My pregnancy story isn’t the most glamorous. You know how some women simply glow and have that pregnancy beauty and enjoy every moment being pregnant? Well, that was not me! I was sick throughout my entire pregnancy. I had the kind of pregnancy that had me in the bathroom all day every day, getting sick and unable to keep food down.
I ended up in the hospital a few times due to dehydration. Once at 10 weeks, the other at around 26 weeks. The second time around, I had a stomach bug, which made things much worse. That time not only was I on IVs, but I was having contractions. Being so early in the pregnancy, they put me on medication and monitored me until the contractions went away.
At 32 weeks, I went to my regular appointment. I explained to my doctor the tightness I had been feeling recently in my stomach. I also explained how it felt like Anna was sitting extremely low. I had no idea that I might be having contractions or what any of this meant. To be safe, my doctor checked me. Turns out, I was already 80% effaced, and Anna was, in fact, sitting extremely low. My doctor had me go to the hospital to get monitored. When they hooked me up, they could see I was having consistent contractions. Being only 32 weeks, this was not the time to have contractions. They went ahead and placed me on bed rest, gave me a steroid shot for Anna’s lung development (in case she came early) and sent me home with medicine to stop the contractions.
The goal was to get me to 36 weeks before having Anna. That
was considered the safest option. So, I obliged with my bed rest.
Two weeks later, in the middle of the night, I woke up to go to the bathroom. After I came back to bed, I felt like I peed myself. I went back to the bathroom, only to find that water was coming out of me uncontrollably. I yelled for Justin and told him I wasn’t sure if this was my water breaking or not. We called the doctor, and she instructed us to come in. At this time, we had no idea that this could lead to me going into labor. We casually packed our bags and prepared just in case we had to stay. In our minds, we were coming right back home. Well, we were wrong.
Come to find out, my water did break. I was supposed to have my baby delivered by a mid-wife, but since I was going into labor so early they gave me two options. One: deliver at the hospital I was at, but when Anna would be born, she would be transferred to another hospital that has a 3rd level NICU. Or, I could go ahead and get transferred and deliver with a doctor I have never met. I wanted to stay with my baby, so I transferred.
After about 17 hours of labor, my sweet, tiny, Anna Mae was born at 3 lbs 12 ounces & was 16 inches long. Now, the doctor had warned me ahead of time that she would be moved to the NICU immediately. I thought I was prepared, but who can truly be prepared to have a preemie? I mean, what does that really mean anyway? After she was born, my husband begged them to let me hold her for a couple minutes. They obliged, but before I knew it, they took her from my arms and whisked her away to the NICU. I told my husband to go with her. So there I was. What seemed like moments ago, with a room full of doctors and nurses, people by my side, chaos around, had now turned quiet. I was completely alone. What just happened? I thought.
It wouldn’t be until 4 hours later that I would get to see and hold my new baby. The moment they wheeled me into the NICU and I saw her in that incubator, my mouth dropped. I burst into tears. Call it post-partum hormones, but seeing your new baby like that is excruciating. I got to delicately hold her for about ten minutes before I needed to put her back. Their goal was to help her maintain her temperature, learn to eat/swallow, and gain a little weight. Praise the lord her lungs and heart were healthy. We spent about an hour in the NICU before going back to my room. I had been awake for over 24 hours and my body needed the rest. That night though, there was no rest. I had to sleep without my baby by me, or in the same room as me. Hearing the other babies cry out in rooms next to me devastated me.
I was only in the hospital for two days before being discharged. The next tough thing with having a preemie is leaving the hospital and looking into the back seat to see the car seat empty. The whole drive home, both my husband and I were in tears. I don’t think I stopped crying that whole night. Why did I have to leave her? Why couldn’t she come home with me? When could we bring her home? It was so scary and lonely, and my thoughts continued to race.
The next 16 days would be the longest days, and a true test for us. I was setting my alarm every four hours to wake up and pump. I wanted to provide as much milk as I could for Anna. How sad it is to pump in the nursery you created for your daughter, only to see her not there, nor in your belly. I worried every moment I was not with her. Our days spent in the NICU were a blur, as they were pretty much the same each day. We would wake up early, eat our breakfast, pack food for the day, and spend 6 to 8 hours by Anna’s side.
Each day there was a learning experience for us both. We learned what progress meant and looked like for a preemie, how to feed Anna, how to change her. She was so tiny that we felt like we would break her. Some days there was great progress, other days we would take a few steps back. So many tears were shed, so much anxiety of the unknown. It still amazes me how much love you develop for this tiny human you created, especially one that we spent hours apart from. I worried a lot, prayed over her, and prayed that we would one day get to take her home.
No one can prepare you for a preemie, or for the NICU journey. It is scary and overwhelming. I can say though, it brought Justin and I so much closer. It made our marriage so much stronger, and we became an unbreakable family. The day Anna got discharged was one of the happiest days of my life. It meant I would get to hold her whenever I wanted, for however long I wanted. Justin and I would even fight over who got to feed her and change her. Our girl is healthy, strong, and fierce. I am forever thankful for the doctors and nurses who took care of our girl. I am forever grateful that God had his hand over Anna, and stayed with us on that journey.