Yesterday, November 17, was National Prematurity Day. In honor of all the NICU nurses and doctors who walked us through that very scary time && to show how important it is to still work to research and raise money for preemies, I’d love to share my birth story.
My pregnancy was anything but “normal.” After one round of IUI, we found out we were pregnant with twins. Because we had undergone fertility treatments, twins wasn’t unexpected, but it was still a bit scary! I knew that my pregnancy would be a higher risk, but decided to have a “can do” attitude about it all.
Within the first few days of finding out I was pregnant, I had a terrible reaction to my fertility meds that had gotten me pregnant. I went into something called “Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome” you can read more here. Essentially, my abdomen filled with fluid, my sodium levels dropped to dangerously low levels, and I was put in ICU to have a minor surgery to remove the fluid and restore normal sodium levels. Needless to say, it was not an easy start.
Morning sickness followed, but what followed was much more scary and stressful. At my 18 week level 2 ultra sound, the doctors saw that my cervix was shortening. I was put on modified bed rest, meaning I could go to work, but then come home and be in bed for the rest of the night. Despite this modification, my cervix continued to shorten and on October 1, I was put on full bed rest at 21 weeks pregnant.
That Friday night, I felt off. My stomach kept tightening (which I would come to learn were contractions) and I called my doctor. She advised me to go to the Maple Grove Hospital and when we arrived, I was in labor with contractions that were 5 minutes apart and I was dilated 1 cm. I was scared shitless.
Maple Grove Hospital does not have a level 4 NICU, so they rushed me by ambulance to the U of M where I was given 2 different blood pressure medicines (to stop the uterus from contracting- the uterus is a muscle like the heart) and a steroid shot to develop the girls’ lungs in case they were born.
Those first 2 days in the hospital were some of the darkest in my life. I prayed harder than I ever have and imagined a fortress being built around my stomach to hold my girls in. I ignored the doctor who asked me several times what I would like to do if the girls were born now. In her words “would you like us to try and intervene at 22 weeks or do you want to just let them go knowing how many issues they’ll have?” I had no tolerance for her question or her assumptions. I just needed to get through day by day and make that decision if it had come.
Thankfully, I made it 6 more weeks in the hospital. I was doing so well, that they were planning on sending me home where I would carry out the rest of my pregnancy, on bedrest of course.
And as life would happen, it doesn’t always work out that way. The Thursday before I was going to be discharged, they gave me another steroid shot to develop the girls’ lungs. That night, I felt Evie move and my contractions started. The doctors again tried to intervene, giving me a HUGE dose of magnesium sulfate (both to stop labor and to develop the girls’ brains), and wouldn’t let me eat for 2 days in case they needed to do an emergency C-section. That night, I had my bloody show and after checking me again the next morning, I was dilated 4 cm. The doctor made the call to do an emergency C-Section at 27 weeks 5 days.
Evie was born at 5:33 pm and weight 2 lbs, 8 oz and Mila was born at 5:34 and weighed 3lbs even.
Any mom who has had a labor and delivery story that is not how she imagined can understand the heartache that comes with that. What I imagined would be a joyous day was one of the scariest of my life. Not only that, I was on so many meds that I wasn’t fully aware as to what was going on- a blessing and curse at the same time.
I knew, deep down, that my girls would be okay, but seeing these tiny little things intubated and pricked and poked makes you feel so much guilt as a mother.
I struggled in not blaming myself. Why couldn’t my body do it? Why did my girls have to go through this?
There were so many blessings though that we clung to- neither of the girls had a brain bleed, we had an extremely supportive family, and our work was allowing us the time to be with the girls during this time- something I know not every job affords.
Our girls were in the NICU for 72 days. And in those 72 days, they fought so hard and amazed us with their resiliency. We went home close to their due date (January 29) and soon wished we were back in the NICU 😉 (hello sleep deprivation!!!!).
To say we are blessed is an understatement. Our girls walked out of the NICU without any complications. Evie’s hearing loss is genetic (she would be deaf even if she had been born full-term) and Mila is a completely normal 5-year-old. Obviously, Evie’s language is in the low-average range for her age, but she’s deaf so that’s to be expected! Mila did have some speech issues early on, but those are resolving and she is a healthy, happy 5-year old who is ready to start kindergarten next year.
And as for that guilt? It still hits me sometimes. I know fully that none of it was my fault and I’ve grieved the loss of a “normal pregnancy.” I try and stay in the now and remind myself how lucky we are to live in a time where modern medicine allows such miracles to happen every day.