(Warning, this post will contain mentions of bodily fluid)
How Eleanor Came to Be.
I want to write this all down while I still have child care (grandparents FTW) and it’s still fresh in my mind!
After experiencing a second stillbirth in November 2016, we were done. We couldn’t imagine trying again and ending with such a devastating, traumatic loss.
I started going to my support group again and found an incredible trauma therapist I went to weekly for 6 months. We spent the summer traveling. I wanted to know I could be happy again, have a good life without another baby. It’s not so much I was fixated on the idea of third child as much as I wanted to not end my fertility with the trauma of giving birth to babies who had died. Twice. It was just unfathomably heartbreaking and awful to go through.
I also spent the spring and summer of 2017 getting second opinions. I went to four high risk OBs (MFMs) around New England to get opinions, testing, and thoughts. I mostly heard “There might be a genetic issue with the babies that is undetectable by genetic testing.” It was maddening to think that even though the autopsies revealed no chromosomal abnormalities, there could still be an issue. Come on, science!
In August, the day before our 10th anniversary, we saw a doctor in Boston who told me I might have a clotting disorder that is undiagnosed and she would prescribe an injectable blood thinner. That was my hunch based on the nature of my losses (one healthy child, two early losses, one healthy child while taking baby aspirin, one fetal demise with growth restriction, one fetal demise with normal growth while taking baby aspirin). We decided we’d try one last time while doing the blood thinner.
Two weeks later I got pregnant – the first day of my pregnancy was our 10th Anniversary. Very auspicious, my MFM told me. ;) I said, ” I hope so!”
My Pregnancy with Eleanor.
I was an anxious mess.
Okay, well I had gestational diabetes. I gave myself the nightly shots in my stomach starting at 4 weeks. I found a wonderful OB and MFM at a new practice. I had weekly ultrasounds and OB appointments for much of pregnancy. My OB was incredibly helpful and validating and compassionate. She even texted me when I was having Eleanor at a different hospital! (“I’m still your person. I’m still here for you.”) My MFM emailed me back when I had questions. I got very lucky with fantastic medical professionals.
I didn’t tell many people I was pregnant – I told my parents and siblings halfway through pregnancy when we went home for Christmas, but didn’t tell Gabe till 24 weeks. I didn’t tell acquaintances till well into my third trimester when I could no longer hide under a big hoodie or coat. (I didn’t want to make small talk about pregnancy – too hard.)
I saw a therapist for PTSD – because pregnancy is a form of trauma for me after my losses. I didn’t start to believe it could end in a live baby until about two weeks before she was born. I figured even if couldn’t “enjoy” pregnancy, I would enjoy a live baby if I got one, so I just tried to make through!
Although my “obstetrical history” was “poor”, my pregnancy with her was unremarkable aside from diet-controlled gestational diabetes. Until April 10th.
How Eleanor Was Born.
I was 34 weeks 3 days pregnant and went to bed. I woke up at midnight on April 10th and went to the bathroom. My pantyliner felt wetter than usual, but I’ve had watery discharge before, so no big deal. It was a little pink, so I was slightly concerned and decided I’d call my OB’s office when it opened.
Had a little more discharge and called the on-call OB at 6:30 am. He told me to come in to L&D and get checked. This happened in a previous pregnancy at 24 weeks and turned out to be a harmless infection. Plus, I had TONS of anxiety the whole pregnancy, always thinking something was wrong. It was going to be nothing, but I wanted to be sure.
Gabe and Theo were born at 40 and 41+2 (and I had to have my water broken by midwives in labor), so a preemie wasn’t on my radar at ALL. But, better safe than sorry! My OB and MFM constantly told me to come in if I felt worried – never made me feel like the anxious wreck I was. Very validating, fantastic doctor women.
The on-call OB checked me. She told me that although was the same pH as amniotic fluid, it didn’t crystallize AND they didn’t see any fluid when they did a cervical check. I could go home and see if I leaked anymore or just stay there.
I decided to stay mostly because I knew if I went home, it’d be a bigger ordeal to return. The OB told me there was a “90% chance this ISN’T amniotic fluid.”
My own OB came and I told her I felt stupid and like I was taking up the room for someone who needed it. She told me I could skip my appointment tomorrow, but I said I’d keep it because I had an ultrasound beforehand. I pictured myself going home and being pregnant for 5 more weeks, remembering that silly time I thought I was leaking amniotic fluid.
I took a nap, then started walking laps around the L&D room they had put me in. Little gushes. It felt abnormal, but also…I am a worrier. Especially about pregnancy. I’ve learned to not trust my instinct because my instinct is always “Alarm bells! Something is wrong!!”
The on-call OB came to check me again at noon and things flew from there. They quickly confirmed it WAS amniotic fluid and called an ambulance to take me to the bigger hospital with a NICU (they don’t deliver before 35 weeks at my hospital). Then they did an ultrasound and found out the baby was BREECH after weeks of being vertex (head down). I called my parents to come from Ohio, called Mike to come pick up our car from the hospital, I got a big steroid shot in my bum, and a ride in my first ambulance. It was all very dramatic.
I asked about doing a version to turn her, but the MFM told me such a small baby with so little fluid risked a cord prolapse. So! She was born via c-section at 7:15 pm. About 12 hours after I first arrived at the first hospital. No signs of labor and I would have just dismissed it all if I hadn’t remembered my friend saying amniotic fluid is often pink.
The c-section was weird (all these people! in an OR! getting sliced open!) and a bit terrifying (right before they started surgery, the nurse was looking for her heartbeat but couldn’t find one – I was a bit in shock from it all, so life felt like it was in slow motion until I could hear her cry, then I couldn’t stop saying “oh my gosh, she’s alive” over and over.) Recovery hasn’t been too bad.
They whisked her off to the special care nursery and Mike went with her. She was 4 lbs 13.2 oz, 17.75 inches long, and scored 8 and 9s on her Apgars.
I’m so glad she’s here and safe. The doctors told me after 34 weeks the risk of cord prolapse or getting an infection from a torn sac is greater than the risks of babies being born early. She was in the special care nursery for a week to learn how to eat and keep her temps up, but she had no breathing problems and is already up to her birth weight. She’s an incredible nurser – better than my boys were as newborns and she’s so much younger!
We got very very lucky with such a healthy preterm baby. I shudder to think what would have happened if I *didn’t* go in to the hospital even though I felt stupid! I didn’t enjoy my pregnancy at all with her because I was so uncertain I’d get a live baby – so now I get a bonus 5 or 6 weeks with her on the outside.
I went from a “natural” waterbirth on my due date to an induction with an epidural 9 days overdue (plus two more inductions with epidurals for my stillborn babies) to a preemie c-section. To say that priorities and perspective have changed in the past eight years is an understatement.
I feel absolutely no sadness or regret over having a pregnancy with tons of medical intervention and a surgical birth. I did have to deprogram myself a bit from the ways I was brainwashed to think less intervention was better, but I’m so thankful for all the interventions. Eleanor might not be here otherwise. I’m grateful to have had all the experiences I did – though I wish I didn’t have to experience babies dying to gain this perspective, I think I’m a less insufferable person for it. ;)
Now back to enjoying my LIVE BABY YAY.