Warning, parts may be a bit TMI and it's so long.
It's been one month now since December 2 when I woke at about 1:30 am feeling pain around my abdomen. I tried, in my groggy state, to decide if they were contractions (not entirely uncommon for me even early in pregnancy), if I was dreaming, or if there was a third option. The pain was similar to contractions, but also different in a way I couldn't quite decide on when Temperance came walking into our bedroom.
I was happy for the distraction until I felt a gush. I was 33 weeks and 5 days by my doctor's calculations, but about 33 weeks 2 days by my own. Therefore I was "positive" it wasn't my water breaking. I tried to fall asleep with Temperance cuddled close, but the pain intensified and that nagging voice of caution was urging me to get out of bed. I knew as I walked to the bathroom that something was wrong. I turned on the light and immediately went into a panic when I saw blood, a lot of blood. And it was still coming.
I screamed for Ben. I told him to call my mom and our neighbor (our amazing neighbor would watch the kids until my mom could arrive) because we needed to go to the hospital. I was so scared we had lost our baby. I tried so hard to feel her move, but felt nothing, which made the fear surge.
Thankfully our neighbor had been awake when we called and immediately ran over. She prayed over me before we left, which was so comforting. Then we raced to the hospital. I really don't remember much of that drive. Definitely feels like an out-of-body experience. Ben quite vividly remembers driving 95 miles an hour down the usually crowded streets. I still didn't feel any movement from the baby.
We arrived at the hospital at about 2:30 am. They got me into an exam room and immediately tried to find a heartbeat. The most beautiful sound of my life. I also almost instantly felt her move. I was so bewildered by the sudden change. The nurse explained that after a traumatic event (like seeing a lot of blood during pregnancy) a person's brain goes into that fight-or-flight mode. Certain parts can actually shutdown until the fear has passed. She may have been moving the whole time, but I couldn't process the movement in my state at the time.
At that point, I was happy. I didn't know what the outcome of that day would be, but if losing my baby wasn't an option, then I was good. The next step was to find out where the blood was coming from. Initially they thought my water had broken. It can be common for blood to be in the water, but the nurse admitted there was a great deal of it. It was the working theory, and they started preparing us for a possibly long hospital stay. They wouldn't let me go home if my water was broken due to risk of infection, but since baby still had enough they wanted to control the contractions and keep her growing. Ben and I started planning how we'd manage school and work and three kids with me at the hospital for an unknown amount of time. But things changed.
After an ultrasound, they determined my water was not broken and that the bleeding was from my cervix being irritated from contractions and dilation. This was surprising to me because a) irritation doesn't usually involve THAT much blood and b) this was my fourth rodeo and my cervix should be use to this by now. Basically I figured they didn't know where the blood was coming from, but they were coming up with a way to make it and the contractions stop and send me home.
The first drug they gave me made me wish for the contractions back. It made my whole body shake uncontrollably. It did make the contractions almost disappear (that or I was distracted by the shaking). The nurse was confident we'd be released at 4pm (12 hours after the drug was administered). Feeling better, I told Ben to go home and help my mom with school drop-offs. Meanwhile, I tried to relax, which was hard because the triage room bed was awful! The end of it is meant to come off, but mine was broken and kept sliding off. I kept tensing trying to keep it on, which made the contractions worse. They were trying to get me a different room, but things were busy that night (I heard 6 lullabies that morning, each signifying a new baby being born). I spent another two hours on that bed, and they gave me another injection of the awful drug to try and stop the contractions again. They could only give two doses in 12 hours.
About an hour later, I texted Ben to come back. The contractions weren't going away. The doctor came in a little before lunch and said it looked unlikely that they would be able to stop the contractions. They wanted to send me to Pensacola (1.5 hours away) because that was the closest NICU Level 3 (critical level) facility. He was going to talk with the high-risk doctor there to be sure.
Finally a labor roomed open up and even though I wasn't officially admitted to the hospital yet, I was moved to a wonderful non-broken bed. They also gave me one more drug to stop contractions. No shaking this time, but it spaced them out a little. The nurses told me to prepare for a few days of this. Again, Ben and I went into planning mode. How to manage three kids with me and baby 1.5 hours away ... but then I felt the contractions intensify.
The doctor came back to tell me they were in the process of getting me transport papers to Pensacola. Now, it had been about 2 or 3 hours since he initially told me we might go to Pensacola. I wasn't confident on an anymore expeditious gathering of transport papers. I told him that my last labor was 3 hours from first contraction to baby being born, and I was worried that at this rate, I'd have a baby in an ambulance. To which he replied, "so you think you are in labor?" Yes. Yes, I was 100% confident baby was coming. Three drugs back to back had just spaced the contractions, and there were no more options for another 8 hours. Blessedly, he said he would think about it. I didn't want to be separated from my baby, but I also didn't want to have a baby in an ambulance away from the specialists she might need and possibly in crazy, construction-infested Destin traffic. He agreed to keep me in Destin. Having a doctor listen to you is amazing.
Throughout the next two hours, I was surprisingly calm. I can only contribute my calm versus my usually anxiety to the amount of prayer we were covered in. Dozens of friends and family were praying for us in addition to our church family after a prayer chain was activated. We received so many texts of encouragement and assurances of their prayers for us. It is easily one of the greatest blessings of my life.
At about 2:30 pm I asked for an epidural and was officially admitted 12 hours after arriving. I had a less than stellar experience with my epidural during Juliette's birth, but wanted to try a bit earlier this time. Contractions hadn't quite gotten to the "I can't do this" point, but had definitely entered "I don't wanna do this" territory. An hour later I had one placed, and it was worth every penny! Team Epidural -- if you can get one soon enough to actually help! I could feel the contractions, but they didn't hurt. During the next 45 minutes I went from 6 cm to 10.
The nurses began calling and pulling in all kinds of people to prepare for delivery. I was officially getting anxious. I had no idea what was ahead of us. Was there a reason for her early delivery? Was it linked to her growth/development in any way? How long would I be separated from her? Would she be able to breath on her own? Would she cry? Would I get to hold her before they took her away? It was all a bit overwhelming, but I also had one big, imminent question. How would I push without being able to feel my lower body?!
After 12 people filled the room (miraculously one was a NICU nurse from Pensacola who was in Destin to help them set up their Level 2 (non-critical) unit opening in January), the doctor told me to pretend to push like I had in past deliveries. So I did. To my continued shock, Ben said he saw her head almost immediately. One more push during the same contraction and out Felicity Noelle came at 4:44 pm (perfect for a fourth baby!). Easiest birth yet (especially since Juliette had to have a vacuum assist in her birth). Then we waited. Almost immediately she cried (which they told us not to expect). A few minutes later they gave me all 5lbs 1oz of her to hold. The pediatrician was elated at her condition given her young gestational age, but after just a few moments had to take her back to prepare for transport to Pensacola.
The doctor delivered the placenta next, and a team of people took it. He came back a short while later and said they believed her early delivery was due to the placenta starting to detach from the uterus - placenta abruption. This was also the likely source of bleeding. I believe this was probably a result of a fall I had around 28 weeks. I was out walking my dog when I stepped into a hole and fell, severely spraining my ankle and apparently likely damaging the placenta. Thankfully the drugs did not stop the contractions as it could have meant much worse results for Felicity and/or myself if it had gone on undiagnosed.
About two hours later they wheeled me to the nursery to see my baby. I had been doing really well emotionally until this point. Seeing your baby covered in cords, hooked up to monitors, and having trouble breathing is a hard sight. Everything I'd been holding in came out. The ambulance team gathered around me, and each told me what they would be doing to see my baby safely to Pensacola. One even said he was a father of four and understood what we were going through after a NICU stay of their own. I really felt their confidence and care of our Felicity, which helped a bit. We spent several minutes with her taking pictures and kissing her head gently. Then I said goodbye to both Felicity and Ben, who would be driving behind them to Pensacola. I went to my postpartum room alone, but looking forward to the next day when I would see my baby again.
|Second time holding her|
The next 17 days would consistent of constant pumping, weighing diapers, counting grams of weight lost or gained, schedule deconflicting, packing and repacking, hand washing to the point of cracking and bleeding, sleepless nights from the beeping monitors and IV sticks, learning to bottle feed, crying because I was sick and unable to see my baby for 4 days, mourning the loss of those first few special days with a newborn, and the constant limbo of not knowing what tomorrow would hold or look like. But it was also such a blessing filled time! Our friends fed us everyday we were home; the Ronald McDonald house offered us a place to stay, eat, and shower; gifts and cards and messages poured in; Ben's work allowed him to work remotely; Ben got to connect with this baby like he'd never gotten to before with a newborn; blissful hours of holding my baby with no interruptions (a perk for a fourth baby even with all the cords!); meeting nurse after amazing nurse who loved on our baby when we couldn't; and seeing how lucky we were that our baby just needed to get bigger and nothing more scary. It was a hard time to be sure, but we're also so thankful for it. It made her coming home and the holidays following all the more meaningful. I don't recommend the rollercoaster, but we're a family of six now and it's wonderful.
|Getting a little too orange.|
|Nona visiting for the first time!|
|First visit from big sisters!|
|New room on Level 2 - Non-critical!|
|Passed car seat test!|
|Going home at 11 pm!|
|Waking up to their new sister!|
|Best picture of how tiny she is.|
|She smiles ALL the time.|