The last 4 months have been some of the craziest, most wonderful, and hardest of my life. Our sweet little girl decided to make her appearance 6 weeks early.
It was a Monday night. I hadn’t been feeling that good, just tired and run down. We went to bed early that night. I had been having random Braxton Hicks contractions for the last few weeks. At 11:30PM I woke up and felt all wet. I went into the bathroom, pretty disoriented and confused. I was only 34 weeks and I couldn’t figure out how my water could have broken. It took me about 15 minutes to talk myself into waking up Austin. I was definitely in shock. I went back into the bedroom and woke Austin up. I told him I thought my water had broken. It took him a few minutes to get his head around it and he started to encourage me to call the midwives. I was in the middle of freaking out. I’m pretty sure I said, “But I don’t have my hospital bag packed,” at least 20 times. My mind was going so fast and I was in denial. I kept telling myself this was a dream and it couldn’t be happening. I had actually had a dream the night before that my water broke.
I was rushing around trying to pack a bag for about half an hour before my sweet husband finally convinced me to call the midwives. I’m thankful for that. I’m pretty sure I was in shock until our baby girl actually came out. I talked with my midwife who said I needed to head to the hospital to check to make sure my water had broken. Thank goodness for midwives! I remember saying for the millionth time that I didn’t have my hospital bag packed. She encouraged me to get my things together but still head to the hospital as quickly as I could. I knew that I needed to put on a little makeup too because I won’t go out in public without makeup, especially if I was about to have a baby.
Around 1AM, Austin finally got me out the door. He had been trying to track my contractions which started right after I woke him up. They seemed to be pretty close together. But I kept forgetting to tell him when they stopped and started. They slowly started getting more and more painful as we finally walked out the door. I decided to call my mom on the way to the hospital just so she would know what was going on.
We arrived at the hospital and they took me into a room to get me hooked up to a few machines to monitor my contractions and check to see if my water broke. This part of the process took about an hour. We were so tired and didn’t know what the next few hours and days would look like. After some time of sitting in the room together, a nurse came in and said, “Alright, let’s get you moved”. Austin and I just stared at her. We had no clue what that meant. We still hadn’t been told any results. Finally one of us said, “Moved for what?”. She said, “You’re going to have a baby.”
That’s when I really started to panic. It was becoming so real. They got us into the room I would give birth in and got us settled. My midwife came in to talk about an epidural. I had been set on getting an epidural since the beginning, but the last few weeks I had started to question my decision. I couldn’t ask for better midwives. The midwife that I had the pleasure of seeing throughout my pregnancy happened to be the one on call at the hospital that night. She talked through the epidural with me and I decided to go ahead and get it. They also needed to do a steroid shot for baby girl’s lungs since she was so early. I could only get the shot once every 12 hours and they really wanted to give it as much time as possible to work. The epidural was also going to slow down my contractions which were about 3 minutes apart at this point. I got the epidural around 4:30AM and the steroid shot at 6AM.
The epidural made all the difference. While I absolutely hated the feeling of not being able to move my legs, I loved not feeling the pain of the contractions. I was able to get little bits of rest throughout the day. Not a ton because every 15 minutes, my blood pressure thing went off to be continuously monitored. Not the easiest to sleep through.
During this time, my family was on their way. We weren’t sure if timing was going to work for my dad and sister to come whenever Emily was supposed to arrive in March. This was a huge, happy surprise for me that my mom, dad, and sister were coming. They were due to arrive around 10:30 or 11AM. At about 8AM, Austin left to go take our dog out so I was alone for a little while.
I continued to rest until a doctor from the Neonatal Unit came to see me. Up until this point, I had no clue what we were looking at with our little one. It never really hit me that there could be serious problems. I wasn’t thinking about the fact that my baby was about to be born premature. No one prepares you for this. No one told me what it could be like with a baby born 6 weeks early. I had no clue. I honestly didn’t even think about any of this until this doctor walked into my room. He began to talk to me about her lungs and what will happen as soon as she is born. He definitely had a very positive spin on the situation. He said he had no reason to believe anything would be wrong with her. I remember barely hearing anything he said and not understanding the seriousness of it. Like I said, no one prepares you for it. Not that I would expect anyone to prepare me for something that shouldn’t happen. So even after talking with him and attempting to relay the information I took in to Austin when he got back, I still didn’t realize that what was happening was really scary. We had no clue how developed she would be. We had no idea the types of challenges we would face. I thought our baby was coming home with us when I was discharged. I literally just didn’t realize what this meant. I think this was honestly a blessing for me. Looking back, if I had known all that was ahead of us, I don’t know how I would have handled it all.
My family arrived around 10:30AM. It was so good to have them there. We had actually just seen my mom and dad a few days before. Austin and I met them in Maryland to get the rest of the gifts from our baby shower. We had just decided on her name that weekend and told our families.
The day was pretty uneventful. I was slowly progressing and resting as much as I could. Sometime midafternoon, my midwife said she wanted to give me some Pitocin because my contractions began to slow to about 20 minutes apart and I wasn’t dilating as much as I needed to. While they wanted to be able to give the steroid shot as much time as possible to work, it could be dangerous because my water had broken so long before and my contractions were slowing down. We went ahead and did that. My dad and sister went to the hotel to rest for a bit.
A little before 6PM, I felt a lot of pressure just like they said I would when it would be time to push. They said it probably wasn’t time yet as they were thinking it probably wouldn’t happen until closer to midnight. My midwife came in to check me and surprised us all by saying, “Yep, that’s her head”. If I wasn’t in shock before, I sure was now. I freaked out. They started prepping everything and started to tell me how to push and breath. It seems silly to need instructions on how to push but when you can’t feel anything from the epidural, you need directions on how to know when to push and how to breath. I was in such shock though, I was having a hard time understanding what to do. I started to cry a little and the midwife asked me if I wanted to take a few minutes until I was ready. I said that I thought I was ready. Mentally I was just so nervous. I had no idea what was about to happen, but I kept thinking if she is ready to come out then I need to be too.
I started pushing at 6PM. My midwife stepped out in the hall for a minute and I continued through contractions. I will say this part surprised me. I was picturing pushing and contractions happening continuously, but I had a few minutes break in between the first two contractions. During those small breaks, everyone is just kind of standing around staring at you. I started trying to make conversation because it’s kind of an uncomfortable silence. I remember asking if they could see if she had hair and what color it was.
After only 3 contractions, the nurse said, “Oh goodness hang on. We’re going to stop pushing for a few contractions.” She told someone to quickly get the midwife because our girl was coming. It only took a few more pushes before our girl made her way into the world. Emily Grace Lake was born at 6:09PM. Our tiny 5lb, 0oz, 17 ½ inch girl was quickly rushed to the other side of the room. They had prepared us for this. A handful of people from the Neonatal Unit were in our room waiting for her arrival to check her immediately. We knew she would only be in the room with us for a few minutes before they took her to the NICU. Austin would go with them while they would be cleaning me up. After cleaning her and checking her, they brought her over to me for the quickest 30 seconds of my life. A nurse took my phone and snapped some pictures as they laid my sweet girl on my chest. As soon as she was put on me, she grabbed my nose. It was adorable, but she just seemed scared. This was the first of some of the hardest moments of my life. I wanted to hold her forever. I wanted her to know everything was okay and never let her go. That moment meant so much, but it was over so quickly.
Her sweet face was so bruised and swollen because she came out so fast. It’s so crazy to finally see the baby that had been growing inside of me for so long. All I wanted to do was stare at her forever. It was time for her to go to the NICU. Austin gave me a kiss and left with our girl. They got me cleaned up and started to let me know what would happen next. They said they would bring me to the NICU to see her before taking me to my room in the Mother/Baby wing. My family all got a chance to see her in the NICU while I was getting prepared to move.
I have pictured the day our girl was going to be born for such a long time. I imagined her being laid on my chest as soon as she was born and holding her as long as I could. I would be able to snuggle her and talk with her. I thought about how wonderful skin to skin would be as I would bond with our baby. I pictured Austin getting to snuggle and hold her. I thought about how wonderful it would be to try to breastfeed her and take care of her. I couldn’t wait to introduce her to our families. I knew the types of pictures I wanted to take with her while we were in the hospital. Mostly, I couldn’t wait to put her in her car seat and bring her home with us. I was so ready to adjust to life with our girl. I just wanted to start being a mama so badly. There are so many special moments that you’re supposed to get in those first few days.
Except we weren’t going to have those special moments. Our journey into parenthood was about to be so different than what I imagined. It’s still hard for me to think back about what we missed out on, but I’m so thankful for what we did experience. I’m so grateful our little girl was okay! I hate what she had to go through in the first two weeks of her life, but she is so strong because of it. The seemingly endless days Emily was in the NICU changed me in so many ways. Our firsts with her were so different then I thought they would be. Even though I wouldn’t have chosen for her to go through this, I’m so thankful for her and everything we went through. The Lord had a plan through it all.