As the days counted down to the 23rd I found myself marking the different milestones. You see, my water broke on May 3rd, but I was blissfully ignorant of what had just happened. When I felt dampness in my underwear on the morning of the 3rd I thought I just had a slight bladder-control issue. As the morning wore on and I changed my underwear and shorts 3 times, I decided that this was something the doctor needed to know about. I couldn’t just be walking around peeing all the time. That’s just not acceptable.
Yeah, I know. Like I said, blissfully ignorant. Maybe total denial.
I got to the doctor and he did a fern test with the fluid he found. Apparently amniotic fluid, as it dries on a microscope slide, forms a ferning pattern. I was ferning all over the place.
“Get ye to the hospital,” he said. I nearly lost my mind right then and I felt a massive shift in my sense of reality. I was 30 weeks pregnant.
After checking in and getting a bed in Labor and Delivery my ob-gyn, a man I ADORE, and a neonatologist from the Special Care Nursery (SCN) came over to talk to me about what giving birth to a 30-weeker meant. It wasn’t good. Probable intubation for the baby after the birth, possible brain bleeds, a feeding tube, a 6-8 week stay in the SCN, I was terrified. They started talking about the steroid shots they would give me. One now, one 24 hours later, and 24 hours after that the Emerson’s lungs and blood vessels would be far more mature and things would start looking up. They told me about those shots for an hour until I sat up and said “can we stop TALKING about the shots and actually GET one for me? Where are the SHOTS??”
Fast forward to 48 hours later. I was now on the regular maternity ward cooling my heels and having non-stress tests twice a day, plus whenever Emerson was too quiet and I got nervous. My doc came in to tell me how amazed he was that I hadn’t gone into labor yet, as 85% of women go into labor within 48 hours of their membranes rupturing. He felt like now we could probably hold on for a few more weeks. The catch – if I went into labor they wouldn’t stop it. The danger to the baby from infection at this point was greater than the danger of an early birth.
I could only get out of bed to use the bathroom. When I asked about a shower the doc hesitated, then said yes, one a day, for no longer than 5 minutes. My husband literally stood in the doorway of the bathroom timing me with his watch. At 4 minutes he would give me a 1 minute warning and by golly I had better be out of that shower in the next minute. After a couple of days I was allowed one 15 minute wheelchair ride a day. I usually got my husband to take me outside to the flower garden and koi pond. It was May and I was missing the nicest Spring we’d had in a couple of years.
I did my best to not think about what was going on. I was scared, but I quickly developed a pretty good coping mechanism – I just ignored the reason I was in the hospital. The problem was I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I couldn’t read, TV was stultifying, crossword puzzles were beyond my brain’s ability at that time and the only thing I looked forward to were visits from my parents with my 2 year old son. He actually turned 2 while I was on bedrest. We had a party in my room with the nurses. Woohoo.
The strangest thing was every 3rd or 4th night, usually around 10:00 pm, I would have a mini-nervous breakdown and force the nurse to call my doc at home, email him the results of the non-stress test of the evening, and make him call me to say things were ok. I look back on that and realize that all that denial of why I was there would build up and I would need massive reassurance that things were going alright. He never let me down.
Bedrest is awful. The reasons that a woman is put on bedrest means that things are NOT OK and therefore no rest is to be found. My mind never stopped running. I would try to sleep but my heart would race and pound so hard it would move the bedsheet.
I held out until 33 weeks 1 day and when I went into labor I did the denial thing again. I had been tracking my contractions the whole time I was hospitalized, but I usually had only 2 or 3 an hour. I was supposed to call the doc if I had more than 5 in one hour. On the morning of the 23rd I counted 11 in one hour. Hmm, that’s interesting. I called my husband. He asked WHY WASN’T I CALLING THE NURSE?
Oh. You think I’m in labor?
I had a c-section because they didn’t want to subject Emerson to the stress of a natural delivery, but I had to labor for 4 hours until the OR was ready. The anesthesiologist was my best friend that afternoon.
Emerson was born weighing 4 lbs 4 ounces, never needed oxygen let alone intubation, ate like a champ from the beginning and came home the day she turned 35 weeks. She is now a happy, rambunctious 1 year old and I am so thankful that it turned out the way it did. But BOY will she hear about this when she is a teenager.