Late Friday afternoon, Nov. 5, 1999, I began having contractions at work. I had been having Braxton-Hicks contractions and pelvic pressure since September, but this felt stronger and I had 6 contractions in one hour. My lower back started hurting. I was concerned, and when I got home that evening I immediately lay down on my left side, drank some water, and rested. I had 3 more contractions in 15 minutes, so I called my doctor's home, but he wasn't in. I then called the hospital and had them page the associate on call. This doctor told me to take some antacid tablets, that they contained magnesium, which would help relax my uterus. I felt sick, so I went to sleep for about an hour, and upon waking had several more contractions. They stopped, and over the weekend I only had about 6 more noticeable contractions. Up to this time I had what my doctor called "a perfect pregnancy," he "wished all of his patients were like me." This was my first pregnancy, and though I prepared for it for 2 years, I didn't know if these contractions were normal because I had no prior experience. All I could do was trust my doctor. My pregnancy up to this time had been uneventful--no morning sickness, average weight gain, all tests and sonograms normal--I had never felt better in my life or been happier!
My doctor called me at work on Monday morning, told me to drink plenty of water, rest often, and stop working, but he didn't need me to come in for an exam (I questioned that!) Through the week I rested. I felt fine and had no more contractions, so that Saturday I talked my husband into going on a weekend fishing trip in a rural coastal area 4 hours from home. He was reluctant, but I told him I was fine, and the doctor had cleared me for travel. We went slowly out in our boat so I would not be bounced around, and after about 3 hours came back in to go eat. I had never during my pregnancy been sad or weepy, but for some reason during dinner I was on the verge of crying, and I felt exhausted. When we returned to the motel, I commented to my husband that my stomach looked different. The baby had been breech for 1 1/2 months, so I was hoping she had finally turned. While taking my shower I experienced a contraction, the first one I'd had in 5 days. I went to bed at 9:20 pm, and lay there for about 10 minutes when I felt this incredible painful pressure as the baby moved, almost like a scraping feeling. I put my hand to my lower belly and felt this sudden pop and then a gush--my water broke. I knew immediately what it was, so I woke my husband and told him. He was panicked in disbelief.
I rolled over and dialed the motel operator. We were an hour from the nearest hospital and were unfamiliar with the area, so I requested an ambulance, explaining that I was only 32 weeks along and that I wanted to be taken to a hospital with a neo-natal ICU. Water kept gushing out, more than I ever thought there would be. I just lay still on my side, hoping that somehow labor could be stopped. I didn't really know what to expect, despite all of my reading and research. But to my amazement I was very calm. We had to transfer to another ambulance halfway to the hospital. I don't remember much of the ride or my arrival at the hospital (other than they had to stop a train along the way,) but the next thing I knew we were in a room. My contractions had not been painful and at 10:45 pm I was at 3 cm dilatation. I told the nurses that the baby had been breech, and upon re-examination they found her bottom presenting. I requested that they please just do a C-section, that I wanted the baby out quickly to be examined by the neo-natalogists. The contractions got very strong, and I was quickly at 6 cm and had an incredible urge to push. As they were taking me to surgery I threw up in the hallway, the pain of the contractions was so intense. I was prepped and given a spinal. I could see the surgery in the blue rim of the light fixture above me, and after lots of tugging they told my husband, "Look, Daddy!" and I looked, too, and out came our daughter, at 1:09 am on November 14, 1999. I thought she looked remarkably like a full-term baby. She made some soft little cries and then a few louder ones, and then stopped. They took her for a few minutes, and then for the briefest moment they showed her to me before rushing her to the NICU, and I'll never forget the way she looked as long as I live--my little girl!
Dylan Jewel weighed 4 lbs 12 oz and was 16 inches long. It was very hard to have to wait a day and a half before they would let me hold her! She was extremely swollen, which is the reason she weighed so much and looked so plump. The doctors said she had mild Hydrops Fetalis, a condition where fluid accumulates around major organs, under the skin, and around the brain, and which can be fatal when full-blown. There are many causes of Hydrops but she had none of the major factors, so I guess it's a mystery. Her head and neck appeared the most swollen, and her lungs had accumulated water, but she was never intubated. Her little chest look like a bowl for about 2 days, all sunken in with her labored breaths. She was kept in an open warming bed. She had forced oxygen (CPAP) for 2 days under an oxygen hood, then a nose prong for another 2 days, and then she was weaned slowly from oxygen after being moved to an isolette. She was bright red and then jaundiced, but this resolved in 3 weeks. She had two episodes of apnea the first 48 hours, but none after that. The only other problem she had was that her sucking reflex was not developed, and she wouldn't latch on to breastfeed. She had a feeding tube for several days, and my expressed milk was fed to her. She could latch on to a bottle after the nurses or I succeeded in forcing her tongue from the roof of her mouth with the bottle nipple. I did try unsuccessfully for many days to breastfeed her, but the bottom line was that as long as she was getting my milk I didn't really care if she nursed from a bottle or me! The hospital was great. After I was discharged they let me stay in a room and provided three meals a day, all free of charge.
Physical recovery from the C-section was a breeze, practically painless. Emotionally though, for several days I felt guilty that I caused her premature birth by something I did. The doctors assured me this was not the case. I wanted to know why it happened! They ran tests but were unable to find a reason, the placenta was fine, no infections. I must admit, I felt somewhat cheated out of the perfect birth I had envisioned for years. But I had so much help and love from both families, and I was just so happy she was going to be okay that I quickly recovered my positive attitude.
Dylan Jewel stayed only 15 days in NICU, and the last 2 days in the hospital she roomed in part of the time so we could get used to taking care of her. Then we were able to take her home. She weighed 4 lbs 8 oz. She was a good baby, for 4 months she never cried (honestly) except when she got her shots. I guess she decided she'd be good to make up for the scare she gave us! The only problem she ever had was rectal bleeding. After two overnight trips to the ER, it turned out that my own allergy to cow's milk, which I had been drinking a lot of, was transferring to her through my breastmilk. She apparently developed the same allergy. After removing milk from my diet, the bleeding disappeared. She had breastmilk via bottles for 5 months, then soy formula. She weighed 20 lbs at 1 year, and now, at 17 months, is 24 lbs and totally caught up in every way to other girls her age. Though her birth gave us some gray hairs, I realize now how resilient babies are, and I have a better idea of what to expect if this ever happens to me again.