One year ago today I faced the most terrifying experience of my life. I was 29 weeks pregnant, and I was in labor. I can easily remember the exact date because tomorrow is my fourth wedding anniversary, and I very clearly remember spending my third anniversary in the hospital crossing my fingers and toes that the medication to stop everything was working, and begging my body and my baby to hit the pause button. I am happy to report that we were extremely lucky, my daughter’s birthday does not share a date with my wedding anniversary. However, things weren’t all smooth sailing after this incident. I spent the next five weeks on modified bed rest – simply because I had a very modern and progressive doctor who believed full hospital bed rest would have been more detrimental than small amounts of walking and standing in my home. I experienced some amount of contractions almost every day of those five weeks. Each week without a baby felt like a major accomplishment. I felt like I was on a rollar coaster. I vascillated between begging my body to keep her in, and simply wanting her out so I could see that she was ok.
I remember the weekend before she was actually born having a nervous feeling and telling my husband I wasn’t sure we would make it through the weekend without a baby. We did though, and by the middle of the week I remember feeling pretty positive. I believed that if we made it through the whole week, then we would make it through Thanksgiving the following week and into December. December was our main goal. Despite her early January due date, we (my doctor included) harbored no illusions of me lasting that long, but December seemed very possible. However, on Sunday Nov. 24 at 2am my water broke and things got real, she would be coming soon and there would be no stopping it this time. I was 33 weeks 6 days.
We were lucky. Our daughter was as healthy as possible for being 6 weeks and 1 day early. She spent nine days in the NICU. Each of those days was long and agonizing for us. As any mother who has gone through this experience knows, there are no words to describe the way it feels to leave the hospital with a high powered breast pump in place of your baby. However, in comparison to families who faced months in the NICU with their babies, nine days was was a walk in the park.
A year out from this experience I can’t help but feel like I should have already moved past this and let it all go. I have a beautiful, happy, healthy baby girl. She doesn’t seem to have any lingering issues related to her pre-term birth. And yet, I can’t help but feel anger and frustration anytime I think about it. And that anger and frustration is directed at myself, my body really. I keep asking and wondering, why? Why couldn’t my body handle the one thing it is supposedly specifically designed to do? My whole pregnancy was one issue after another, and then with the way the labor itself went, it was as if my body wanted to get the pregnancy over as quickly as possible.
The rational and logical part of my brain knows that I shouldn’t view this as a failure by my body. In fact I should view it as completely the opposite. Despite a difficult pregnancy, and an almost 11 week early delivery, my body managed to hang on as long as possible to give my daughter enough time to grow strong and healthy.
But I am human, and I have an irrational, emotional part of my brain that feels like I was failed. The decision to have only one child had been made before I was even pregnant with my daughter. Knowing this would be my only pregnancy I had really wanted to savor and enjoy the experience. And there were times I was able to, each little (or big) kick and ultrasound is treasured in my memory. But, that unfortunately doesn’t change the fact that the vast majority of my memories are ones of fear and worry and anxiety. If I hadn’t already decided to have only one child, I would have made the decision after this experience.
I wish I could end this post with uplifitng words about how I’ve managed to let all of this negativity go, but the truth is I haven’t. I’m trying to move past the experience, but I’m just not there yet. I know that over time the happy memories I build with my daughter will crowd out these bad memories, and a day will come when the thought of my pregnancy won’t immediately create a knot in my stomache. I eagerly await that day, but until then this is where I’m at, and my best weapon against these feelings is sharing the experience and airing the emotions out in the open.