Please excuse my absence for the past several weeks…make that months. It seems just when you think you have things all planned out, the plan gets crumpled up and thrown out the window. This should’ve been when our new baby was turning one week old, instead I’m staring at a napping infant who is closer to 2 1/2 months old. How’s that for a curveball?
About a week after arriving home from Palm Springs I was heading out on one last trip before the baby. My daughter and I traveled to Texas to see family and friends, but my husband had to work so he stayed behind in California. I had spent 3 days with my husband’s parents and was now at my brother and sister in law’s house outside of Austin. We were all enjoying a fun family get together, sitting on the patio, and watching the kids swim. I had been remarking how great I was feeling in this pregnancy. Though I had some early contractions with my daughter, I wasn’t feeling nearly as many this time and was expecting the last 10 weeks to go off without a hitch! Well, not more than a couple hours later I felt a few painful contractions. They didn’t feel like the labor contractions I had with my daughter but they were noticeably uncomfortable and different from the normal Braxton Hicks contractions I had been experiencing. I chalked it up to being dehydrated or needing to get off my feet. So I drank a few extra glasses of water and went off to bed.
Around 1 AM I woke up with the same painful contractions. I started timing them and watching how close together they were. They started out about 15 minutes apart and slowly increased in frequency. Since it was the middle of the night, I was waiting and watching for a while, sort of in denial about what I needed to do. Surely this couldn’t be real labor.
With my first pregnancy I had regular, painless, early contractions at 3o weeks. I was admitted to the hospital for a couple days and put on magnesium. Everything stopped and I carried my daughter to her due date. After close to 2 hours watching the contractions I made a worried phone call to the hospital in California where I was supposed to give birth. After speaking with the nurse, she confirmed what I already suspected, I needed to go to the hospital and get checked. I thought worst-case scenario I would get admitted to the hospital and put on magnesium again. So in preparation I decided to shower (if I was going to be put on an IV I wouldn’t be able to shower in the hospital), and get a bag together just in case. I woke my brother and sister in law up around 3:30 AM and told them I thought I needed to go to a hospital-but that I would drive myself and I had set out things for my daughter in case I couldn’t come back right away. My brother in law insisted that he drive me instead. After some tears of worry and embarrassment that I had to wake them up, I agreed and we set off to see what was going on.
I remember thinking on the drive to the hospital that I was relieved in a way to still feel contractions. I think part of me was thinking that they could just all of a sudden stop and this would just be a big false alarm. Then I would’ve made a big scene for nothing. We arrived to the hospital about 4 AM. I checked into the E.R. and was wheeled up to labor & delivery. I thought as I was being pushed in a wheel chair, “This is silly, I can walk up there.”
As the nurses started checking me, it started to become apparent that things were perhaps a bit more serious than I originally thought. The contractions were getting stronger, and eventually after the doctor arrived there started to be talk of delivering the baby right then and there. That’s when the panic set in. It was way too early to be having the baby. I had no idea what kind of complications a 30 week baby would have or how hard the baby would be fighting for life. At this point things started to blur for me. It was a cloud of adrenaline, panic, pain, fear, worry, and prayer. Before I knew it I was screaming in agony, begging for the anesthesiologist, and being wheeled into an operating room. And oh yeah, by this point we hadn’t even been able to get a hold of my husband. I hadn’t wanted to call him right away because I knew he would be up worrying before work and I wanted to have something definite to tell him. Once we knew I was going to have the baby we called, but his phone was on silent and he didn’t wake up to answer.
Once the spinal block kicked in I was much more able to focus on what was happening. I remember the doctors asking me if it was a boy or a girl and telling them I didn’t know, we had wanted to be surprised. I asked through tears if there was any way I could hold the baby after it was delivered. I was told it would depend on how the baby was doing. I knew this hospital wasn’t set up to care for babies this young and the baby would have to be transferred after delivery to another hospital. The thought of this broke my heart but there wasn’t time to be too distraught about it because it was what had to happen.
I remember waiting in silence for the doctor to say the baby was out and OK. Eventually she did say that, and I heard someone say, “it’s a boy.” I was overcome at that moment, we had a boy! I sobbed tears of relief, surprise, and continued fear. I didn’t hear him cry or make any noises, the anesthesiologist assured me that was normal, but that his coloring looked good and the doctors were all working on him. Not long after I heard a couple cries and noises from him. Everyone started telling me how great that was and what a little fighter I had. He was stabilized, placed in an isolette, and wheeled near my head for me to take a quick look before they took him out of the operating room.
Once I was in the recovery room I was met by my brother in law who had been able to take some pictures of our new baby boy. He also reassured me that the doctors said he was doing really well, and that it was a good sign that the doctors let him go in the room to take pictures. We still had not spoken to my husband. We continued to call, and call, but weren’t getting anywhere. So instead I called my mom. I tried my best to convey what had happened but of course she was in shock.
Soon I had a team of nurses and doctors wheeling my baby-in-a-box into the room. They were all introducing themselves to me, asking if I had questions, and reassuring me. I honestly don’t remember much of what was said, I just remember my tiny little boy covered in tubes and wires. I could barely see his face but I could touch his little foot. Just that little bit of contact made me so happy. Not long after he was wheeled in, he was being wheeled back out.
Finally, my brother in law’s phone rang with my husband on the other end. He answered and immediately passed the phone to me. I knew he would be worried after waking up to about 100 missed calls. My first thought was to let him know everything was OK as fast as possible. There wasn’t a whole lot of small talk or easing into what happened. I think it was basically, “I went into labor, had an emergency C-section, and we have a son.” Can you imagine waking up to a phone call like that? Needless to say, he was overcome with emotion at that point and his world started to spin.
Thus began our 6 week journey through life as NICU parents. Our baby boy was transferred to Dell Children’s Hospital and we moved into the Ronald McDonald House across the parking lot. I will save what our NICU experience was like for another time. We are back home in California now with a healthy boy. We are all doing well, and getting adjusted to life as a family of 4.