There are no two birth stories alike and I’ve recently realized that I’ve never shared Owen’s full birth story. There were pieces very early on in the life of the blog, like here (My very first, Therapy Thursday and a post every preemie mom will relate to). I shared Kellen’s in a Part 1 and Part 2 series and today, I want to share Owen’s.
With Owen, it’s probably best to back up to the very first weeks of pregnancy. I had subchorionic bleeding at weeks 6, 7, 8 and 9. Each week the bleeding was heavier and clottier and scarier than the week before. Finally, week 10 came and the bleeding stopped. I was still sick and the fatigue was different from with Kellen, but our anxiety lessened.
At the 20 week ultrasound everything looked perfect. My OB and I discussed that it’d make sense to do a a Fetal fibronectin at 28 weeks. She warned that with Kellen coming early, I was at risk for another preterm labor and I should mentally plan that bed rest was a possibility. And I did. Kyle thought I was crazy, but for me the nesting kicked into full gear around 22 weeks. We took Kellen out of crib so he could get used to his big boy bed before the baby needed it and I was starting to get the house in order. My mandate was everything had to be done by June 1 because I knew, with certainty, that this baby was coming early and I was going to be on bed rest. My due date was August 6.
And then April 16th came. I was exactly 24 weeks pregnant. My dad was in town and I didn’t feel well. I was tired and achy and found that I had mild spotting. By mild, I mean mostly white, but a smidge of hardly pinkish discharge (sorry men who read, that, but this is a birth story). My early weeks of pregnancy and Kellen’s early arrival had me on alarm. What kept going through my head was that I never felt contractions with Kellen. With him, when I arrived at the clinic I was 8 cm dilated and had no clue. How would I know if I was in labor? I did what every doctor tells you not to do. I googled “2nd trimester bleeding”. I was really quiet that night as I lay on the couch staring at my computer. My dad finally asked if I was okay and I said, “I don’t know” and went to my room with no further explanation. It was 10:00 and Kyle came up to go to bed. I told him what was happening and he crawled into bed, but also said, “just call the doctor, you’ll feel better after you’ve talked to them.”
Keep in mind, it was 10:00 on a Saturday night and I was 24 weeks pregnancy. I didn’t want the on-call doctor (it happened to be the doctor who delivered Kellen) to think I was crazy, so I gave every detail. “I have some light spotting, really, it’s barely any, I’m really tired and don’t feel very well, my first son was born at 34 weeks and I never felt a contraction, I’m a little concerned. My 24 week appointment is on Tuesday, do you think it’s okay if I wait or should I go in in the morning?” I never thought I’d hear, “I’d like you go in now. They will do a swab that tests for a protein that could indicate you are at risk of going into labor within the next 14 days. If you test positive, there is a 15% chance that you will go into labor. If you test negative, we are confident you will not go into labor in the next two weeks, but you will be tested every two weeks for the duration of your pregnancy.”
Obviously, I was paying attention to what he was saying because I’ve memorized the conversation, but I couldn’t get past one thing. “You want me to go now?” He responded, “Yes. Going into labor at 24 weeks is rare, but with your history, we need to error on the side of caution”.
Fortunately, with my dad visiting, we didn’t need to call a sitter so late at night. When we arrived at the hospital the nurse was waiting for us and already had her orders. She checked my cervix and told us that I was 70-80% thinned, but I was not dilated. She told me that her guess was my bed rest was starting immediately. Shortly after, the fFN came back positive and we waited while the nurse was on a conference call with the OB. I started picturing myself in my bed at home for the next several weeks and felt horrible for myself. My imagination couldn’t comprehend what I actually heard, “the paramedics are coming to transfer you to Riverside where they are equipped to treat your baby, if he were born now.”
I arrived at Riverside at about 2:00 in the morning and we settled into bed rest. Kyle and Kellen visited each night for dinner. Visitors started bringing food and things for me to do while I was in bed. I kept working when I had time. We had a calendar marked with our goals; 28 weeks – the point when 90% of babies will survive, 32 weeks – the point doctors said I may be able to transfer to home bed rest and 35 weeks, when I could come off bed rest. My bed rest orders allowed me to use the bathroom and take one short shower every day.
Things were going smoothly until I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. It was 3:30 AM, Thursday. It wasn’t a lot, but there was bright red blood. I called the nurses and was soon blinded by the light as two nurses and a resident filled my room. The doctor checked my cervix and I was fully thinned and 3 cm dilated. They started IVs and the nurse was squeezing the bags trying to get the fluids into my body faster. I asked if I should call Kyle, and the resident said, “We’re going to try to stop your labor, but you’re scared, I don’t want you to be alone when you’re this scared.” I called Kyle and he said he’d call his mom, who lives two hours away. I was firm, “No. Call Bev” Our neighbor, Bev arrived soon and Kyle arrived at the hospital at 4:15 just after the resident checked my cervix and found that I had already reached 6 cm. She told us that we had reached the point of no return, Owen was coming now. They started prepping me for OR, Kellen had been an emergency c-section and the plan was for me to have another. When we arrived in the OR, the resident checked my cervix again. In these short 15, or less, minutes I had completed. They could not sit me up for the epidural. My choice was to be put under for the c-section or go try to push. They didn’t want to put the mother of a child who they knew would be in respiratory stress under and felt it was safer to push. Even though Kellen had gotten stuck, Owen was much smaller and likely would be able to pass.
Have I ever mentioned that I had extreme fear of labor? I was terrified of the pain. TERRIFIED. Since I can remember, it was one of my biggest fears and now, I was faced with a delivery using no medication and pushing out a baby that I desperately did not want out. I’d love to say it was beautiful and natural, but those are the last words I’d use to describe the delivery.
The Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist arrived just as we got to the laboring room and she immediately broke my water. I really only remember two things. One, the pain of a nurse holding the fetal monitor on my stomach. It’s a funny thing to complain about while you’re giving birth, but it was weirdly painful. I shoved her hand away many times, and even told her “I’d like to cut your hand off”. The other thing I remember was when Owen crowned and they asked me if I wanted to touch him. I refused. I was too afraid. Kyle touched Owen’s head. I was proud of him for being so brave.
And then at 5:18 AM the room was silent except for the faintest little cry. He was breathing and his APGARs were higher than Kellen’s had been…7, 8 and 8. It gave me hope. He was fighting the NICU staff too hard that they could not intubate him in the labor room so the NNP wrapped him up and carried him over to me for the briefest kiss. He was so tiny, but I could already see he looked like his brother. He was beautiful.
I didn’t get to cherish the moment for long. He needed to get to the NICU and my doctor informed me the placenta was stuck and there was only one, very unpleasant way to get it out. Did I mention, I was not on any pain medications?
And that, is the story of the day that my life changed forever.