In the weeks leading up to Blake’s birth, I found myself quoting Happy Gilmore on more than one occasion. I just couldn’t understand why she was so quick to want to exit my womb. The week prior, I had hemorrhaged, and the bleeding was accompanied by consistent contractions — one minute apart — that necessitated the use of interventions in order to stop, or at least delay, preterm labor. Luckily, the contractions slowed (though they never quite went away), and I was sent back home on bed rest.
The following Wednesday, I felt a gush and made my routine trip to the bathroom in order to check for blood. But it wasn’t blood that awaited me; it was liquid. After texting my OBGYN, I was told to return to the hospital, as it was possible that I was experiencing PPROM (preterm premature rupture of membranes). In layman’s terms? My water may have broken. Fab.
When I arrived at the hospital, they performed an ultrasound, which told us that my AFI (amniotic fluid index) had dropped from 24 the week before to 16 at present time. Since ultrasound readings aren’t an exact science, however, it was possible that the dip in numbers could be attributed to human error and not a rupture of the membranes, so I was hooked up to fetal and maternal monitoring machines — yet again— in order to check for contractions.
And contractions we found. One minute apart.
By this point, my OBGYN had arrived at the hospital. And true to form, her poker face was not what we’d call…good. I could tell that she was bothered by the consistency of my contractions and the rate at which they were coming, so she ordered a round of Terbutaline in the hopes of keeping them at bay. Only, it had no impact, so they ordered a second round. By this point, I was starting to feel the effects of the drug. My face had flushed, and I was experiencing serious heart palpitations. I’m quite certain that a heart hasn’t raced that fast since Aaron Hernandez drove away from the field containing Odin Lloyd’s body. Sorry, that was wrong. Aaron Hernandez isn’t affected by murder. In any event, my contractions still weren’t slowing, so they checked my heart rate to ensure that a third dose wouldn’t send me into cardiac arrest and proceeded to give me another round.
After, my contractions started to slow slightly, but they were still coming consistently and at a pretty frequent clip. While my OBGYN couldn’t give me an internal exam, as doing so to a patient with placenta previa would increase the risk of hemorrhage, she took a quick peep inside and came to the conclusion that I was likely dilating and effacing. She told me that she was going to grab a grilled cheese sandwich, and when she returned, she was in scrubs. Subtle.
It was then that I was told that it was time. That we had done everything we could and had progressed to a gestational age where she felt comfortable. That, with everything I had experienced, she could no longer justify the risks involved in keeping me pregnant. They now outweighed the rewards. I hadn’t even begun to process what I was being told when the nurse pulled out a razor in order to shave my lady parts. All I could say was “I’m sorry.” I briefly considered asking if we shouldn’t be using scissors instead of a razor, just to make the Locks of Love donation easier, but decided that now probably wasn’t the time.
After a bit more prep, they wheeled me into the OR, where my OBGYN tried to distract me whilst the anesthesiologist prepared the spinal tap. After the initial insertion, he kept putting pressure on the area and directing me not to fight it. And after about the third such instruction, I was directing myself not to fight him. But eventually my lower half numbed, and the procedure began. I’ll spare you the gory details and leave it at this: At 7:13 p.m., my baby girl was born, 3 lb 5 oz, a major feat for a fetus so young. For comparison’s sake, a baby at the same gestational age, born on the same date (our “neighbor” in the NICU), was 1 lb 15 oz. Never have I been so grateful for Gestational Diabetes.
The rest of my hospital stay is a bit of a blur. I had a minor mental breakdown at one point, which ended with the nurses putting a sign on my door instructing all individuals to KEEP OUT. I was given a prescription drug cocktail that would make even Lindsay Lohan blush. Demerol is my friend. At one point, I vowed to get a nurse fired after she absentmindedly allowed an air bubble the size of France to make its way into my IV. But eventually, I was released, alive and with my sanity (somewhat) intact.
The two weeks since haven’t exactly been easy. Because Blake was so premature (born at 28 weeks, 6 days), her bilirubin level spiked, so she was forced to go in the baby tanning bed. And while I know that I’m from New Jersey, the sight still wasn’t easy to see. Nor were the plethora of wires and tubes that she was hooked up to. But I’m not going to go into all of that, lest this blog become depressing.
As per usual, my biggest complaint post-surgery has been the constipation and gas pains. Enemas, suppositories, magnesium citrate — you name it, I tried it. Fortunately, after 5 days in solitary confinement, the poop was finally able to escape its prison and submerge itself in the clear waters of the porcelain throne. It was like a scene out of the season 3 finale of Orange Is The New Black. Unfortunately, every rose has its thorn, and with my bowel movement came the reemergence of hemorrhoids. They were like Gremlins that had been exposed to water and fed after midnight — vigorously multiplying in number and turning into angry, scaly monsters. At one point, I asked my husband to take a look. And after looking, he asked for an open marriage. When I showered later that day, the bar of soap I was using to navigate the rocky terrain actually broke in half. I wasn’t sure if this was its way of surrendering or initiating a union strike. Either way, it was disconcerting. Still, I remain confident that one day I will be able to live life without feeling as though there’s an avocado seed lodged between my butt cheeks. Hope springs eternal.
Otherwise, things are, for the most part, good. I mean, sure, there are a few minor problems. Like my milk supply. Which is just enough to feed premature ants. Or the fact that my stomach is flat when I stand up or lie down, but when I sit, there’s definitely the hint of a pouch. This must be why the NICU nurses keep talking to me about something called kangaroo care. And the night sweats? Oh, the night sweats. I know they say that it takes a village to raise a child, but I didn’t realize that I’d be responsible for sweating out enough water to hydrate the village as a thank you. Luckily, I’ve been able to keep myself distracted with frequent hospital visits and tons of trashy reality television. Thank you, Kaitlyn Bristowe of the Bachelorette, for your many antics. Never did I think they’d cast a girl who has slept with roughly 40 people. And that’s just on the show.
In all seriousness, after reading an entire book on preemies and the neonatal ICU, I feel well prepared for the journey ahead. I know to expect improvements, as well as periodic setbacks, of which there have already been a few. And although you would think that throughout this experience, I’d be more prone to crying tears of sadness rather than those of joy, the unexpected acts of kindness that people have continued to display have brought tears to my eyes in the happiest of ways. It may seem weird to say, given all that has occurred, but I’ve truly never felt more blessed.
During our most recent visit to the NICU, we were told that Blake was taken off of the CPAP and put on a regular nasal cannula. She was also taken off of the phototherapy lights above and the bili-blanket below. And after two failed attempts at feeding her my breast milk, her stomach has finally begun to tolerate it, and we’ve been able to move up to 7 ml per hour, allowing her to begin to gain weight.
When the nurse gave us the rundown of events, I felt tears piercing my eyes. The amount of sheer relief that was felt cannot adequately be described in words. It was like I had been holding my breath for the past two months. Through every bleed; every hospital stay; every bit of bad news. Willing myself not to break down. Waiting for the good news to come. And it had finally came.
I could finally exhale.
Note: I’d be remiss if I didn’t take the time to let the world know how much I love Dr. Sam of Elite Obstetrics and Gynecology. Seriously, I don’t know how I would have made it through this experience without her. Dr. Sam, if you’re reading this, thank you for not only becoming my most trusted confidante throughout both of these pregnancies, but a true member of our family as well. I know that it may seem as though I haven’t been able to catch a break, but finding you was the best break I could have ever caught. So thank you for all that you do, from the bottom of my heart.