An Unexpected and Overwhelming Premature Birth

Everyone feels the need to write down their birth story- as if the remembering will make it more real. But in truth it is always surreal. It is always something you can’t quite grasp, somewhere between a whisper and a shout that life is beginning!

I was not ready to write down my story for the world until a year after G’s birth. I’d written parts down for close friends, and told my family the details they were interested in, but I think I wanted to keep it for myself. Having a baby is one part magic, one part miracle and as the vessel, the mother feels that magic keenly.

My pregnancy was a dream. I did yoga almost every day, I ate marginally well, finished my first year of Grad School, and still had time to teach a college course. I never missed a day because I felt nauseous, and I didn’t throw up once. Like I said, a dream.

Sadly my dream ended in a bit of a nightmarish situation. I went into labor at 34 weeks, just as my belly really started to protrude and the glow had settled on my face, finally allowing strangers to assume and ask when I was due, and if I was excited. There was nothing ready about me, my husband, or our tiny apartment. I had no bag packed, no insurance coverage, no hospital papers signed, no crib, no nothing. I did have some very cute toys and outfits provided by my baby shower which had happened a mere week before I went into labor, but none of that would benefit the tiny thing I was about to bring into the world before either of us was ready.

It was Mother’s day, around 8 or 9 in the evening. Church that morning had been rough, a hot and muggy day, and my feet were starting to feel the weight of my burgeoning belly so I’d sat I the front during one meeting and situated a chair in front of me to prop up my legs. The ladies had all laughed at me and nodded with knowing glances. Apparently everyone hits this point in their pregnancy.

I was still wearing the grey cotton dress from that morning, and sitting at my computer next to Ben in our office. I suddenly felt the need to pee so I waddled over the bathroom down the hall and went, then stood. I kept peeing. Gushes of water were leaking out between my legs and onto the floor. I yelped and jumped into the shower as the puddle revealed more than just pee. Having your water break is like puking up the water and last meal you had after almost drowning, but through the wrong hole. A little visual I know, but someone had to say it.

Standing there I started to panic, slowly, but panic. I’d had a bacterial infection, as well as a yeast infection for two weeks now and I was uncomfortable to say the least. Everything hurt down there, and I’d started cream treatments the day before, and was hating them. I was told I should be alright and that everything should work itself out. I was told wrong. Holding a towel between my legs, I yelled for Ben to come help me. He sauntered in, the only way a 6’4″ man can saunter when called by his very pregnant wife, and calmly diagnosed the issue as something to do with the infection, and maybe I should just go to sleep. I would not have any of that.

We drove to the ER, Ben mad that I’d interrupted whatever he was doing, and was probably overreacting, and me scared half to death with nothing but this old towel between my legs and my purse in case I needed my wallet. But we were scared. The air in the car was thick and quiet, as Ben tried to reassure me that everything would be fine. They’d just look me over and send us home. Me, who has not once been admitted to a hospital, much less the ER, sat shaking slightly, feeling gross and wet in the passenger seat.

When we arrived at the hospital–not the one we had planned on delivering in–we parked a bit away and it was quite a scene, me waddling with a blue towel between my legs, holding Ben’s hand and wincing with every step. I felt like I was trying to hold that baby in, like if I widened my gait even a little he might just slip out! Inside we got behind a line of elderly, slow, and mostly incapable people in the ER.

I always thought it odd that the ER was one of the slowest places in the hospital. We had been here once before when Ben had a scooter crash, and I was annoyed then too, and scared. But not like this. My face was white, I knew because I could feel the lightheaded sensation that there was no blood up there, and my surroundings were getting smaller as the tunnel vision set in. A short, peppy nurse ran up to me, smiling but urgent.

“Are you ok? What’s wrong?” She grabbed me out of the line and ushered me in to a triage room where she took my blood pressure and asked a few questions. Ben and I both answered what little we knew about the situation, and the nurse stayed calm as she stuck me in a wheelchair and wheeled us up to the maternity ward as quick as her short legs could carry me. That nurse was an angel.

We got to the front desk at the maternity ward, and immediately handed a stack of papers and clipboards to sign. I did so hurriedly, not even glancing at the rules, procedures and rights I was signing away. A new nurse wheeled me into a larger room and asked me to rehearse the situation again.

“Well you came to the right place! The hospital you were planning to deliver at doesn’t have a NICU, so you’d have had to drive over here anyway!” She said this cheerfully, but all I heard was NICU, and deliver. Was I going to have this baby now? Scores of nurses and doctors zoomed in and out of the room, explaining that my water had broken and I was already at a 3 and they needed to stop this baby. A large shot in the rump later the contractions, which I hadn’t felt anyway- were stopped, and labor was halted.

“If we can get you to a full 34 weeks then your baby will be healthier, that’s only two days so I think we can do it, just need to get two steroid shots into that little guy and his lungs won’t suffer too bad.” This was all supposed to be comforting I’m sure, but I only felt terror. Why was this happening? What causes someone to go into pre-mature labor after the most dreamy pregnancy on record?

Ben called my mom, whole was living in North Carolina at the time, and she only asked me one thing, “Do you want me to come?”, “Yes”. My voice was quiet and wavering, I can still hear it in my head. She was there the next morning. That next day was eventful. I ignored the phone calls and texts and focused on the next wave of contraction inhibiting shots, or making it to the next steroid. The IV in my arm was necessary for the meds, but I still asked if I had to have it-a result of filling out a birth plan in which I refused all drugs. HA! These drugs were now my life force, keeping my baby healthy and in my body. I loved them.

I made no progress as far as labor went that day, and everyone seemed grateful. Then came the night. My mom checked in to a nearby hotel, and Ben and I watched Pitch Perfect before we attempted to get some sleep. Ben was calm through this whole thing. He gave me a blessing when the darkness overwhelmed me, and he assured me that I could name this baby anything I wanted when he came into our world. He listened to each doctor, called friends who helped bring things to the hospital so that he wouldn’t have to leave me, and made arrangements for our poor dog whom we left so abruptly at home. He was a champ.

At midnight, Monday night, things changed. The nurse had decided to give me the steroid shot just an hour before, and it was a good thing too.  The contractions hit me like a freight train. I didn’t know such powerful cramping was possible, but they rocked me. Ben, once again annoyed because I’d interrupted his sleep, told me that they would probably go away, I should try to sleep some more. They didn’t go away and I howled in pain until a nurse came to give me yet another drug to take the edge off and to check me. I was progressing, and fast. Ben called my mom and she rushed over. I writhed until another angel nurse rescued me. I begged for an epidural, but ben calmly reminded me that I didn’t want an epidural, the nurse took that as her cue and got to work on some tension relieving positions. Pressure, a Ball, sitting and breathing through it is all I remember. She was a miracle worker.

My Mom arrived and at this point I must have been a seven and progressing quickly. The contractions were every minute and I was unintelligible as I breathed slow and hard, using the Yoga breath I’d been practicing for years, apparently in preparation for this. The nurse and Ben did all the talking, I directed their pressure with simple commands. “Now” “Legs” Knees” “Back”. The pain was everywhere. There was no time for an epidural because they couldn’t find the anesthesiologist, then we was with someone else. It was too fast. My mom held her cold hands to my forehead and encouraged me through each contraction, reminding me to breath. My team was heaven sent.

The nurse midwife on call had been called, but she was in Orem at the time. “She’s on her way!” Is all one happy nurse could tell me. She still wasn’t there when the urge to push racked my body and I yelled, “I need to push!”

“Ok!” said my angel nurse. They half pulled, half threw me onto a rolling bed and down the hall to the OR. Everything was white and clean and the smell stung my nose. Suddenly there were ten people in the room, none of whom I recognized except my mom, Ben, and my angel nurse. They kept applying pressure , Ben and the nurse each holding one leg up high. I closed my eyes and blocked it all out, focusing on my breath, the only thing keeping me together at this point. I practice yoga, so the breathing was ingrained in my body and made everything calm, and focused.

The midwife burst into the room just as I began pushing. She raced over and coached my pushes. It was easy to push down and out and to use the breath to control my body’s reactions to the contractions. It took 11 hard minutes of pushing and he was out. My mom and Ben watched the whole thing, but I kept my eyes closed and focused until they laid that sweet little baby on my chest for a brief second. He was a mess, and I was a mess, but he was mine. I wanted to keep him but was terrified at this point. He was crying and looked healthy, but at 6 weeks early they sent him off to the NICU as soon as they could get him away from me.

I felt a little shocked when they took him away, but also relieved, I was in no position to take that little guy at the moment. I finally looked around to see that everyone was smiling. The nurses and staff were all impressed with my quiet birth, they said that women usually yelled and screamed and I merely grunted a little. I felt like I was screaming!

The placenta came out easy, and because I had no drugs I was overly coherent when this happened and got to check it out- very cool, if not completely gross. My mom stayed with me and Ben went with the baby to watch him get all cleaned up and weighed and checked out. He was healthy and happy and already 5 and a half pounds at 34 weeks. Kid was a beast.

I was overly exhausted but so happy that everyone was alive after that whole ordeal and I couldn’t stop smiling. He stayed in the NICU for a couple weeks trying to adjust to the real world, but that’s a story for another day. This story ends with one happy momma and the sweetest babe on the hospital block.