After my water broke prematurely at 32 weeks, I was sentenced to hospitalized bed rest.
Because my water broke 8 weeks early, we had to be transferred to a level IV NICU, which just means they are more prepared for the tiniest of the tiny babies. The NICU we were transferred to is about 45 minutes away from our house, and also happens to be where my hubby works as a valet, and where Raelie was born (although not in the NICU.) Our first night there Hubby and I arrived pretty late, so we got situated in our room and ready for bed first thing. The staff had to monitor me and the baby throughout the whole night to make sure I wasn’t going to go into active labor, and the monitoring was incredibly uncomfortable to sleep with. I tossed and turned all night and my head was full of worry and stress. I had my first steroid shot that first night, which is meant to help baby’s lungs develop faster, but it made me SO hungry! I remember waking up in the middle of the night STARVING, and our night nurse actually brought me her own lunch to hold me over until morning when the cafeteria opened. I was so anxious for morning to come so we could get more answers and my planning heart could do its thing… When morning finally came we did get some answers. The doctors did an ultrasound to see how baby Ellie was holding up in there, and we learned that they estimated she weighed about 3lbs 7oz, which was about 2 weeks behind. They diagnosed her with IUGR (intra-uterine growth restriction) and said that her fluid was low, but that overall she was doing great. The plan developed from there – as long as baby wasn’t in any distress, and as long as I didn’t develop a fever or high blood pressure, we were going to do our best to keep her in for two more weeks until I was 34 weeks along. I would get more steroid shots, and for the next few days I would be pumped full of antibiotics and IV fluids. The main concern when a woman’s water breaks early without going into active labor is that bacteria is much more easily introduced, which can cause infection, and can be extremely dangerous for both mom and baby. So we just needed to make it through those two weeks!
We had a lot of visitors on that first full day in the hospital. I was overwhelmed with how grateful I felt for all of the friends and family that sent us messages and support. We spent some time figuring out how to make life as normal as possible for Sofie and Raelie during all of this. They were on winter break, and thankfully my mom had also taken off a few weeks from work for the holidays, so the plan was pretty much for them to hang out with her. We had to talk to Santa to make sure that he would bring Christmas to us in the hospital so we could all be together, and even the nurses were excited to have Santa come to our hospital room. On Christmas Eve I spent the morning organizing and cleaning up our room and getting ready for Christmas morning. My dad came and watched a movie with me when I was done, and I started getting uncomfortable. I tried to take a nap, but started having contractions, so the nurses put me and baby on the monitors and hooked my IV up to give me some fluids. When I started bleeding the doctors decided to check to see if the contractions were doing anything, and luckily everything was the same as it had been when I first got admitted. I was sure we were going to have a Christmas Day baby when I went to bed that night!
Christmas morning was great, Santa didn’t disappoint! After our little scare on Christmas Eve, I was on orders to rest all day, and stay in bed as much as possible, so we had a relaxing morning. The kids opened presents and then went to the cafeteria for breakfast. Hubby and I watched movies after everyone left, and took much needed naps. We had a few evening visitors before calling it a night and going to bed. I was happy and relieved that the kids didn’t seem phased by being in the hospital for Christmas.
The week between Christmas and the New Year was pretty uneventful. The kids stayed the night a few times and we went to a program the hospital calls “boredom busters.” We learned how to sew with a sewing machine, and I decided to crotchet a few hats and a blanket to help pass the time. We talked with doctors about what to expect when Ellie does decide to come, which really boiled down to we won’t know until she’s here. She could need life support, she could need nothing, and anywhere in between. It was really unnerving. They said that if she makes it to 34 weeks her chances of being healthy enough to not need much from the NICU were a lot better. So, I organized and reorganized my hospital room, the diaper bag, I even reorganized the hospital’s snack room out of boredom! We discussed plans for doing an induction at 34 weeks, and I started researching natural methods to get labor going. It was really just a lot of trying to pass the time…
The day before New Year’s Eve I finally got to tour the NICU. This was the hardest day of the two weeks I was in the hospital before she was born. I thought I was prepared to face all the unknowns and the NICU head on, but after my tour I broke down. The reality of what was to come hit me hard after that, and I let myself cry. I was terrified. All of the unknowns were weighing on me, and I was sad that my last birth experience was going to be so scary. The tour gave me so many hard truths to absorb and figure out… I found out that Sofie and Raelie wouldn’t be able to visit their new sister in the NICU because of flu season, which just broke my heart. I found out that the NICU doesn’t room-in the parents, so there was not room in her NICU room for me to sleep and stay with her. They have a family room I could reserve, but it was on a first-come-first-serve basis. I found out that I would be discharged from my hospital room a day or two after she is born, which meant I would have to leave my brand new fragile baby girl in the hospital and go home without her. And I found out that the average 34 weeker spends 3-6 weeks in the NICU. I was overwhelmed worrying about how I was going to make this work; how I was going to be able to leave her there, how I was going to break the news that the older girls couldn’t meet her until she came home, how I was going to make life feel mostly normal for them since they were going back to school…
On New Year’s Eve Juny brought Sofie and Raelie to stay the night. We ordered pizza and watched movies together in my hospital room. I started having contractions again, so they monitored me and baby and gave me IV fluids again, and we all ended up falling asleep around 10pm. New Year’s Day hubby and I went into prepare mode and condensed all of our belongings in our room so he could take a bunch of stuff home. We made a plan with both of our moms to help get the girls to and from school the next few days, and I just tried to stay busy so I wouldn’t dwell on what was to come. I talked with the doctors about a plan for trying to self induce labor the day before my scheduled induction, and they were all on board with helping me try to get things going naturally. So I just had to hurry up and wait some more….