My water broke without explanation on March 9, both Emma's birthday and two months before Ben's due date. For the next five days, I shuttled between labor and delivery when I needed continuous monitoring and a long-term mother/baby room when all was well with Ben.
As the night shift came on duty on Monday the 14th, I sent PJ and my mom home for the night, assuring them that I'd be right there in the morning, ready for transfer back to the long-term room to keep waiting on Ben.
I even texted, "my nurse and I are getting ready for a boring night."
Famous last words.
Around 9:30 p.m., I felt a slightly painful tightening. I kept watching Gilmore Girls. Seven minutes later, another one. Then another. Then another. I told myself that if I had one more regular contraction, I'd call the nurse.
Seven minutes later, another one. I called my nurse in and told her what I was feeling, as the contractions were not showing up on the monitor. She adjusted the monitor lower on my belly and said she'd go watch from the desk.
Well, wouldn't you know: the most regular, beautiful contraction pattern started showing up on the screen. My nurse returned with orders to infuse a bag of fluid and give me pain medicine. I spent the next two hours in a sleepy haze, peeking every so often to see the contraction strip with its perfect, regular contraction peaks.
By the time the medicine wore off at midnight, I was pretty uncomfortable, and the contractions were five minutes apart. I was told that we'd keep watching.
By 2 a.m., The contractions were 2-3 minutes apart, and I was in PAIN. Now, I didn't mind, because clearly I was in labor and I had been told all week that when I went into labor, I could have my c-section and be done. All the normal measures to stop contractions had been taken and the contractions continued as if out of a textbook. Let's do this.
A doctor came in to check my cervix. I was sure that the pain level and hours of contractions would have given me a couple of centimeters at least.
"You're at a one. Maybe."
A lot of bad words crossed my mind.
"Sooo...I seem to be in labor. Am I in labor? Is the baby going to be delivered? Should I call my husband?"
"Well, we'll keep watching you."
For what? The baby to walk on out?
I turned down more pain medication, thinking the c-section was imminent and I didn't want to be overloaded on pain meds.
By 4 a.m. and another cervix check that put me squarely at 1 cm, I gave into the medicine.
Whoever says that IV pain meds help labor pains is a liar. All it did was mess with my sense of time, making each second seem like a minute. This caused me to sleep between contractions and feel like I'd been asleep for an hour, but it also caused the minute-long contractions to feel endless.
This painful haze continued until 7 a.m. when blessedly, the day shift came on and brought hope of delivery. Sometime in my drugged state overnight, I realized that of course I was in labor, but there was no chance of getting a c-section on the night shift. No one wanted to take the responsibility for delivering a 32 week baby in the middle of the night. But hope had arrived in the form of a fresh, well-staffed medical team.
At this point, I was screaming through each contraction and crying hysterically in between. If you know me, you know that I'm not a loud, dramatic person. I had absolutely lost my mind. Something wasn't right. Thankfully, a doctor who had seen me daily for the past week came in the room. When she saw me completely losing it, she told the team that this was not my normal behavior. She did a thorough check and determined that I was truly in labor and progressing.
She sent the attending doctor in, and the decision was finally made to go to the OR and get this baby out. His heart rate was unstable, and there was concern that the placenta was separating--not good.
I completely gave up any remaining semblance of holding it together. I laid on the bed and cried/screamed while OR prep began. PJ arrived just as the call was made to deliver the baby.
At this point, things turned into a scary haze. I was having trouble breathing effectively, and the baby's heart rate started dropping significantly. I could hear the (too) slow beats pounding out from the monitor. I was rushed into an operating room. I heard anesthesia being paged repeatedly. People kept telling me to breathe. I couldn't. I could hear the doctor saying that I needed spinal anesthesia in the next two minutes or it was going to be too late and I would have to have general anesthesia. Someone pushed me upright, and a nurse pulled me towards her, curving my back into position for the spinal. She put her face right next to mine and told me everything that was happening, and that I needed to breathe. The spinal mercifully got placed in time, allowing PJ to be present for the birth. I was placed back on the table, and the operation began.
I started at the ceiling, finally able to breathe now that the pain was gone, but overwhelmed by the night's events and the fact that my baby was being delivered two months early.
So much tugging and pulling and then...7:52 a.m. "It's a boy!"
Benjamin James King.
I laid there and cried, and I heard his tiny little cry. My anesthesia guy took PJ's phone to get pictures up close. A few minutes later, the NICU team brought Ben over and held him to my face for a few seconds before rushing him off to the NICU. As they were leaving, the neonatologist came over and told us what she knew. They had to intubate. His color was good. And something about his legs being deformed. And then she was gone.
PJ went with Ben, and my operation wrapped up. The OR became quiet and empty as doctors and nurses left one by one. I was taken to the recovery room, which was blessedly empty. My nurse, the one who had held me for the spinal, told me what she knew and filled in my knowledge gaps from the surgery. PJ returned from the NICU, and we waited in somber silence while I cried quietly. We had a new son, but the unknowns of his condition and the circumstances of his birth did not encourage an upbeat celebration.
"What did the doctor mean when she said his legs were deformed?" I whispered.
"I don't know. She's not sure yet," he replied.
More silence. We waited, and our families arrived to see me and welcome Ben.
I was able to see Ben that night and touch his soft little arm. Over the next few days, Ben performed like a champ and made progress faster than anyone expected. (And his legs seem fine!) We are so thankful for his little life, and we are looking forward to bringing him home in the next few weeks!