Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"We need to fight--because babies shouldn't have to"

It's Fight for Preemies Day. One in eight babies in the U.S. is born prematurely. Premature births have increased more than 30 percent since 1981. These are troubling statistics.

Even though Caleb was a micro preemie (born before 28 weeks), his experience in the NICU was textbook perfect, up until it was time to learn how to eat. If he had learned to eat right away, like we half expected based on his pacifier sucking and his good nursing latch, he would have come home around 33 or 34 weeks gestation, weighing less than five pounds. Instead he came home 10 days past his due date (still no complaints there) weighing 8 pounds. I'd much rather, however, worry about Caleb eating than surviving.

I remember saying to my co-workers just days before delivering that in a way I didn't really feel like my pregnancy would actually result in a child. I think I was guarding my emotions because I never really expected to get pregnant at all. If you have low expectations, you can't be disappointed.

It was more of a relief to see my tiny baby laying in his isolette than it was scary. He was about to die inside of me. He could live with the nurses and doctors taking care of him. My body couldn't do it any more. I was infecting him.

I had strange symptoms for at least a month before going into labor (like discharge, contractions, and cervical pain). Looking back, I may have been leaking amniotic fluid. It was the kind of thing that was a little too embarrassing to ask my pregnant friends and when I'd see my doctor I'd forget to ask. I looked into it on-line, and basically everything I found said that it was nothing to worry about. My new policy is: if it's medical, it's not personal. Nothing medical is worth being embarrassed about.

I walked in to labor and delivery in the evening, after a day of not feeling Caleb kick. I felt a nudge in the morning, and then nothing else all day. They tried looking for his heartbeat and couldn't find it. I thought then that I may have lost my baby. They did an ultrasound to find the heart, and it was beating. They monitored his heartbeat, and my contractions, for about 30 minutes until my doctor showed up. In that time his heart rate dropped from about 120 to about 50 or 60, and stayed there for just for a few seconds. They said it was dangerous to drop below 100. I wasn't having any contractions, but my uterus was "distressed." It was slightly tense, and never really relaxed. The doctor said that the heart rate dropping may not actually be anything--they don't normally monitor babies at 27 weeks, so who's to say it's not normal? As he was saying that, the heart rate dropped again. He decided to do an ultrasound.

That's when they saw that I was dilated to 4 cm, 80 percent effaced, and my sack of waters was bulging out and "about to break." And Caleb wasn't moving at all. Not even a twitch. My doctor later said that he'd never in his life seen a fetus move so little. And somehow he was still alive.

And in that story is the real miracle. Why did Caleb stop moving? Only so that he could tell me that something was wrong. He was labeled "feisty" right after birth. And why did his heart rate drop so drastically, not once, but twice--and when the doctor was watching? Only so that he could tell the doctor that there was something wrong.

My placenta was horribly infected, but Caleb wasn't. One more day and he would have been, but at that time he wasn't really in distress enough to stop moving or have heart rate drops.

It was less than 20 hours later that Caleb was born.

I never really felt through my whole 27 weeks of pregnancy that everything was "normal." But I never really felt that anything was abnormal, either.

Here is a short article on what you need to know about preterm labor. Since it is so common, chances are that you or someone you know is pregnant and could be facing the symptoms of preterm labor at some point. If you or any pregnant person you know is experiencing any symptom on the list, don't hesitate in going to the doctor. My symptoms aren't on the list. If you have any feeling that something could be wrong, don't hesitate in going to the doctor. It's better to be safe than sorry, especially when your baby's life could be hanging in the balance.

Spread the word.

We need to fight--because babies shouldn't have to.


Ellie said...

Another great post, Anna. It never ceases to amaze me how our bodies are designed; you and Caleb showed that in a powerful way. Thanks for keeping in touch through it all--it has really been a blessing for me.

Azzy said...

On behalf of the March of Dimes, thank you for raising awareness of prematurity and for sharing Caleb's story. Like you said, we all need to fight for preemies. Thanks so much for being part of this event and best of luck for you and your family.

*X and AA* said...

I realized I used your real first name in my last comment and I thought, WHOOPS! But I guess it was okay after all if you're going to start using real names anyway. :) I'm always amazed by your story. I watched this cute little video about a 25-week premie ( named Addyson and I thought of you and little Caleb. 100 days is a LONG TIME. It must have felt like an eternity, but you fought for that little baby and now he's so big and strong!