“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” — Maya Angelou
Today marks the day that my little sugar bear would be turning 1 year old had things gone according to plan and I would have given birth on my actual due date; but rarely do things go as we expect them to so Amir turns 1 year and 3 months old today! On January 14, 2015 at 8:50 pm, my sweet prince decided to make his debut at 27 weeks gestation. Prior to his early arrival, I had a rather difficult pregnancy to say the least, and shared very little with anyone outside of my immediate circle; so, I figured today would be as good a time as any, to share his birth story!
It had been 10 days since my water had broken unexpectedly at 25 weeks, and for the most part everything was going pretty well. I’d been in the hospital on bed rest with no issues since the 4th and Amir was growing pretty well all things considered. Up until that point, I did not realize that the amniotic fluid that surrounds the baby during pregnancy is no longer made by the mother after month 4, and is comprised of mainly the baby’s own urine. So, my days consisted of drinking at least 80 ounces of water, watching Property Brothers reruns, and lots of bed rest. The goal was to keep me in the hospital for at least 10 weeks—at which point I would go home the new mom of baby boy and with the ability to rehab a 100 year old house with a custom open concept kitchen design.
As a first time mom over 35, I was already in the high-risk category and had been going for weekly check-ins with my team of Obstetricians since finding out about my pregnancy at 5 weeks; in addition, it was discovered during a routine anatomy screening at 18 weeks that my cervix was shorter than it should have been (the average cervix lengthens to around 3.8 centimeters during pregnancy, mines was 2.1 centimeters) which drastically increased my risk for preterm labor and I was immediately put on vaginal progesterone for a week to prevent further shortening, possible dilation, and preterm labor. After a week, I went back to my OB and was immediately transported to Duke University Hospital for an emergency surgery called a cerclage, as my cervix had shortened even further to 1 centimeter with funneling. A cerclage is a relatively simple procedure which entails sewing the cervix together with a stitch; however, it works best when there is no funneling and you have a relatively decent amount of length to the cervix—so I was 0 for 2 at that point. Fortunately, the surgery was successful and I was sent home with orders to limit my activity and rest.
Every week after the emergency surgery was a celebration and pretty routine. I’d check-in on Monday mornings with my OB for a weekly sonogram to make sure the baby’s heartbeat was strong, my cervix was still closed, and he was growing well. On week 24, my OB and I celebrated with fist bumps, cheers, and my first round of steroid injections to mature Amir’s lungs and prepare him for preterm labor. Week 25, I checked in and everything looked good…and then it wasn’t.
It’s gets fuzzy around this point, but I remember waking up on Saturday, January 3rd thinking either I’d had an accident in the bed or a really good dream. I called the OB on call and she asked all the pertinent questions, had I seen a gush of water, was I leaking down my leg, could I feel the baby or an umbilical cord, to all I answered no. She said it sounded like it may just be from the progesterone and to keep an eye on it. I went back to bed. The next day I realized that the wetness wasn’t going away and drove myself to the hospital where I learned that I had ruptured my amniotic sac. Fortunately, there was still fluid and the baby was fine, but I would not be going home until I delivered the baby—which they hoped wouldn’t be any time soon.
“And I’d choose you; in a hundred lifetimes, in a hundred worlds, in any version of reality, I’d find you and I’d choose you.” — Kiersten White, The Chaos of Stars
For the next 10 days I went through a battery of emotions, talked with numerous doctors and social workers, weighed the odds, and received another steroid injection to further strengthen his lungs and facilitate the production of surfactant, a fatty substance that coats the baby’s lungs to help them breathe. Amir’s dad spent nights camped out on the most uncomfortable chairs known to man in between making craving runs to Cookout for chili cheese burgers; my support group of friends-turned-family transformed my hospital room into a sanctuary with candles, cards, flowers, and vision board parties; and I settled in with my laptop and textbooks to finish up my last few weeks of class—we were all prepared for the long haul.
The morning of January 14th was about as routine as ever, I called the nurses station for a wheelchair so that I could go get myself a real breakfast from the hospital cafeteria and headed downstairs. I arrived back in my room at which point the nurse strapped on the Doppler fetal monitor to listen to the baby’s heartbeat for 20 minutes and everything sounded great. He was in his usual spot on my right side just above my pelvis. He moved quite a bit for a little guy, reassuring me that he was doing fine. The day, like the days before, went along with no issues, and I prepared myself for an evening dinner of bland roast chicken, vanilla ice cream, and a new episode of Empire. It was 8:30-ish and I’d just gotten settled when I noticed that he wasn’t really moving like his usual self. I had eaten some ice cream, which would normally have him bouncing around…but not tonight. I reluctantly rang for the nurse on call and apologized for being a worry wort but my gut told me something wasn’t right. I asked if she could check his heart rate for me, which she obliged. She strapped on the monitor and felt around with the transducer for his heartbeat. “He’s right here” as I directed her towards the right side and she found his heartbeat; however, his heart rate was around 90 bpm which was really low. His normal range was around 170 to 175 bpm which was high but normal for him. This had been her first time with me as a patient so she suggested I drink some apple juice and we could check it again in few minutes. I declined and explained to her that I’d already eaten ice cream, which would normally have him moving all around and would prefer to have one of the doctors on call come up and check it with an ultrasound machine. She called for the doctors and in a matter of minutes they were in my room with a portable sonogram machine.
At this point, it gets really real and went something like this…there were two women Obstetricians on call and both were in my room, I remember they checked the heart rate, it was low…like really low (it would go from 80 bpm to like 35 bpm), one OB looked at me and asked did I sign all the necessary paperwork in case of an emergency Cesarean delivery, I answered yes, and her exact words were “It’s go time.” With the help of the nurse, these two women wheeled me down to the operating room so fast, lifted me onto the table, and someone else slapped an oxygen mask on my face. I used my hand to tell the nurse the 4-digit code to unlock my cell and he called the last person I talked to, which was my friend Tori.
At 8:50 pm, my miracle baby was delivered with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck three times. He weighed 1 lb 14 ounces and was immediately transferred to the NICU where he spent the next 77 days growing. He needed some oxygen upon delivery, started breathing room air through a nasal cannula by day 2, and then completely on his own by day 7. Today he is walking, talking, laughing, and is such a joy to be around. He is hope personified.
Thank you to all the doctors, nurses, and staff at Duke University Hospital for the amazing care we received and to the NICU moms that I met and formed a bond with that can never be unbroken.