When I was admitted at 31w3d, everyone was planning delivery at 31w5d. I didn't want it, I didn't feel heard, but without a voice, I couldn't change it. My goal, my only goal, was to reach 32 weeks. It was the difference between Friday and Monday. It meant crossing the threshold into a gestational age where the long term outcomes are the same as those of term babies.
I'd been having contractions for so many weeks by that point, with many of them very painful, that I thought reaching my original 36 week date would be impossible. Still, I wanted 32.
My past antepartum stays had been at the large university hospital. They have a dedicated antepartum wing, with specialized nursing, a surgical suite, and all the support you get when you're one of a dozen patients in a childrens' hospital. There were social workers, chaplains, a weekly support group, a lending library, crafts kits made by volunteers to keep the moms occupied, and other things to help time pass. There was also a level 4 NICU, which is why I'd stayed there before with Quinn and during my 27 and 29 week stays with T and A. That hospital isn't where my OB delivers, though, and it's farther from my home. Once I crossed the 30 week mark, I could deliver at my local hospital, which has a level 3 NICU. That's where I went at 31w3d, and so that's where I spent my 5 weeks of antepartum care. There was no support system there. I was just the lone woman in the L&D ward who was trying to stay pregnant, rather than deliver. I was an oddity.
I saw my living kids four times. Picnics in the hospital parking lot, next to the freeway. It was the highlight of my stay. Here's the one photo DH got of us together.
The hospital I was at has many rooms, but only two that have two windows. One, on the right side of the hallway, is reserved for moms trying to deliver med free. The other, on the left side of the hallway is used for antepartum moms, or loss moms. That's where they put me this July. That's also where they put me in November 2016 when I came in to deliver Alexis and Zoe. That's the room my oldest girls were born in. The room they died in.
I had mixed feelings about that room. Practically speaking, it was a great room. Spacious, renovated, a full sofa bed for DH to sleep on. Two windows, and as decent a view as any at the hospital. Emotionally speaking, it was a blend. Over those 5 weeks, I laid in the bed and remembered being there years before, the morning the girls were born, watching the sunlight stream in the window across my belly and knowing it was my last day with them. I remembered the intense emotional pain. I remembered the physical pain. Those were not pleasant things to remember, especially when scared for the baby I was carrying. At the same time, I felt close to Alexis and Zoe. I felt like they were watching over the baby and I. It was the perfect example of a concept I struggle to remember: AND. Being in that room was heartbreaking AND comforting at the same time. It feels contradictory, but it wasn't. It was right, somehow.
As for the results, I think I have my oldest girls to thank for reaching 36 weeks. There were days when I had to stop working and lay flat to get the contractions to stop. Days that I had to skip showering, because standing up that long made them regular and painful. Days that the paper where I tracked my contractions filled up before noon, and I told DH to have our nanny stay late in case I'd need a c-section that night. Knowing what I now know about baby E's lungs, I don't know if she'd have made it had she come at 32 weeks. She probably would have had CLD, and she definitely would have been transferred to the other NICU without me. That almost happened with our 36 week birth, so they could place a chest tube. I also know now, from what my OB told me, that my uterus had thinned, close to the point of rupture. Had the contractions been any worse, or had I tried to wait another week, our ending would have been quite different. I choose to believe that my oldest girls watched over her, and me, and kept us safe. I am forever grateful to them for having been a part of my life and for continuing to be one, even if they aren't physically here.
While it's not my happiest memory, here's a photo the day before my c-section. I was so relieved to have made it, even if I was wearing leopard print pants and trying to fit all my toiletries onto a pedestal sink!