Our second premature baby just turned three and this has brought back so many memories and thoughts from that time. A pregnancy after a premature birth can be frightening to say the least. I have often been asked my other mothers of premature babies what made me decide to have another, and what was the second pregnancy like…so here we go.
After we had our first premature baby I remember walking down the hallway of the hospital walking towards the NICU with my mother, telling her I was never going to have another baby. I was never going to put another baby through the pain and suffering my son was enduring at that time. I remember saying how guilty I felt, how I felt like the worst mother, because we knew going into this that the chances of me having a preemie were quite high. But I ignored those warnings, because I wanted a baby, because I wanted to be pregnant, because I wanted – I put a baby through hell. I told her and I was so sure…I was never going to have another baby.
Jump ahead a year and we got pregnant with our second child (third if you consider our miscarriage). I felt very different with the second. I never felt overjoyed, I never talked to my belly, I don’t have a single picture of me being pregnant, I didn’t read religiously on how developed the baby was, I never made a big announcement to friends and family. In fact in less you saw my growing belly, you would have never known. I figured the fewer people who knew, the fewer people I had to tell if things didn’t go as we hoped.
My husband was just as shocked as I was when I found out we were pregnant with out second…in fact when I told my husband we were pregnant – his reaction was “really…are you sure?”. With our second pregnancy we started trying right away because it took us quite some time to get pregnant and stay pregnant with Hayden. We thought it would be the same with this one – but not so much. We got pregnant that first month we started trying 2 months before our son’s corrected 1st birthday.
The one good thing about being pregnant after having a preemie baby was that doctors took you seriously when you voiced your concerns. I was able to be at the high risk pregnancy unit in one of the best hospitals in the province. They listened to my every concern, explained when they disagreed with me instead of just saying “no” and moving on. They explained every option and what each possibility could be. I had bi-weekly scans to check on my cervix and my babe. I had the best of the best looking out for me and my little one – and I was beyond comforted about that. I didn’t mind waiting in the waiting room for hours, or taking the long trek into the city to see them. I wanted the best care I could get, and I appreciate them more than they could know.
They guided me, comforted me, they took care of me, they took care of my babe.
I was stressed though. I had a stressful job as a teacher, and as a teacher who didn’t have a classroom I was picking up and moving to another classroom every 30 minutes, my husband worked long hours and had a long commute, and I was beyond worried about this pregnancy. Luckily they put me on bed rest a few months in, because they were worried about the health of the babe.
Throughout the pregnancy I focused on my time with our son, I soaked up as much time with him as possible. I was packing our house up to move and just trying very hard to not worry about this babe.
When I had passed 29 weeks (the gestational age our son was born) I finally felt like there might be a possibility that I would leave a hospital with a healthy babe. Shortly after the 29 week mark I started to have severe pains and my reluctant husband (I had two false labour trips to the hospital prior to this) took me down to the city to go to the hospital.
This entire visit to the hospital felt like it wasn’t happening to me, it was as if I was in a dream. I knew that having another preemie was very possible and more than likely going to happen, but it was like I was in denial or some form of delusion. It was as if I was just going through the motions. The doctor examined me, and stated that I was 80% effaced and 4 cm dilated. And suddenly it all came rushing down, the reality of what could be happening.
Tears filled my eyes, I grabbed my husbands hand and said “I can’t do this again”. The memories of the NICU came rushing back, the guilt and the pain that we all felt, I was feeling again. I didn’t think that I could survive having another baby in the NICU, I didn’t think that I could survive their cries, the beeps, the alarms, the unsureness of it all. I didn’t think I could do it again. I didn’t think I could be away from my son who was home with my mother.
The amazing team at the hospital gave me all sorts of drugs to try to stop the labour, I remember feeling like my skin was on fire, from whatever they gave me (of course I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the drugs they used to save my daughters life). My husband was asleep next to me in one of those fold down chairs. I remember laying (in the most uncomfortable bed), strapped up to a million machines staring at the ceiling, and just crying. Crying for the loss of yet another term baby, crying for how scared I was for the health of this baby, crying for the sheer awfulness of the entire situation. Finally the contractions began to lessen, and got further apart. Whatever it was that they gave me was working.
The following day my husband went home to go to work and to help with our son who was with my mother. For the next week, I lay in bed, slept, read, took the odd walk down the hall, and tried to focus on keeping this baby inside of me. Finally the doctors came in and told me I could go home – as long as I promised not to do anything. To only walk down the stairs once, to not pick up my son, to not be standing for long periods, and to just rest. Really rest.
Thank God for my amazing mother who moved in with us during this difficult time. Not only did she have to put her life on hold for us, but the day I got back from the hospital we decided to move. We were moving back into my childhood home, so we could be closer to the hospital in case of an emergency. So she had to move and unpack us as well. She set up my entire kitchen, unpacked Hayden’s things, and was completely amazing. Thank you.
Three weeks later, I woke up and had thought that my water had broken, so off we go again to the hospital. This time there was nothing they could do to stop it – this babe was coming.
Luckily for me the majority of my labour wasn’t too difficult. My parents came down to be with us (my in laws took our son), and we all sat around talking about baby names, and they watched in awe when I said I just had a contraction with no pain. They were sure and steady now, but no real progress. 24 hours after my water broke, they had to break the rest of the membrane to speed the process up. And a few short (and very painful) minutes later – out she came. Yes a girl – we were so excited.
This time around in the NICU experience was very different from my first. Doctors and nurses remembered us, and took extra good care of us. They knew I was very comfortable taking care of a preemie, and didn’t need a lot of guidance. The alarms, beeps, and wires didn’t scare me. I knew when to be worried, and when it wasn’t real. I knew to look at my baby, and not the numbers. I knew when rounds were, and what questions to ask, I knew what some warning signs were, and what were the possibilities. The bottom line was that I knew. I knew more, I knew what to expect, how hard it was going to be. I knew who the nurses were, I knew the best time to go and pump, I knew the schedule, and which chair to try to get in the morning. I knew.
I get so many mums of preemies asking me what made me choose to have a second preemie. How could I make that choice, knowing how hard it was. And I don’t know what changed my mind, I don’t know what happened between that day walking down the hallway to the NICU declaring to my mother, that I would never have another and the moment we decided to have another baby. And after our first – I was so, so very sure of my decision. The only thing that I can think of is that I fell in love. I fell in love with the sweetest, funniest, most awesome little boy, and I couldn’t imagine not having another. I knew the risks, I knew the challenges that were in front of me. But I also knew that I was going to be in the best hands, that they were going to do everything they could to keep this baby in me as long as possible, instead of disregarding my fears (as my first OB did). I knew that I was stronger after enduring almost 2 months in the hospital with my first premature babe.
Yes the possibility of having another preemie was high, yes I may have been selfish in wanting another, putting my family through hell as I was put on bed rest, but it was some internal desire to have another. So maybe I was selfish, maybe I put my own wants and desires ahead of others. I’m not sorry for our decision to have a second baby – I love her endlessly and we now have two healthy kids.
My husband and I always said that we wanted three babies, but unfortunately after our second preemie, we have decided to call it quits. We are so unbelievably blessed with what we have. We are beyond lucky with how healthy our two babes are, we have a boy and a girl…what more could we ask for. So although I was selfish with the second we decided that we couldn’t push our luck any more and honestly. I don’t think I could last a third round in the NICU experience, especially leaving my two other babes at home.
So that was our journey, our choice, and our preemie adventure x2. I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy but I am so thankful for how our story turned out, and that we decided to be selfish one last time – it gave us our girl Haleigh.