To preface this, my husband, James and I got married in May of 2015. We had our first child, Graham, in June of 2017. On December 30, 2017, we learned we were expecting again! They would be 15 months apart – at least that was the plan anyway!
I don’t quite know how to begin writing this. Where to start, how much to share, and so on. But, James and I feel strongly about sharing our story in hopes of supporting others who are walking this same road. I want to share it all because I don’t want anything left out when we share Simon’s story with him later. I can’t tell you how hard I’ve searched for preterm labor stories, NICU journeys, 26 weekers, etc. so I hope that this story can be a bit of inspiration to others who find themselves walking in the same shoes. Needless to say, if you’re not one for long stories, hospital details, and preemie realities, you may want to stop reading here. But, if you ARE one into this sort of thing, get cozy because it’s not going to be short!
Saturday, May 19th
We’re wedding photographers, and it was the first weekend we had off from shooting weddings in Ha. We had planned on prepping for Graham’s 1st birthday party and then enjoying a date night while my mom kept Graham for his first slumber party. Mid-day I noticed my back was hurting terribly. I figured it was from carrying Graham too much + common pregnancy backaches, but it was way worse than I remember my back pain being when I was pregnant with G. I took some Tylenol and used a couple of oils to take the edge off. That evening, James and I decided on North End (a delicious local BBQ place) for dinner. Soon after we ordered our food, I began to feel absolutely terrible. My back was killing me, and my entire stomach area was hurting. I had cramping, pain all over my belly, my cervix literally hurt (if you can imagine that haha!), and I couldn’t take more than 2 bites of my meal. James quickly finished his, and we headed home. I immediately took a warm shower and went to bed. I’m a side sleeper and switching from side to side was so, so painful.
Sunday, May 20th
I felt like I couldn’t move. Getting up just to walk to the bathroom hurt all over. I stayed in bed until I got the news that a baby whose birth I was to photograph was on her way. I gained the courage to head over and photograph the birth. While there, I had to sit down frequently – I kept feeling as though I was going to pass out. I was still in tons of pain but managed to get through the day. I decided to call the on-call doctor at our hospital. They suggested Tylenol, lots of water, and keeping an eye on my pain. If it was still the same in the morning, they wanted me to call back.
Monday, May 21st
I called my OB practice first thing in the morning. The nurse I spoke with thought I was having round ligament pain or possibly pulled a muscle, so I kept resting, but that night around 7pm I started feeling consistent contractions. They were about 5 minutes apart and while they weren’t intense, they were definitely noticeable and spaced perfectly apart. I went to the hospital and they checked me in to triage. Sure enough, I was contracting. They checked me, but my cervix was long and closed (great news!). Because I was contracting so consistently, they wanted to start fluids and keep me overnight. After EIGHT attempts at an IV, the anesthesiologist came in and was successful. I also had a fetal fibronectin test done that is to show whether or not I was at risk for delivering within the next two weeks. It came back negative, which we thought was great at the time, but I suppose I’m in that small percentage of people who get an inaccurate result. After a super restless night, my cervix was unchanged, so they sent me home to lay low until another appointment on Thursday. I still wasn’t feeling well, but I didn’t feel as terrible as I did over the weekend.
Thursday, May 24th
My appointment was at 7am. I had an ultrasound to check cervical length. It was between 4 and 5 cm, which is perfect. Still long and closed. Woohoo! I was told to take it easy and to return in 2 weeks.
Memorial Day Weekend
The family was in town, we celebrated Graham’s 1st birthday with tons of friends and family (while I pretended to not be in pain), and then on Sunday, James and I stayed home with Graham and our nephew, Jack, while the rest of our family went to the race. It was such a calm and relaxed day, despite having two little ones.
Sunday, May 27th (Race Day)
Just after I received a text from my sister-in-law saying they were on their way back, I noticed I had started bleeding. Up until this point, I was confident nothing was wrong with the baby, and all of this would end, but the bleeding definitely worried me. I knew it wasn’t normal. I let James know and told him I was going to re-check in an hour. If the bleeding had gotten any worse or was still continuing, I’d call the doctor. Our family got back, we chatted about what to get for dinner, and I quietly went upstairs to check. It wasn’t a pleasant sight and I knew I needed to go in. At this point, I was a bit teary and when James and I headed out, my mom was holding Graham and he was crying and reaching for me, which he never does. It made me so, so sad and made it even harder to go in.
After getting settled in triage (yet again), I was connected to the monitor and definitely contracting. The doctor came in to check my cervix. I was about .5cm-1cm dilated and 70% effaced. Yikes. I knew that wasn’t good. She immediately admitted me. They treated it all as pre-term labor, which meant exhausting all avenues in an attempt to get labor to stop. So, they started magnesium with a 30-minute bolus. They warned me that it could be pretty terrible – that they had to do such a high dose to start with to get the magnesium levels to a therapeutic point. Sure enough, I felt super hot right away and nauseous. You guys, I do anything and everything in life to avoid vomiting. There was no way of avoiding it. I felt so, so sick. After the 30 minute bolus, it was turned down and a bit more manageable, but far from pleasant. I had to be on it for 36 hours in hopes of it stopping the contractions. I was on fluids and also received a steroid shot to help the baby’s lung development. Let’s just say that shot was right up there with the cortisone shot I had years ago. This entire time, Simon was doing great! He never showed any signs of distress. They told me Sunday night that I would be on bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy and that I couldn’t shoot any weddings before this baby arrived. Cue my minor freakout. We had 7 weddings on the calendar before this little guys’ due date (September 3rd). Thankfully, within a few hours, James and Sami had everything secured and set. We have such a wonderful group of photographers in the industry here in Indy, and I couldn’t be more thankful for so many people stepping up to help!
Monday, May 28th – Memorial Day
The magnesium gave me an awful headache and made me feel like jello. I slept on and off. The contractions had slowed, and the nurses were happy. I stayed in bed except for getting up to go to the bathroom. I THINK my mom and James both came to the hospital that day. The days blur together a bit, and the magnesium definitely had me in an unusual state of mind. Ha! Monday night I got another steroid shot and continued the magnesium. I let all of our clients know of the new plans and of course because we have THE best clients, everyone was super sweet and understanding.
Tuesday, May 29th
Around 10am they turned the magnesium off – thank goodness!!! I felt so much better shortly after that. At 10:45 we had an ultrasound with the maternal-fetal medicine doctor to see if they could pinpoint where the bleeding was coming from. James came so that he could be there, too. They wanted to look over the baby again to be sure they didn’t miss anything on an earlier ultrasound that would lead to preterm labor and also wanted to check my placenta. Later that day we learned that everything was fine, but that my cervix had shortened to 1.75cm (from the 4-5cm it was 5 days prior) and it showed more funneling. More bed rest, more fluids, more waiting. We also met with the neonatologist. He explained what we could expect if we were to deliver this baby soon. Of course, we did all of this in hopes that this would be an “if you do it, you won’t need it” kind of a thing. Looking back, I’m so glad we met with him, even though I was in a bit of a “magnesium state.”
Wednesday, May 30th – Our 3rd anniversary!
In the early hours of the morning, around 2am, I started feeling contractions again. I couldn’t sleep through them, so I knew that wasn’t a good sign. At 4am, they decided to start magnesium again. Thankfully, I could avoid the bolus this time, but it still made me feel pretty terrible. They also started me on the oral medication, Procardia. It’s a medication a lot of people go home on to help stop preterm labor. I took it every 4 hours. They also wanted to give me an ambien (Holy moly, I’ve never taken anything for sleeping- it definitely made me sleep. haha!). And probably the worst part was that I could no longer get up to go to the bathroom. Wednesday, my mom was with me all day and I pretty much slept between all the nurse’s visits. After James got Graham down for the night, he brought dinner. I asked for Red Robin, the perfect meal to have on magnesium and on our 3rd anniversary. Super fancy. He brought flowers and a card, we chatted, took a selfie so we could always remember this celebration, and then he went home to be with Graham for the night.
Thursday, May 31st – His birthday!
At 1am, I was up again with contractions. They were getting worse, but nothing completely unbearable. They gave me a shot of something (I can’t even remember what it was called) to relax my uterus. It seemed to work for about 5 minutes. A few hours later, they gave me pain medication in hopes that I would be able to sleep. At about 6:15, I was miserable. The contractions were terrible. I texted my mom and James saying that they should probably come in. The nurse called the doctor at 6:40. He said he’d be to the hospital in 20 minutes. He came in at 7:10. I was struggling to breathe through the contractions at this point. It went from semi-bearable to I NEED THE EPIDURAL NOW so quickly. Neither James nor my mom were there yet. They both had to call off work during their last week of school numerous times. When the doctor came in, he could clearly see I was miserable. By this point, I knew a baby was coming. He told me that he’d call the epidural in so I could get comfortable. In the meantime, he checked my cervix. At 7:25 I was 7cm dilated. He told me we were going to have a baby and assured me everything would be okay. While waiting for the anesthesiologist, my favorite nurse came in. She stayed past her time to be with me. She held my hand while the doctor told me how the birth would go. I’d deliver in the OR for a controlled environment and enough space for all the doctors and nurses that would be present. It would be quicker access from the OR into the NICU for the NICU team, which of course made sense. He told me I could definitely do it without a c-section and that when it was go-time, it would likely go fairly quickly and to not be alarmed by all the commotion. I did my best to stay calm and listen all while feeling desperate for the epidural. The anesthesiologist came in and introduced himself. Right as he was getting started, James got there. I immediately told James to go outside (he doesn’t do needles), so he left and was sitting outside the door waiting for the epidural procedure to be finished. I was having such a hard time sitting still, as I felt like I had no break between contractions. He cleaned my back off, and I felt my water break. I told the nurses. They told me it was fine, not to worry, the epidural would be in in a minute. The next thing I know I’m telling the nurses “He’s between my legs!” He’s coming!”. I rolled back onto the bed and delivered him on my side without a push. This whole time James was in the hallway. All he heard was “We have a baby, we have a baby! We need NICU.” down the hall. My OB was running down the hallway while the nurse pushed the emergency alarm. 15-20 people ran down the hall towards our room. He was shocked and didn’t even know what to do. All he could think to do was to hold the door open for everyone who came flooding in. He heard Simon’s little cry, and that’s when he came in. He held my hand and kept me calm while there was so much commotion around me. I don’t have a clue who all came in. I remember seeing tons of scrubs, but I don’t recall any faces. I didn’t get to see Simon. I easily could have if I looked down, and I’m not even sure why I didn’t. The OB and neonatologist were so, so wonderful. They kept us updated throughout what they were doing, which helped us stay calm and reassured us. James went over to look at Simon. He said he just felt so badly for him (talk about ripping mama’s heart open!).
What was supposed to be a super controlled environment ended up being a delivery in my bed with just 2 nurses and an anesthesiologist. I was stunned. Shocked. Confused. Worried.
He was whisked away, they completed all they needed to with me, and started some Pitocin. The cramps were pretty terrible – worse than they were after delivering Graham, but I also wonder if that’s just because I had Graham on my chest to distract me from those post-delivery things and this time, I was laying there by myself with no baby to snuggle and worried sick about him. My mom arrived, and the room went back to being calm. I stayed in the L&D room for 2 hours and before they transferred me to postpartum. I was so happy to be up and walking, despite feeling a bit weak.
Not too long after we got settled in our room, we were able to go see him! They had a bit of trouble putting in his arterial lines, so it took a couple of hours before we could go back. We went down and saw our sweet, tiny boy. We were able to hold his hand, ask any questions we could think of, and just stare at him. They were giving us so much information, but I was feeling a little “off” after delivery (of course!), so I can’t remember too much of what they said. I just remember them being happy that he was good with CPAP and was breathing room air, as opposed to needing a ventilator, right away.
This story was written 5 days after delivery. Now, 6 months later, we’re still in shock but overjoyed! Having babies 11 months apart, spending the summer in the NICU, and the chaos of two babies under one wasn’t quite what we envisioned, but we are more grateful than ever for our little family.