The cruelest detail was that I didn't actually hear that strong, healthy heartbeat until after they told us there was nothing they could do to save our baby.
Monday morning I went to the office at 7. Any other day I would have been inhaling Cheerios at that hour. My mom recommended I call the doctor, but I got the answering service. I planned to call right when they opened at 8 a.m. Unfortunately, I had staggering--apparently they were contractions--pain and my water broke at 7:50. Just like the movies; a weird pop and a torrent of warm fluid. I can't get that horrible sensation out of my memory. And even though I'm pretty angry at God right now, I am so thankful this didn't happen while I was alone, especially while driving.
A coworker friend drove me to the Emergency Department and I called Jon to say he needed to leave work immediately and be with me in the ER. He didn't buy my fake-cool voice. I can only imagine the terrors going through his mind during that 40-minute drive.
The doctor did a check and said the outlook was extremely grim. Essentially, at 17 weeks our baby's lungs weren't developed enough to sustain him/her outside the womb. And on the inside, the child needed plenty of amniotic fluid to breathe, protect him/her as well as to continue lung development. Sadly, there was probably only a teaspoon or two of amniotic fluid left. And they didn't think it would last. If our baby would have been at least 24 weeks, he/she would have had a much better chance of making it on the outside.
For whatever reason, at the 14-week doctor's-office ultrasound, I couldn't distinctly hear the heartbeat. Jon and the doctor did, as well as my mom and dad with my brother's special stethoscope, but I just never felt confident I'd heard it and that made me sad. However, when they took me from the ER to Labor and Delivery and checked for fetal heart tones, it couldn't have been clearer: 165-170 bpm. A healthy rate for a 17-week baby in utero. That was devastating.
All the medical professionals were strongly encouraging Jon and I to consent to induce labor and deliver the baby. They worried I'd get an infection that could threaten my life or ability to have more children. While they never say "zero" or "one hundred percent," Baby's chances to make it were as close to zero as they could estimate. Hearing that right after such a strong heartbeat was excruciating. I was lost, but Jon was unwavering; we were absolutely not going to give up on a kid that wasn't giving up on us. They respected our decision but said they'd move ahead if I showed any signs of infection.
This continued for two days. They kept checking the heartbeat, which continued strong and thus became increasingly unbearable to hear. The baby apparently found a tiny pocket of fluid on my right side and was hanging in there, fighting it out. I was trying my best not to move and lose another drop of fluid for my kid. Everyone that came in the room already had that horrible, pitying look in their eyes.
On Tuesday evening, contractions started again and we stopped checking for heart tones. I am so thankful the universe made that decision for us, because Jon and I could not have lived with ourselves if it happened any other way. Regardless, we weren't going to get the baby, and if the placenta didn't come along when I delivered, I'd have to have surgery to remove it. So I consented for an epidural.
At 1:50 a.m. Wednesday May 22, our beautiful baby was born. From the look of it, our child was fighting to breathe until the very second it came into the world. Everything was perfect, from each little finger and toe to the cute little nose--which Jon swears looks just like mine. The mouth is definitely Muller. He/she was curled up and looked peacefully asleep.
My mom, dad, brother and Madelyn were all there, and most of them held our baby. It was tough watching them looking down at the little one. At 7 inches and 4.25 ounces, he or she was measuring tall, which I have to say is a little surprising. Baby was about the size of the doctor's hand.
But the absolute worst was watching Jon. He'd developed a fever, was shaking with the chills and was pacing around like a maniac until the baby came. I've wanted to be a mother since my high school babysitting days, but Jon was born to be a father. My already broken heart was completely crushed when I heard that he was cradling our baby and singing to him or her.
The smudge on the left is a handprint.
No one knows why or how this happened. Not yet, anyway.
Apparently this is called Pre-term Premature Rupture of Membranes (PPROM) and it occurs in 2 percent of all pregnancies. If we were further along, perhaps something could have been done to save our child. Perhaps not. The maternal fetal medicine doctor says the membrane sac is extremely strong--experiments have been done where they drop cannonballs on it and they just bounce off. But no one knows why some can weaken and break. In my case, it wasn't a small hole, it was a blowout--impossible to put back together, even if the science had been there.
We have been researching this and there is all sorts of speculation, such as Baby had some kind of virus or infection that didn't show by making me sick, or a signal from either one of our brains telling my body he or she was ready to come out, inducing labor. The doctors were very clear that even though they will be testing the baby (including chromosome, which will finally tell us the sex), there's a very good chance we will never know how it happened.
It's so hard to describe what we're feeling (here's a link to Jon's post about this). The second I felt that gush of fluid, something in my mind snapped and sort of turned off. I am terrified of what will happen when it turns on again. Jon says that there was nothing we could have done better or differently these last four months. When I show signs of cracking, he is adamant: Yes, I was working a lot, but he's not wrong when he says my coming home and leaving my coworkers there to continue would have caused me far more stress than just putting in the 70+ hours a week. I'm not sure other people in our lives are as convinced as my husband, including myself. But I will have to learn to live with that. I hope I am able.
I am so grateful that our little one no longer has to suffer. There are few things worse than holding your child and knowing he or she will never take another breath. I wouldn't wish that upon anyone.