The March of Dimes has asked bloggers around the world to raise awareness for the 20 million little ones who are born before their time every year. I decided to participate not only because it's a damn scary thing everyone should be aware of, but because my oldest daughter, Andrea, narrowly avoided being one of those 20 million. It's for her that I blog today.
I was 24 weeks into a grueling pregnancy that left me wondering why the hell people do this multiple times. I'd been feeling acrobatics in my stomach for several weeks probably the coolest and most freaky sensation EVER, and the knowledge that my little podling was in there, growing, was about as fascinating and disturbing as anything in my life. We'd bonded and argued, let's be honest over the midnight kick-fests, the flipping, the turning, the swimming, and hell, even the puking.
I eventually learned to sleep through her "activity," though it took friggen weeks. We were much better friends after. I learned to appreciate the movement more, instead of wishing she'd just stop, for the love of god, just for five minutes. We'd gotten pretty in-tune with each other when the day came that she did finally settle. My first thought was, "Peace at last!" and I did a mental happy dance that it no longer felt like I had a conga line going in my belly.
An hour went by, and I figured she was sleeping. Kid must be tired as all hell, I figured. Another hour went by, and I wondered to myself if she was hibernating, like a bear. Long long sleep, then wham! Activity Central! It wouldn't surprise me. I wasn't concerned... yet. But when hour four creeped up, and I still hadn't felt a single kick, a flopping-over-in-my-sleep-to-get-more-comfortable turn, I started to worry. Being the Internet savvy person I am, I went online to figure out if this was normal. She was my first, after all. I'd never done this before. It could've been totally within the range of "normal" and I'd never know the difference.
I read and I read, but everything pointed at, "Who the hell knows? All kids, all pregnancies, are different." Gee, thanks, Internet. So helpful. I went back to watching Star Trek: TNG yes, I'm a geek... and I'm PROUD OF IT! and did what was suggested on several sites to get the baby awake and moving. I drank sugary juice, jiggled the tummy, talked loudly to her, played her favorite music... yes, she had favorite music by then. And it happened to be hard rock. My babies? Are awesome.
But she didn't move. Approaching six hours, two of them spent chugging juice and dancing like an idiot in an effort to wake-her-up-shake-her-up, and I still had nothing. It could be normal. I told myself this a million times as I debated calling my boyfriend and having him take me to the ER. In the end, all I had to go on was gut, and my gut said go. Look like a total moron when they tell you everything's fine. At least then you'll know everything's fine, and you can go back to being a total laze and watching TV, studiously ignoring the pile of dishes in the kitchen.
I couldn't get ahold of my boyfriend, though I tried several times. I asked myself if it was worth an ambulence ride. Nah, I thought. She's fine. She's just napping. But in true pregnant woman fashion, ten minutes later I'd changed my mind, and tried the backup plan: my boyfriend's parents. His mom managed to birth 7 kids holy sweet jeebus, SEVEN OF THEM! can you imagine? and I figured she could steer me in the right direction. His mom? Totally of the "listen to your body, it's not an idiot" crowd. She told me if I thought I should go, I should go. Worst that happens is I go home feeling a little foolish.
She and her husband came and picked me up, took me in. OB Triage has some nice ladies in it. They smiled at me when I told them what was happening, didn't call me a freakin' idiot worrywart, told me they'd be happy to check up on the podling. They found her heartbeat, and some of my panic started to ebb. The voice inside my head was laughing at me, of course. "See? Everything's fine, you twit." But it wasn't. The monitor they strapped me to also had a nifty device to monitor contractions, and it was graphing something disturbing enough to have them immediately check my cervix.
In about 15 minutes, I went from being one of "those" cases, a first-time-mom worrying over something trivial, to being 3cm dialated with regular, strong contractions. The words "pre-term labor" and "labor and delivery room" passed by my ears while I laid there in a panic. A real one this time. After that, everything happened very quickly. My boyfriend showed up several minutes after they got me in the L&D room, where I was being pumped full of magnesium sulfate to stop my labor, and corticosteroids just in case it failed. We heard from specialists what the numbers were. How little a chance our daughter had to survive. If we could just keep her in a few more weeks, they said, the numbers improved dramatically. Just hold out, they said.
It was hell. For three and a half weeks, I stayed in the hospital, praying she would stay in. She listened, thank god. When it looked like I was stable, I asked to go home. They were hesitant, but since I'd reached the golden point of 28 weeks, they let me. They sent me home on strict bedrest, with meds to keep my contractions at bay. I had to see the doctor every week and a half or so, a high-risk specialist who had treated me in the hospital. They counted off the weeks with me, and the hope they'd been afraid to show me began to come out. Once I hit 36 weeks, they breathed this huge sigh of relief, and a week later they stopped my meds. Labor was okay now. If it came, it came.
My daughter was born on 4-16-2006, at 39 weeks and a couple of days. I got lucky. Too many don't.