Meagan's birth could not have been more different from what was explained in prenatal classes, books, or by family and friends. I was just starting to get nervous thinking about her birth that was to occur in two months. So many questions ran through my mind: How bad are contractions? Could I handle having a needle inserted into my spine? What if I need a last-minute C-section? Ultimately, I did not have time to think about these questions because the next day my water broke.
I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I started searching the baby book I relied on every day to track where my baby was in growth and development, but could find nothing about what to do if your water breaks two months early. I called my mom looking for answers. She recommended I go to the hospital -- moms know everything (being a mom, I now know this!).
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Once at Central DuPage Hospital's Women's and Children's Wing, I was settled into a room and hooked up to a pulse monitor, blood pressure monitor, two fetus monitors and an IV. The obstetrician on call came in and took a lot of ultrasounds, which finally showed with 100 percent certainty that we were having a girl. He said that most of the amniotic fluid was gone but that there was enough for the baby. He said it would be ideal for the baby if we could hold off until she was 34 weeks. Then a nurse gave me a steroid injection to help strengthen the baby's lungs.
I started having sporadic contractions right away, which the doctor stopped; however, they kept returning. I was sure I could not wait two weeks. After two days, the obstetrician on call decided Meagan was ready to be delivered. I was induced and brought to a delivery room, where an anesthesiologist greeted me with an epidural. I was no longer nervous about this, and was just happy to have the contraction pain subside.
My husband, Bryan, asked how long it would be before things started "happening." The nurse explained it would take a while, probably at least another five hours, which surprised me. I thought the delivery would start much sooner when induced. However, this gave Bryan time to go home and shower.
Approximately 45 minutes after Bryan left I started feeling a lot of pressure. I asked the nurse how I would know when it was time to start the delivery. She said I would start to feel a lot of pressure. I told her I already did. She said it was way too early but would take a look. She did not seem to know what she was looking at, so she asked the other nurse to take a look. This other nurse did and said that the baby was ready, and so the whirlwind began. The obstetrician and NICU team were called.
The obstetrician confirmed that the baby was ready to be delivered but assumed I would want to wait until Bryan returned. I was unable to get ahold of him because my cellphone was not connecting. However, I was able to get ahold of my parents, who called Bryan and told him to get to the hospital ASAP. I am ashamed to admit this now, but I told the doctor that I could not wait, and that Bryan had the rest of his life to see his daughter. Although surprised, she said OK and I got ready to push. I could not see or feel what was going on, but was told that everything was going well. Just before the second push, Bryan came running into the room just in time to see Meagan's head crown. Then, on the third push, he saw her birth and we both heard her soft cries. The NICU team went into action and the next thing I knew, Bryan and I were staring at our beautiful baby girl. Unlike term babies, I did not get to hold or touch her. She was placed in an incubator and rolled to the NICU, where she would spend the next seven weeks.
Within hours of her birth, Meagan was intubated to help her breathe. While I didn't get to see her during this time, the neonatologist said Meagan actually breathed better on her own so he removed the intubation tube. Her lungs were strong -- a good sign!
I could not wait to see Meagan, but unfortunately that would have to wait. My blood pressure skyrocketed right after they took her to the NICU. I was given magnesium sulfate and put on bed rest until my blood pressure returned to normal, which it did not do until two days later.
In those two days, it seemed as though everyone saw Meagan but me. Fortunately, the nurses would not let anyone hold her until I did. Bryan brought two pictures of her for me to see. I cried.
Two days later I was wheeled into the NICU to see Meagan for the second time. I cried out of sheer love and joy -- she was so beautiful and strong.
In the seven weeks to follow, Meagan slept constantly, but remained strong. She continued receiving my breast milk through a feeding tube while I held her (she fell asleep at each feeding). The time came when a speech pathologist said Meagan needed to learn how to feed from a bottle. Little did we know that premature babies are born not knowing how to "suck, swallow and breathe" as term babies are.
The first many times we tried feeding her with a bottle, she would forget to breathe and her oxygen saturation level would start to drop. We know this because the monitor she was hooked up to would start to alarm. It got to the point where we were afraid to feed our own daughter. We started using nipples with smaller holes, and adding Simply Thick -- a gel to make the breast milk thicker and easier to take.
Slowly but surely, Meagan got the hang of feeding from a bottle. We were thrilled to be given the "all clear" to take her home. I don't think Bryan or I slept that first night -- we couldn't stop staring at our tiny but beautiful baby girl in her big crib. A miracle!
I recently was introduced to the March of Dimes' mission to help all babies have the chance at a healthy start in life. I now realize that with their help, Bryan and I were able to watch Meagan grow and thrive while spending her first seven weeks in the NICU, and into the happy and healthy 4-year-old she is today. We are thankful for the March of Dimes and will continue to support their important mission because every baby deserves a healthy start and every family deserves to see their baby grow into a healthy child.