Seasoned hands at life in NICU I sometimes forget that our second child was also born prematurely. Born at 34 weeks, this would have seemed very early and almost certainly would have been traumatic if we hadn’t already had a 30 weeker!
I always knew there was a chance that our second baby would be born early. With no official reason for the spontaneous membrane rupture that led to our first, I was given a 10% chance of having another premature birth. The medical team reassured me by saying this was a relatively small chance, but quietly I couldn’t help thinking that a 1 in 10 chance was quite high!
I was monitored closely and every step of the way told there was no indication that baby number two was coming early. On occasions I felt like the medical teams were dismissive of my questions or concerns. Oblivious in a way to the fear or anxiety I may have and completely unaware of the overwhelming emotion to be able to hold my baby close to me after birth. A midwife couldn’t understand my dilemma about whether to attend antenatal classes or not. We hadn’t got as far as antennal classes the first time around and knew little about having a full term delivery. I didn’t feel strong enough though to be in a room full of first time parents and expectant mothers well into their final trimester. Our experience of child birth was very different from other parents and as a way of protecting myself from difficult emotions we decided against the classes.
After one premature birth and a risk of a second, deciding when to begin maternity leave can be tricky! I was still working at 30 weeks when my first baby was born and this time around I wanted to be sure that not only did I have time to prepare, but that I also had time to slow down and to enjoy time with my baby. It was a guessing game though, but one I wanted to get right as I grew increasingly conscious that those final weeks may suddenly be snatched away from me.
I had my final day at work at 34 weeks; enjoyed my ‘send off’ and went home with good luck cards and gifts – again something I had missed the first time around. I settled my nearly 2 year old into bed and looked forward to planning my ‘time off’. It wasn’t long though before I started to feel some tightenings. They grew stronger and arriving at hospital later that evening they confirmed I was indeed having contractions and in pre-term labour. I joked feebly to the midwife that at least I’d got to enjoy a few hours of maternity leave!
24 hours later with no change I was moved to the maternity ward and kept in to complete a course of steroid injections to strengthen the baby’s lungs. The fetal fibronectin test had come back negative, a clear sign (95% accurate) that I was not in pre-term Labour and that the baby would not be arriving any time soon. The doctors were great in giving me the option to stay in hospital based on my previous history. The test, although not quite 100% accurate, had come back negative though and not wanting to sit in hospital for six weeks as well as childcare arrangements to consider I chose to go home.
The tightenings continued on and off at home for 24 hours until I felt a sudden and terrible pain. Shouting to my husband to call the ambulance (with perhaps some rather blue language added in) I knew we didn’t have time to get to the hospital. Jack was born at home, 34+4 weeks on the living room floor, weighing just over 4lbs. Small, but perfect!
Our previous experience of a premature birth was one of resuscitation and ventilation, so naturally during the birth we were frightened at how he and the paramedics would manage. Four weeks makes a big difference though in terms of lung development and he was breathing on his own just fine.
With all the commotion, the paramedicas and ambulances, not to mention the shock at having given birth at home, I almost didn’t realise that I was doing the one thing I had longed to do – I was holding my baby!