It has been over 365 days since our dear girl surprised us with her early arrival, and oh how the year has flown! The saying 'the hours are long but the days fly by' now makes perfect sense. So while our gal naps, I thought I’d carry on the tradition my Dad started years ago by reminiscing about the day the birthday girl was born. Be warned, this story is long and not for the faint of heart.
26 Weeks 1 Day
It was 6 am and Cody's alarm had gone off and woken me. He rolled over to snooze a bit longer, but I got up to beat him to the bathroom for the morning. Nothing like having a baby snuggle up with your bladder to motivate a mama. Then the rush of fluid hit me. I screamed; I cried out for Cody; I cried out to God, and I held onto the hope that all of this could still fall into the 'normal' category.
Cody called our doctor to let him know we were coming, he grabbed me a pair of socks, and we made our way to the hospital. We stepped out of the elevator to be greeted by a nurse who was expecting us, and they rushed us to an exam room to get Lydia hooked up to the fetal monitor. I held my breath as they searched and searched my growing belly for her little rhythmic heartbeat. Finally they found her sweet thump-thump-thump. She had nuzzled herself so low they almost missed her all together!
Once they had both of us settled, our over-tired nurse started through the list of general questions they ask every expectant mother, your date of birth, address, do you feel safe in your home, what is your birth plan, what is your pain management plan? Birth Plan? My birth plan was to have a baby in June not March, that was about as far as I got. Thankfully the nurse was done and she said she'd be in a few minutes to recheck my blood pressure. Cody and I relaxed for a minute and tried to gather our bearings and make plans for the day.
Our next nurse popped in a few minutes later to get the blood pressure reading and while she was chatting at us she slowly picked up the fetal monitor read out and grew silent. She calmly asked me to 'just try laying on your side a minute' and so I did and she watched the little needle dip and move and regain its easy rhythm. She said 'humm I'll be right back', and before I knew it, the small exam room filled with people, my doctor, two residents and a couple nurses wheeling in machinery and pulling parts of the bed off so they could do an ultrasound and examine to see how Lydia was faring and if I was in true labor.
The results were mixed, and my doctor leaned against the wall and slumped to the floor as he filled me in. I was having a few light contractions sporadically, and she was fine for the moment, but she wasn't tolerating labor. Her heart rate would drop, and from the ultrasound he feared that I had vesa preva and that continuing in labor would be extremely life-threatening for her.
He was leaning towards doing an emergency c-section that morning. He brought in the maternal fetal specialist for a second opinion, and she thought we could wait a few hours, try to stop labor, and get steroid injections in me to help bolster her lung and eye development even if they only had a few hours to work. So they started an IV, gave me a few shots, and at my doctor's orders wheeled me to the patient room closest to the OR so I could rest and try to hold this baby girl in for a little while longer.
Each passing hour I considered a victory and slowly I let the hours turn into mornings, afternoons, and days. Every doctor had a different opinion but most thought I would be hospitalized for the remainder of my pregnancy and I was totally ok with that option. I loved the reassuring sound of Lydia's heart beat over the fetal monitor, I felt so blessed that we had doctors and nurses taking such good care of us. So we stayed for 5 whole days, enough time to get a second round of steriod shots (aka miracle drug).
26 Weeks 6 Days
Saturday night Cody stayed with me in a recliner beside my bed, but it was a miserable night for all of us. The nursing staff was in adjusting the fetal monitors every 30 minutes or so, having me lay on my back, my side, putting oxygen on, taking it off, having me lay in a different position and then trying all of that all over again. By early morning we were all exhausted, and I sent Cody home to get some decent coffee and a shower.
That is when the back pain started. The nursing staff was still in every few minutes to 'adjust' us, and around 9 they said don't eat anything ‘just in case’. At that point I called Cody and said maybe you should come back to the hospital sooner rather than later.
The next few hours I tossed and turned trying to find any position that would relieve my back. Around 12:30, the new day’s doctor came in and introduced himself. He sat on the edge of the bed and casually said, “So, I think it’s time we take her now.”
Excuse me, take who, where? My mind was in a fog as he proceeded to explain himself. The stress of the night was taking its toll on Lydia. When her heart rate would dip her recovery times were getting longer, they’d done what they can do to hold off labor without much result, and we’d hit a sweet spot with the steroid injections. It was not ideal, but everything was pointing toward it being time for Lydia to be born.
I grabbed my tiny baby bump and looked to Cody to make the decision. He reassured me, ‘Laura, it's time’.
My cell phone rang as the doctor left the room. I tried to remain calm as I filled my mom in on the latest news. ‘We are having our baby, right now.’
The next hour was full of moments that feel so much larger than life, the kind hospital cleaning lady who grabbed my hand and said a small prayer as we wheeled the 15 feet to the operating room. Sitting on the bright operating table feeling lost and alone in the midst of the sea of technicians working furiously to bring my baby to safety. Holding my breath as they inserted the needle into my spine, feeling the right half of my body numb. Looking up to finally see Cody's eyes above me.
To make a terrifying delivery worse, my spinal epidural only took on one side. Like most issues in my pregnancy, this is a very rare complication (less than 4% chance). But our girl could not wait, and putting me fully under would make the great battle Lydia had in front of her even harder. So I gripped the sides of the table and tried not to move as they began to cut, using a topical numbing agent as they cut through each layer.
I was writhing in pain, praying for my girl, and terrified of what was to come next. Would a baby that small even be able to cry? Vague answers were the best I could get from the medical personnel around me. I continued to plead with them to hurry feeling every cut, shove, pull.
Finally the anesthesiologist leaned over me and said ‘do you hear that, her first cry’, and there it was, her tiny wail. I could barely hear over the commotion but I could hear my little girl and a sound has never been so sweet.
Once the umbilical cord was cut they loaded me up with drugs and Cody went over to tend to our little gal. Her eyes were wide and looking at her bright new world. They checked her over, wrapped her in cellophane (to keep her warm) and rushed her up to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit stopping by to see her sleeping mama along the way.
In the recovery area I drifted in and out of coherence asking Cody the same 3 questions over and over again, 'Is she ok? What does she look like? How is she doing?' I was desperate for any information about our baby girl, and Cody patiently answered my questions again and again.
As I started to remember more and come out of my drugged stupor, a sense of relief washed over me. I started to count my blessings, her apgar scores were off the charts amazing, she came out crying, her eyes were open and functioning (a week earlier and they still would have been fused shut), she weighed over 2 pounds, (2 lbs 2 oz to be exact) which is a good size for a 26 weeker. There was so much to rejoice in, but most of all we could rejoice that Lydia was now in a place she could grow and thrive. And that has been my prayer for her from the beginning, that she find a place where she can grow and thrive.