Updated: Mar 2
We have a picture in our minds of what pregnancy and the birth experience is like. I envisioned being tired, maybe sick, the excitement, being frustrated of feeling "so big" and of course, swollen ankles. Then at around 40 weeks, your water breaks and you rush to the hospital with your perfectly organized overnight bag. Family arrives with anticipation and hearts filled with joy. Your precious baby arrives and is loved on by family and friends in the hospital.
Then there is real life, or at least, my reality of pregnancy and birth.
I don't know what it's like to be so tired you don't want to walk around anymore, how it feels to have the dreaded swollen ankles, or what it's like to have family and friends waiting in the lobby full of excitement to meet your baby, getting their first 48 hours of life photos or even taking a baby home when you are discharged.
We don't talk about what happens if you deliver your baby before full-term unless you've been through a pregnancy that didn't go as planned. We thought we were "out of the woods" after not having a miscarriage because that's all we knew and had ever heard that could happen.
We lived in a state of bliss and joy for 23 weeks and 6 days with our first son, Carter. I experienced joy, the excitement of announcing and planning, weekly bump photos, and all-day sickness. In an instant, everything changed. I was already 3cm dilated and I had a slow leak. Absolute controlled chaos ensued when we arrived at the hospital, friends frantically rushed to pack a hospital bag while my husband made phone calls to tell family our son was coming at any moment. Family was nervously hopping on the next flight out to be with us and our entire support system near and far waited with us in fear of the unknown. Fear...anxiety...complete shock... for 4 days.
At 24 weeks & 2 days, we heard "It's time". That was the moment we found out I was 10 cm dilated. I watched my husband, Dan, stand by me with a look in his eyes I'll never forget, knowing we may lose our son. We heard two small cries and then watched as an incredible team worked to keep him alive. He was rushed to the NICU, Dan right beside him, and I laid there while our amazing delivery nurse took care of me. I was in a state of shock. Emotionless. I had no idea what was going on in the NICU, my husband was there with him and I sat in shock. I got to see our son two hours later through a clear box, touched his little hand, and we watched him fight for his life every minute of every day for 74 hours. The first time I held him was the last.
We were surprised to find out we were pregnant with our second son, Aron, months later. It was a high-risk pregnancy from the moment we found out. We talk about all of the what-ifs because now we know what can happen. A cerclage was placed due to an incompetent cervix, I was given weekly progesterone injections and was on constant monitoring of my cervical length. Our guard was up trying to protect ourselves. Every day we lived in fear of the what-ifs and the joys of pregnancy were taken from us because we NOW know what could happen… pregnancy complications, preterm labor, risks to baby and myself, a NICU stay and so much more. The biggest fear of all...there was a chance of loss. We knew there was a small chance of viability at 24 weeks. We knew that 26 weeks was a huge milestone, then 28 weeks and so on. Every single day became a huge deal for Aron's development.
During my second pregnancy I was put on bed rest for 36 days at home and an additional 41 days in the hospital. While in the hospital, my water broke at 27 weeks. At 29 weeks and 3 days I was contracting for 14 hours, an infection presented itself, and I was 4 cms dilated with our baby boy presenting himself. We found ourselves in chaos, once again, as I was rushed to have an emergency c-section. The hospital team worked tirelessly to fight for him and then he was off to the NICU - Dad by his side. After 2 hours in recovery, I was able to see Aron, our son, and touch his little hands and feet. Two days later, I was able to hold him and after 49 days in the NICU, we finally brought our perfect and healthy son home.
While pregnancy, delivery, and having a baby should be blissful and exciting, there are so many stories and challenges that have happened to others. Our society does not like to talk about the what-ifs, we like to talk about the beautiful moments. Why? Because it's hard. It's hard to talk about pregnancy complications, preterm labor, the NICU (I didn't even know what all the NICU did!), an emergency c-section, bringing a preemie home, or even loss.
Although we cannot prevent pregnancy and delivery complications (I wish so much we could), we can create awareness and education around it. So let's talk about pregnancy complications, let's talk about what can cause preterm labor because if we know both the common and uncommon things to look out for, we can have a heightened awareness for ourselves and others. And I say this not in a way that creates fear, but in a way that educates and supports one another. It IS possible to have a joyful pregnancy journey while having the tools and information we need to be an advocate for ourselves and our babies.