I had never given any thought to going into labor early. I felt great my whole pregnancy. Nausea in the first trimester but no throwing up, more tired than usual but other than that really good.
My water broke the day after Labor Day. We had had a busy weekend of bbqs and beach days. We spent Labor Day at the Jeep dealership buying me a new car. I returned to work on Tuesday for a normal day. It was super hot out and I went out at lunch for a sandwich and remember feeling a little faint walking back to the office from my car, but I assumed it was just the heat. I was also a little hungrier than normal and ate a whole bag of trail mix in the afternoon.
After work, Chris and I had a quick dinner and were relaxing when all of a sudden I had the feeling that water was leaking. I yelled to Chris that maybe my water had broken but he immediately assured me things were probably fine. My mom was at the hospital with my dad for his own medical issue and I texted her asking what I should do. She told me to call my doctor right away. When I got the after hours message, I didn't know if this would qualify for an "emergency", my mom said of course it did! The doctor on call suggested I head to the hospital to get checked out. We got right in the car, but Chris continued to assure me that this must just be something that happens sometimes.
It was awkward heading in to the hospital because water continued to leak when I stood up. I was texting my best friend, a mom of 2, who was certainly more concerned than I was that I might be experiencing pre-term labor. When I looked around the waiting room of full-term pregnant ladies, I felt weird to be called before all of them. At 29 weeks 3 days, I didn't look like the others who were about to pop out a baby.
The nurse got me setup and we waited for the doctor. When the NP came in, she told me that my water had, in fact, broken. I was surprised because only a few days before my mom was telling me that with all three of her pregnancies they had to break her water. She started explaining stuff to me and eventually referenced my staying in the hospital. I asked, "Oh, so I'll have to stay overnight?" and her answer was "No, you'll have to stay until you deliver the baby. We'll try to keep him in until 34 weeks." When she left the room, I cried/screamed in a way I don't remember having ever done before. I was having contractions every 2 minutes but couldn't feel anything. My mind raced with all different types of thoughts: "He's not developed enough", "I can't stay in the hospital that long", "What about my new job I just started 2 weeks ago", "I haven't even had my baby shower yet", "We're not prepared yet." Things felt so out of control so quickly.
Chris, like always, was calm and comforting. He is the only person who would be able to help me breathe in that scenario. He re-assured me we'd get through it all. We made a few phone calls and waited to get moved to a room. They gave me a steroid shot which would help develop his lungs if he was born now. The nurse I had was really caring. She could tell I was scared and spoke in soothing tones and did everything she could to make me feel comfortable. My mom came and I could see in her eyes she was scared. It must be hard to see your kid in that situation. They started a magnesium drip to slow my contractions and gave me a steroid shot to help the baby's lungs should he be born.
During the night I started feeling the contractions. It freaked me out that I could feel them now when they were supposed to be stopping. It was never a massive pain, more like period cramps. Baby's heart rate was monitored continuously and he was strong. That helped make things a little easier. Eventually the contractions subsided and they let me eat/drink.
That day (Wednesday), a neonatal resident came by to talk through all of the concerns should our son be born at this stage. Chris and I decided to just aim to get to 30 weeks (Saturday) as a lot of the complications started to go down at that point. It's crazy how much they develop over just a few days! That resident helped us to feel confident that our little guy would make it and we were in the right place as our hospital has an award-winning NICU. Someone came and did a sonogram and measured him around 3 pounds. He was breach so if I had to deliver sooner it would be a c-section, unless he flipped. They also gave me a second steroid shot.
The next day, I told Chris to go back to work. I didn't want him using up all his vacation time before the baby arrived and I felt totally fine. I was even allowed out of bed to go to the bathroom. I asked if I could walk the halls and the nurses said no. They wanted me to do everything to keep him inside. Chris set me up with Netflix and my Kindle and headed to the office. After a few hours I realized that the 4.5 weeks until the goal delivery date would likely feel like an eternity. I thought maybe I could do some work from the hospital the next week.
My Aunt Kathy visited me in the afternoon. I had been on the monitor and everything was looking good. I was just feeling a bit uncomfortable. My mom and dad came up a little while later and I made the same complaint. I'm not one to complain to nurses so I thought I'd just tough it out but my mom made me ask the nurse if I could take anything. A little time passed and I still felt so uncomfortable. The nurse came back and said she'd put me on the monitor and that she had to call a doctor. Baby's heart rate was good but as soon as the doctor looked, chaos ensued. He was presenting and they had to rush me into surgery.
It was just about 5pm-- my dad called Chris and told him to rush to the hospital. My parents frantically packed up all my stuff (they had to clear my belongings out of the room) into plastic bags. I screamed/cried my way to the operating room. I didn't feel ready to have this baby and without Chris I couldn't calm down. They had to put me under general anesthesia because they didn't have time. This meant I'd be knocked out and no one would be in the room. I couldn't stop crying and shivering. There were so many people in the operating room-- probably like 10 with more on the way from the neonatal team. My mom scrubbed in and came in to the OR for a minute but once they started anesthesia she had to leave. I tried to focus on the anesthesiologist who needed me to breathe.
And that's all I remember. While I was in surgery, Chris was speeding on the grass of the shoulder of the Northern State Parkway-- he figured this was the one time he had a really good excuse if he got pulled over. He made it to the LIJ in 25 minutes from Melville (usually a much longer drive at rush hour), he probably arrived just as CJ was being born at 5:25pm. I awoke a few hours later still in the OR. It took me a while to come out of anesthesia. I was disoriented at first but I asked how he was doing and they told me he was ok. I also asked what day it was because it was my sons birthday (and I was hoping it wasn't September 11). Finally they brought me to the recovery room and I got to see Chris. I kept asking over and over to see my baby. I asked any nurse that came in, I asked Chris, our parents, our siblings. They all thought this was comical, I was like a kid waiting for Christmas or something. But I just wanted to see him because it didn't feel real that one minute I was pregnant and next thing I knew I wasn't, yet I hadn't even seen my baby. I needed to see him to know he was ok.
Chris told me that he got to see CJ as they wheeled him to the NICU. He reached in his hand and CJ took hold of his finger. Chris said he knew that he'd be ok. He gave his incubator a little pound and told him "You got this, little man." He told me later, though, that it was overwhelming because so many doctors were talking to him at once.
Finally, the nurse let me know that transport would be picking me up to bring me to my room and once I was settled they'd bring me to the NICU. Chris and my parents were with me as I headed to the room. I saw a sign for the NICU and asked the transport guy to sneak me over there. It's hard to explain to anyone else. It was funny that I was loopy and asking everyone to bring me to "see my baby" but it was the only thing I could think about.
Ironically, I was brought back to the same room I had been in just a few hours before. After what seemed like days from when I was in that room earlier, the nurse got me setup in a wheelchair and wheeled me down. I remember heading to the NICU but the actual moment of seeing CJ for the first time isn't really there. I was sad about that for a while-- I didn't remember the first time I saw my first child-- but Chris explained it to me and even though our story is different it doesn't matter. It doesn't affect how much I love my child or our relationship. They lowered the incubator down and I saw him for the first time and let out a soft "Oh". Chris said he could see how much I loved him in my eyes.
I didn't have the birth experience I pictured. I hadn't even pictured much because everything I heard before was that having a birth plan almost ensured that nothing would go as planned. But I did always picture that moment of seeing him for the first time being right after he was delivered in the delivery room. I'm coming to terms with that and writing has helped me deal with strong emotions before so that's one of the reasons for this birth story. On Thursday, September 10 our lives had changed forever. Our son was born at 29 weeks, 5 days. My little guy is a little miracle and I'll write more about that later.