Part 1: A Preterm Birth
On May 28, 2019 at 10:35 am my husband and I were blessed with a beautiful baby girl. She was everything I wished for, a tiny pink baby with big dark eyes, wrapped snuggly in a warm cotton hospital blanket. She was, and is, perfect in every way and her birth was everything I had hoped for. It was a fast, natural delivery without complications. There was just one important detail I had failed to include in my vision of the day, the date!
Penelope was born at just 28 weeks gestational age. Nearly 3 months premature, this fierce little girl was on a mission to see the world. She decided she was coming, whether we were ready or not!
Preterm Labor – the Warning Signs
If someone was to warn me that I would be delivering 3 months early, I would never have believed them. I didn’t have any of the usual risk factors for preterm labor and I was feeling great. It wasn’t until late in the evening the day before Penelope’s birth that I received my first warning sign.
Indigestion turned to Cramps
My first warning sign was something I mistook for indigestion. I felt full, but not unusually so. We had barbecued that night and I had gobbled down almost a whole loaf of French bread, tapas, shrimp, rice and some delicious pork belly. With all that food, it was not surprising I had a tummy ache.
So, to ease my full belly, we decided to grab the dog leash and take a stroll in the warm summer night. As we walked, the orange glow of street lights created delicate coconut tree silhouettes in the sky and I remember dreaming of what it would be like to have Penelope with us on these walks. I imagined her cozily tucked away in her stroller, Liko padding down the asphalt beside her. Would she enjoy these nighttime adventures with her pup? I couldn’t wait to find out.
The walk eased my discomfort, but during the night the indigestion slowly turned to cramps and by morning, as I dressed for work, the cramps were coming in waves that I could not ignore. I realized that these weren’t the Braxton Hicks contractions I was warned about. Something was not right.
From there things escalated quickly. In less than an hour I went from mixing oatmeal, debating if I should go to work, to white knuckles griping the cold metal rail in the hospital elevator. I needed to make it to the 6th floor labor and delivery unit, and I was trying in earnest to get it there without causing a scene.
As the elevator rose, and each passenger slowly exited the large silver doors I naively imagined the doctor telling me I was fine, that this was normal. I was in pain, but it would be over soon, right? Unfortunately, that was all too true of a reality.
When the doctor examined me I was 5 centimeters dilated. Unaware of what that meant I waited for him to continue. I waited for the “don’t worry, you’ll be okay” “we’ll get you out of here soon”, but it never came. The longer I waited the larger the lump in my throat grew. I began to realize that they did not know if I was going to be okay, they did not know if my baby was going to be okay. All they repeated was, “You’re in the right place, you did the right thing.”
I swallowed down the lump in my throat and answered their questions.
“On a scale of 1-10 how much pain are you in?”
“Do we know which way the baby is facing?”
“Head down, we had an ultrasound Friday.”
“We are going to administer an IV and magnesium to slow the contractions are you okay with that?”
And then they broken the news, “You will not be leaving the hospital till your baby is born. Our goal is to slow the contractions down for 24 hours, we’ll see how it goes.”
And that’s when I realized Penelope would be born today.
It as if the walls that guarded my heart came crashing down in an instant and with them the most gut wrenching wail escaped my body. The lump in my throat had burst, I was no longer in control. I could not see. I could not breath. Just cry, the cry of a mother who could not protect her baby.
I’m not sure how long that wail lasted, but I remember hearing my mother’s voice soaking through my tears. She told me to keep it together, that I needed to hear what the doctors were telling me. I needed to do what they told me when the time came. So slowly, gulp-by-gulp, I swallowed it back down. I re-lodge the lump in my throat and I did what I needed to do.
Despite the doctor’s best efforts Penelope was born within the hour. The active labor resumed quickly and before I knew it they were telling me to push. There was no time for pain medication, choosing a laboring position or any of the things people outline in a birth plan. My baby was being born, now.
Amazing Penelope was born perfect. She was tiny, but she was healthy, and after a brief moment while they checked her out, I was able to touch my baby for the first time. I reached my hand into the incubator and saw my beautiful baby girl. She was alive, and she was well. I could not have asked for anything more at that moment. I was at peace.
But what came next would be the most trying experience of my life, both physically and mentally. Third Trimester Part 2: Life in the NICU, my next story, will cover what it is like to leave your baby at the hospital, not just for a few days, but weeks after her birth.
Thank you for reading, and if you would like to read more about my journey into motherhood please like, comment, or follow trailridermama.com. I’m also on Instagram and Facebook. Aloha and looking forward to hearing from you!