This is my first post in a multi-part series about my experience natural parenting a preemie and the challenges that presents.
Late in my 27th week of pregnancy I finally met with my midwife. I had been under the care of an OB-GYN because it had been a rocky early pregnancy. I had miscarried just 2 months prior to becoming pregnant again and they wanted to watch me extra closely – which I appreciated. Then I started having bleeding episodes. Twice during the first trimester I thought I had lost our baby – one of those times the OB did too just based on the amount of blood I lost. Thankfully, every time they did an ultrasound his little heart was beating away. By 27 weeks things were going so well that I was transferred to a midwife! YAY, one step closer to having the birth I hoped for!
I had been taking Bradley Birth classes and brought my birth plan with me to the appointment. We discussed my desires for a non-medicated vaginal birth and all that goes with it. We even went over my post-birth desires: No Vitamin K shot, no eye “goop”, immediate and extended skin-to-skin contact, delayed cord-clamping, breastfeeding, etc. My midwife was fully supportive of this and we went home from that appointment feeling great – we were finally on our way to being the natural parents we wanted to be.
Unfortunately at 2am that night everything changed.
After about and hour of getting up and going to the bathroom in the dark almost every 10min, and still feeling like I was peeing myself I turned on the light only to discover that the toilet and bed were full of blood and there was a trail of it from leading from my bed to the bathroom. I shouted to wake my husband up and directed him to call 911. I could still feel our baby moving, so I knew he was still with us, but that much blood loss at this point in the pregnancy was not a good thing.
I was taken to the hospital by ambulance, where I was told I was in labor and had placenta previa, which was causing the bleeding/labor. Luckily they were able to stop my labor and I was given steroid shots to help our sons lungs develop. My midwife came by the next morning and tried to make me feel better by letting me know that in some cases the placenta moves away from the cervix and that a full-term, vaginal birth is still possible. I clung to that hope, but as I had more episodes of massive bleeding and contractions it was clear I would not be one of those lucky women.
We celebrated Thanksgiving and our 2nd wedding anniversary at the hospital with me on bedrest, and then on the 11 day I started bleeding and contacting again and the drugs couldn’t stop it. I was told my son would be born by c-section within the hour. I was devastated. I was only 29 weeks along. Aside from my fear for his life I was also fearful of how this early birth would effect everything we had planned – immediate skin to skin contact, breastfeeding, limited medical intervention, etc. All that goes out the window when you child is rushed to the NICU.
To make matters worse, the spinal didn’t take (it only numbed my legs – not my abdomen) so I had to be completely put out for our son’s birth, and since I was under my husband wasn’t allowed in the OR either. We both missed the birth of our first child.
Our son, G, moments after birth being hooked up to
monitors, a ventilator, covered in plastic and placed on a warmer
by the NICU team. One of the nurses was kind
enough to take photos of him so I could see those before
I could go up to see him in the NICU.
Our son, G, was born on December 1st at 11:58pm. He was 3 pounds and 4 ounces, actually fairly large for a baby his gestation. Instead of immediate skin-to-skin holding I had to wait until the next morning to even see him. It was 3 days later before I held him for the first time.
My birth plan had gone completely out the window. To this day I don’t even know the full extent of the medical treatments he received in the hours, days and weeks after his birth. Did he get the eye “goop”? How about the Vitamin K shot that I was planning on having him skip? I have no idea. What I do know is that through medical advances they got him breathing; that he managed to avoid an infection; that I left it up the the doctors to do whatever they thought was best to keep my son alive and get him strong enough and big enough to come home with me. Ventilators, IV’s, heart monitors, etc. were most defiantly NOT part of my plan.
At the time all I was worried about was his survival, but as he grew and we knew he would be coming home with us someday, I started to think about how to let go of my birth plans but keep the intention – to be a natural parent, even to a preemie.
The first thing I did was decide I would NOT give-up on breastfeeding. I told myself “One part of your body failed him, but not all of it will. You will give him your milk.” And I did.
Check back later for Part Two: The Power of Breastmilk