THE BIRTH STORY
Premature Rupture of Membranes... aka.. my water broke at 33 weeks + 3 days
So it's Mother's Day weekend 2018. I was supposed to work doing hair and makeup that Saturday but luckily, that client cancelled... (otherwise who knows if this would have happened sooner... and at someone else's house!) So instead I spent that Saturday day with my mom. We got coffee and pedicures, we went to Olive Garden for lunch, and we saw a funny girl movie. Towards the end of the movie, I did notice really sharp pains in my pelvis that I’d never had before, kind of in the location where you would notice period cramps. I figured it was Braxton Hicks, and it might have been, it's really hard to tell what weird pain is what for me during all of this. Once the movie was over I went pee (thinking maybe my bladder was just too full) and walked it off, and the pain went away. But we had a great Mother’s Day girls date, and ended it with some shopping at Ross and Costco, and then we went home.
That night I started cleaning my kitchen and living room. And I mean, I CLEANED. I see now that it was me starting to nest, because I literally spent about 4 or 5 hours just CLEANING EVERYTHING. The only thing that kept me from cleaning the rest of the house was that my back was getting sore. So I called it a night and went to bed.
Sunday- Mother's Day- May 13th
I woke up about 8 that morning. I usually wake up before my husband- he gets off work super late so I like to let him sleep in. Plus I've made it a little ritual of mine to drink my coffee on the back porch and read a book, and our two cats and dog join me out there and we just wake up slow and enjoy the morning. Once my husband got up, my only Mother's Day request was that I wanted donuts. Side note: one of my biggest cravings this whole pregnancy has been donuts- specifically the ones with chocolate and sprinkles. But obviously I'm not indulging in those very often because of the "technical gestational diabetes" but I figured, you know what? It's Mother's Day and I want a donut.
So Theron went and got donuts and picked up some flowers for met. We hung out in our freshly deep-cleaned living room drinking coffee, and I noticed my shirt was wet. I was confused, and realized one of my boobs had leaked through my little camisole. This was definitely a first. But I heard this could happen in the 3rd trimester, so I didn't think anything of it.
Theron had to go to work at 3pm, so I took a nap and just completely relaxed and welcomed my lazy day before going back to my work week Monday. I woke up from my 3 hour nap (don't judge- being pregnant is exhausting... and I didn't mean to sleep that much) at about 5. I got up, peed, walked around the house and tried to find motivation to do something. About a few minutes after I went pee, I was walking from my bedroom down the hallway to the living room and felt a little trickle. Oh no, I better get to the toilet. I didn't feel the need to pee, but you know, pregnancy does weird stuff right? So I keep walking to the bathroom and it just keeps coming out. I literally had no control over it, which is the weirdest feeling ever. I thought, okay. There it is. I finally peed myself. I knew I should have been doing more kegels...
I start to take my sweat pants off and MORE trickled out! So, the obvious thing to do was to grab my phone and snapchat my husband. "I either peed myself or my water broke," I said to him through snapchat, with a video and everything. I remained pretty calm, convinced I had just peed myself, but still Googled how to tell if its amniotic fluid or urine just in case. So as Dr. Google suggested, I put on clean undies with a panty liner and laid down for a half hour. If I got up after that and I leaked more, it was most likely amniotic fluid. Well, it happened again. And then one more time. Just a trickle, but definitely something that soaked through panty liners and that I had NO control over. I called my mom and calmly asked her if she could take me to the hospital, just to be sure.
I felt so silly, telling and retelling what had happened in the last hour to the ER check-in, L&D check-in, and to multiple nurses... I really thought I would be told it's no big deal and I have lost all control of my bladder because that happens, right? I will just have to spend the next 6 weeks peeing myself, I guess? I was only 33 weeks and 3 days, there was no way my water broke yet, right?? So I got admitted and the first nurse I had triaged me. They immediately put two monitors on my belly- one that picked up baby's heartbeat and one that picked up contractions. The nurse then did two different tests to check if it was indeed amniotic fluid (one a stick like a pregnancy test that would change color, the other went to the lab and was more accurate), put an IV in my hand (after taking forever to find a good vein…) and then finally checked me to see if I was dilated at all. I wasn't dilated, but she said she could feel baby was head down, and she pushed on my cervix a little and when she pulled her fingers out, a GUSH of fluid came out, and I noticed my belly wasn't as hard and round as it used to be. A little later the nurse came back and said the lab results came back, and it was 100% amniotic fluid and I would not be going home.
The game plan was to start me on steroids to mature baby's lungs (they gave me this shot in the thigh- OH MY GOD), just in case she came early. Side note: the steroids make your blood sugar levels super high- so even though I was given the "diabetic" hospital food- my numbers were the highest they had ever been. I was given an IV fluid drip, and I was asked if I was having contractions, and at that time I wasn't as far as I knew. I was told I would be transferred to a hospital 35 miles away that had a NICU, since the hospital in my home town did not. Since I didn't seem to be in labor, the doctor on call decided I would be transferred in the morning since it wasn't urgent yet. **In hindsight though, this doctor probably should have ordered an ultrasound to see how much fluid was left and if my baby was okay. Luckily baby ended up being fine, but amniotic fluid is kind of an important thing to a baby in utero.
Theron came by about 1am when he got in to town from work, brought me food, and I sent him home to get some sleep and put together a bag of stuff- since we didn't have a hospital bag packed at all. He was freaking out and very stressed, and I was calm and surprisingly chill. It's funny how we always seem to balance each other out when we need it.
Also, I wasn't put on magnesium until about 2 am, when I called my nurse in and told her I was having really bad period-like cramps that I definitely couldn't sleep through. Of course, I didn't know that these might have been contractions, so I just asked for something for the pain so I could sleep (I literally didn’t sleep that night between the cramps, how hot the damn room was, the tv that was on that I couldn’t figure out how to turn off…) The nurse went and spoke to the doctor and then he ordered I be put on a magnesium drip- which "unofficially" stops contractions, but she said it would help with the pain. And when you're put on magnesium, you have to have this cool cup thing *sarcasm* in the toilet that you pee into so the nurses can make sure you're putting out enough urine, since it dehydrates you (and makes you SUPER thirsty). You also have to have your blood pressure taken every hour (yes, even when you’re trying to sleep). Everything private just goes out the window when you stay in the hospital.
Monday, May 14th
The next morning I was transferred by ambulance to the other hospital that had the NICU team. This whole experience was one of firsts- First hospital stay, first shot in the thigh and eventually my butt, and first ambulance ride. It was a very chill ambulance ride, since I wasn't in labor or anything- but since I was hooked up to magnesium and fluids, it was the only way to transport me. Theron followed the ambulance in our car. We got to Mercy Medical and we were taken to the room I would unknowingly be spending the next three and a half days in. The L&D wing of this hospital was like an upgrade from the one I was transferred from. Our room looked like a freaking hotel room, Theron and I joked that we got an upgrade.
The nurses got me comfortable and told me what they thought the game plan would be. Since I had never been to that hospital, I would pretty much be at the mercy of whatever attending was on call, and what they thought should happen. On the whiteboard in my room, the "labor goals" section said STAY PREGNANT, which Theron and I thought was kind of funny. They wouldn't check me because of risk of infection with my membranes ruptured. The doctor ordered an ultrasound right away, which Theron and I were relieved to hear. The resident doctor came in and kind of vaguely went over what the game plan for them was (all the doctors were super vague, and at this point I wasn't sure if I was going to be kept pregnant til 34 weeks or until 36+ weeks- either way I was on bed rest until further notice.) The plan remained, bed rest with iv fluids and magnesium, and the second steroid shot that night- which was in my ass this time and OH MY GOD. Also, when you’re on bed rest you have to wear these things on your calves that massage them so you don’t get a blood clot, and there’s this plastic thing you’re supposed to breathe into so many times an hour to exercise your lungs. SUPER FUN.
The next few days all blur together, with being on bed rest and all. I slept a lot, Theron and I would play words with friends, watch movies, and just hang out. I mentioned a shower Monday night to my night shift nurse, and she made it seem like I wasn’t allowed to with my iv’s and everything… and I had my first meltdown that night. I was sweaty, I had been wearing the same bra for over 24 hours now (the iv’s made it impossible to take off), my hair was disgusting to the point where no dry shampoo helped. So the nurse brought us stuff to pretty much sponge bathe me, and agreed to detach the iv’s for a second so I could change my bra and put on a new hospital gown. I finally got to take a shower on Tuesday thanks to this super sweet day nurse I had, it’s amazing what a simple shower can do for you mentally.
Wednesday, May 16th
I was kept on magnesium and fluids until Wednesday morning- two new doctors were on and they didn't see the problem with inducing me at 34 weeks (which would be Thursday- the next day) since I had the steroids. So it went from the unknown to okay, we will be parents by the weekend.
They took me off magnesium at about 7am Wednesday morning. Theron hung out with me all day, and that evening Theron brought a bunch of snacks into the hospital room and we ate yummy food and watched a movie, as our "last date night before becoming parents". I had been having those period-like cramps all day since being taken off magnesium, but nothing terribly painful- plus I was told contractions would feel higher on my belly and wrap around and make my stomach tight, but the pain I had always stayed very low in my pelvis.
At about 10 pm that night during mine and Theron's movie, these "cramps" started getting more intense, where I would have to stop whatever I was doing and close my eyes and breathe through it. These got more and more intense- but the monitors never showed that I was having contractions, and this one small detail made my labor mentally very difficult. We asked the nurse for a labor ball, and for about two hours Theron helped me rock through the "cramps" that seemed to be getting more intense and closer together. We tried to keep track of them ourselves on an app, but it was hard for Theron to know when they started and I was in such pain that I couldn't do it myself- so we quickly gave up on that. I had a few different nurses that night, because my main one got called in on a delivery for her other patient. But every nurse I had- even the head nurse- didn't seem to believe me that I was having contractions. The only way I can describe the pain is that it felt like someone took a samurai sword and stuck it up through my cervix and that pain shot through my whole body. NOT what I thought contractions would feel like- the pain stayed so low in my pelvis, and it was the most excruciating pain I had ever felt.
Thursday, May 17th
My original labor plan was to labor at home as long as possible (ha!) and move around during labor. But whenever I stood up to try that, it's almost like that kickstarted a contraction, and I would immediately regret trying to stand. So I pretty much labored in my hospital bed for hours- and I barely remember any of that time. At about 4 in the morning, I begged the nurse to check me because I just KNEW I was in labor (even though I was told REPEATEDLY that I was NOT having contractions...) My nurse checked me and said I wasn't dilated at all. I had a freaking breakdown. I started bawling- out of exhaustion, pain, and frustration. I was so frustrated that no one seemed to believe me that I was not only in excruciating pain, but also in labor. I had no idea what I was doing, I thought a nurse would help me labor, tell me what to do... but I was literally left in the room alone (Theron was there, poor guy didn't know how to help me. Everytime he tried to touch me I swatted him away). And that's probably not their job, and that's fine- but the hardest part for me was not being validated in my pain, to not be believed when I told them I think I'm in labor. Anyways, during my meltdown my nurse asked me if I wanted something for the pain and to help me sleep. Relieved for some kind of solution to my pain, I said yes. I was given fentanyl (oh my LORD, that's a good drug) and almost immediately I felt all pain go away and I was high as a kite, and I went to sleep.
About an hour and a half later I woke up to a contraction. I could only be administered fentanyl every 2 hours, so I had to wait a little bit to get more. At about 6am they gave me another dose, and I kind of slept but this time it only took the edge off of them, but I still managed to sleep for about a half hour or so. Theron also slept this whole time in the corner. I woke up about 7:15am and tried the best I could to "work" through my contractions... by "work" I mean I clung to my hospital bed railing, thinking I’m going to die from the pain. By the way, this whole time the monitors weren't picking up contractions and the pain still stayed very low in my pelvis. Looking back I'm wondering if this had to do with lack of fluid in my uterus, how small the baby was, or how engaged the baby's head was... maybe a combination of those things, but who knows.
The next few hours I don't really remember. I know I got a new nurse for the day shift, she was a nurse I had a few days earlier so it was nice to see a familiar face, and she ended up being the perfect nurse I could have ended up with to help me deliver my baby. Theron eventually woke up, I don't know what time. They brought in the breakfast tray and I remember it smelled so disgusting, but I tried to eat a biscuit anyway since I hadn't eaten anything, but then another contraction came and I only got down a few bites.. At one point someone was putting a cold washcloth on my forehead and my neck. I just remember clinging to my hospital bed and saying curse words under my breath everytime I was having a contraction… not my most lady-like moment.
At one point when I went pee, I finally saw my mucus plug and I told the nurse. At about, I'm guessing 8:30 or 9, I was asked if I wanted an epidural- that the doctor on call would approve it (since they thought I wasn’t very dilated still) because she didn't want her patients in pain if they didn't want to be. Side Note: My original birth plan was no epidural- mostly because I wanted to see if I could do it without, and also I wanted to be able to move around during labor, and the catheter thing freaked me out. I wasn’t opposed to it- I just wanted to see if I could do it. Well eff that. Since at this point I literally could not move around during labor anyways, I could barely do that to get up and pee, and I just needed relief from this pain that I had no idea how to work through- I definitely said yes to the epidural. When the anesthesiologist came in, I'm pretty sure I was entering transition because I started throwing up and the contractions kept getting closer together and more intense. Apparently I was shaking, too- though I don't remember this. Theron helped me sit up and held me still while the anesthesiologist worked on placing the epidural between my contractions. I sat on the edge of the bed while he help my shoulders still, and I had my hands on his waist. We should have looked later to see if there were bruises on his hips because I squeezed them so hard through a contraction and then through the epidural.
They got the epidural placed, and I laid down and was finally able to breathe and my body could relax. It was such a relief. The nurse placed the catheter (I didn't care about this once it came down to it) and she said, "Okay Alyssa, you get to take a nap and rest now". A few minutes later, I felt pressure down there, kind of where my butt is. I informed my nurse and she said, "oh... ok let me ask if I can check you." She called someone on her little nurse phone, and got the O.K. She checked me and looked at me and said, "Well, you don't get to take a nap- you're 10 plus 2." *the plus 2 part apparently means how far the baby's head is engaged in the birth canal*
The nurse said resist the urge to push while they get the room set up for delivery. She notified the NICU team to come set up in my room, they had a little portable incubator bed set up in the corner within 10 minutes, and I think I had about 8 to 10 people in my room all together. My nurse realized my bed wasn't a delivery one, so they wheeled one in and they moved me to that bed. The stirrups were put up, my legs were put in them, and the nurse said "Okay, we're gotta do some practice pushes" so whenever I felt pressure, I was to push. Of course, I couldn't feel anything and I told her this. She applied pressure to my perineum and told me to bear down like I was taking a poop, where I felt her fingers. When I pushed, I was to grab both my legs and pull them up toward me and push, Theron helped pull my left leg back. We did a few test pushes and she said, "okay, let me inform the doctor we're almost ready for her." We kept pushing with every contraction (I guess at some point they had given me pitocin to help regulate my contractions) and the nurse said that baby was stuck on my pubic bone, so Theron and the nurse laid me on my right side, and when I had a contraction I was to pull my left leg towards me and bear down. We did that for a few pushes, and then I was able to lay on my back again. I pushed for a little bit, and when the nurse said that she could see her head and it had hair, I was ready. I finally showed up for my labor, and I was ready to meet my daughter. I pushed and pushed with all that I had, I even let out a guttural yell that I couldn't repeat now even if I tried. I was determined to get her out, for all of this to be over, to be a mom, to meet my daughter.
The doctor switched places with the nurse and Eliana came into this world. I heard someone say, "grab your baby" and she was handed to me and put on my chest.
Eliana Ray was born at 11:08 am on May 17th 2018, weighing 5.67 lbs and was 17.25 inches long.
She laid on my chest for exactly one minute, nurses and doctors were examining her this whole time, but I was so thankful that we had at least that moment as a family before they took her to the NICU. My mom had gotten there right when I was yelling and pushing her out, and my mom was able to take some pictures with her phone of me holding Eliana for the first time. But even as she laid on my chest, I could tell she was struggling to breathe fully, her lungs were not working 100%. The minute was over, Theron cut the cord, and Theron followed the NICU team and our daughter.
My mom stayed with me while the doctor helped deliver my placenta and sewed up my 2nd degree tear. I fell in and out of an exhausted sleep multiple times, the nurse came in to check on me and bring me snacks. I remember she brought me one of those peanut butter and jelly uncrustables things, and it was the best thing I had ever eaten in that moment. I'm not sure how long I laid there, but my nurse came in and pressed on my abdomen and I felt a gush of blood come out. She stuffed a bunch of the sheets I had delivered on between my legs, and she brought in a wheelchair. She helped me get into the chair, wheeled me to the bathroom, and helped me get out of the chair and even helped me wash my nether-regions. She was so kind and didn't make me feel embarrassed at all, which is always appreciated when someone is spraying water on your hoo-haw. She hooked me up with some mesh underwear and a giant pad, got me changed into a clean hospital gown, and she asked if I wanted to go see my baby while they moved our stuff to my new room.
She wheeled me to the NICU and explained the protocol of scrubbing in and all that. Eliana's doctor met me in the hallway outside the NICU room and updated me on Eliana's lungs. He explained she was on a CPAP machine to help her breathe, she had her IV in her foot because all of her veins blew out that they tried all over her little body. I was so afraid to touch her, I didn't really know what to do. I got really emotional seeing her there, thinking and wondering if it was my fault that I went into labor early, maybe I did something to make this happen. Maybe my thoughts made this happen, I mean, I did say on a regular basis how much I hated being pregnant. Of course, there's no way to know why or how it happened.
The days that followed
She was born on Thursday, and I was discharged on Saturday. I could have been discharged Friday, but since Eliana was in the NICU I had the option to stay one more day. I started pumping right away, trying to get my milk to come in. I was only able to get a few milliliters of colostrum the first day, and I got barely anything the second. But I kept pumping, every 3 hours (that's how often Elli was eating in the NICU). In my mind, pumping was the only thing I had control over to help my baby. After I was discharged she was in the NICU for 4 more days, and every day I drove 35 miles one way and spent about 6 to 8 hours at the hospital. I had a routine down, I would get there in time to change her, take her temperature, and feed her. I would hold her about 30 minutes after eating, then I would go pump. Then I would have about an hour to go get something to eat and decompress before coming back and doing it all again for her next feeding. Theron went back to work, but when he would get off work at night we would drive to Redding and visit our baby and spend at least one feeding there with her. In the whole NICU, I barely saw any other parents there. And the few that I did see, weren't there for very long. I truly believe that Eliana made such amazing progress because we were there so much with her. She knew she was loved and that she wasn't alone.
Eliana was able to graduate to a nasal cannula after just a day and a half on the CPAP machine. She had dropped below 5 lbs at one point. She had a feeding tube, and they were able to take that out after about 3 days when she proved she could meet the eating requirements every 12-hour nurse shift. By Monday she was breathing on her own, and we were informed Tuesday that as long as she keeps gaining weight, she could go home Wednesday. She passed her hearing, jaundice, and carseat tests, and we were discharged Wednesday. She left the hospital weighing a whopping 5lbs 1oz.