The story of how my baby boy made his entrace into the world ahead of schedule.
The day started just as any other. I woke up early, packed my husband’s suitcase for his business trip, made my brown bag lunch, and waddled out the door. That day, December 13, passed quickly. At the office, we were all trying to finish our work in preparation for winter break, and I had other things keeping my mind busy too. I was 33 weeks pregnant and looking forward to an upcoming shower, a bash for my birthday, and visitors over the holidays. I was excited about being pregnant during such a fun season and was eager to spend the next two months preparing for the arrival of my first baby.
I wrapped up work for the day, said good-bye to the girls, and headed home just as I had every day for what seemed like forever. But as I pulled into my driveway and walked up to the door, I knew something was terribly wrong. In an instant—a gush really —my life would change forever. As I put the key in the door and turned it, my water broke. I knew exactly what it was and immediately began to sob. It was too early for this to be happening. I still had eight weeks to go. I ran to the bathroom and saw that I had also lost my mucus plug. I began to shake. My husband had left that morning for Mississippi, and I was now in Georgia completely alone. I grabbed my keys and forced myself to focus. I knew I had to get to the hospital—and fast. Luckily, we live only a few blocks away and I called my doctor as I drove so she could meet me to assess the situation.
I pulled right up to the emergency door and a nice security guard walked me all the way to L&D. I remember my hand shaking as I filled out all the paperwork. (I teared up again when I got to the line that said “pediatrician’s name”—I hadn’t picked one yet.) One of my best friends rushed to my side while my husband made the six-hour trip back home. My doctor confirmed my suspicions: I did have preterm rupture of membranes and I was dilated two centimeters and contracting. They gave me a room and began to administer terbutaline, a drug to stop my contractions. They also gave me steroid shots to help develop my baby’s lungs and antibiotics to protect against infection.
When my husband made it to the hospital at last, I collapsed right into his arms. It was easier for me to sleep with him there. After a few hours, the nurse woke me to say I was still contracting and that I would be given magnesium sulfate. It was the last attempt to try to stop my labor and if it didn’t work, I would be delivering a baby by the next day. Thankfully, it was successful, and my contractions stopped.
The following morning, we met with a perinatologist and were able to form a plan. They wanted to keep the baby inside until I reached 34 weeks, when the chance for infection outweighs the risks associated with premature birth. I agreed and wanted to keep him in as long as possible. The good news? My fluid levels looked great, and he was 4 pounds, 11 ounces, and strong. The bad news? My due date was actually later than first thought. I was only 32 weeks. That meant two weeks on hospital bed rest.
Those two weeks felt like a foggy dream. I kept hoping to wake up and be at home again, packing my husband’s things and contemplating trivial items such as what appetizers to make for my shower. But the reality was hard. It was filled with worry about my baby, constant poking and prodding, leakage of fluid, and speculation about how my perfect pregnancy had resulted in early labor.
But the darkness was filled with an outpouring of light from my antepartum nurses, family, friends, church community and co-workers. It was through their encouragement and love that I was able to concentrate on taking care of myself and my baby. At my final perinatal ultrasound, I was given the green light for induction. Though it wasn’t exactly the natural process I had hoped for, it was the best possible thing that could happen for my baby. I was able to keep him inside until the very last minute and that felt really good. It was also comforting to know that infection had not set in and I could birth him vaginally. If I wasn’t excited enough about that news, I was elated that he had grown to 5 pounds, 3 ounces.
Induction day, December 26, began bright and early. While most people were sleeping tight in a Christmas coma, we were up and ready at 5 a.m. After two weeks of waiting, I was finally going to meet my little guy. They wheeled me down to the delivery room and I was nothing but excited. My entire life—and especially through my pregnancy—I had dreaded and feared the labor process. I was scared to death of what would happen on the day I had to have him. But when the actual day came, and after all I had been through, labor felt normal and comforting. Now the only worries I had concerned my baby boy. I was hoping and praying he would come out crying and weigh at least 5 pounds, 5 ounces; I also hoped I would be able to hold him after he was born, even if just for a second.
At 6 a.m., I was given Pitocin to restart my labor. I was three centimeters already, and soon I started to feel my contractions—boy, did they hurt. They felt exactly like my menstrual cramps but intensified tenfold. As they became unbearable, I asked for an epidural. The epidural itself was an odd sensation but a welcome relief. Once it kicked in, I was a happy camper.
When the doctor came back a few hours later to check how far I was dilated, I could tell by her face that it was time. “Are you ready to push?” she asked. “Oh man,” I thought. “Already?” I looked at my husband whose face was expressing exactly what I was thinking. We were about to do this. We were going to become parents.
At 2:30 p.m., the nurse came in to help me push. She grabbed one leg and my husband grabbed the other and she instructed me on how to push through the contractions (a valuable lesson since our first labor class was still a week away!). “How long do people usually push?” I asked. “Usually around one to two hours, sometimes three,” she said. After the two-week wait I had just experienced, there was no way I was going to wait another three hours. I resolved to push as hard as I could in an effort to move things right along. And it must have worked because I only had to push through four contractions before the nurse decided to get the doctor. When the doctor came in, there was one more contraction and out came a beautiful boy, crying at the top of his lungs.
Braxton Chance Brown was born at 2:52 p.m. and weighed in at 5 pounds, 5 ounces. After he was assessed briefly by the NICU staff, I got to hold him in my arms for several minutes before he was taken to the NICU’s intermediate nursery. I got to see him again a few hours later once he had been thoroughly checked out. Since Braxton was born so early, we had expected him to stay in the NICU for a little while. Still, the hardest thing I have ever done in my life was to leave the hospital without my baby. But he was strong and vigorous, and we couldn’t ask for more.
The nurses and doctors were wonderful and taught us everything we needed to know about taking care of a preemie. Once he learned how to feed, we were able to bring him home—just seven days after his birthday. Though I wish Braxton would have been full-term, his premature birth still resulted in a perfectly healthy, beautiful little boy. And because of that, I wouldn’t change a moment for anything in the whole world.