Dan and I had no idea our lives were about to spin out of control. January 18th seemed to be a normal Friday. We both got up, left for work and were excited for it to be the weekend. I left a message for my doctor and went on as normal that morning. I noticed an increase in discharge and a light pink color – I don’t think this is normal, but I’m sure everything is fine. The nurse called me back asking specific questions and then said: “Did your water break?”… “WHAT?! I DON’T KNOW, HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KNOW?” I called Dan, scared to death, telling him I was heading to the doctor to make sure what I was experiencing was normal. I called my mom, tried to convince her, which was convincing myself that everything is okay. My dad immediately called me to talk to me knowing I was hysterical, driving in the snow. “It’s going to be okay” he said over again, trying to calm me down.
I arrived at our doctor’s office, the girl at the front desk says “Good to see you Justina! Wait, why are you here?” I began crying again, she said: “everything is going to be okay”. Our doctor examined me, everything seemed to be normal and then I went to the ultrasound room. They put ultrasound on my stomach – I immediately smiled ear to ear. There’s my perfect boy. “Do you want to hear his heartbeat?” Of course I do, now more than ever. He covered his face as he has done the last two ultrasounds, moving around, and fluids were great. The doctor and the tech looked at each other, said something I didn’t quite get and decided to do a vaginal ultrasound. I’ll never forget the look on my doctor’s face. She put her head down, looked over at me, “Justina, everything is going to be okay, we need to get you to the hospital immediately. You’re 3 centimeters dilated”. Chaos broke as Dan walked in the door.
Dan got me dressed, they put me in a wheelchair, each person in the office seemed to be making a phone call and helping us in some way, but we had no idea what was happening. I became hysterical. Our doctor pushed me in the wheelchair, Dan right by my side, running through the worst snow we’ve had yet across the street to the hospital.
We entered on the labor and delivery floor, where 10 nurses, doctors, and techs were frantically, but calmly situating the room. I was so overwhelmed. They each had a purpose, but they were moving so quickly I couldn’t figure out what was going on. All of the bracelets began stacking on my arm, IV’s being put in, 6 different bags hanging, all in a matter of minutes. I was given Magnesium, a steroid shot, antibiotics, and fluids immediately. Dan stood in the corner, I could see the look in his eyes – utter shock. Dan stepped out to ask the doctor exactly what was going on, we both haven’t comprehended what was happening. Then I realized we were in a labor & delivery room, they were setting me up for delivery. But I’m only 23 weeks and 6 days… I started to panic. This. Can’t. Be. Happening.
I remember Joaney and Kristin, two of the nurses in the room. I knew Joaney saw my panic start to set in, she took on the role of mom – I needed that as both of our moms were just hearing the news in Florida. Kristin was calming, her presence alone helped me, I needed to try to stay calm.
Once I was hooked up to all of the monitors, fluids, and medications, the room started to slowly calm. Our doctor tried to reassure us everything was going to be okay… but what was it? She told us the importance of the medications I was on – magnesium to try and delay labor, but also to help protect the baby of neurological issues. The steroid was to expedite his lung development. Anti-biotics to be safe. Fluids so I don’t become dehydrated. She said we needed two more days so I could get the full effect of both magnesium and the second steroid shot – we had to get there or he may not live. Wait. He may not live? I was only 23 weeks and 6 days. I’m flooded with emotions and thoughts. I could walk out of this hospital without my son. I refuse to believe it, I tried to keep hope. I was so scared. My doctor sat next to me in the bed, tears running down her face. She was going through this with us.
And then contractions started. I was contracting every 6-10 minutes, then went down to every two minutes. The pain was unbelievable. The nurses had the bed inverted in hopes to try anything to keep the pressure off and help lessen the contractions.
Our next visit was from the neonatologist. He needed us to get through the next 48 hours, that was clear. Every hour was a blessing that we needed, just to hope he can survive through birth. He walked us through our options – basically, do you want us to try to save him or not? OF COURSE I DO. Then the reality set in. Thank God for Dan, he’s always the realist and brings me back to the reality of the situation. Our son may not be in the position or strong enough for them to try and save him. We decided to leave it up to the neonatologist and his team – we absolutely want you to fight for him if he’s strong enough to fight. The doctor then said, “I’d like to talk about him with his name, do you have a name?” Dan and I looked at each other, with a very small smile. Carter Moore Oldehoff.
Dan had to continue making all of the tough phone calls to our family, best friends, and our jobs. I know he was hiding his pain and emotions because he knew that’s what I needed at the time. I laid there in shock, this just can’t be happening. The contractions continued, it was time for the epidural. Dan sat right in front of me, holding me and talking me through the whole thing knowing how scared I was to get the epidural.
Once the epidural was in, I needed to relax, I needed the labor to stop. Carter could not come in the next 48 hours. Carter… I need you to stay in mommy’s stomach to stay safe. We’ve got this my sweet boy.
As I lay there, Dan watched the monitors minute by minute. All night long. We were so scared. Everyone was. Every hour that went by we took as a victory. “It’s 11pm, 12 hours” Dan said softly. “6am. We need to make it to 6am.”
This night went on forever. Every time I had a contraction, it was like walking on glass and praying for it to stop. Every 30 minutes to an hour a nurse was in to check my vitals, medications and to adjust the monitor on my belly. Carter was still very active (I secretly loved when the nurse had to come in because he moved around so much that the monitor had to be moved). If the nurse wasn’t in at the moment, then it was monitors beeping or my blood pressure cuff filling with air. The night didn’t end, we never slept.
Dan sat next to me all day, all night. He put his hand on my belly, watching our vitals so closely and doing his best to be the strength I needed to get through. I can still picture the pain and sadness in his eyes as he watched me struggle and not knowing what the future holds. I knew he didn’t have much left in him either. Dan did everything he could to keep me calm and giving me strength. We cried, we were angry, we began questioning everything. Why was this happening to us?
Would we ever wake up from this nightmare?