I’ve spent a good amount of time putting my thoughts into words and updating our CaringBridge website. I want to separate that source as a place to prioritize Ryan’s health updates. This though, is my place. My place to share my own thoughts and feelings in a real, raw and therapeutic way. I don’t owe anyone anything, but what I’ve found is that sharing on Instagram and here has connected me with so many people who I wouldn’t have otherwise met. Additionally, I’ve experienced things recently that have the potential to make me feel very alone. Thankfully I feel extremely supported but, if my sharing can help even one person feel less alone, then I feel like I’ve added value to the universe and that brings me joy.
But where the hell am I supposed to start? I have SO much to say. I wrote last about my first trimester. It was a time where I wasn’t very thrilled about being pregnant. The boys were wreaking havoc on my body. I was tired and couldn’t eat anything. I was also grateful for the greatest gift of all, three babies. Who would have thought I would be here now, in my third trimester, with no babies inside of me. Instead, two babies dead and one baby living off machines, spending days in the NICU, uncertain about everything.
Honestly speaking, I would love to go back to the part of the story where I was pregnant and more than anything in the whole world, I’d like to re-write my reality. It would be a reality where Chase and Ben were still alive. I miss them so badly. I think what I need to do for myself is go back to the part of the story where my water broke and things took a turn to scary-town. I need to process it all through words and put it ‘on paper’ to help myself move forward. I don’t know if that changes the tone or the theme of this blog, even just temporarily, but I don’t really care. This is real life and until recently, I never imagined what this could feel like. My naivety had the best of me, through pregnancy and even through being admitted to the hospital. While I hope to every higher power that you’re never in this position, I need to explain how it became my truth.
My water broke at 23 weeks 4 days. It was about 1 am and I woke up thinking I had peed myself. I shimmied to the bathroom and about half way there, the fluid dribbled down my legs. At that point I knew I wasn’t peeing. I tried to stay calm. I sat on the toilet, actually peed and thought – I’ll clean myself up and then get back to sleep. Except I tucked myself back into bed and fluid kept coming. I knew something wasn’t right. I had never experienced a broken water, but in my heart, I knew I needed to get to a doctor. What I knew about waters breaking lead me to believe I was going to be giving birth within an hour. I was immediately terrified.
Off we went to Lawrence & Memorial. I knew we would eventually deliver at Yale New Haven but at this point, as scared as I was, I knew it was FAR too early for these babies to come. I guess my optimism was suggesting I go get checked out more locally and then go home until it was time for the big show. I thought maybe bed rest was in the cards. Boy, I was wrong. At L&M, they admitted me. The on-call doctor came in and told me that I wouldn’t be going home until the boys arrived. As if I wasn’t already terrified. I had no hospital bag. (As if that was even remotely important at that moment? I’ll get to that later.) The next move was to transfer me to Yale in New Haven so that I could be with the appropriate medical group.
At this point, the doctor assured me that some women experience PPROM (preterm, premature rupture of membrane) and go on to keep their babies in utero for weeks. I regained some hope. I had finally reached a point in my pregnancy where we’d had enough normal scans, I’d felt pretty confident in our potential longevity. I had been saying that our next milestone was viability at 24 weeks. Looking back, I knew it would be an important milestone, but for the wrong reasons.
Upon arrival at Yale, many medical professionals came to meet us. One of those people, we now refer to affectionately as ‘Uncle Zain’. Like Dan, with a Z, he told us at our first meeting. The intent of said meeting was to have a “hard conversation.” Zain came to talk to us about the reality and potential risks in our situation. At 23 weeks, 4 days, there are certain statistics we needed to be made aware of. Our babies had roughly a 30% chance of survival at that gestation. It would improve as time went on, but Zain wanted to talk about what our wishes might be in the event they were born and couldn’t survive outside of my body. Did we have the conversation? Of course. Was it hard? Most definitely. Did I feel like I was aware of the possibilities? Sure. But I was also so sure my babies would stay inside of me for at least another two weeks. I never imagined what would come. I kept willing the universe to give me more time with them.
I started to make myself comfortable in the hospital. Care baskets came from loved ones and I asked the kids in our families to make some artwork for décor. The nurses and doctors encouraged it. I wasn’t dilated and my non-stress tests were all unremarkable. I felt slightly concerned that Baby A, now Ryan, had a little less fluid than the other babies, but overall, I felt good. I was eating, sleeping, resting. Honestly, I kind of felt like it was the pre-baby arrival rest I had been craving.
I had spent the first night at Yale alone, knowing Tom was exhausted and wanting him to have his strength for all the responsibility that would inevitably fall on him with me hospitalized. Thankfully, my separation anxiety is strong and I asked him to come back and stay with me for the second night. At about 1 am on October 6th, I woke up out of a dead sleep with cramps. I went to the bathroom and returned to bed to try and sleep more. That wasn’t happening, so I buzzed my nurse and let her know I was having a hard time. She called for the doctor to come and they checked my cervix. I was still not dilated. This gave me some mental relief, but my discomfort was progressing. In the meantime, the effort was made to hook us back up to the monitors to check on the babies. Unfortunately, my nurse struggled to get all three babies on the monitor. I was frustrated and growing impatient as my cramping became more intense.
Inevitably, the doctor returned and an ultrasound machine was used to locate and check on the babies. About 40 minutes after my previous cervical exam, the doctors checked again to find that I was 5 centimeters dilated. I’ll never ever forget the fear that struck my body when she looked at me and said that it was time to go to the operating room. I looked to Tom and I sobbed. I cried out that it wasn’t time yet. Then, as if there was a slap across my face, I stopped. I quieted myself and I listened. I focused on what was happening around me and most importantly, staying calm for myself and for my babies. I knew I had to be brave. They rolled me out of my room, and into the next chapter of my life.