In January, I joyfully announced my pregnancy on this blog. I intended to keep shooting, assisting, consulting, and working just as hard as always for as long as my body would let me. I thought I could make it through 7 months, which would have been mid/late May.
But…my water broke at 21 weeks and 4 days, on April 3rd, 2012. Since then, I’ve been confined to hospital bed-rest, and will be for the rest of my pregnancy. So I won’t be shooting for a while.
When your water breaks before 23 weeks, it’s known as a preterm premature rupture of membranes, or “pre-PROM.” This occurs in only 1% of pregnancies. (So, me and the munchkin are, apparently, super special. I say this to reassure other pregnant readers out there…you most likely don’t need to worry about this happening to you.)
The vast majority of women that experience pre-PROM deliver within 48 hours-1 week, and when delivery occurs before week 23-24, in most cases, the baby cannot survive. In fact, regardless of the delivery date, pre-PROM survival rates are only about 12% – mostly because most women deliver within a couple of weeks of rupture. Babies born very early after pre-PROM might survive, but experience very high risk of complications, particularly with lung development, brain bleeds, joint problems, and heart defects.
Additionally, once prematurely ruptured, moms are at risk for 1) developing infections in the uterus, because there is no longer enough fluid and sealed membranes around the baby to provide a protective barrier between the outside world and the womb; and 2) placental abruption (among other things).
I didn’t know any of this before my water broke. Of all of the things I thought could go wrong with my pregnancy, my water breaking at 21 weeks was not one of them. I did know that conceiving might be difficult for me. I knew that I would require a C-Section because of my history of myomectomy. I knew that my previous LEEP might lead to an incompetent cervix (such a weird term). I knew my chronic fibroid tumors posed risk of miscarriage. But I never knew my water could break so prematurely! And I definitely didn’t know that your water could break without resulting in immediate labor.
The night I ruptured, I was just sitting at my desk. Nothing out of the ordinary. I knew my water had broken; there was no doubt because I lost so much fluid. Instead of panicking, I got very calm, like people do in a crisis. I called my doctor, who told me to go to the ER. I called my husband, changed my clothes, put a key under the mat, made sure the animals were okay, and drove myself to the hospital. I held myself together until I was at the admitting desk inside the ER, at which point, the tears came. I was admitted to Labor and Delivery, and I thought that I’d be delivering our baby that night, knowing it couldn’t survive.
Miraculously, today is the one month anniversary of my hospitalization! I am still pregnant – almost 26 weeks! The baby is growing normally, the heartbeat is strong and healthy, and my fluid levels are sufficient enough for the doctors to be optimistic that our baby can do okay. Our goal and prayer is to make it through at least 28 weeks, but preferably 34. If I make it to 34, the doctors will schedule a C Section, because at that point, the risks of staying pregnant start to outweigh the benefits to the baby.
Since being hospitalized, I’ve been administered antibiotics (first via IV, then orally), have regular exams, weekly ultrasounds, twice-daily heartbeat and contraction monitors. I was transferred from Integris Baptist to OU Children’s Hospital (where they have more high-risk expertise – my first ambulance ride!), and I have “bathroom privileges” (this term is hilarious to me; am I in jail? Detention? ) which means I can use the restroom and take showers. I can take short jaunts around the hospital in wheelchair with my husband. Otherwise, I am supposed to stay in bed.
Bed-rest would be much harder if not for two main factors: 1) I am doing it for someone else – the baby. If I had to do it for myself, it would be mind-numbingly awful. 2) We have great friends and family that are sharing the load with us. Early on, one of my friends, while visiting, said “there are a lot of blessings in this, Holly.” After overcoming the initial desire to punch her in the face, I was able to see how true that is.
There are times in life when people just show up, and when you realize how loved you are. This is one of those times. Cards, visitors, care packages, flowers, books, magazines, games, movies, pedicures, meals in the freezer, laundry, arranging housecleaning, dog sitting, lattes, fresh fruit, candy, homemade pillows, girly toiletries, even a hospital-room haircut…just a sampling of the ways we’ve been blessed with during this experience. Most of all, we are buoyed by the prayers of a great community, many of whom we don’t even know, all over the US and even world. For all of these blessings, we are more thankful than we could ever express.
Without that support, the fear and stress would be overwhelming. The emotional roller coaster has been tough on both of us. First, fears of losing the baby. Then, fears that the baby will have lifelong disabilities. Initially, every time I was strapped onto the baby monitors, we had anxiety about the results, paranoia about every irregularity we heard. And in contrast, an enormous sense of relief and victory at the end of each day because I didn’t go into labor. And, oh, the horrible guilt: I shouldn’t have tried to get pregnant because of my health history…Nathan only has to go through this because he married me…It’s my fault. Etc. Grief that this will probably be my only pregnancy, and then more guilt about that, for Nathan’s sake. Worry that our dog will think I abandoned him. Sadness about not having baby showers, about not being able to decorate a nursery and put together baby stuff with Nathan, or strut around 9-months pregnant in cute maternity clothes.
Every day, though things have gotten easier. Each week is a major milestone. The doctors agree that we’ve beaten the odds; one even said “I think the kid will probably be okay.” So, until this baby decides to make its entrance, it’s one-day-at-a-time. We are so overwhelmingly grateful for the support and encouragement we’ve received, and so thankful that this child will be able to have a chance at a healthy life. I am painfully aware that it doesn’t end this way for everyone. I don’t know why we are the recipients of a miracle. But it makes me even more excited to meet our little one, and see where our lives go together. Little “RC” (our nickname, derived from the first initials of our favorite boy/girl names) is so very loved already, and will be so joyfully welcomed into this world by so many people who have been cheering him/her on since April 3rd. We can’t wait to introduce RC to you! – Just not quite yet.
Keep praying for us!