The evening of September 24, two full weeks after that horrible morning when I discovered my waters had broken at 22 weeks, I had a visit in the hospital from a sweet friend that brought me Taco Bell and prayed over me before she left. She laid her hands on my belly, praying for life for my unborn son and peace for me as a I slept. I was encouraged and was able to sleep well.
At about 2am on September 25, I woke for some reason, which wasn't unusual considering I was sleeping in a hospital. After a few minutes I realized that I was experiencing what felt like contractions. Instead of panicking, I looked at the clock to note the time. I remembered from my previous three pregnancies that one contraction every 15 minutes or so isn't a concern. More than that means something more important.
I watched the clock for an hour and during that time felt about 10 contractions. Nothing painful, but definitely noticeable.
The interesting thing about it all was that I had a monitor on my belly, designed to pick up fetal movement and to record any contractions that I had. The monitor wasn't showing a single thing.
Part of me wanted to just ignore it, thinking irrationally that maybe it would all go away. Acknowledging what was happening to anyone other than myself meant that it was real. The sane part of me knew that I had to tell someone, so I rang the nurse. When she arrived I told her that I had been experiencing contractions and gave her all the details. She checked the monitor and said that nothing was coming up on the monitor and she seemed a bit skeptical.
This is one of those times that I'm thinking - if a pregnant woman is having contractions, but the monitor doesn't pick it up, is she really having contractions? OF COURSE SHE IS.
This was my fourth pregnancy. I had experienced labor with all of my previous babies. I knew was contractions felt like. Sure, they were different because my baby was so tiny, but they were still contractions.
The nurse said that she'd page the doctor and left.
In the meantime, I'm thinking - hmmmm... should I call my husband? No, I think I'll wait. My reasoning was that if I truly had the baby today (a little bit of denial, you think?) he was going to need all the rest he could get. It was still the middle of the night. I decided to let him sleep.
All the while, the contractions are coming closer together and with more strength. I'm still timing them and I'm having contractions every 7-8 minutes and I'm needing to breathe through them because they're getting uncomfortable. I paged the nurse again.
When she came in and saw that I was now having to breathe through the contractions in order to manage the pain, she started taking me a little more seriously! She paged the doctor again, who had been in labor and delivery, and the doctor came quickly.
The doctor, a senior resident who looked like she'd been on duty for at least 24 hours, did a quick internal exam to determine how far along I was. But it didn't matter. I already knew what she'd say.
"Michele, you are about 3cm dilated already." Pause. "You know what this means, right?" Head nod from me. "You're going to deliver this baby this morning."
From that point on, things around me took on a life of their own. Orderlies were busy packing up all my stuff, nurses were in and out, making sure I was ready to be transferred down to Labor and Delivery. They were all flummoxed over the monitor STILL not tracking my contractions. And I was on the bed, thinking - HURRY!
Right after the doctor left, I called my husband and told him what was going on. He quickly went into action, called a friend to come stay with the kids so he could get to the hospital. He also called my parents. I know this, because just a few minutes later I got a call from my dad, who, through his tears, told me that he was praying for me and for our little boy. Hearing my daddy crying over the phone just about did me in.
Throughout my entire hospital stay I posted frequently on Facebook and that became my main source of communication with people. This is what I posted while I waited to be moved to L&D:
Ok friends get on your knees. I'm in labor and they will deliver me this morning. Pray for God's hand to be on Timothy.
I was wheeled into the operating room and hooked up to monitors and drugs were started to numb me. I lay there, numb from the chest down, as people were busy around me. I threw up on the anesthetist. All in a day's work, he told me.
We were told in the previous weeks that the choices that the doctors made in how they cared for our son would be determined by how he presented when he was born. If he was born with no or little signs of life, he would be cared for gently and given to us to spend time with him until he passed away. But if he was born with vigorous signs of life, they would do everything they could to keep him alive.
The doctors started cutting me open and I felt the tug and pull of their hands. Within a few minutes they announced that they were about to pull our boy out. My husband and I waited and we heard a distinct cry.
Our son, Timothy, was born at 8:07am on September 25, 2010, weighing only 1 pound 13 ounces and 13 inches long. He was 25 weeks and 5 days gestation, a full 15 weeks early.
The day that Timothy was born was a relief, but also the beginning of another very hard season in our family's life. We didn't know what the future would hold for him - would he be able to see? Would he be able to walk? Eat? Talk? We didn't know. But God did. And we clung to Him tighter than ever before.
And so it began, Life in the NICU.