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29 weeks, 5 days by Carrie Smith

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I had gotten a routine ultrasound at 18 weeks. We were able to find out that we were having a boy and that everything seemed to be developing normally. Our doctor did, however, inform us that I had “polyhydramnios” and that my amniotic fluid level was in the 95th percentile. She told us not to worry because that isn’t necessarily a sign of problems. We would just have to keep an eye on it and have another ultrasound at around 26 weeks. Now, Google is a wonderful tool, but I strongly believe that pregnant women should seriously limit their pregnancy related searches. Of course, I wanted to know what exactly “polyhydramnios” was and what caused it, so I spent countless hours reading through articles that did more to scare me than inform me. I found that the condition could be caused by anything from a cleft lip or palate to problems with the baby’s kidneys or bladder. I spent the next 8 weeks worrying about what might be wrong with my baby only to find out at my next ultrasound that my fluid levels had returned to normal and everything was just fine. What a relief!

Now, I am normally a champion procrastinator, but for some reason I signed my husband and I up to take our child birth class at 27 weeks. I actually felt a little bit silly sitting in that room with women who were MUCH more pregnant than myself, but I felt better that we were prepared for the big day. This was on a Saturday. I had been having some really bad headaches all weekend and on Monday, I even stayed home from work. That evening, while watching the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy, I felt like I had lost control of my bladder a little bit so I ran to the bathroom and when the dripping didn’t stop, I called my doctor. She told me that I needed to go to the hospital and when we got there, it was confirmed that my membranes had ruptured…at 27 weeks and 6 day of pregnancy. There is nothing quite as surreal as hearing that after less than 28 weeks of pregnancy, you won’t be leaving the hospital until your baby is born which could be in the next few hours or (since no regular contractions had started) in 2 months. I was given 2 rounds of steroids to develop the baby’s lungs and told to wait.

So I waited for 12 days at which time Jackson decided that he didn’t want to wait anymore. So at 29 weeks and 5 days, I was in labor and I was terrified. My contractions started at 10:45 pm and were never farther than 5 minutes apart. I was offered an epidural, but decided against it. I was never planning on being a hero and experiencing natural childbirth, but I figured that it would be best for the baby. At about 2:00 am, I was moved from my room in the Maternity Intensive Care Unit to the labor and delivery room, and prepped for delivery. The team from the NICU had not arrived at the point in which I needed to push, so I had to hold through 2 contractions which is not the most comfortable feeling in the world. After the NICU nurses arrived, I was allowed to push. I pushed for about 20 minutes and Jackson was born at 3:06 am. All 2 pounds 13 ounces and 15 1/2 inches of him. He let out a cry and peed all over the nurses after he was born which meant good lung function and his kidneys were working properly. Those are usually 2 of the biggest concerns of babies born as early as Jackson, so we were as relieved as we could have been considering the situation. I was able to hold him for a couple of minutes before he was whisked away to the NICU.

And then we were alone. A room that had just minutes before been filled with about 10 doctors and nurses was quiet. It was an extremely odd feeling, but we made phone calls to our family. Everyone was happy but worried. I mean; it’s not every day that a child is born so shockingly early. But he was healthy so we felt blessed.

I spent the next 2 days recovering in the hospital and then we went home. Jackson however had to stay in the hospital. Walking out of the hospital without my child was one of the hardest things I’d ever had to do. I cried a lot but somehow made it through the next 7 1/2 weeks. Compared to other babies born that early, we were lucky. Jackson needed to have oxygen and was on a breathing monitor for 6 weeks after his hospital release, but there were no other health issues.

At this point, he is a smart, happy, healthy 4-year-old. No reason was ever determined for my premature membrane rupture. In fact, my next child almost needed to be induced. When I look back at the whole ordeal and, while it wasn’t an ideal situation, having a premature baby wasn’t the tragedy that it might seem.

According to the March of Dimes’ website:

About 1 in 8 or 12.8% births occur before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Of those, about 70% are born between 34 and 36 weeks (99% survive), 12% between 32 and 33 weeks (98% survive), 10% between 28 and 31 (96% survive), and 6% before 28 weeks (“most” born after 26 weeks survive, 80% born at 26 weeks survive).

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