The Birth Story

On April 12, 2011, I was admitted to the George Washington University Hospital in preterm labor.  My membranes had ruptured prematurely (PRROM), I was contracting and was already several centimeters dilated.  I was only 23 weeks pregnant at the time.   That day was one of the scariest days of my life.  The night before while I was working my usual shift (3:00pm - 1:30am), I wasn’t feeling well.  One minute I was a sweating, the next minute I was freezing.  I had one of the nurses at my office check my temperature but it was normal.  I just didn't feel right and I couldn't really figure out what was going on.  I called a 24 hour obstetrics line through my health insurance company and spoke with a nurse.  She told me to drink fluids and get lots of rest.  The nurse suggested that I might be coming down with something.  But something to me just didn’t seem right.

I went to bed that night around 2:00am, completely exhausted and still not feeling quite right.  Two hours later, I woke up when I felt something leaking.  I was so tired at that point that it didn’t really occur to me that it was amniotic fluid.  I changed my clothes and immediately went back to bed.  I woke up again around 6:00am, feeling even worse.  I took my temperature and found that it was over 100 degrees.  Shortly after that, I began having contractions.  I finally called my OB’s office but it took about 20 – 30 minutes for a call back.  When I described what was happening, I was told that I should come in to the hospital.  In the meantime, Andrew was getting ready to leave for work with our two oldest children.  I called our good friend Maria who graciously agreed to come to our house to watch our three youngest.
When Maria arrived, I began my trip into DC to the hospital.  It was pouring rain and the middle of rush hour - a very bad combination in the DC Metropolitan area.  Normally the drive to the hospital would take about 30 minutes, but on this day it took twice as long.  During the drive, my contractions became stronger and more frequent.  And the majority of the drive was on a road with no shoulder.   So there I was, driving my car in bumper to bumper traffic, in labor and virtually no place to pull over.  It was horrible and terribly frightening.  I contemplated calling 911 but then I thought to myself, I'm having contractions but I'm not having the baby, not today.  After all, I was only 23 weeks pregnant.   

When I arrived at the hospital, I got out of the car and handed my car keys to the valet attendant.  A moment after that, there was a gush of fluid and I knew immediately that my water had broken.   As I walked into the hospital, crying and scared, a security guard smiled at me and excitedly said “It’s time? Go right on up!”   I remember sobbing on the elevator which was full of people and a woman patting me on the back and asking if I was okay.   
When I arrived to the labor and delivery section of the hospital, I called Andrew in tears to tell him my water had broken and then was immediately taken to a delivery room.  I asked the nurse what would happen next since my water had broken, she replied by telling me that I would have to let the doctors answer that question.  Minutes later a doctor came in and I had an ultrasound which confirmed that there was very little amniotic fluid left.  I was hooked up to an IV and eventually given medication to stop the contractions.  I was also given a steroid shot to help mature the baby’s lungs.   The OB told me that a neonatologist would come and talk to me about delivering a baby at 23 weeks.  When the nurse heard this, she suggested to me that I really listen to what the doctor said so that I would know what our options were.  I replied by telling her that I am Catholic and that we didn’t have any options.  She clarified and said we might just want to let nature take its course and hold our baby instead of utilizing medical intervention.  An anesthesiologist came and spoke with me in the event that delivery was imminent and I signed the consent form for a c-section.  Andrew arrived at some point during this time.  

When we spoke with the NICU fellow, she gave us the statistics and the possible outcomes for a 23 weeker.  The outcomes were grim, as 24 weeks is usually considered the age of viability.  I remember hearing that if our baby lived, he/she could be blind, deaf; have cerebral palsy or other significant impairments.  The doctor said that at some point we would need to make a decision about whether or not we would want them to resuscitate our baby.   We were told that if the baby weighed more than 500 grams, his or her chances of survival would be much higher.  We had an ultrasound where they estimated the baby to weigh just over 500 grams.  For us, there was never a question.  If Veronica had been born that day, she would have been resuscitated.  But who knows what her outcome would have been.

I spent the night in labor and delivery but was moved to an ante-partum room the following day.  At that point, we no longer felt that the birth was imminent.  It was time to start the waiting game.   Our initial goal was to make it to 24 weeks, which at that point, was only two days away.  After that, we would aim for 28 weeks and then 32.  We knew that every day, every extra hour was a blessing.  I started doing some research on micro preemies.  But I am not sure I could have fully prepared myself for what lay ahead. 

In the middle of the night of April 18, 2011, while still on hospital bed rest, I went to the bathroom and felt something unusual when I wiped.  I immediately thought that it was a prolapsed cord.  The doctors told me I was at higher risk for a cord prolapse since there was very little amniotic fluid left.  I called the nurse and within seconds a nurse and two doctors were in my room.   Jenny, my nurse, immediately put the fetal monitor to my belly.  The baby's heart rate was stable which of course was  a huge relief but when they checked me, instead of finding a prolapsed cord they found Veronica’s foot.   The attending physician was called and there was mention of needing to do an immediate c-section but ultimately they decided there wasn't enough time. 
I called Andrew at home and told him that the baby was coming.   Fortunately, my father had arrived to our home just hours earlier so Andrew was able to leave rather quickly without having to worry about our other five children.  After my call to Andrew, I was wheeled to labor and delivery and hooked up to an IV within seconds.  There were several nurses in the room, a medical student, a resident, the chief resident and the attending OB/GYN.  Two doctors and two nurses from the NICU were there as well.   Just minutes later, after three pushes, Veronica was born at 1:55am.  I was told that she cried, but I don’t remember hearing it.  Initially I didn’t see her as she was whisked half way across the room so the NICU staff could stabilize her.  I remember asking the OB staff if she was a boy or a girl, but I was told that I needed to wait.  It was as if they didn’t know.  I don’t know how long I waited before they let me see her.  The OB doctors asked that the NICU staff bring her over to me before they took her away.  I can barely remember what I saw.   Clearly she was small, like no baby I had ever seen.  Moments later she was gone and our 119 day NICU Journey had just begun.....   

(You can read my first post here.)