I went into labor at 25 weeks, 4 days – 12 days after my water broke.
It was due to an infection that is most often associated with prolonged labor, which technically I was in. Once your water breaks, it’s the start of labor whether you have your baby right away or not. And at this point, it was unquestionably an emergency situation, as I’d been told it would almost certainly become.
I won’t ever forget how quickly I went into active labor and the way my mom looked at me as I felt Charlie coming. My mom immediately ran to get the nurse at that point, and within seconds a code team of doctors and nurses were surrounding me. I screamed at them to stop probing me, yet again, and to call my own doctors and the NICU team, none of which happened; there was simply no time. As I laid in my bed, terrified, they took me back to the ICU, to the OR room, and my mom’s face as I left with PJ was a face I had never seen before. I seriously think she never thought she’d see me or her grandchild alive again.
Once we hit the OR, I was still only surrounded by doctors and nurses I didn’t know, and it terrified me, and as much as I tried, I was only barely able to stay in control of myself, begging them to make the labor stop. Thankfully, the NICU team arrived just about the time we did.
The care I received was very personal; everyone was invested in Charlie. I had PJ holding one hand, a nurse holding the other, three anesthesiologists keeping me calm, a slew of physicians on either side of me, and a group of the NICU staff in my right corner. My obstetrician didn’t make it until I was already beginning to push, so she oversaw the team, and provided me with genuine empathy as well as honest love and support.
I remember PJ saying, clear as day, “She’s crying and she’s beautiful,” even though I couldn’t – the adrenaline didn’t allow it past the white noise in my ears.
The NICU team had her intubated in less than 30 seconds and one of our favorite neonatologists showed her to me before they rushed her up to the NICU. There wasn’t a dry eye in sight. In that moment, I was okay. I realized our birth story was our version of perfect. It wasn’t ideal, and I do mourn not being able to hold Charlie to term, but when put in that situation, you must adapt.
At 1lb 9oz, our daughter was born more than 14 weeks (3.5 months) early, and we were terrified. We knew babies were born premature, but never knew they could be born and survive this premature. We had no idea what we were facing. We were now NICU parents. I was a NICU mom, and PJ was a NICU dad, and I can tell you that nobody but us aspired to be that. I knew Charlie’s entrance into the world was going to be tough, and in getting that title meant she made it through labor and delivery and that she was already beating the odds.
As a NICU mom, you wheel your half-dressed, still-recovering body up to see your baby as soon as your doctor says you can. And as I wheeled myself into the NICU, I cried my eyes out as I tried to keep myself together. The guilt overwhelmed me as I looked at the machines keeping Charlie alive. Yet, there was none of the judgement I feared. It was a world only a few would ever have to witness – a place where the sickest babies are given a fighting chance at life, and a place my family called home for the next 5 weeks, 2 days.
My husband PJ, I feel, was often forgotten because of everything I endured, but in reality he experienced damn near everything I did too. My health and Charlie’s health were out of his control and I know he felt helpless. He had to choose between being with his critically ill newborn, or his recovering wife. I, of course, wanted him to be with Charlie, especially when I couldn’t, so while I know he felt guilty leaving me in the OR, I was relieved knowing he was with Charlie.
At 10 days old, and still weighing less than 2 pounds, I held my daughter for the first time, her miniature hands placed perfectly on my chest. I will forever be thankful to the nurse who gave me that milestone. It’s a moment that will be etched in my heart for the rest of my life.
The constant beeping and alarms in the NICU will haunt you, and even when you leave you still can hear them. Personally, for my own sanity, I needed to be there as often as possible. And I found so much joy in her routine care: I could change her diaper, take her temperature, help weigh her, pump my milk to help feed her, and help keep her calm for blood gases. I developed relationships with her nurses, respiratory therapists, and neonatologists. I made sure to be by her isolette for morning and nighttime rounds. I was included in every decision and aspect of her care. I shut down to the outside world, because watching baby after baby come and go from the NICU, I knew that every minute with Charlotte was precious.
Because honestly, there is no option, no direction, no decision, outside of staying strong. That’s what it meant to be a NICU mom, and that was, without question, what kept me going.
(Sometimes I wonder if that’s what still keeps me going.)
To Be Concluded…
LabFinder is a no-cost, online platform for people to easily schedule their medical tests and view results securely. The LabFinder team is passionate about improving the ‘patient and doctor experience’ through better communication, reduce out-of-pocket expenses and making everyone know more about their own medical tests. The mission of LabFinder is simple: we want to be solution to you and get you the test results you deserve so you can make right choices about your health.