When I wrote my Week 36 Bump Day Blog entry on November 12th, I had a feeling that I wasn’t actually going to make it to 36 weeks: I had been up the entire previous night with contractions.  This wasn’t particularly unusual for me, though, as Noah was typically more active at night than during the day, and my uterus tended to follow suit (my high-risk doctor told me that many women experience an uptick in contractions at night).  Every 10-12 minutes, there was another one, and unlike previous times, they didn’t start tapering off as morning approached…

By the time my husband was getting ready for work (he had been working second shift while I was on bedrest, as it works better with his natural biorhythm and allowed him to make sure everything I needed was in place before he left for work), I was pretty sure that we were going to be having Noah sooner than planned.  At that point, I had been contracting for 16 hours, and they were starting to get more intense. They still hadn’t reached my threshold for when to go to the hospital, though, so he went to work and I decided to go ahead and do my planned afternoon activities with my mom and mother-in-law.  Just two days earlier, my doctor had given me his blessing to start increasing my activity level (my legs were pretty weak from nearly 16 weeks of bedrest), so I had scheduled a badly-needed haircut; my hairdresser could tell that I was having contractions (which started to get a little closer together as I sat in her chair), so she quickly trimmed me up and sent me on my way, then we made a quick run to Target to pick up some baby essentials that were on sale (I love a good sale).  I wanted to spend a little more time shopping, but my body had other plans: not only were the contractions themselves intensifying and starting to become more regular, there was a new pain with every contraction (it felt like I was being stabbed in the vagina)…

When I got home, I called my husband (who, coincidentally, had already told his co-workers, “It could be today” when asked when it was going to be baby-time) and relayed what was happening: Contractions every 8-10 minutes, lasting longer than they usually did, and stabby pain with each contraction.  Given our conversation with my high-risk doctor just two days earlier – in which he had explicitly told us that stabbing pain was often a sign of impending uterine rupture – we decided that it was time to go to the hospital.  He came home, we quickly loaded the car, and we headed toward Baltimore.

On the way to the hospital, we called my high-risk doctor to let him know what was going on.  By the end of the very short conversation, the decision was made: Noah would be delivered that night.  Our doctor said that he would notify L&D that we were on our way (we still had a good two hours of driving to do to get there) and wished us safe travels.  It was officially go-time!

As we drove, we talked about what was about to happen.  One of our greatest fears with the pregnancy was that we’d end up leaving the hospital with empty arms again; even though we were so close to getting to term, there was still a very real fear that something might go wrong and Noah might not come home with us.  Both of us so deeply wanted – NEEDED – to hear Noah’s first cry: Will tried so hard, but was never able to draw a breath and never cried.  We both had it in our minds that if he just cried, everything was going to be okay…

By the time we finally got to the hospital, the contractions were really starting to pile up on each other. Over the course of just under 24 hours, they went from every 10-12 minutes to every 8-10 to every 5-8; by the time we got checked in and I was on the contraction and baby monitors, they had progressed to every 2-3 and were still accompanied by the stabbing feeling.  Our parents arrived, my high-risk doctor (who would be delivering Noah) arrived, and the anesthesiologist arrived – it was time to bring Noah into the world.

Being wheeled into the surgical suite without my husband was incredibly surreal; I thought he’d be coming in with me straightaway, but he needed to gown up and I needed to be prepped for surgery, so there was a period of ten minutes or so when he wasn’t in the room with me.  As they numbed me up, I laid on the table struggling not to cry and quietly praying: Please, God, let him be okay.  If something goes wrong, please let it be with me…

Once I was prepped, things moved pretty quickly.  My husband was allowed into the room and seated next to my left shoulder, then my doctor began the c-section.  Lots of pressure and uncomfortable pulling and tugging… then, at 10:20 PM, a single, soft cry.  I lost it when I heard that cry – that was our Noah, and he was crying.  I’ve heard a lot of beautiful things in my life, but that tiny, weak cry was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard.  He was here, and he was alive.

Things continued to move very quickly – Noah was passed to the NICU staff and Dr. Atlas began sewing me up.  I caught a quick glimpse of him as he was being carried to the little triage area, and I knew that he was struggling – he was dusky and limp, and was no longer crying.  Darrell moved between me and where they were working on Noah; I was sobbing and asking if he was okay.  Darrell calmly explained that they were giving him oxygen (via CPAP), and that he had very quickly started pinking up.  Through all of the controlled chaos in the room, I was finally able to hear Noah begin crying again.  Finally, they brought him over to my side for a moment and I was able to really see my gorgeous son for the first time before they whisked him off to the NICU.  I was then taken to the recovery area.

Over the next several hours, both sets of grandparents were taken to the NICU to see Noah and I was moved to a postpartum room.  I had been told that they were going to intubate him in order to administer surfactant (like many preemie boys, his little lungs were “sticky”, which makes it difficult for them to breathe – surfactant lubricates the lungs); when they wheeled me in to see him at 3 the next morning, I was overjoyed to see him, but saddened to see him looking so tiny (he weighed 5lb12.9oz and was 18.5in long) and surrounded by machines.  There were wires and tubes all over his little body, and my heart broke a little knowing that I’d have to leave him in that room instead of him staying with me in postpartum.  We weren’t allowed to touch him and couldn’t spend much time with him, but I knew that he was in good hands – we’d chosen a hospital with an excellent NICU.

Over the next 4 days, I visited the NICU as often as I could (limited only by my own recovery) and marveled at how strong my tiny son was.  Just as he was in the womb, he continued to be a feisty little man in the NICU.  He was extubated roughly 12 hours after being placed on the ventilator; the expectation was that he would go back on the CPAP, then be transitioned to breathing on his own, but he exceeded expectations and went straight from the vent to going solo – no more CPAP.  They also removed his NG tube pretty quickly, as he was getting pretty agitated and trying to pull it out (when he wasn’t chewing on the tape holding it down); they also ended up having to move his IV line because he kept pulling it out of the back of his hand.    I had been pumping breastmilk for him, but he was soon stable enough to begin nursing (although, in typical preemie fashion, he would tire quickly – every time he nursed, I needed to bottle feed him milk I had previously pumped as well).

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Daddy and Noah having some snuggle-time in the NICU

As soon as I was discharged, I moved into Noah’s NICU room – one of the amazing things about Mercy’s NICU is that the babies are in their own rooms, and parents are allowed (and encouraged) to stay with them: I had a recliner and a sleeper sofa to rest on just feet from Noah’s isolette.  The next several days were spent learning how to take care of him; the nurses taught me to bathe him, take him in and out of the isolette on my own, and – finally – he was strong and stable enough to begin the checklist to go home. On day 7 of his life, having successfully run the checklist (breathes on his own, maintains temperature, feeds appropriately, etc), we were able to take our precious little man home.

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Mommy and Noah cuddle on the couch at home

Noah is now 3 weeks old and is doing well.  He’s still a little dude – last week, he reached 6lb3.5oz (he left the hospital at 5lb6oz) – but he’s getting better at nursing and, aside from some reflux we’re still working on controlling, he’s doing really well.  I’m doing pretty well, too: After suffering some pretty epic post-surgical water retention (it was some of the worst they’ve ever seen – I ended up having an imaging study done because my legs and feet were so grotesquely swollen they were afraid I might have developed clots in my legs) – I’ve lost 25 pounds of water weight in the 2 weeks we’ve been home, and probably have at least 10 pounds of water left in my lower legs and feet.  I had my first post-partum checkup yesterday; my scar looks *amazing* (my doctor has some serious skills at closing a wound!), and looking at me, you’d never guess I just had a baby (even with a bunch of swelling remaining, I’m 16 pounds less than I weighed the day Noah was transferred into my womb in late March).  As Darrell mentioned in his take on Noah’s birth story, my TAC band had begun eroding into my lower uterus (that was the origin of the stabbing pain I was having during labor) and we came very close to a uterine rupture (which would have been disastrous for both Noah and I) – we’ve got to make some decisions down the line regarding whether or not we can/will attempt future pregnancies.   In the meantime, Darrell and I are learning to live on a LOT less sleep and loving our little miracle man.

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Our sweet little man. Still hard to believe he’s here and he’s ours.

 

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