Yesterday was World Prematurity Day, a day that seeks to bring awareness to the challenges facing preemies and their families. According to March of Dimes, one in ten babies is born premature. On November 17th, we honor all of the little heroes like Garrin.
*Warning: This post contains somewhat graphic pregnancy related details all of which have not previously been shared online. In honor of World Prematurity Day, I decided to share additional details of what led us to having a baby 17 weeks early.
The first fifteen weeks of my pregnancy were uneventful: I was fatigued but felt petty good, nothing that I hadn’t experienced with each of my other pregnancies. At 15 weeks 4 days, I began spotting. The spotting worried us considerably as in May of 2017, I experienced an early miscarriage. That miscarriage was something we didn’t talk about with anyone outside of our immediate family for months. We hadn’t told anyone other than our kids, and while it was very early on, that positive pregnancy test changed all of our plans for the future, and we were heartbroken when an ultrasound revealed a blighted ovum. This was particularly tough for our three children who were in the examination room with me when I got the news.
Fast forward a little over a year, and we were expecting again. We intentionally waited until the second trimester to share our news with our little ones, trying to shield them from another possible wave of disappointment and sadness. When we hit the second trimester, we thought we were in the clear, and we shouted our news from the rooftops. So when I started spotting again, I bawled: I thought that we were for sure miscarrying again. My heart was crushed before I even made it in for my regularly scheduled check-up the following Tuesday. Much to our relief, everything looked great on the ultrasound, though my placenta was low lying and was thought to be the culprit of the bleeding I had been experiencing.
My pregnancy continued in a sort of new “normal” with the thought that my placenta would eventually move up and my other symptom would clear up in time. Unfortunately for our nerves, the bleeding only got worse and worse. We had something like six or seven ultrasounds during the 23 weeks I was pregnant with Garrin. Each time, the baby looked good, his heartbeat was strong, so that line drawn in the sand, what was “normal,” got pushed further and further back.
The topic of premature birth was first broached when I was 22 weeks 2 days along, while I was in the office for one of those many ultrasounds. The placenta had moved up and was no longer thought to be the issue. I was referred to a maternal/fetal clinic the next day, and Monday, when the clinic called, I scheduled the appointment for the following week, with each of my previous ultrasounds in mind.
That night, now 22 weeks 5 days into my pregnancy, I was awoken by what felt like contractions. I woke my husband up, and we tried to wait out the on again off again cramping I was feeling, thinking there was no way I could be having real contractions already. Around 2:00 am, I finally broke down and called the OB office. The doctor told me that I could come in, but again we decided to wait. By 5:00 am, the contractions stopped. They disappeared as quickly as they’d arrived, and I went to sleep trying to get even a few minutes of shut eye before my second day of classes.
The next day, I was on the phone with my OB’s office several times, the first time passing along my symptoms to my doctor and the next few calls trying to schedule that specialist visit sooner than the following week. When we couldn’t find a day that would work with my first week of class schedule, I haphazardly mentioned that I could pick up my kids at school and come to the local office to be checked out right then. After checking with the doctor, my appointment was set for 4:30 pm, so I rushed to get my kiddos and ran through the drive though to grab a late lunch.
I wasn’t too worried when I walked into the clinic. My husband had called me when he got off at 4:30 to see if I wanted him to head to the clinic, and I told him to just wait. I didn’t see any point in having him waste a trip down the highway — I was doctoring about 45 minutes away from our home. So once again, my kiddos and I got to see their baby brother and hear his heart beat, all of which looked normal to my untrained eye.
The first indication that something was amiss was when my doctor asked if it would be okay to bring in one of the other doctors. Of course that was fine with me, so I sat waiting, still not too worried as we had already heard the baby’s heartbeat. It seemed to take forever for my doctor to return. The other doctor had already left for the day but my doctor was able to catch her by phone, she said, before delivering the very frightening news that there was no amniotic fluid left around the baby. There was a little in his stomach and some in his bladder, but that was it.
I was flabbergasted and lay there bawling one minute and stunned the next as she performed a pelvic exam to see if I was dilated. The nurses that were still at the office took my two kids out of the exam room but not before they knew that something was very wrong. My doctor left the room again to call a specialist. When she returned, she gave me two choices: a) head to the nearest major hospital and plan to be hospitalized until delivery b) go home and come back for local office visits three times a week until delivery.
Because I was only 23 weeks along, we were in sort of a gray area: Delivery before 20 weeks is considered a miscarriage, and a fetus isn’t considered viable until 24 weeks in many clinics and hospitals. Even so, my husband and I considered the lack of amniotic fluid to be a medical emergency, and we headed out of town. Waiting for him to pick me up was the longest hour of my entire life. I thought he would never get there, but he did, and off we went. Thank the Lord we left when we did because soon I was in labor, and as you know, sweet little Garrin was born at 1:07 am at 23 weeks 1 day gestational age.
Many of you have followed Garrin’s journey since that point. He has come a long way in a few short months. Today the doctors didn’t change anything for our superstar. We love boring days! Garrin weighed in at 2365 grams or 5 lbs 3.4 oz and graduated to newborn sized diapers, hitting another milestone.*
None of this journey has been easy, but in reflection of the chain of events, we can see God’s hands at work, weaving all of the once disconnected pieces into a beautiful masterpiece. As long as it is, this is our story. Every preemie family has their own story as to what led up to an early delivery. Many premature births are the result of medical conditions, and for others, like Garrin, the cause is unknown. According to the March of Dimes website, “Premature birth and its complications are the largest contributors to infant death in the U.S. and globally.” Even though I am a day late in posting this, I encourage you to check out the March of Dimes website and consider making a donation to support research and programming related to premature births.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” ~Elisabeth Kübler-Ross