As I sit here preparing myself for the birth of my son, I think of all the other mothers-to-be who are in the same position. Some are really ready for the day to arrive after carrying the extra weight around for 40 weeks. Others, like me, are far enough along that a baby born at this time will probably be just fine (I am 34 weeks now). Still others aren’t thinking at all that their baby will be born until weeks or even months down the road, but they will arrive before anyone expects.
You see, I have experienced each of these scenarios. After undergoing in vitro fertilization, my first son was born at 23 weeks 6 days, one day before “viability”. My husband and I had known he would have cystic fibrosis after an amniocentesis was performed, and we were told by the doctors that we had to make the decision of keeping or terminating the pregnancy. We decided to fight the disease with him, and prepared ourselves, through much research and meeting with doctors, for life with a child suffering from that horrible disease.
Then, one day before going to work I noticed a change in pressure in my pelvic region. Having never been pregnant before, I just figured it was a normal change taking place. I spent the day at work as usual, but remember discussing with female colleagues the heavy feeling I was experiencing, like the baby was getting ready to come out. No one realized how accurate that feeling was. Later in the afternoon I started feeling strange sensations in my belly. They didn’t hurt, but just felt like uterine tightening that came at regular intervals. (Hello, those are contractions!)
The contractions became closer together and a little uncomfortable, and finally I decided to see if the doctor could fit me into his schedule. By the time I was seen in the doctor’s office the contractions were like clock work. Every five minutes. A non-stress test was performed but nothing registered. I knew something was happening, yet no one believed me. Finally a nurse took a look, and her words were (I still remember like it was yesterday), “All I see is membranes”. At that point she said my son would be born that night, there was no way to stop it, and he wouldn’t make it. Unfortunately she was right.
I was rushed by ambulance to a high-risk labor and delivery hospital with an excellent NICU, just in case the baby was born with a chance of survival. Magnesium sulfate was administered to stop the labor (thank goodness they don’t use that anymore), steroid shots were given (to develop the baby’s lungs), but to no avail. Later that night he was born and passed away within moments. He was tiny, perfect, and beautiful. It was a devastating loss for my husband and I, but there was some consolation in knowing he was spared from a life of pain from cystic fibrosis. Unfortunately we were lacking answers about why it happened. No one was sure if I had an incompetent cervix or if pre-term labor had been the cause of the early delivery.