Posted by: mindyourknitting | May 28, 2009

Early

I was a bit hesitant to post this because it was difficult to write and sometimes difficult (read: painful) to remember.  I started this blog, in part, to chronicle bits of my life and keep a record of things that my daughter might want to know someday, so I felt it was important to tell this part of her story too, although there are so many more details I could have included.  But not to worry, my next posts will try to be more cheery – unless I decide to write “Abigail: The Colicky Months” or “RSV Season: Like a Cold but Much, Much Worse. Subtitle: Living like shut-ins for six months.”  You can dissuade me with gifts of alcohol and cupcakes.

 

 “Early” is a euphemism that is used to convey the fact that my daughter, Abigail, was premature.  I’m guilty of using it even though I don’t like it.  This term, “early,” makes it sound like she was fifteen minutes ahead of time for an appointment, rather than eight weeks ahead of her due date.  I’ve come to resent “early” because it papers over so many things because “you’d never know she was early.”  Abigail is now a healthy 18 lb 12oz 10-month old, and I am incredibly grateful for this.  She is caught up size-wise (50th percentile at her 9-month checkup, yo), and in most other ways she is almost caught up too (she’s thisclose to figuring out the mechanics of crawling, and I swear she might finally be teething – or at least she’s learned what biting is, oh happy day).  And she was a healthy 32-weeker to begin with, weighing in at a hefty 4 lbs 12oz.  She has no long-term health problems that we are aware of.  She is clever, and beautiful, and we don’t really remember our life before her.  She is the bright star of every single one of my days. I have absolutely nothing to complain about.  That is not to say that I won’t.   

 When I experienced Preterm Premature Rupture of the Membranes (my “water broke” – I know, ewwww) at 32 weeks my husband and I went to the hospital in the middle of the night with no overnight bag.  This was partially because I didn’t have one packed yet, but also because I didn’t believe for a second that I would be staying.  There was no way I was having a baby yet.  And then I got schooled. 

 There’s part of me that gets a bit weirded out when people say that you can’t tell she was early, or worse, that it’s not a big deal that she was early since she’s fine, because I can never forget.  I never forget that my water broke at exactly 32 weeks of pregnancy, that we raced to the hospital at 1am, that I sat in the hospital for three days waiting for something to happen and praying that nothing would, was presented with every scenario from spontaneous labour to emergency C-section, that I had to have steroid shots to help her lungs (her little lungs!), and that when I did go into labour I was already exhausted, and terrified for my baby despite the assurances of the neonatal team who said things about “positive outcomes” and “highest hopes.”  She didn’t get her last eight weeks of fetal development, and I didn’t get my last eight weeks of pregnancy.  When people talk about being hugely pregnant and eager for it to be over, I have no idea what they are talking about.

My baby shower was held without me while I cried over it in the hospital.  I was actually crying over my baby’s elevated heartbeat, which put her at risk and cancelled the plan to send me home on bedrest, which would have meant I would have just made it to my shower.  Okay, I was also crying because I had been promised a really, really good cake at my shower, and was afraid I wouldn’t get any (but we got lots of cake and it was indeed really, really good).  I was also pissed (still am) that I wouldn’t get to wear the cute, kicky maternity outfit I had bought for the occasion.  I still have maternity clothes that have the tags on them (kicky outfit included – I couldn’t bear to lend it out to my pregger friends), and the store wouldn’t take them back.  Exchanges only.  Seriously?  But where was I…

 Labour, pain, waiting for the epidural, finally got epidural, naptime, then pushing – hello, kid!  (You can thank me for the Coles Notes version of that experience).  After a mercifully short 8-hour labour she arrived, and then this: Few people know that she was whisked off to the NICU moments after her birth, but was soon brought back to me so I could hold her and try to breastfeed because she was doing so well.  Great Apgar scores, clearly my baby is a genius.  I tucked her under my hospital gown and cuddled her.  Then the lactation consultant who accosted me moments after I gave birth noticed her little foot was turning blue.  She had stopped breathing and I didn’t notice.  Once they got her breathing again with a shake and a jiggle back to the NICU she went.  Seriously, there were no blaring sirens and calls of “stat” or “code” or whatever, they just kind of jiggled her up and down and said a stern “Now Abigail, none of that” – WFT, my baby stopped breathing people!  I still don’t know if the one episode of apnea they told me about when the doctors started talking about sending her home was that time, or some other time we didn’t know about when it happened.  Overall, though, she did great and other than a few days of jaundice treatment in her incubator she thrived.   

  

 

Catching some rays

Catching some rays

Right from the beginning we were told she was going to be fine and would come home soon, but that didn’t change the way it felt to leave the hospital without my baby.  

After her birth I spent the two weeks until she came home crying.  I suppose I didn’t cry all the time, but it felt like it.  I’m sure most of this was postpartum stuff, and I felt ridiculous and tried to keep it together around family members and doctors, but I cried in the morning before I went to the hospital, then struggled not to cry on the drive to the hospital, since a family member was usually driving me and I didn’t want to freak them out.   I ducked into the bathroom on the maternity floor to have a good cry before entering the NICU every single morning.  During the day when I would break down beside Abigail’s incubator the NICU nurses were too kind, they would pat me on the shoulder, ask if I was okay, hand me a tissue, and leave me be.  At night I would cry until my husband made our nightly call to the NICU.  Some nights he would ask if I wanted to go back because I was so upset.  I didn’t really have the option of staying overnight since Abigail was in a multi-bed NICU with barely space for chairs between the incubators, but I don’t know that it would have been good for me to do so in any case.  The nurses were constantly urging the moms to get rest and go home, and before Abigail came home they told my husband and I to take a night off and go out.  I felt like I should spend every minute next to her incubator, but just the act of sitting and watching her, waiting for the clock to indicate that she could be taken out of the isolette and be changed, fed, and held for the hour she was allowed out (one out of every four or so in the beginning) was exhausting.  The worst was arriving in the morning to find that her schedule had shifted slightly and I had just missed her being out, so I had to wait for hours until I was allowed to hold her.

 

 

Kangaroo care

Kangaroo care

The nurses were wonderful to us and I had every bit of faith in their ability to take care of Abigail, and be kind to her.  There were other kindnesses – my best friend brought us dinner at the hospital the day after we arrived, and another friend delivered pizza when I just couldn’t deal with hospital food (trust me, I’m not playing on a stereotype here, it was  awful and unrecognizable.  Even Erik wouldn’t eat it).  Friends and family dropped off food and baby gifts at our home in the coming weeks.  My in-laws had our faucet fixed when it broke while we were in the hospital, and they made sure I had a drive to the hospital every day while Abigail was in the NICU when Erik went back to work.  Once she came home we had to limit visitors until Abigail reached her due date (September 10, 2008), and shortly after that we had RSV season to worry about, so both of our parents were lifelines in the months during which we had to keep visitors and outings to a strict minimum.

 This was a life-changing experience that radically adjusted my expectations about having a baby, and I’m still figuring it out.  And it’s so strange that I feel like I’m making too much of what happened to us when I read about babies that were so much earlier than Abigail, since it really could have been so much worse, and then in the same breath I want to dismiss parents who refer to their “early” babies who arrived two or three weeks ahead of schedule, like that’s not a big deal.  Part of me clings to the special circumstances of her arrival, as if we had to fight or work harder for her than other parents do for their kids (which is of course untrue).  There are so many things we had to deal with that just aren’t part of the usual labour/birth experience, which is significant enough all on its own when it happens without complications.  And listening to my friends with babies has certainly taught me that there is no “usual” birth experience. 

 My husband and I still worry that there will be long-term effects of Abigail’s preemie status that will show up later, even though we have no reason to think so, but it rears its head at the strangest times (example: my kid moves ALL THE TIME.  She seriously has ants in her pants, and recently her dad looked at her and, getting all squinty, asked “Is that NORMAL?”).  And I will be very, very nervous if I ever get pregnant again.  But I wouldn’t trade her, or this entire experience, for anything, and when people ask how early she was, I never say “too early.” She was right on time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazing

Amazing

 

 

 

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Responses

  1. Trista, I can appreciate how hard that must have been to write, as I’m sure some of your other (and future) posts were (will be)…but let me just tell you that your story is beautiful, your baby girl is gorgeous, and sounds to me to be at least as wiggly as my 8 day late baby girl is! I look forward to meeting this precious baby of yours, and having our beauties, who were to be born on the same day, play together while we catch up. Thank you for sharing these posts with us, they’re wonderful to read.

  2. Thank you for your kind words. I can’t wait to meet your little girl (Abigail too – she only has boyfriends here in Ottawa…). I forgot that they were due on the same day! Now get your butt up here to visit, it’s been too long.

  3. […] so much to be grateful for, and wish I had more ways to give back to others.  As I wrote about here, I put together “parent care packages” to donate to the NICU where Abigail spent time […]

  4. […] that with eight weeks to go in a  near-perfect pregnancy, my water broke at 32 weeks exactly and our daughter was born at 32 weeks and 3 days.   Guilt was a difficult thing for me to deal with, because I didn’t know what to feel […]

  5. […] will be something wrong with the baby, or that my previously uncooperative body will again try to expel this baby before enough time has passed.  But everything looked wonderfully normal, and the little peanut (now much bigger than a […]

  6. […] when I experienced pre-term premature rupture of the membranes (PPROM) at exactly 32 weeks, and she made her debut three days later.  There is no sign that this little boy is going anywhere soon, and while that has been an […]

  7. […] lines of “you’ve got to be effing kidding me, not again.”  It wasn’t as early as Abigail, but it was still too early for my liking, since I was only just 36 weeks at that point.   Off we […]


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