Since November 17 is World Prematurity Day I thought it was time that I shared my own story. So here it is…
When I was 22 weeks pregnant with twins the doctors told me I could give birth in the next couple of weeks. I had gone to the hospital for a routine check-up. Little did I know that it would turn out to be a long-term hospital stay. During the check-up the doctor told me that I was beginning to dilate and that I was having premature contractions. They advised me that I would need an emergency procedure to stop me from dilating.
I was admitted for the procedure. It was the first time I had been checked into a hospital. I had no idea what any of this meant and I was terrified. I was hooked up to a contraction monitor and given shots of Terbutiline, a drug that slows down contractions. I waited hours and hours in the holding room.
Finally, at midnight I was brought into the operating room. Even more terrified at this point, I wondered how I was going to get through all this. I hated needles and hated hospitals. I still remember the bright lights and coldness of the room. With the help of an amazing nurse who held my hand the entire time I got through it. I was wheeled into a post-op room and told I would stay the night. Little did I know that this little room would be my home for the next three months.
Afterwards, we met with my doctor and the news was grim. Test results showed I had a very high chance of giving birth within two weeks. No one wanted to give me any hope or promises as to how far I would make it. We met with a neonatal doctor who gave us the statistics and survival rates at different weeks. The thing that struck me most was when she said “Everyday those babies stay inside you is five less days they spend in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.” Feeling the babies kick at that moment I knew what I had to do.
My goal was to make it to the end of each week. When I made it through another seven days it was a celebration and milestone. It was celebrated with a new balloon (made out of a hospital glove) added to the wall with the number of the week we had just passed. As I looked at the balloons on the wall I knew that it was not good enough and I had to go further. The neonatal doctor’s words kept repeating in my head.
It was mind over matter. In those three months on bedrest I never complained, never cried and never felt sorry for myself. I could not laugh or I would get contractions. Jokes would have to be kept to a minimum. If I did get contractions I knew how to calm my body down and stop them.
I was on complete bedrest which made me totally dependent on others to care for me. I was in good hands as my husband was my everything: my nurse, my cook, my caregiver and my link to the outside world. He slept on the windowsill on a tiny mattress in my room just to be there for me. He brought me the best sheets, the softest towels and made sure that I never had to eat hospital food. He snuck in the VCR that was prohibited along with every season of Sex and the City available. More than anything he was my spokesman and my advocate. And somehow in all that craziness and stress there were some very special times for us. In that little room, we found things to laugh about and had our routine, jokes, and private moments.
My mother was the other pillar of strength that helped me over those three months. She took care of me in a way that only mothers know how and fed me in a way only Jewish mothers can. She sat with me all day while my husband was at work. I will always remember her love and support both before and after the babies were born.
The night of week 34 I was told I would have to be taken off my medication due to complications to my liver. Before the doctor left, he turned around and said, “You know, it was your will and determination that got you this far, not us doctors.”
While I believe that was true I could not have survived without the help of one doctor in specific. From day one he listened to me, supported me and fought for me. While other doctors were too busy tending to their egos instead of their patients he always put his patients first. When I checked into the hospital he told me his own story. He said “I was born at 30 weeks, weighing only 2 pounds and I think I turned out ok…” I couldn’t have asked for a better success story standing right in front of me.
I gave birth the next day to two beautiful healthy boys who were 4 pounds and 3 pounds 12 ounces. They spent only ten days in the neonatal intensive care. Today they are happy, healthy, smart, funny amazing ten year olds!