May 13th, 2018 I became a statistic. It was Mother’s day and I was expecting a normal day at work. I even got an earlier shift so we could have a nice dinner at home.
I had what at the time was believed to be Braxton Hicks contractions. We never in our wildest dreams considered them to be true early labor pains. They bothered me at work enough that I had to sit down a few times during my shift. I was even offered the option to go home early because my boss was worried.
We put in the new clothesline that we got as my birthday present and I had planned to use it the next morning since it was supposed to be warm and sunny. Billy cooked a nice meal and we talked about our day and what was left to get ready for the baby shower/gender reveal the following weekend. We were completely unprepared for how the night would end.
At dinner, I laughed and thought I had peed myself a little, as is common in late pregnancy. Didn’t think anything of it, changed my bloomers and laid down for a bit. About 20 minutes later I had a tickle in my throat, I coughed to clear it, ‘tinkled’ again. Decided to call my mom to see if I was peeing my self “well if it happens again to call the hospital to be safe”.
I told Billy what had been going on as we were putting laundry up before bed, as I went for a pair of socks the decision to call the hospital was made for me. They wanted me to come in to check me out and make sure nothing was wrong.
They did a test for the presence of amniotic fluid, it was positive, enter a list of expletives. My amniotic sac was ruptured, baby and I were at risk of infection and preterm labor. We were immediately admitted to the antenatal ward at 1 am.
I got hooked up to an IV with a saline drip and magnesium sulfate to prevent/slow labor, its also used to help with fetal brain development. I also got a shot in my tush every twelve hours to increase lung development. There was a monitor to watch the baby’s heart rate and watch for contractions. I was scared out of my wits!
Only Billy and my mom believed I was in labor, I was too scared to push the issue. The monitor wasn’t picking up my contractions and the nurses couldn’t palpate them either, but I was quite obviously in increasing pain every ten minutes or so.
Around 6 am Tuesday the pains got unbearable and had moved to my lower back, I was crying in almost constant pain. I could hardly breathe from pain and fear, then about 9 am or so I started to have a steady pressure in my lower back.
Mind you I’ve never given birth before so I was completely clueless to the fact that my body was saying to push. It was assumed I needed to make a bowel movement so they brought me a bedside commode. As I sat on it and ordered myself to relax I felt it, my baby had crowned.
I naturally was freaking out and screamed for my nurse and got back onto the bed where they had to force my thighs apart to take a look, and sure enough, they saw the head. They rolled me into a delivery room which was close by thank goodness and as we were going out the door Billy spilled the beans and told me we were having a girl, a little girl we might lose.
The doctor had come running in and had just enough time to put on some gloves because as they lifted my legs she shot out like a greased pig and he caught her right there. No pushing or screaming at my husband for doing this to me. They had Billy cut the umbilical cord then put her in a warmer to get her cleaned up checked her vitals.
I cried as I heard her crying, her lungs sounded just fine to me! I held her for the briefest of moments and then she was whisked away to the NICU, Billy followed her once he knew I was ok and I sat there waiting for them to let me see her.
My mother, grandmother, both my brothers and my sister-in-law all arrived at about the same time. Once our daughter was settled in they sent Billy back and he said he could take three people in to see her, I wasn’t allowed out of bed yet so I sent the matriarchs to see her and take lots of photos for me.
She had so many tubes and wires and machines hooked up to her. We were so scared. It was the beginning of a long and worrisome journey but Kathleen was worth it.
On that Tuesday morning we became a statistic, 9.5% of babies in the US are born premature, which is before 37 weeks. I was two days shy of 30 weeks when Kathleen was born, she weighed only 3lbs 5oz and was 17.3 inches long, we were told this was a good size for her gestation. Did this alleviate our fears of losing our only baby? Hell no! What did help was being able to hold her and snuggle her, to see her numerous wet diapers and to feel her grow heavier every day. She is one of 174 babies who annually are born at less than 32 weeks.
We were blessed with a good NICU and great nurses who celebrated every ounce gained. Kathleen had lots of visitors and admirers, I don’t think she’ll get to wear all the clothes we were given haha! I got to have 10-day hospitality stay after my release which was 2 days after she was born and they knew I wasn’t going to hemorrhage. I was in the NICU with her more than I was in my assigned room, once her night shift nurse Carmen, had to kick me out and made me go get some sleep in a bed rather than the chair next to her incubator.
She had her first tub bath and her first ‘birthday’ in the NICU. When her belly button stump fell off it landed in my lap, its now in her baby book. I remember Julie putting her footprints in her baby book for me at midnight while I recorded it for Billy since he had to take care of stuff at home that night. So much of it is a blur of driving an hour so I could hold my baby for hours in a recliner and watching the monitors when her oxygen or heart rate changed drastically. I remember cheering when I was told we didn’t have to weigh her diapers anymore because she had reached a certain weight, and when she finally graduated to getting to wear clothes.
The true milestone was getting her out of the incubator, once she could hold her temperature she got to be in a nursery bed in the open air. Not long after that we started working on doing bottle feedings instead of tube feeding, it was frustrating when she’d get half the bottle down then they’d have to put the rest into the feeding tube to keep her from getting too tired.
So many tests had to be done in the 7 weeks she was there. She had two sonograms on her head to check for bleeding, an echo to check on a heart murmur that thankfully resolved itself, and a catscan that discovered an anomaly called Periventricular Leukomalacia, that has also resolved itself.
We had been told not to expect her home til around her due date or later, so I started thinking early August since she had been due the last week of July. But she surprised everyone and came home 3 weeks earlier than her due date
Once home it was everything that I was warned about. She refused to sleep in her crib despite every trick we tried, so for a small time, we co-slept just so everyone could get some sleep. We had doctors’ appointments and shots and so many bottles and diapers. But I wouldn’t change it for the world. Kathleen is right in between her chronological age of 8 months (at the time this was written) and her adjusted age of 6 months with her developmental milestones, her size fits more her adjusted age but she’s more advanced than a 6-month-old. She’s our little trooper!
We are blessed that she isn’t one of the 329 babies born with a birth defect such as but not limited to retinopathy of prematurity (Stevie Wonder), cerebral palsy, apnea of prematurity, feeding issues, hearing problems, and developmental delays.
To explain adjusted/chronological age for those who don’t know the NICU lingo; chronological age is what your age is from the day you’re born, adjusted age is for premature babies, they go by the date the baby was due to track where they are developmentally both physically and the learning curve. For example, Kat’s due date was July 26th but she was born May 15th (10 weeks early) so when she is 6 months olds chronologically she is 3 and a half months adjusted age, we round up so we’d say 4 months.
All statistics were found on the March of Dimes webpage.