This is a long one folks, so get a cup of coffee and take your phone off the hook.
15 months ago, on January 17, 2008, I waited ever so patiently for the school bell to ring at 3:45, for my students to head home for a long weekend, and for me to go home to an already packed up car, and head to Ohio for my baby shower. Joe and I drove 5 1/2 hours (stopping to get Subway for dinner...I had a 6 in tuna sub on wheat if anybody cares) to Wytheville, VA and stopped at a Comfort Inn for the night(the room was freezing by the way!). Then early...I mean early Friday morning (we couldn't sleep on the uncomfortable Comfort Inn bed), we started the rest of our drive to Ohio.
We got to Joe's parents around noon, way before we thought we would. We had lunch and opened our Christmas presents...yes, I said Christmas presents. That evening we went to Erin & Jason's for dinner, and to look through her giant tubs of baby girl clothes (she prepared well for a girl or boy when she was pregnant with Ian). I complained most of the evening of Julianna pushing like mad on both side of my stomach. I had learned over the last few months that she was already an athlete, generally kicking and pushing so hard I would have to take a deep breath(I'm pretty sure Erin told me to suck it up). I was slightly concerned that she was being to violent, but shrugged it off.
When we got back to Joe's parents, I noticed a tiny bit of discharge, but had just read how normal different discharges were and that you shouldn't be concerned except for certain circumstances, none of which I met. So I went to bed. I slept like crap. But in all honesty, what pregnant woman sleeps good? I awoke at 5am, to pee of course, "pregnant me" got up at least 4 times a night to pee, and there was more discharge. This did not set well with me and I woke up Joe. We debated what to do for awhile. I felt fine. I wasn't having contractions (or so I thought). I had had braxton-hicks contractions since 15 weeks and knew them well. There weren't any kind of contractions to be felt.
But I was still uneasy about all of it. So we called my doctor in SC...at 5:30am. The answering service had her call me back (my OB wasn't on call so I talked to another one in the office...one I had never seen). I explained what was happening and she told me it sounded like nothing was wrong, and that maybe I over did it on the drive up to Ohio. She said if it would make me feel better I could go to the local ER and get checked out. I said thanks and hung up. We layed in bed debating, yet again, this time whether or not to go to the ER. After what seemed like an eternity, we decided to go (just for our own peace of mind). I laughed about how I would get there, get checked out, and they would tell me I was a paranoid first time mom. Joe let his mom & dad know where we were going and not to worry. Then we headed off.
I called my sister and my parents to tell them we were going to the ER just to get checked out. I told them all avidly not to come, and not to worry we would call them when we were discharged(so sure we would get discharged). On the way to the ER, I thought to myself, I should have gotten copies of my OB records to bring on the trip, I had read somewhere before we left SC that I should do that...but I didn't. We arrived at Aultman at 6:30am, and its amazing how quickly you get seen in an ER when you are 27 weeks pregnant!
We were taken to a room and an intern(I don't know the actual position, but it was doctor that couldn't do things on their own) took my history and complaint, hooked me up to all the fetal monitors and said another doctor would have to see me. Okay. Another doctor, and I will never forget him, Dr. S came in and examined me, and told me I was already 6cm and would have to be admitted immediately. He left the room for a few minutes and then and only then did I cry. This is a very important moment to me. That is the only time throughout the entire experience that I cried. I was so scared.
I was taken to L & D. I had a fabulous room (not that I noticed until sometime the next day). There were like 900 doctors and nurses in my room (ok, not quite that many, maybe 850).I was getting IV's, shots to stop any contractions I was having (still none of which I felt) and shots to mature Julianna's lungs, and had like 5o papers to sign (I had no idea what they were, they said sign and I signed). I was scared, but I knew doctors could stop labor. And I had NO problems during my pregnancy, not even morning sickness, so everything would be fine. I felt even better, once there was some family there(my sister hadn't listened to me when I told her to stay home).
Then they brought in an ultrasound to check on Julianna, and this is were things went really bad. There were in all seriousness at least 5 doctors in my room, and I remember one turning to us and saying "You know we are concerned when there are this many doctors here". WHAT?!?!? You shouldn't tell a pregnant woman things like that! I immediately started to panic! Ok, not outloud, but in my head. Outwardly, I was still relatively calm. I think I was in shock to the point that I didn't know how to make my thoughts come out in actual verbalized sentences. I heard everything that was being said but only comprehended a fraction of it. Anyway, during the ultrasound they realized Julianna was breech and was in immediate danger of delivering her foot and umbilical cord. Should that happen she would suffocate in a matter of minutes. I was to be taken to the OR right then to have an emergency c-section. Joe had managed to call his parents and mine to come to the hospital right after we found out I was being admitted. His parents got there just before I went to the OR, mine got there just after.
At this point things get a little foggy. I remember sitting up for the spinal, and vaguely remember the surgery. I do vividly remember the anestesiologist asking if I wanted a certain drug during the procedure. I looked at Joe (he being Medic Joe) and asked if I wanted it...his reply was "oh yeah, you want that, its good stuff". At that point thigs get even more blurry. I can't remember if Julianna cried (Joe's said she did), I don't remember them wheeling her isolette passed me so I could catch a glimpse of her (Joe said they did), and I don't remember being taken to recovery (obviously they did). On the good side, I don't remember whether or not the c-section itself was uncomfortable in any way.
One thing I do remember, is the ridiculously long time I was in recovery. Ok, I have no idea how long I was actually there, but it seemed like forever. I think it was because I was told when I left recovery they would take me to the NICU to see Julianna. The nurses in recovery so wonderfully called the NICU whenever we asked, but we were never told it was ok to come. Eventually, I was taken back to my room without seeing Julianna & was told they would let us know when she was stable. I was so glad to see my family when I got back to my room. And we all waited...waited for news about Julianna...waited until we could all see her. At one point I thought, if she still isn't stable, should we call Fr. H? Will she need to be baptised right away in case...I tried not to think about "in case".
Finally, (I don't know what time) we were able to see her. And this is what we saw.
Our little baby girl, weighing just 2lbs 11 oz and 13.5 inches long, was on a ventilator, had umbilical IV's and more tubes and wires than I wanted to count. This was not what I thought my first visit with my baby would be like. I wasn't allowed to hold her and could barely see her from my wheelchair.
Thanks to surfactant (a drug discovered thanks to March of Dimes research) Julianna was only on the vent for 13 hours! That is absolutely amazing for a 27 week preemie! March of Dimes is also responsible for many of the things women do during their pregnancy like taking folic acid to prevent neural tube defects. Their current mission is a campaign against prematurity. I have an increased risk for having a preemie in future pregnancies, so I want nothing more than to help them reach their goals and give babies a better chance of being born full-term and to avoid the unfortunate stay in the NICU.
Please sponsor Team Kieffer when we March for Babies in 2 weeks.