What Happened To Me When I Went Into Labor On Vacation
I wrote the following around the time we had recently returned to California (where we lived) from Texas (where my son was born). It’s a detailed account of my son’s birth story and what happened when I went into labor while on vacation with my daughter to visit family. Honestly, I haven’t read this since I wrote it over 3 years ago. Reading it now floods back all the emotions and it’s hard not to get teary thinking about it. My intent is not to scare anyone out of traveling while pregnant. I just happen to be one of the small number of people who had a baby while traveling.
HOW THE TRIP STARTED
About a week after arriving home from Palm Springs for my friends’ wedding, I was heading out on one last trip before the baby. Not exactly a babymoon because my husband couldn’t go. My daughter and I traveled to Texas to see family and friends. I spent 3 days with my husband's parents near New Braunfels and then went to 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 was 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 of hours later I felt a few sharp pains in my belly. They didn't feel like the labor contractions I had with my daughter but they were noticeably uncomfortable. It also felt different from the normal Braxton Hicks contractions I had been experiencing. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of them so I chalked it up to being dehydrated or needing to get off my feet. I drank a few extra glasses of water and went off to bed.
THE BEGINNINGS OF LABOR
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.
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. Speaking with the nurse confirmed what I already suspected, I needed to go to the hospital and get checked.
With my first pregnancy, I had regular, painless, early contractions at 30 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. So I thought the worst-case scenario was I would get admitted to the hospital and put on magnesium again.
***You might be wondering why on earth I decided to travel when I had some issues with my first pregnancy. The short answer is, because my doctors told me it was fine! I had some special checkups to look for signs that I would be at risk for pre-term labor but all my visits were normal.***
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. I planned to drive myself and I 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 might just all of a sudden stop and this would be a big false alarm. In that case, I would've made a big scene for nothing. Still feeling them made me feel like at least I wasn’t being crazy and imagining it.
AT THE HOSPITAL
We arrived at the hospital at about 4 AM. I checked into the E.R. and was wheeled up to labor & delivery. I remember thinking as I was being pushed in a wheelchair, "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 now. 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 survival.
At this point, things started to be a 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.
I went back to the Operating Room to have a C-section. 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 waited 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.
Shortly after I heard a couple of 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. I was then left alone on the operating table for the doctors to finish up and I just cried. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so alone. This wasn’t how having a baby was supposed to be and I still had no idea what would happen to my son.
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 I basically said, "I went into labor, had an emergency C-section, and we have a son." We actually have a video of me talking to him, but it’s too hard for me to watch. Can you imagine waking up to a phone call like that? He was overcome with emotion and 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 a children's hospital and we moved into the Ronald McDonald House across the parking lot. My one-week vacation to see family in Texas turned into spending almost the entire summer there with a new member of the family. It was a whirlwind that none of us can ever forget. I’m so thankful that I was visiting family instead of in a random place. I can’t imagine having to stay somewhere that wasn’t home for that long without having the support of family and friends. The life of NICU parents is a hard one. It is an emotional roller coaster like none other and my heart will always go out to anyone who has had to experience it.
Has anyone else out there given birth while traveling? Who else had a preemie? I’d love to hear your experiences as well, please leave a comment below!