Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pre-term Labor (Part 1)

Dylan was born over 9 months ago.  It really feels like a mini-lifetime.  But I'm still not over my labor experience.  For those of you that are pregnant, most people would say "Don't read this post. It'll only scare you." But I actually think you should read it, knowing that the odds of this happening to you are very very small.  I was following one blogger who had gone into pre-term labor and was hospitalized and just knowing that she was out there and had been there was really helpful.  @amiracleintheworks, thanks!  I even told nurses about all the things your cool hospital did for the antepartum patients that my hospital totally did not.

I'm basically over not being able to breastfeed (due to baby's reflux).  I'm pretty much over the NICU experience.  It was very difficult, but the outcome was good and Dylan made progress just about each and every day.  But I'm not over my labor experience.  Not even slightly.  I think about my hospitalization on a nearly daily basis.  (It doesn't help that I stalk Hellobee all day long.)  I'm not depressed.  I do have some PTSD-type triggers and flashbacks.  But most of all I'm just very bitter.

I'm a bright-side kind of person.  I know that bad things can happen, but I don't obsessively worry, I deal with things when they happen.  And during my pregnancy, I was scared of losing it all the time.  I knew that "24 weeks" was the magic viability time (I know much more know...24 weeks is still really, really scary, but babies are also born at 23 weeks every day.)

(This post is going to be very stream of consciousness because I have a lot to say and it's hard to organize, so I hope you don't mind!)

Every time I went in for a check-up, I would get the literature saying how the baby was developing that week.  I'm pretty sure at some point the hand-outs mention the signs of pre-term labor, but I never got there.  That was really one of the scariest parts, I was absolutely, completely un-prepared for pre-term labor (not that anyone is prepared).  I barely knew it existed.

When I started bleeding and contracting at 23 weeks, I had absolutely no clue where Labor and Delivery was.  I vaguely remembered seeing a sign when I had driven by before, but I actually had my friend drop me off in front of the hospital at the totally wrong spot.  I was wandering around the first floor, knowing I wasn't really supposed to go to the ER, (bleeding), crying (duh), until another pregnant woman took me where I needed to be.  I wish I had toured L&D immediately upon getting pregnant.  I wish someone had told me what to do if I started bleeding.

When I was on the way to the hospital, I thought that Dylan might be gone.  But when I heard his heart beat in triage, I was so relieved.  I truly thought they'd send me home and that was it.  (This was Friday night.)  They dosed me with magnesium to stem my contractions.  But I'm pretty sure I had 14 an hour over that first night (but I wasn't dilated).  14 contractions an hour is a lot and, by mid-morning, I had gotten enough information to realize that I was going to have to stay...forever.  It was September 22st.  I was due January 17th.  I had just finished teaching the third week of the school year.  I had just told the kids I would be there almost through the first semester.  And I couldn't go back even to say good-bye.   That day was the single hardest day for me personally.

I was alone a lot that day.  Actually, I think my mom was there, but it's very blurry (Magnesium does that.) I was in this tiny little room with no windows.  The IV in my wrist hurt really bad.  I felt so isolated and so confused.  I can't remember really getting to talk to doctors.

But I'm really proud of how I handled it too.  My entire life came to a standstill.  I literally made a list of all of the things that I wouldn't be able to do for the rest of my pregnancy.  Teach.  Have a baby shower.  Wear all of the clothes I had just bought for when I was big.  And I "let go" of each one of them, one by one.  I'm not the kind of person who can really let go when I'm upset about something.  And I'm obviously still not over everything in general.  But that day, I did what I had to do to not completely crack up.

Then I started Googling.  It was really hard to find good information about contractions at 23 weeks.  I found that some people contract from then throughout the rest of their pregnancy and everything is essentially normal.  I think they call it "irritable uterus."  Funny.  I hoped this was me.  I found a site called that was okay.  It had message boards and preemie success stories.  The very best online community is the Preemie Parenting group on BabyCenter.  Somehow I didn't find it until we were well into our NICU stay.

***This next part is a little rough to might want to skip it if you pregnant or sensitive.***

The Neonatologist first came to visit in that little tiny room.  Let's call is "Room 1."  There are 6 rooms total if you want to keep a tally.  She brought paper work describing the odds if Dylan was born at 23 weeks, 24 weeks, etc.  She said that I would need to get steroid shots to help develop his lungs more quickly, but that I had to decide when to get them.  Basically she said the odds are really bad for 23-weekers and that I had two options: to have doctors intervene, put the baby on a ventilator, etc. or they could "give comfort" to the baby.  I think that's what she called it.  Every time she mentioned it, I completely broke down and I could not even discuss it.  This is the first time I've said it "aloud." I still think it's the most horrible thing ever.  I'm so so sorry if you'd ever had to go through it yourself.

These were discussions that Mr. GG and I did not want to have but had to have.  It was difficult to even use words.  He was absolutely terrified of brain damage or severe issues.  We eventually decided to get the steroid shots at 24 weeks.  I believe the odds are about 50/50 for survival at that point.  Mr. GG wanted to wait even longer, but I knew that I could never live with the idea of not knowing if my child could have survived.  This is the among the worst decisions any parent will every have to make.

Ok, sorry for the really super sad stuff.

***Ok, back to the regularly scheduled program.

After about a day and a half I think, I was moved to my new room in actual L&D. (I was in Triage before.)  I scored on this one!  The nurses all called it the Penthouse.  I had an entire bank of windows on the wall by my bed with a view of trees and the room was gigantic.  Bigger than my living room.  I was even able to pull a curtain to hide the newborn warming thing in the corner.  But I could not not hear the lullaby that played every time a normal term baby was born.

A special Antepartum Unit opened 2 weeks after Dylan was born.  Most of the difficulties and stress of my 17 day hospital stay would have been avoided (I imagine) if that unit was already open.  Sadface.  No one every thinks they will need an Antepartum Unit.  But if your hospital has one or your have the choice of a hospital that has one, you're lucky.

This is getting a little long, so let's call it episode 1.  More to follow...


  1. Oh my gosh, that discussion part made me tear up at work!! I can't even imagine how hard that must have been. My husband is a big fan of Drew Magary (writer for GQ) -- and he wrote a really amazing article last year that you might like... I hope you don't mind if I share here...

  2. I can't even imagine how scary that was.

  3. I'm glad that everything worked out for you and that Dylan is doing so well. Early labor is definitely very scary. I spent 5 weeks in the hospital (one of them on that nasty Mag Sulfate) before giving birth to my triplets. We tried for 5 years and were thrilled that we were blessed with 3. After giving birth to 3 healthy babies at 34-1/2 weeks, I had to make the decision for Dr's to stop CPR on one of them (at 2-1/2 days old) due to an error they made. You never know what life is going to throw at you. Some things change you forever, but we still have to keep moving forward.

    I hope Dylan continues to progress have no serious complications from being a preemie. You're a lucky Momma to have him!

    1. I am so sorry you had to go through that! I know that we are extremely lucky for Dylan's health and life.

  4. I remember reading when you were admitted to the hospital. No mama should ever have to go through that. I'm so glad that you are well and that Dylan is ok... What a nightmare.

  5. I can't imagine anything more terrifying. I think anyone would be emotionally traumatized by it.

  6. I can't not even imagine going through what you went through. You are so amazing and so strong.

  7. I know EXACTLY what you mean. I can't say I'm "over" the NICU stuff but it definitely doesn't affect me nearly as often or nearly as much as the pregnancy and labor stuff. We went back to the NICU recently and honestly visiting L&D was much harder. It was a very traumatic experience but I'm so glad that we met through it and even more glad that we ended up on the happy side of the statistics! (