This morning there was a conversation between folks on Twitter under the hashtag #borntoosoon. Check it out. This post is directly related to that conversation and sharing those stories. I am blessed to share, but I know that not everyone’s story is quite so dramatic or life driven. Some people are sick when they have their babies with out life factor contributions.
Having a child is supposed to be a beautiful experience. You’re supposed to glow and clean and have the whole baby makes three thing. Right?
To tell you about my birth I must first tell you a little about my life…and some details may be too much for some, but it is true. All of it…and part of what’s made me who I am.
It all started sometime in August 2005.
I was eating my favorite salad sprinkled with gouda, cashews, and cranberries. Each bite of my salad was delicious. I crunched and munched on the butter lettuce and yummiest nummies money could buy. I was at the restaurant my husband was the chef of and they made wicked awesome food. As I finished my salad I smelled…something…I still don’t know what it was, but I barely made it to the bathroom before I lost my salad.
I have never eaten another of those salad.
That evening my husband kept asking me if I was feeling okay. “No, I think I have a stomach bug.”
However…this stomach bug as I called it continued for another two weeks.
The evening I took my pregnancy test was the evening I had decided to run pizzas for the restaurant down to a high rise downtown. (I do mean literally run.) I had nothing better to do that evening so after work (I was a freight forwarder.) I helped out. Upon my return that evening Kate (the owner of the restaurant) pressed a test into my hand and said it was time.
When I got home I took the test and before even 30 seconds had past it turned positive. Who really needs the full two minutes?! Really?
I looked around our apartment. The apartment we had lived in – maybe two months – and almost cried. One bedroom, wooden floors, wooden walls, and so expensive! Not baby friendly in the least and we had not been able to rid it of sand fleas. (Yes those are real.) I walked to the living room and showed my husband who was ecstatic. He hooped and hollered and had a drink. He said it was celebratory, and it may have been, but as an alcoholic he was going to have a drink whether the test came back positive or negative.
I knew without a doubt that I would keep the baby. There was never a question of that. This was my baby and I was 25 years old. I didn’t have much of a clue, but I knew I could handle a baby, alone or with my husband.
Within a month we were issued an evacuation warning for Katrina…the big one. The hurricane that destroyed so much of the Gulf Coast. Luckily we didn’t have to leave, but we had an influx of people from the Eastern states moving west. Then there was the evacuation for Rita. The second hurricane to hit the gulf that season. Knowing that we would be evacuating we planned to leave at 11 am on that Wednesday. We were in traffic for 6 hours. Normally our drive is an hour and a half to that particular destination. Can we say stress? Oh and it was not we as in my husband and I, it was we as in my mother, my niece, my brother, and myself. My husband chose to stay.
A few days of what should have been rest and relaxation were not. I was tense. Super tense. My alcoholic husband was left in a city shut down he could do anything if left alone. Ugh – it was horrible. He did the worst thing ever. I mean I couldn’t have imagined anyone doing this, but he did. He broke into my parents house seeking booze. My parents who don’t drink.
I believe in wedding vows and stood by the whole for better or worse vow. I have stood by it over and over no matter what happened.
I believe it was at my next appointment that my OBGYN told me that my blood pressure was looking a little high. Ugh…you think?!
Weeks past with no contact from my family…I continued to work, go home, sleep a lot, get sick a lot. I soaked in the tub a lot. I continued to allow the problems in my life to grow instead of changing anything. Looking back (you know hindsight) there are so many other things that I could have done. Left. Run. Never gone back. But the past is the past and I can’t change anything…except change the present.
I was four months pregnant when one afternoon I went home to find my husband wallowing in self-pity. The restaurant he had been working at was closing because they weren’t making enough money. The owners had announced it before their shift began and my husband – instead of completing the day and final two weeks – left. He walked to the liquor store and then to the apartment. He drowned his sorrows and that night was the first of our major fights.
I never really cared what he did before we had another life to take care of, but now we were responsible for another person. A helpless person. A person that need us to put them first.
I screamed he hit the wall, screamed back and drank more.
The next few weeks are a blur. I was still getting sick on a daily basis. The baby was growing. The OB was still concerned with my blood pressure, but it wasn’t bad enough to put me on anything. But if it didn’t go down she would put me on bed rest, so I tried. I ignored the chaos that was my spouse and continued my routine. Work, food, sleep, bath, sleep, repeat.
I tried to keep all the bills paid, but I was missing work because I was so sick and the husband wasn’t working…apparently it wasn’t a priority. “There’s time!” he would say.
We lost our electricity first, then our gas, then we lost our apartment. At six months pregnant I went to live in a pay by the week motel in the worst neighborhood in Houston.
We ate food from restaurants or what could be heated up in a microwave. (I don’t own a microwave now…the taste makes me want to vomit.)
We rode the bus anywhere we needed to go and it took three hours to get to my doctors appointments that were only 10 miles away. I worked. I couldn’t see doing anything else. I worked and saved what I could and scrimped by. Danny drank, ran errands, but mostly he drank.
At 27 weeks I ended up in the hospital. My blood pressure was so high that the doctor was certain I was going to have seizures. She had the team at Memorial Hermann bring it back down. I spent three days in antipartum. Just trying to stay calm and figure out what to do. So I wrote a plan and started working the plan.
After that I went to the doctor every week. She would run tests. She would give me a thing to collect a protein sample (if you have had a baby you understand and if you don’t know ask I will comment about it.) Everything kept going up. She had me checking my blood pressure several times a day. If it got beyond a certain point I was to lay down, feet up.
It was somewhere around week 30 that Danny got a job. His plenty of time excuse…so he went to work at a different restaurant downtown. He figured he had 10 weeks to get everything in order. He said this was his plan the whole time. (sure.)
At 32 weeks and 2 days I had my last OB appointment. She was not happy at the level of protein, the height of my blood pressure, or the edema that had slowly built to ginormous proportions in my legs. The straw that broke the camels back?? The size of my nose. I have a little nose by most measure, at least normal. It had grown. I was looking a bit like a clown.
She had me exit to the hospital. I took one bus back downtown and then the train to the hospital and walked in and took the elevator up to the 7th floor. They were waiting and asked where I had been. I said I didn’t have a car. “Oh.” said the nurse.
They immediately hooked me up to monitors and started IVs. I got antibiotics and then a shot of Benadryl because I am allergic to antibiotics. Around 8 pm they started inducing me, it was time to have the baby. I freaked out. I was supposed to go put the deposit down on an apartment the next day! I was supposed to get the furniture out of storage. I was supposed to work more! I was supposed to have another 8 weeks! I was given a sleeping pill and a shot of stadol and told night night.
The next day I woke up when the anesthesiologist came in the room to hook me up to a epidural drip. Nice…
The doctor wanted to be prepared for the what if’s and she had them giving me something. So I now had five bags of stuff hanging dripping into me. I got two shots of steroids to help the babies lungs develop as quickly as possible. My husband disappeared for a while and said he would be back. I called my mom, my sister, my sister-in-law and they all came as soon as they could. We had a sit in. A watch and wait and watch tv and only when Danny left was there any laughter. Any joy.
I couldn’t freak out that day. I was on way too much medication. The cirvadel did not work for inducing me, so it was replaced with pitocin and I sat there all day hoping to have my baby naturally.
It was 6:45 pm when the plan changed.
My son was having complications and my urine had turned brown…that would be a sign my liver and kidney’s were shutting down. My body had had enough and was quitting on me. Just when I needed it to work. I never dialated past a 2. I was wheeled to the OR and given enough medication to knock a horse out and Dr. Prom had Elijah out of me in 20 minutes. He was born at 7:15 pm, March 23, 2006. My husband was there. The NICU team was waiting. Elijah cried but only just.
I don’t remember his APGAR score, I was just glad he was there. I was glad to have him born in one of the top hospitals in the nation. I was glad to be on the mend. Glad to be alive. Glad to see the end.
I spent the next five days in bed…mostly…I got round after round of magnesium and fluids and pain medication. I learned to manage the NICU security staff. I learned where the NICU library was and read up on the benefits of what would help my son the most. I couldn’t do much at first but the nurses were happy when they saw me wheel myself in every day.
I was in the hospital 7 days. The day I left was torture. It was 3 pm and I was told to go home and not come back for at least 48 hours. Um…not only no but hell no. I was back the next day. I spent every day there. Learning, holding, and helping my son.
To the point that I was readmitted due to complications with my incision. It reopened. The edema that had built up in my body was coming out any way it could and one day I was sitting in the NICU quietly holding my son when I felt something like water on my legs. I put him back in the isolet and walked to the bathroom. I think many women would have fainted. I calmly walked out of the NICU and back to the seventh floor. I told the nurse at the window that I had a problem. Held the cover up that I was holding away from my body and she grabbed some help and moved me into a room.
I spent another week in the hospital. The following two weeks I had home health. By the end of the third I was finally in our new apartment. Two bedroom in a great, family friendly neighborhood. Things were working out.
What did I learn? Nothing works as planned – ever…even something that is as natural as having a child.
Any other time in the past I would be dead now. I wouldn’t have made it past the 27th week.
I have also learned that life factors are major indicators of Pre-E, Eclampsia, and HELLP Syndrome. There is a reason things are supposed to follow a plan. But even if you have a plan, something can and will mess it up.
If you would like any information on premature birth and contributing factors visit www.marchofdimes.org
Now we are 6 years later…happy, healthy and growing.