I felt huge during my third trimester, but figured most people do. I started retaining water and became very swollen. This being my first pregnancy, I was unaware of how it truly feels during the third trimester. I am a teacher and therefore on my feet all day. I thought that was likely the reason behind the swelling. I began having high blood pressure and frequent headaches. It was later determined that I was preeclamptic.
I was cleaning the house on a Sunday afternoon, five days before I was due. I was hoping to deep clean for the last time before we brought baby home! I had been having small contractions all day, but had been having them irregularly for weeks. I was doing laundry when suddenly I felt something wet. It was not a gush of water like I had expected to feel when my membranes ruptured. I was a little confused by what I felt. I was pretty sure I didn’t pee my pants, but at darn near 40 weeks pregnant, who knows? I considered it being my bag of waters breaking, but it was nothing like they show in the movies. I kept cleaning and figured after I was done, I would call my midwife.
At 4:30 p.m., I began having a contraction. I knelt over, while swinging my hips, when all of a sudden I felt a gush of water and saw a puddle on the floor! My contractions, however, did not get significantly stronger. My husband was outside at the time, so I texted him to come in and get cleaned up—it was finally the time we had been waiting for! I was very calm as I finished packing my hospital bag, as my husband showered. We left for the hospital around 5:00 p.m.
We went in to the emergency room and checked in. They took me up to the fourth floor, so they could see if my water was truly broken or not. A resident did the fern test and determined my water was not broken, but a couple other tests showed that it was broken. They decided that I needed to walk around the unit for a couple hours and then they would check for change after. My husband informed me I was sprinting, not walking. I told him I was ready for the baby and did not want to be sent home without her! After two hours, they admitted me to the hospital. I was so relieved!
As the evening progressed, I did not. My contractions were still weak and there was very little cervical change. They decided to give me some medicine to help me sleep. The next morning there was still no progression. Around noon they found it necessary to start Pitocin. I began having more frequent, regular contractions, but they still weren’t very painful and cervical progression was very slow. I tried everything to speed this along. I walked, I rocked my hips, I bounced on the birthing ball and tried whatever else was suggested. Labor is work, and birthing a baby is a lot of work!
At approximately 9:00 p.m., my midwife did something to my cervix and all of a sudden I was having contractions that hurt! It was like NOW! I was afraid to get the epidural, so they gave me some pain medicine. I got in the tub for a little while, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had wanted. At this point, I was exhausted. I was lying down and I passed out from the meds they gave me. But during an intense contraction, I shot straight up, yelling! I was in so much pain! This kept happening for a little while and after some time, my contractions were one after another. There was no break! My nurse did a great job trying to talk me through them.
I finally asked for an epidural, because I was only five centimeters dilated. I couldn’t continue that any longer. Around 1:30 a.m., I received the epidural and was able to get some sleep. The nurse woke me up at 4:00 a.m., so the midwife could check cervical change. I began pushing at 4:10 a.m. At first things were just slow and relaxed. I finally decided to wake up my husband at 4:50 a.m. Everything was still going slowly, but her arrival was near.
As her head came down, my midwife must have seen things weren’t right. She told me that I had to get her out in one more push! I could tell from her tone that I had to do this. I gave that push everything I had. At 5:15 a.m., my baby girl, Whitney Zoe, was born. However, I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.
The reason I had to deliver her so quickly was because the cord was wrapped around her neck, but it ended up not being tight. The midwife was getting ready to put my baby on my chest when she noticed she wasn’t acting right. The nurse said I think we need to call the NICU! I began crying as I begged for the call to the NICU. It was obvious to me that something was wrong.
The NICU came to the room and took my baby to the little table, where they had to intubate her. She started breathing, so they wheeled her away to work on her. I just stared at the door, crying. We waited for three hours to hear what was wrong with her. I kept asking my nurse and she didn’t know anything. Finally, the doctor came in and talked to us. They didn’t know what was wrong with our baby, but they were going to check her lungs, heart and brain. They had started Whitney on antibiotics, in case of an infection.
I informed them I had a niece die because of congenital heart anomalies. They were going to perform an echo first, in order to rule out heart defects. When the doctor walked out, I lost it. I started sobbing. I couldn’t help but wonder if she was going to die like my niece did. My husband held back his tears and reassured me that everything was going to be okay.
About an hour after we spoke with the doctor, we were able to see our precious baby! She was on oxygen and had a bunch of cords connected to her. I couldn’t help but think that she looked like my niece hooked up to all of the machines. I was so happy to finally see her and know that she was stable. There were so many overwhelming emotions! I can’t explain to you how I felt in that moment. I was so in love, but I was so scared that I was going to lose her. After an echo and some x-rays, they found that her blood vessels from her heart, to her lungs were not opening. This meant that her blood wasn’t properly oxygenated.
I finally was able to hold her Wednesday afternoon, and Daddy got his turn later that night. Holding her was an incredible moment. I cried as I stared at her beautiful face. I was so happy to have my baby girl. Whitney was in the hospital for a week. I was able to stay in another room after I was released, because I was trying to breastfeed her. The nurses were amazing! They would call me during the night when Whitney woke up. I felt so involved in her care and I am so grateful for everyone that cared for her.
Two days before Mother’s Day, Whitney got to be in a room with me. I was incredibly happy holding her, even in a tiny, four-wall space. Whitney was still hooked up to a monitor and she had an IV in her head. I was nervous because I didn’t want to bump her IV. On Mother’s Day, the IV site went bad, so she had to go back into the NICU. I thought this meant we were taking steps backwards and not forwards. I was in tears and the doctor comforted me and told me we didn’t take any steps back.
At this time breastfeeding was going okay, but it was harder than what I thought it would be. One of the nurses thought Whitney was a little “tongue tied,” so they did a small procedure and fixed that. After the procedure, breastfeeding her became a lot easier.
On Tuesday, a week after her arrival, we were able to go home! I was incredibly thankful to leave the hospital with my baby. I hadn’t left the hospital for a week-and-a-half. I needed to be outside, I needed to be home. As we were leaving, I felt so happy, but I was scared. It’s scary enough being a first time mommy, tie a NICU baby in with that and it’s downright terrifying! I had a ton of questions going through my head. What if she stops breathing? What if I can’t calm her down? The “what if’s” kept circling through my brain.
When I got home, I felt all the nervousness melt away and I was finally home with my family. It was the most perfect moment as I watched my husband hold our daughter in our home. And despite the scary first few days, she has been a healthy baby.
Many thanks to Tiffaney Inks—a wife, mother and math teacher—for sharing her story with us!
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