My first pregnancy went smoothly. No morning sickness, no back problems except for some sciatica, and low weight gain.
And then I gave birth too soon. Way too soon. Eight and a half weeks too soon. My water broke at the end of my seventh month. I thought that the doctors would refill my uterus and send me home. I was naïve and uninformed.
Once the amniotic fluid is gone, the baby is susceptible to infection. Plus, the doctors tested my fluid and the baby had Hyaline Membrane Disease. His lungs were not developed so he could not breathe on his own yet. Because of this, they had to get the baby out quickly. So they gave me a drug called Pitocin to speed up the labor.
I was totally unprepared. I hadn’t even brought a toothbrush to the hospital. And my Lamaze class was scheduled to start THE NEXT DAY. I knew nothing about the birth process, breathing, labor, nothing.
To top things off, I barely made it into the delivery room . And my husband, Larry, had just gone out for coffee when the baby’s head started crowning. I kept yelling for someone to go find my husband ASAP! Larry made it into the delivery room just as David came flying out into the world.
Within a few minutes the baby was in respiratory distress and had to be rushed to the Premie Unit to be put on oxygen. Larry went with the baby and I was left in the recovery room alone to try to wrap my head around what was happening. We had not definitively picked a name for our son yet. But I wanted him to be named David, so that’s what I wrote on the birth certificate. I later realized that the name resonated with me because my Mom had had a stillborn son at the age of nineteen and had named him David. I grew up being told that I would have had a brother named David.
David was 4 lbs. 2 oz. at birth so he wasn’t tiny as far as premies go. But he was on oxygen, which is always dangerous. Both too much OR too little oxygen can cause brain damage. At 36 hours old, Larry and I went to visit our son and all the alarms in the premie unit started to go off. Doctors started rushing to OUR BABY.
David’s lung had collapsed. We were taken out of the room as they did emergency surgery to inflate David’s little lung. David still has that scar, at age 37.
We watched our son’s eyelashes and eyebrows grow in. We went through many scares – he might be blind in one eye or he might have an intestinal disease or malfunction. He stayed in an incubator for five weeks and spent his sixth week in the hospital in a bassinet. He came home at 4 lbs.15 oz. I had expressed my milk for him for six weeks so when he got home, we started breast-feeding. We were very lucky that that went normally, despite his use of bottles in the hospital.
At the time, there were no clothes or diapers especially made for premies. So we had to put clothes repeatedly through a hot dryer and hope they would shrink enough. But fortunately that was the extent of our problems once we got him home.
We knew we wanted another child, but first I had to find out why David had been so premature. It was a scary experience that could have gone south in so many ways. It took a few years to finally discover that I had a Bi-Corniate Uterus, a uterus that is divided into two sections. I could have another child but the pregnancy would have to be monitored closely to avoid another premature birth.
I got pregnant again when David was four years old. At the end of my seventh month, I started to efface and dilate. So I was put on total bed rest for the next six weeks. I could get out of bed to go to the bathroom and to shower three times a week. That was it! The problem was that I had a four and a half-year old to take care of.
I had to figure out how to do everything by phone or by surrogate. My bed became command central. I had a housekeeper who was helping me during the day. She picked David up at school, watched him, did the shopping and made dinner. One day, she got sick and left me in the middle of the day. She insisted that she had to go to her own home to be sick. I was frantic! I got a friend to pick David up at school. Next I called an au pair agency to try to find someone to live-in, immediately. Did I mention that it was the week before Christmas?
I got lucky. A 19-year-old German girl named Daniella walked in for an interview. I hired her on the spot and she moved in that night. She got me through to the beginning of my ninth month, when it was safe to get out of bed because the baby was close enough to full term. My daughter, Sarah, wasn’t born for two more weeks. During that time, I could barely walk. I was carrying so low, it felt like I had a football between my legs.
When my water finally broke, we checked into a birthing room in the hospital. That was a regular hospital room, complete with a TV and a phone. The OB-GYN would deliver the baby in theses relatively comfortable surroundings because it was expected to be a complications free birth and because I had agreed to forgo all anesthesia. I expected a quick delivery and I was right. I remember that we had the Today Show on the TV, to distract me. Teddy Kennedy was a guest, but I can’t recall the topic of conversation.
The only irregularity occurred after the birth, in the naming process. I wanted to name a girl after my grandmother, Sarah, and after Larry’s Aunt, Blanche. We were going to name her Sarah Beth. But there was a local bakery/restaurant down the street called Sarabeth’s Kitchen. So we decided not to name a daughter after a local business.
But holding our new daughter in the delivery room, we realized that it was important to name our child what we both really wanted to name her. It was silly to worry about who else out there might share her name. So we went with our original choice, Sarah Beth.
Unfortunately, we had already told our son that his sister would be named Rachel. So he went to school talking about his new sister, Rachel. When he told his class the next day that his sister was named Sarah, the kids teased him and said that he didn’t really have a sister at all. Apparently that traumatized our son because we still get grief about that Snafu to this day!
So I had issues with both my pregnancies, one on the back-end and the other in the middle. But I was very lucky in that I ended up with beautiful and healthy babies. I may have gotten a few grey hairs along the way, but all’s well that ends well. As someone once said.