February 13th, 2014 – My water broke while I was in the staff room at work. I was casually “pinning” some Valentine’s Day activities to do with my kindergarteners the next day and – well, there was a gush. I maintained this unusual sense of calm as I explained to my boss what was happening and my coworkers started frantically running around me collecting my things. This sense of calm lasted me several hours – until my husband arrived at the hospital, my rock, and I could stop being strong, and cry. I was 28 weeks along. I didn’t know what this meant at the time – the only numbers I had really given any thought to were 37 and 40. 40 being the number of weeks I carried my two singletons, and 37 being the number of weeks I had expected to carry these twin boys. 28 seemed very far away from the 37 I had been expecting.
My doctor came and spoke to me – I had just seen her a few days earlier as I had had a routine ultrasound. She looked at me and said, “you’re not supposed to be here”. My pregnancy had been textbook. Although I was ultimately considered high-risk because I was carrying multiples, I was the lowest risk of all the high-risk. My babies were nestled in the safety of their own sac and had access to their own placenta. That was huge. Both were beautifully positioned with their heads down and, along with the fact that I had delivered my two singletons naturally, the doctor was favourable to a natural delivery for these twins. My biggest issue up until this point had been the waddle I had developed and the pressure that came along with having two heads lodged in my pelvis. I had just struggled with putting my notice in for my maternity leave as I was nowhere near ready to say goodbye to my kindergarteners.
Now – things were different. They diagnosed me with pPROM – which is a fancy short form for “preterm Premature Rupture of Membranes“. They did figure out that only one baby had ruptured (our Henry), meaning the other baby was perfectly content in his safety net of fluid. The doctor explained to me that they could ultimately let me go on like this until I reached 32 weeks gestation, or until my body went into labour on its own (which – could have been days, weeks or hours… they didn’t know). I had to face the reality that no matter what, I was going to have two premature babies.
I was admitted to the hospital, along with another lady who’s water had broken that day. We left the labour and delivery unit – climbed into an elevator and went down a floor to a unit they called the Antepartum Unit – a place where everyone is trying to stay pregnant. like me. A funny concept to me it was, trying to stay pregnant, leaving behind all the women in labour and delivery trying their hardest not to be pregnant anymore.
The nurse who had accompanied us was busy trying to convince us that it was the Calgary weather – there had been a chinook and she felt strongly that something to do with the change in the barometric pressure caused pregnant women’s membranes to rupture. She turned out to be my favourite nurse.
I settled in to my room as best as one could – they started me on antibiotics to try and stave off any infection – as an infection could throw my body into labour. My first time ever getting an IV – and it wouldn’t be my last. They sent person after person to come and talk to me, including a doctor from the NICU to explain how the babies would be if I delivered at 28 weeks and the care they would require. The NICU doctor also casually mentioned how the hospital lacked space for babies requiring that level of care, and that they would do their best to keep my babies in a hospital close by… I should have realized he was giving me a warning sign.
On Valentines Day K had taken the day off work to come visit me with our big kids – I held it together as best as I could, we laid in my bed, snuggled and watched Treehouse TV. The kids got antsy, as kids do, so they left, and K had made plans to come join me later that night for a romantic in-hospital Valentines Day date.
Unfortunately, our date ended up having to wait. 2 doctors and a social worker came to me and explained that they had no room in the NICU if I were to deliver that day, and, worse than that, there wasn’t NICU space in the PROVINCE that could accommodate me and my babies. They had made the decision that I was stable enough, and they needed to fly me out of the province that night, no – 30 minutes from that moment. They gave me time to call my husband – standing by in case he wanted to speak to someone, looking like they were expecting me to start yelling and screaming and jumping down their throats. There was no time for that, no use for that. I was just getting used to the idea of all of this. My nurse helped me gather my things, pack my bag, and moreover, she hugged me and cried along with me. I was taken away in a stretcher, passing long face after long face, everyone telling me they hope to see me soon. Flown in a tiny little plane, I arrived in Regina, Saskatchewan.
The EMS people were very sweet, and actually gave me this stuffed moose to keep as a souvenir, to help tell their story:
The hospital in Regina was beautiful. And for the most part I was treated like royalty. K arranged some fabulous babysitters for the kids and drove to Regina for the weekend and my mom flew in to stay with me. A liason from the hospital in Calgary would call me every morning to let me know whether or not there was space for me – it was comforting knowing I hadn’t been forgotten. We were in Regina for 6 days – it felt like an eternity.
My second night in Regina – Feb. 16th, 2014 – we had a scare. I passed a fairly large blood clot and then continued to bleed. The doctors couldn’t tell me what the cause of the bleeding was, only that if it got any worse they would have to deliver me. They admitted me to Labour and Delivery and started me on a round of Magnesium Sulfate. It was given to me over a 24 hour period through an IV. I was explained that there have been studies that have shown that magnesium sulfate can help protect the brain of preterm infants and prevent cerebral palsy. It gave me a pretty severe headache and I don’t think I slept a wink, with my nurses checking my reflexes and blood pressure every half hour. We all thought we were having these babies.
We made it through the 24 hours, and it was Feb. 17th, 2014 – K’s birthday. I promised him I would try my hardest not to give him saskatchewanian babies for his birthday. I didn’t.
We were told that as long as I was bleeding I wasn’t considered stable enough to travel back to Calgary – so all of our prayers went toward stopping the bleeding. Our prayers were answered. We had one more heavy bleed and then the bleeding subsided. Of course the nurses were then concerned about my heart rate – but to be honest, every time they came near me I was absolutely petrified they were going to find something else that would prevent me from going home to have my babies… so I wasn’t that surprised.
The day we got word that Calgary was coming to get us – felt like Christmas. Unfortunately the flight crew got busy and I was last priority – which turned what would have been an 11 am flight into an exciting overnight trip – arriving in Calgary at 3 am… but at that point it didn’t matter – I was home.
After returning, the Antepartum Unit seemed awfully quiet. I had one room mate for a matter of a few hours, but she delivered her baby soon after she arrived. I was told by my favourite nurse that of all the women who were flown out of province (there were 4), I was the only who didn’t deliver my babies. I felt lucky.
My stress level started to go down and my energy level started to increase. I even started to google again. My best friend, google, something I hadn’t even been able to think about since the whole process had begun. I joined pProm support groups and started reading pProm case studies. There I found this whole world of women who were trying to hold onto their babies – like me. Only, I seemed to be the lucky one. Woman after woman, their water breaking at 18 or 19 weeks, trying to make it to 24 weeks – what is considered viable – so they could be admitted to hospitals. And here I was… 29 weeks. Some women experiencing this pregnancy after pregnancy, not being able to hold on to their babies. And here I was… 29 weeks. These women – hoping for a 40% chance of survival for their babies, my babies had over 90% chance. I suddenly felt guilty for my two healthy babies at home with their dad, my two perfect pregnancies. This one, this pregnancy, had been my difficult one, and yet, now as I saw it, it was pretty perfect too. I eventually stopped reading and stopped googling, but never will I stop thinking or praying for these amazingly strong and beautiful mothers.
…I’ll end it there for now! Phew – deep breath… Next stop – Graduated: Labour and Delivery!
Help! Moose still needs a name – would love to hear your suggestions!!