprehending what I was seeing, still half-asleep and baffled. Had there been something in the toilet? Did I burst a hemorrhoid or something equally as embarrassing? What was happening? I hadn’t felt anything, nor did I see or feel anything in my underwear, but yet, there was so much blood.
After a few confused seconds, I realized the blood was definitely from me, woke Ben up, who went through the same baffled process I did, not really understanding what was happening. By that time, I was fully awake and realized that along with the blood, my stomach was rock hard. I wasn’t in any pain, and it didn’t feel like the Braxton-Hicks I had been having, but my entire stomach was hard. I immediately realized I could be abrupting and went into full-on panic mode.
I screamed at Ben to call our midwife, and I finally grabbed my phone and called her myself, over and over, my panic rising, but she didn’t answer.
At that point, I started sobbing hysterically. I had had nightmares about this exact scenario happening more times than I can tell you–I was scared this entire pregnancy about losing my baby and I had envisioned this exact scenario so many times it started to feel like I had conjured it into happening. It was my worst nightmare: my midwife was gone, I had no idea who to call, I was more than an hour away from the hospital, and I just pictured my baby slowly dying inside of me, with nothing I could do to help her.
Ben was still not grasping the situation, but I was rushing to get dressed to go somewhere–anywhere for help. We made it out to the kitchen, where another huge gush of blood spilled down my leg and finally, finally, he realized that this was serious. I remember screaming that she was dead and with his mom on her way (she lives only a few minutes away), we headed to the nearest hospital. Although it wasn’t the hospital I planned to deliver at, my only thought at that point was that I had to make sure she was alive. I prayed the entire way, trying so hard not to picture the worst.
At the hospital (the very one I used to work at), two nurses hooked up the fetal monitor in triage and the sound of her heartbeat filling the corner of the room was the best sound I had ever heard. The baby didn’t show any signs of distress, but their test showed my water had broken, and I was still bleeding, so at that point, we were faced with staying and delivering there, at a hospital with no NICU resources whatsoever, or risking the hour-drive to the hospital I had planned on, with a full NICU and every resource, support, and team member you could ask for.
I honestly didn’t know what to do, because I was terrified I’d deliver, or something would happen on the way to the hospital, but I was equally as terrified she would need help at birth if we stayed. I had started having real contractions by then and I was terrified even more, especially because I didn’t know why I was still bleeding. Luckily, at the exact moment we were trying to decide what to do, Ben finally got ahold of our midwife, who poor thing, only had had about an hour of sleep and had to leave in equally as short of time for her cruise.
“GO!” she said. So we did. I practically sprinted out of the hospital and Ben went 100 miles an hour, making the hour-plus drive in less than 40 minutes. Of course, once we got there after our very dramatic highway drive, they were completely full and we actually sat in the waiting room for what felt like the most awkward and uncomfortable 15 minutes of my life. Turns out, it was a full moon and a record-breaking heat wave that night, so the OB unit was packed.
When I was finally put into triage and assessed, I became somewhat of a medical mystery, as the very experienced OB on staff did two different tests, both of which came up negative for my water breaking, and yet I was sitting there visibly gushing fluids and still bleeding quite a bit. They decided it wasn’t worth the risk of checking me, just in case I wasn’t ruptured and to avoid infection, and to just wait and see how I progressed. They gave me IV fluids, antibiotics, and a steroid shot for the baby, just in case, and it became a wait-and-see game. She even mentioned the possibility of sending me home if my contractions could stop, which confused the heck out of me, because I knew real contractions and these were real.
I wasn’t even admitted yet, so mentally, it was hard to prepare myself for what was coming. I felt like I was in labor, and yet they were telling me I wasn’t? I was gushing fluids and blood, yet they weren’t sure my water was broke? It was a confusing emotional state to navigate, and they couldn’t explain the bleeding either, so I continued to worry about that, along with the fact that something could go wrong and the baby would be in danger.
Eventually, they decided to admit me and treat me like I was in labor and by the time a midwife checked me, I was dilated to 3 and in her words, “she felt hair,” (the baby’s, not mine, just so we’re clear, although I was booked to have a bikini wax that day, ha!) so the mystery was solved–my water was officially broken, I was in real labor, and we were having a baby.
I quickly tried to shift to wrap my head around that new development, when the staff then told me I was experiencing a partial placental abruption, which was the cause of the bleeding, and then I became hysterical all over again. I was just so terrified my baby would die, but the staff there were truly, truly amazing and they reassured me she was doing great, it was probably a very, very small area, and everything would be fine.
I decided to get an epidural, which was in around 11 AM, and although it gave me a lot of trouble because it didn’t seem to be working on the left side, I was a lot more comfortable and even got to rest for a few minutes. Just before 1 pm, when the pain on my left increased, my nurse convinced me to try switching positions and lay on my left, which I vehemently protested, but of course, she was right, and I almost immediately started feeling pushy when I moved. I had one massive contraction that felt like I was going to deliver her before the midwife came in, they called in the troops, got me set up, and…
We awkwardly waited like 10 minutes for my next contraction, the midwife between my legs, the nurse and Ben on each side. *whistles awkwardly*
My next contraction, I pushed, and although I’ll spare you too many details, let me just say it’s a heck of a lot easier to deliver a 35-week baby then the large babies I was accustomed to. I had been gearing up for a massive battle like the others one, with the dreaded “Ring of Fire,” but this delivery was–dare I say?–easy. And just like that, she was born.
I was so, so relieved she was here, and relieved to see her doing well on the warmer–she didn’t have to use any oxygen, I noticed, and she was crying, and nice and pink. But she did have an elevated temp, so the NICU team let me kiss her quickly, then took her almost immediately up to the NICU nursery. It was a long, long two-hour recovery before I got to finally go up and see her, but I was so thankful I was able to hold her and do skin-to-skin and I was making plenty of colostrum for them to run in her feeding tube.
The NICU team was taking every precaution with her, and because she was 35 weeks, had her in a temperature-controlled isolette, with IV fluids, antibiotics, and a feeding tube. The NICU journey is a whole other story, but overall, we knew that our baby was lucky and stable and our main focuses were on 1) making sure she didn’t have an infection 2) getting her to the point she could regulate her own temperature and 3) teaching her how to eat.
It was a long, slow process that looking back, I was completely unprepared for and I expected way too much out of her too quickly, because I was desperate to get her out of there and had zero experience with a premie, but eventually, we did settle into somewhat of a routine.
She was born on Thursday afternoon, I was discharged Saturday, but she stayed in the NICU until the following Wednesday, so Ben and I alternated between a sleep room they had just outside the NICU that we fondly dubbed “the Dungeon,” because it was literally just a stained mattress in a hole in the wall that I’m pretty someone died on, and a hotel we rented nearby so we could take breaks and shower. It was incredibly exhausting and I definitely was riding on some post-birth adrenaline, which would usually run out at night, when I would cry and eat chocolate and have to text my sister-in-law, who had been through the NICU with my niece, to keep me going. (Thanks, Lauren!)
We were with her pretty much round-the-clock and with every feeding to try to introduce her to the breast and keep my milk supply up (which, it turns out, was not an issue at all as I am now making enough to feed a small village and if anyone knows someone in need of mom-to-mom donor milk, please let me know, seriously), and Ben tackled getting her the calories she needed with my milk in a bottle.
Her big siblings even got to visit her on Sautrday, and although it was an exhausting process of scrubbing them in each one-by-one, it was just what our little family needed. Our kids had woken up Thursday to their Grandma being there, with no idea of what was going on, and it was a super hard, confusing time for them, especially for Sara. And to make matters worse, the entire town lost power Friday and didn’t regain it until Monday, so they were bounced around all over the place. But getting to meet their baby sister and being able to hug and kiss on them was just what my Mama heart needed.
She did better each and every day, and our nurses and the NICU team up there were so incredible and helpful and I can’t say enough about them. When we finally got the all-clear Wednesday to go home, her weight was still not up to where it should be, but she was eating well with the bottle and nursing better, so we were able to be discharged with a home bili light and some caloric supplements to add to my milk to help her gain.
Leaving that hospital with her was euphoric, even as I felt miserably guilty for all the mothers who watched us with sorrow and envy because they weren’t the ones going home. I cried with so many of them before we left and I can say that even the short time we spent in the NICU has changed me forever. On the way home, the sky never looked so blue, the air never so clear, the grass never so green, and pulling into our driveway felt like the greatest gift I could have ever asked for.
Words can’t even explain what coming home was like–my kids were so amazing. They had cleaned the entire house from top to bottom, folded 7 loads of laundry, organized everything, set up the playpen, and Ada set up the most adorable baby “scavenger hunt” with stations of every single baby supply we needed. I had to follow the clues and fill up my diaper bag at every station, until I had everything from feeding supplies to diapers and wipes to a whole baby bathtub. And the last clue? A basket full of wine and my favorite cheddar popcorn.
I don’t think I’ve stopped crying since I came home, honestly, and the kids haven’t stopped being amazing. They have been so helpful, pitching in with chores around the house, helping cook and clean, and of course, holding the baby every second they can.
Emmy is settling in well, still working on gaining weight and nursing, but she’s doing better than I could have ever hoped for and with what I thought was going to happen that morning I woke up, this all feels like a dream too good to be true. I am holding on to every precious minute and feeling so, so grateful. Thank you to every single person who prayed for us along the way too–I will never stop praying for all the mamas, babies, and families still to come who will fight to bring their babies home too.