On September 6, 2000, at 6:13pm, I abrupted (the placenta pulled away from the uterine wall). Blood everywhere. I was 23 weeks and 4 days pregnant with my first baby. I felt I stopped breathing, sure my child was dead. And I knew I could never do it again. Immediately admitted, given an hour-long ultrasound, and put on magnesium sulfate, the perinatologist (high-risk OB) was able to stop/slow the contractions, but never the bleeding. I was stuck for the duration…..until I got to 32 weeks, or until I delivered, whichever came first. The prognosis was not good. Statistics were not in our favor. Our baby had a less than 10% chance of survival, and zero chance of survival without life-long medical and/or developmental issues. We were told that unless we stayed pregnant 3 more days, they would not even resuscitate. In denial, we dug in for the long haul. Michael brought things to help make my hospital room a little home for me. Days passed. People came and went. It was the end of summer, and very warm. I missed home, I missed my doggies, I missed work and my friends, I missed cable tv. We made it the three days, and then seven days, then ten, and twelve. Every day meant better odds, better possible outcomes. IV lines were changed every four days. I got to eat whatever I wanted (I even had my own space in the fridge at the nurses’ station for my ice cream). But I was not home. And I would not be able to go home…until 32 weeks or delivery, whichever came first.
And on the 16th day, when my IV lines were changed, there was blood and there was pain at one of the last sites. Four hours later at shift change, I knew something was not right. I was shivering uncontrollably. I thought I could hide it from my night nurse, for some reason not even thinking about the fact she would be in to take my vitals, which would include taking my temp. At 10:30pm, I’d started a fever – never a good sign when you’ve abrupted, been on IV’s for 16 days, and they still aren’t quite sure if there hasn’t been a membrane rupture. Two hours later, the fever rising, two calls to the doctor, constant fetal monitoring, magnesium levels upped, and catheter urine sample taken, I was moved back to L & D so I could “be more closely monitored.” Why didn’t they tell me then? Why wouldn’t they tell me that the fetal fibronectin test – a test that indicates if the hormones preceding labor have started producing – from the day before had been positive? Why wouldn’t they tell me that this fever gave all signs we could not stop our baby from coming now? No sleep, no food, fever at 104, every part of my body in pain, the contractions started again. More blood taken, another catheter urine sample, and then just a straight up catheter to try to slow/stop the contractions….at 11:30am on the 23rd, my water broke. Calls were made for family to come. And we were prepped for our baby’s arrival. No drugs were given to ease the pain because that might slow things down, and the doctor knew at this point I had an infection, he just didn’t know what kind or where. At 2pm, people flooded the room….5 nurses, the ob on call, the neonatologist and pediatrician on call. At 2:19pm, relief from the physical pain, but just the beginning of the heartache, fear, stress, worry, guilt. Ryley was born, 14 weeks too soon. A tiny cry from the warming table across the room, I saw his tiny feet as he was intubated. Michael finally told me we had a son. Ryley was quickly taken away. Twenty minutes later, the neonatalogist came back in with two Polaroid pictures of my precious son. He told us we had a “feisty fighter” on our hands. And so our journey began.
Tomorrow that teeny, tiny miracle will be ten years old. There isn’t a day I’m not thankful for the gift of his life. There isn’t a day I’m not in awe of all he has survived. He has his challenges….they are much fewer and and much less than what they could be and for all intents and purposes should be. He is challenging. That feistiness that helped him survive sometimes makes me want to beat my head against the wall. But I am grateful, oh so grateful, that every day for ten years I have been able to watch the miracle of his life unfold. It is a journey – not one I would have chosen, certainly, and not one I would wish on anyone. It’s a club I never, ever wanted to be part of. But I’m here. And he’s here. And tomorrow he will be ten.