All mothers of preemies remember exactly what they were doing before their tiny, early babies arrived. Some mothers go into labor suddenly and have their little ones right away; some mothers go into labor and the doctors are able to stop it until the baby is big enough to be born; and some mothers experience something called pPROM, which is a preterm premature rupture of the membranes. I was one of the mothers who experienced pPROM, and for the entire year after it happened, I wondered if I could have done something different. The endless wondering of what did I do wrong? is something still whispered through my heart to this day.
Facebook reminds me every year that on Feb. 27, 2013, my water broke. That morning, I remember feeling a small gush of something, and I just knew it was bad news. I calmly woke my husband and asked him to get my daughter ready for the day (she was 3 at the time). When I called the labor and delivery desk, they joked that I must have peed my pants . . . I wanted to believe that so badly. As I drove myself to the hospital in our small, rural Missouri town, I felt my panic rising — this is not how being pregnant is supposed to be, I thought to myself. The tension was palpable in every nurse I greeted at the hospital and etched on my doctor's face. She was so sad and worried as she told me my water had broken 10 weeks early.
The tension was etched on my doctor's face. She was so sad and worried as she told me my water had broken 10 weeks early.
As soon as my doctor broke the news, everything seemed to speed up. I didn't have time to say goodbye to my husband and daughter before I was whisked away in an ambulance. From our rural Army post, the drive to Women's and Children's Hospital in Columbia, MO, was about two hours. It was one of the longest rides I've ever had. They hooked me up to a magnesium drip so I wouldn't start having contractions. The medicine made me feel sick, and the winding Ozark roads didn't help my uneasy belly. I wish I could remember the name of the paramedic that rode in the back with me, because she kept me calm the entire time. Once we arrived to the big hospital, she even stayed with me until the nurses got me settled into a room.
I didn't leave that hospital for three weeks. I didn't feel the first Spring-like day or the sunshine on my face. I didn't stand up long enough to hug my husband or my daughter. For three weeks, I laid in a hospital bed. Every day, and every night, I would will my body to keep my tiny son from coming into the world. I was desperately lonely at times, with only Grey's Anatomy and Breaking Bad to keep me company. Other times, there were too many nurses and doctors. My vitals were taken every shift, I was given heparin shots in my stomach twice a day so I wouldn't develop blood clots, and I was given antibiotics so I didn't get any infection from my water being broken for so long.
The days were bearable, and I was able to handle most of them with grace, especially once my sweet friends and family began sending me books and messages to keep me company. But the nights were terrible. I've never been anywhere as eerily quiet as an antepartum ward in a hospital at night. Any noise makes haunting echoes through the hallways, and the ever-present smell of disinfectant becomes suffocating at night. Every couple of nights, there would be a thundering rush of nurses as a woman was rushed down to the labor and delivery floor to have their tiny baby. Selfishly, I thought better them than me.
The nights were terrible. I was desperately lonely.
On March 20, 2013, we welcomed our 33-weeker into the world. It was an easy labor, and my husband made it just in time. We were thrilled to hear him give out a loud squawk when he was born — his lungs had developed enough, and he wouldn't have to be intubated. After three weeks of being in a bed, I was finally free to leave the hospital, but I didn't. Our son was in the NICU for an additional three weeks, and I refused to leave his side. Three weeks to the day after he arrived, we finally left Columbia with a tiny, five-pound baby.
There are days when I look at my now-almost-5-year-old son and shake my head thinking about how small he used to be. I joke that after everything I did to grow him, he owes me big time. But really, I mostly thank God for letting us escape the entire ordeal relatively unscathed. The nurses that cared for me, and then for my son, hold a very special place in my heart. They might not remember me, but I will remember them forever. They protected me, and then they protected my son — to me, and to all the families they have helped, they are heroes.
I still can't stand the smell of hospitals, or the beeping sounds of monitors, or the way the hallways echo when you walk down them. But I will always remember the lesson being on bed rest taught me: life doesn't follow a set path, and all you can do is hang on for the ride and keep smiling.