Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your thoughts and comments and prayers. They are appreciated beyond anything I can possibly verbalize.
When the doctors came to see us on Jan. 23 after I was transferred to a larger hospital by ambulance due to suspected preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM), there were only a couple things to really say. First, the OB who was on call over that weekend told me that the priority was going to be my life. If it was a question between my life and the baby’s life, he said, he would do what it took to save mine. This wasn’t up for dispute, he told us.
The second came from the high risk OB/maternal fetal medicine specialist (MFM). I was definitely ruptured, there was very little fluid, and I would go into labor or get infected within around 48 hours. 75-90% of women go into labor within 48 hours of rupture, and the rest generally within a week. The baby would not make it. We needed to get ready.
It was, without any exaggeration, one of the worst moments of my entire life. We talked with various people, trying to make some semblance of order out of the chaos. Did we want to bury our child or cremate? Where would we inter the remains? We hadn’t decided on names. What did we want to call him or her? Were we far enough along that we would need a death certificate in our state? Was there someone who could come baptize our baby when he/she was born? What about photographs?
Nightmare. Total, complete, and utter nightmare.
My parents came. Arthur’s parents were already there. We all waited. Prayed. Tried to find ways to say our good-byes.
No labor. No infection.
48 hours passed, then 72, then a full week, then a week and a half. Every day, the doctors told us to prepare to go into labor. The baby maintained a heartbeat. A small pocket of fluid formed around the umbilical cord.
As of today, I’m 23 weeks. Still in the hospital. The MFM said today, I get steroids to try to mature the baby’s lungs. Technically, 24 weeks is viability, but at 23 weeks, NICU starts to attend births to make an evaluation of whether or not to intervene.
On the one hand, we now have a slender chance of a live baby that will rise if I can stay pregnant for at least one more week and continue to go up if I can stay pregnant longer.
On the other, our best hope is for an extremely premature birth. About the longest I can hope to stay ruptured, out of labor, and uninfected is probably to around 28-30 weeks. More likely, I will give birth between 23-26 weeks gestational age. If, by some miracle, I stay pregnant to 34 weeks, the doctors will induce me because at that point, the risk of infection outweighs any benefit the baby might get from staying in the womb longer.
I hear people talk a lot about 24 weeks as a sort of magic line in the sand, and in one way, it is the general dividing line between viability and not. However, at 24 weeks, the best statistic I’ve seen for a live baby is around 50/50. While it’s certainly far better than a zero percent chance, it’s not a terribly reassuring number, and it does not take into account the number of those babies who survive with long-term issues.
So now we have discussions about resuscitation, ventilators, intraventricular hemorrhage, necrotizing enterocolitis, hypoplastic lungs, cerebral palsy, developmental delay, and retinopathy. And we still have to consider all of the earlier questions about what we do if our baby does not make it.
No parent should ever have to make these decisions or have these discussions about their child.
My emotions rollercoaster constantly. Some days a miracle – and right now, we need a bonafide, capital-M Miracle on the blind-shall-see-deaf-shall-hear sort of scale for our baby to come out of this alive and healthy for the circumstances – seems almost within the bounds of possibility. Other days, I am barely able to stop crying because there is still such a long way to go and we have no idea what kind of damage may have been done to the baby’s lung development with so little amniotic fluid.
Mostly, I try to focus on the moment. I love this baby so fiercely it is almost painful. I’m grateful for every heartbeat and every tiny flutter of movement. I sing to the baby, often Stevie Wonder’s song “You Are The Sunshine of My Life”. Arthur comes and kisses my belly and tells the baby how much he loves him/her. We hope that somehow, the baby hears and knows all this.
We don’t know what is going to happen. We don’t know if we will have only minutes – if that – with our baby or days or years or a lifetime.
All we do know is how much we love this child, no matter what happens.
So we wait, watch, pray, and hope.