I spent the better part of my 25th week pregnancy in the hospital with preterm contractions. It was a difficult week to put it lightly. As much as I’ve tried to prove myself otherwise, pregnancy is not glamorous. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a miracle, but it is not glamorous. I’ve loved dressing up and taking some cute pictures, but those are just moments in the grand scheme of the day-to-day of being pregnant.
Up until about 21 weeks, I was feeling great, especially after the exhaustion of the first trimester went away. It was around 21 weeks, though, right after we got back from a relaxing babymoon in Florida, that I started to notice frequent tightening of my belly. At first, I thought this was the baby sticking his/her butt up at me, but one night at a family dinner when I was describing the sensation to my mom, she told me that sounded like a contraction. My mom went into preterm labor with me and my two sisters at 25 weeks, so I knew I needed to call my doctor. My doctor told me that as long as I was having those tightening less than 4-6 times an hour, it was fine. She also said that I could make an appointment to get checked for peace of mind. So I did.
I should take a moment to also add that at my anatomy scan (which I actually had done at 19 weeks) they found that I had a partial placenta previa, which means that my placenta is partly covering my cervix. My doctor told me that usually this resolves itself before it’s time to give birth, but if it doesn’t, it means that the baby would have to be delivered via c-section. (Update: ultrasound at 26 weeks showed the previa resolved itself–the placenta is far enough back now, so I won’t have to have a planned c-section).
The reason this previa is playing a role now is because the doctors can’t manually check for the dilation of my cervix because you don’t want to disturb the previa. So when I went into my doctor to get that peace of mind check, she could only look and tell me that I didn’t look to be dilating. My cervix looked closed.
One week later, after having a week of contractions random, yet incessant contractions, I went in for my regularly scheduled check up and the doctor took another look. Thankfully, everything was still closed.
It was at 25 weeks 1 day, Wednesday, August 22, 2018 that I made my first visit to the hospital. This visit happened to coincide with my second day back to work after summer vacation. When I called the doctor from my classroom complaining of frequent contractions and a concern that I might be leaking a bit of fluid, she told me to go straight to the hospital.
I was immediately triaged to a bed on the maternity floor. They ran a few tests and determined that my fluid levels looked good after taking a peek at the baby on ultrasound. They ran an FFN test (which does a good job of predicting if you’re likely to go into labor within the next few days — remember this is all in my understanding of things…I’m not a doctor and do not claim to understand with my English teacher brain how a lot of this stuff works). The FFN came back negative, as did cultures that searched for any kind of infection. They also said my cervix still appeared closed. They discharged me a few hours later, telling me to drink lots of water, keep my bladder as empty possible, and to go in in the next few days for a vaginal ultrasound to see if the placenta previa had resolved and to check the length of my cervix.
We went home from the hospital that night, and I was feeling a lot better. The contractions had definitely lessened. The next morning, I got up for work and headed in for another day of teacher professional development. I was noticing contractions, but they were few and far between. As the day progressed, I started getting some lower back pain and my contractions started to pick up. I started tracking the contractions and saw that I was definitely getting at least 5-6 per hour, sometimes even more. After that went on for a couple of hours, I called my doctor again and she told me to go back to the hospital.
This time we packed a bag. I had a feeling I wasn’t going to be sent home as quickly this time.
When we got to the hospital, they again admitted me quickly and put me on the monitor. The baby looked good, but the contractions were coming fast and furious. They put in an IV to give me fluids to get me hydrated because sometimes dehydration can cause contractions. They did another visual check and my cervix looked closed. They did another ultrasound check and my fluid still looked good. They decided to give me a steroid shot to help develop baby’s lungs. They would give me that same shot again 24 hours later.
I have to interrupt this story to pause and pat myself on the back for being such a big girl with all the needles. My 10-year-old self would have been very proud of me.
I was moved from triage to my own room really fast, which was quite nice. Then, they told me they were going to start me on a drug called Indocin. This medication is meant to slow down contractions (again, my interpretation here–not a doctor). This medicine is to be taken every 6 hours for 48 hours. My first night in the hospital was rough, but I had Zak and my mom and dad there with me until after midnight and then my mom stayed with me the whole night. We probably slept a collective of 1.5 hours all night.
The contractions weren’t slowing down. They decided at 7 a.m. on Friday morning to put me on a magnesium drip. The magnesium drip served two purposes: 1. To help develop the baby’s brain and 2. To soften my muscles to possibly help slow down contractions. Let me tell you, that shit hurt going in the IV. My arm was so sore all day. It also made me groggy, and because eyes are muscles, it made my eyes slow down so I felt lazy-eyed. The magnesium was no joke. But my family surrounded me all day and helped keep my spirits up.
The magnesium drip seemed to work really well, though, as my contractions slowed down a ton. After the magnesium treatment was finished, I went a few hours without contractions and was able to actually fall asleep, but that unfortunately did not last long and two hours later I was woken up by more contractions. They put the IV fluids back on to see if getting me hydrated again could help. For the next few hours, I would go for a stretch of an hour with about one contraction and then all of the sudden I’d have three in ten minutes, so they would give me more fluid, and the contractions would settle. The cycle repeated all day long.
At 4 p.m. on Saturday, I took my last dose of the Indocin (the medicine used to slow down contractions). They took me off of my fluid IV drip and monitored my contractions through the night. They did a final speculum exam in the middle of the night because I was feeling some pressure, and they had planned to do one anyways before deciding to discharge me to make sure my cervix still looked closed. Luckily, the check showed everything appearing the same, which was great news.
The high risk doctor at the hospital and my doctor both agreed that they felt comfortable sending me home since my contractions weren’t creating labor. It was so relieving to hear I’d be able to go home, and even more relieving to hear our baby was safe.
The most important thing in the world to me is to keep our baby safe and sound. Unfortunately, that means I’m not able to join my students for the first days of schools because my doctor has put me on bed rest for a little while to make sure the contractions calm down. It’s hard not being there to start the year with my kids, but I know it’s for the best. And my sub is one lucky person because I have the best students ever.
There have have been a few MVP’s through this experience. My mom is an angel on Earth and has reminded me that I am the luckiest daughter in the world to have a mother who is so devoted. Zak has been so calm and reassuring through everything, making sure I know how loved I am. They’ve both endured the experience of sleeping in the reclining chair from hell and waking up every half hour to help me go pee. My dad and sister were there every day making me laugh and keeping me positive. And thank you to everyone who has sent us their kind thoughts and prayers. It means more than we can say.
Last thing I’ll say is that Baby K has been a champ through all of this, making all the nurses laugh every time they tried to put the heartbeat monitor on because of how active he/she is. It was like every time it was time to get monitored, Baby K would decide it was time for a dance break. It made me so happy to see our baby already making people smile. I’m not going to say I can’t wait to meet this little one because I want him/her to stay put until it’s safe to come out, but I so look forward to getting to know this little human growing inside of me.