I will never forget the day that I was told there was no way I’d make it to 37 weeks. I was 31 weeks pregnant, seeing a different mid-wife (Karen) rather than my regular fave, Jearlyn. My BP had begun to make its ascent and stress tests were on the horizon. Karen laughed. Out loud. When I said that I was hoping to make it to 38 weeks, she laughed. Not because she’s insensitive, you have to know Karen to know that’s just her style. But because she just couldn’t even fathom that would ever be a possibility. I was a 26 year-old with the blood pressure of an over-weight 74 year old and I thought I was going to make it to full-term. Ha.
The entire ride home, Adam and I discussed all the things we needed to prepare earlier than anticipated. I prayed that I’d make it to 37 weeks. Full-term. I just wanted a big, plumply babe at full-term.
You all know the story … Two weeks later, Snowball had shown little growth, my blood pressure had shown a great hike and bedrest ensued. I still thought I’d make it to 37 weeks. I still hoped for a 5 pounder. When I hit the 36 week mark and they decided to skip an amnio and go straight to delivering, I knew something was up. As I’ve mentioned over a million times in the past 21 months, Barrett came out small but mighty. A 36 weeker who weighed 4 lbs 9 oz at birth, Barrett was the smallest babe in the nursery … because his lungs were too good for the NICU (thank goodness).
After my delivery, I was told that my placenta had stopped growing. Rather than having an average two and a half pound placenta, mine was only a half pound. The combination of my chronic hypertension and blood pressure medication caused intrautarine growth restriction (something they highlight often in the Bible of Pregnancy Scare Tactics What to Expect When Expecting) and it was a blessing that they chose to take Barrett early. But with his early arrival came more stress than I could have anticipated. They tested him for t. fistula, spina bifida, and realized he had an undescended testicle, all right off the bat. All tests came back clear but the first three days of Barrett’s life were the most tumultuous days I’ve endured to date.
One of my friends, Melissa and her husband Matt, recently welcomed their second sweetie into their family. After having her first son, Joshua, 5 weeks early with no explanation, they were prepared for a repeat but hoping that it was a fluke. On Monday, October 25th at 34 weeks, Melissa began having contractions. Later that day, her water broke and several hours later, she gave birth to sweet Evan. Though Evan weighed 5 pounds 11 ounces, his lungs were not strong enough to go it alone and so, they’ve been spending their days going back and forth between home and the NICU and dealing with logistics of work, a three year old and a newborn, all in different places. My heart hurt for Melissa and Matt as they sent pics of them in the NICU with Evan, tubes and tunnels and lights and all. Not the beginning they had in mind, I am sure. With all that I feel can go wrong with labor, I was extremely fortunate. We had a pretty tiny preemie (for 36 weeks gestation) and we were able to head home just 3 days later. Not all parents have the luxury of a seamless first few days, weeks, months. Babies born before 37 weeks have to undergo extensive testing and create a bevy of question marks for the parents who are just getting to know them. It’s emotional enough having a full-term, healthy babe … anything out of the norm adds extra stress and concern.
November is Prematurity Awareness Month. Before we had Barrett, I thought that having a preemie just meant that you had a small babe. I didn’t know that 1 in 8 babies is born too soon. I didn’t fully understand how outrageously inappropriate and hurtful it is for people to say “you’re just lucky you didn’t have to go the whole 40 weeks”, “that’s so exciting that you get to be induced” or “you’re lucky your baby isn’t chubby”. I didn’t know the complications, extra steps and risks associated with popping out a pre-prime peanut. I didn’t know how lucky we were with our scenario. I invite you to learn more about premature birth by visiting the March of Dimes and if you have a moment, say a prayer today for preemies … and for baby Evan.