*I wrote 99% of this post while I was on bedrest during my preterm labor scare. I now have a healthy, happy, strong, perfect baby girl in my arms. Despite the scary situation, I made it to full term with my pregnancy. A matter of fact, I delivered at 38 weeks and 2 days. (aka 1 week and 2 days after what is considered full term). I share that to let you know despite what season you might be experiencing, great outcomes are possible with lots of work and prayers. I hope our story helps you.
Before I share my story, I want to make sure I first share three huge life lessons learned from this experience that everyone needs to hear and can implement – pregnant or not. So, if you read one thing here it is:
- Listen to Your Body. You know your body best. You know what your body normally feels like and should feel like on a daily basis. If you feel different from your norm, get it checked out. Don’t have a preconceived notion of how bad you should be feeling or how much pain you should be in before you get something looked at by a doctor. You may have a completely different pain tolerance than others or your body may just be experiencing something in a different way than most. Moral of the story, don’t let anyone else tell you you’re fine or you’re not fine. Trust your body. Trust yourself. Trust your instinct and intuition. Listen to your body and don’t let preconceived notions affect your decision-making.
- Control Everything in Your Power that You Can. Because There is A Lot Outside of Your Control. I don’t mean this in an OCD way or stress yourself out way. I simply mean that there is so much you can’t control, so make the best decisions you can to do your part to have the best outcome you can! There is only so much you can do. So just do it! That was my motto my entire pregnancy. And I’m so thankful it was. I followed all the rules. I was active and healthy, and every doctor, nurse and person I came into contact with told me that. But, that doesn’t stop things from happening. It just set me and my baby up for the best case scenario possible.
- Always Look At The Positive. Instead of me getting beyond upset asking myself “WHY is this happening? I’ve done everything right for 8 months so why is this happening to me? What a waste of my energy following all of the rules.” Don’t give me wrong. I certainly asked myself a million times why is this happening since everything has been so perfect. BUT, I am choosing to look at it as Thank GOD I did everything right for 8 months, and was so healthy because I have put both her and I in the best, strongest, and healthiest situation possible to deal with this. Who knows if she would be here already or if my body would have already given up on pregnancy if I wasn’t as healthy. Who knows if she would be as strong or in the 85th percentile according to ultrasound measurements, and absolutely as perfectly healthy as she can be if I didn’t do everything right for her. Look at the positive point of view. Don’t harp on or get hung up on the opposite.
WHAT IS PRETERM LABOR?
Labor that begins before full term pregnancy. Regular contractions that cause dilation and effacement before 37 weeks pregnant. 37 weeks is considered full term, even though pregnancy lasts 40 weeks.
WHAT I’M SO GLAD WE DID IN ADVANCE
- Tour the hospital. Hospitals are scary places to be. No one likes a hospital. But, you will feel more comfortable with it if you get acclimated in advance with where you will be delivering. We toured our labor and delivery pavillion at 31 weeks pregnant. We saw check-in, family waiting rooms, triage, the delivery rooms, postpartum rooms, etc. Nothing was left to our imagination after our tour and we were so glad leaving our tour that we went. It may feel overwhelming but you will be able to visualize every single aspect which is a great thing. Little did we know, we would be back 2.5 weeks after our tour for a preterm labor scare. We knew the hallways already. We knew what triage looked like and the rooms looked like. Even though it was still a scary experience, we had seen all the surroundings before so that was nice. We put ourselves in as good of a situation as we could. So make sure you tour your hospital to familiarize yourself with it! It will be more comforting when the time comes!
- Pre-register at the hospital. We luckily had already pre-registered at our hospital in advance – filled out all the paperwork, had our insurance cards and ID’s pre-scanned, etc. This made for a super easy process when we needed to be emitted. We literally walked in the door, told them my name, they pulled my file immediately they already had together and we went straight to triage. There was no, “OK. Please sit down and fill these out. Can I see your insurance card and ID?” It was boom, boom, boom in a blink of an eye. Pre-register at your hospital so whether you have a surprise emergency or are in labor, you go back immediately to be looked at.
I was 33 weeks and 5 days pregnant. Everything had been absolutely perfect my entire pregnancy – completely smooth sailing. Every single doctor visit I checked out so healthy, baby checked out so healthy, it was wonderful. I loved every single second of my pregnancy experience. I beyond loved being pregnant. I enjoyed every moment and did not take one single day for granted.
I was out running errands and totally on a roll. You know – Target, Homegoods, Hobby Lobby, the works! At 1:30pm out of nowhere my stomach tightened up. I hadn’t experienced any Braxton-Hicks contractions yet during pregnancy, but I read on all my apps that they would be normal and expected for how far along I was, and get ready for them to become more painful and more frequent while your body prepares for birth the closer you get to your due date. So, originally I thought maybe that’s what I was experiencing. I read that you should change positions to give yourself some relief so I went home and relaxed on the couch to see if they would ease up. The pain subsided but they never went away. (BH contractions are supposed to be irregular and go away). I quickly knew they weren’t BH. However, I NEVER would have thought they were real contractions. I knew I was in discomfort and I knew it wasn’t “normal” but I also didn’t think anything was truly wrong because it wasn’t that bad. Baby was moving regularly and I just thought I was fine. Hours went by on the couch hanging out and I still felt the same. I did feel baby totally drop though. I knew she had moved very low into my pelvis and that was certainly different than before. (Hello, waddling!) Drew finally made me call our OB. It was a Friday night after office hours so I knew I had to deal with paging them and I felt crazy for doing so. The doctor told me that if I’m in more discomfort than I normally am (which I definitely was) that I needed to go to the hospital to be checked out by a nurse. Drew and I were actually on our way to the movies when I finally called so we just went straight to the hospital instead. (And of course didn’t have a hospital bag with us, let alone one even packed yet). The entire drive I kept telling Drew I was totally fine and felt so dumb for going in and that they were just going to send me home. When we got there I told the nurses that I felt dumb for being there and they were so kind reassuring me it’s always better to go in and be checked. Classic case of better be safe than sorry.
I went straight to triage and they performed a cervical exam and I was 3 cm dilated and 60% effaced! (Cue the nerves.) This is not supposed to happen at 33 weeks, and especially not in a first-time mom. (First time moms usually take longer to dilate and efface than moms who have given birth before. That’s why there’s the stigma that first-time moms will usually go past their due date.) Granted yes, sometimes you will hear of pregnant women going to their regular weekly OB checkup and find out they’re dilated x cm and x % effaced, however not with contractions. So here I am, a first time mom, contracting, moving right along, quickly. There is a test they can run called the Fetal fibronectin test that determines if you will have your baby within the next two weeks. The triage nurse for sure thought mine was going to come back positive with how far along I was for 33 weeks. It takes a bit of time to receive the results, so in the interim, the on-call OB from our practice arrived and told me she wanted to admit me to the hospital. Many pokes and prys later running tests and getting me hooked up with IVs, we found out our Fetal fibronectin test came back negative! Drew and I felt relief (for a moment) until our doctor told us that the test is not super accurate. Wait, what?! Then why did we do the test, right? Apparently, some doctors believe in the accuracy of the test and some don’t. So, here we are again wondering why is this happening, and if we are going to have a premature baby, if we do… will she be OK? So many questions and concerns.
My doctor checked me again and saw I was the same dilation, however effacing more. Since I was progressing right along, she wanted to do everything she could to prevent the baby from coming and to stop labor. In addition, we wanted to prep Baby Butler with everything we could in case she came early. Summing up a long story short – I had to stay at the hospital for three nights and 4 days. I received two rounds of steroid shots over 48 hours (the max you can receive) to prep our baby girl in case she came early. What do steroid shots do for the baby? Well, at 33 weeks pregnant, the baby is thankfully fully developed for the most part, they just need to pack on fat and gain more weight. However, their lungs are the last organ to fully develop and need the full amount of time to be perfect usually. So the steroid shots help the lungs develop more quickly in the womb in case she came. You can only receive two steroid shots and they have to be given 24 hours apart. Every single hour that went by we were so thankful because we knew that was another hour she was developing her lungs. (Girls are known for developing their lungs quicker, so we luckily had that going for us. We were counting every positive we could.) I also received the intense magnesium sulfate. What does this do? This is the strongest intervention they can do at this point. They administer this to you when you are going through preterm labor that slows the process down and best case scenario, hopefully stops it. There is also a potential benefit for the baby’s brain by receiving it. Sometimes they will even administer it to NICU babies. It’s run via IV for 24 hours straight. You have to have a catheter or use a bedpan. You literally aren’t allowed to move out of your tiny, stiff hospital bed. You have to have a nurse check your pulse, heart rate, listen to your heart, take your temperature, and overall make sure you are OK every hour, on the hour. Of course, you also have the baby on a full-time monitor. Since it is a very strong drug and since you have to be checked on so frequently, you will most likely have a certain nurse designated just to you. (Oh ya, and I was put on a strict liquid-only diet…)
So after I received the magnesium sulfate, steroid shots, and regular hydrating fluids, multiple ultrasounds later, and meeting with multiple preterm specialists as well as my own doctor, we found out baby was perfectly healthy and that my body slowed labor down. We found out that preterm labor is extremely unpredictable. Sometimes there is an obvious why and sometimes there’s not. Sometimes people who are that dilated and effaced end up delivering immediately and sometimes they can make it to full term and end up getting induced. We felt very confused and concerned, but very thankful with each day that passed that she wasn’t coming yet. Finally day 4, after watching my body for a day after finishing magnesium sulfate to see what my body would do without it, they discharged me. They had given me all the medicine they could to stop labor, and although I was still contracting (few and far between), there was nothing else they could do for me. So, I got sent home on bed rest and told me to rush back up there as soon as possible when I felt anything progress.
So here I am, feeling like a ticking time bomb, just waiting for any changes, yet hoping for none. I didn’t leave the bed other than to go to the bathroom and if I was having a great day – to walk one room over to the nursery. I was really uncomfortable 24/7 and never stopped contracting – but that was going to be my new norm until Baby Butler arrived or I was full term. I would second-guess myself sometimes wondering if it got bad enough for me to go back to the hospital or if I was fine. Like I said above, you have to really listen to YOUR body.
I went from LOVING pregnancy to feeling like the joys were going to be stripped away at the end. I was always active and healthy, and so was she – yet here we are in bed. I was scared I wasn’t going to be able to finish prepping her nursery, gathering the essentials from stores, take maternity pictures, and do showers we were still planning on. Drew was beyond incredible. He brought me every single meal, every glass of water, everything. He went to multiple stores to buy the rest of what we needed for her and for our hospital bag. I online ordered like I NEVER have before. Expedited shipping. Her nursery got done and so did our hospital bags.
We ended up going to the hospital one more time for a preterm labor scare, progressing more. However, since I was past 34 weeks, they didn’t give me any medications to prevent labor. Yet, since I wasn’t 37 weeks (full term) they wouldn’t do anything to progress labor. I was in a weird in between period where they made me just stick to the bed while baby and I were monitored for two more days. Once my progression subsided again, they sent me home on bed rest again, telling me the importance of getting to the hospital on time when it was the real deal.
After all the craziness of unpredictability, buying essentials from bed as quickly as possible, and not leaving bed at all for ONE MONTH, we made it to full term! We made it to 37 weeks pregnant! Since I was full term, bed rest was lifted, and I was able to go about my regular routines. Well, as regular of a routine a full term pregnant lady can have!
Fast forward one week and two days – after much anticipation and preparation, Bridget’s birthday arrived. It was more magical than we could have ever fathomed. The third time at the hospital was a charm for us. Once I met her face to face, I understood why she wanted to come early. She was simply ready. She is a very strong little girl, and clearly was ready to succeed in our world with us. It was a battle of will between us two ladies, and I won that one. (I have a feeling she’ll win the rest with her smile.)
It’s amazing what determination and hard work can do. It takes a village.
Please know all of my fears of my perfect pregnancy being ruined, were oh so false. I look back at my pregnancy and am thankful for how perfect it was. 4 weeks was a hiccup. That’s all. We completed our nursery, still got our maternity pictures done, and we had the most magical birth.
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