The ride to Providence was bumpy. Being pregnant with no amniotic fluid, I could feel everything. My son felt like a wiggling bag of bones. When they wheeled my stretcher into the admitting area, my baby was wide awake and moving some part of his body up and down around my belly button. Because I was laying flat on my back, I could see him pushing up against the blanket. My belly was flat except for this elbow or foot sticking up. It looked like a scene from a Sci-fi movie. I kept trying to push him back down because I thought people would see it and expect an alien to burst out of my belly at any second.
When we got to the elevator one EMT asked the other, "Do you remember the code for the elevator?" He answered, "Ya, 1516, the average age of mothers in this hospital." They both looked at me and laughed. I guess I should have taken it as a compliment that they seemed to think I was a teenager. It would not be the last time I was mistaken for a teen mom either. The woman who changed my sheets everyday was real huffy when I first arrived. She used to frump and grump around the room as she worked. I would try to make pleasant conversation but she was short with me. Whenever I would mention my husband, she would try to correct me, "Your boyfriend." she would say. It puzzled me until the day she finally asked me, "How old are you anyway?" When I told her I was 23, she tried to argue with me. I asked her if she would like to see my license. She decided to take my word for it and after that was much more pleasant company.
The room I was put in was TINY!!! I mean my bed was in there diagonal because there was no way anyone could get past my feet if the bed was straight from the wall. It was about the size of a little doctor's office room. TINY! Next to my bed was a little chair that would become my husband's bed for the remainder of my stay. A doctor came in and told me to meet her down in another room. My mom asked, "How is she supposed to get there if she can't walk?" "She can walk." She replied. We tried to explain to her the dire situation I was in and that I was told to lay completely flat on my back. She laughed and told me I could walk.
Walking for the first time in 2 weeks, I felt like Grandpa Joe in Charlie and a Chocolate Factory. My legs were tingly, my muscles did not react, my bones felt like Jelly. My mom had to hold me up the whole walk to the doctor's office. The doctor gave me an exam. I had not actually leaked fluid in a few days up to that point and we were hoping that it had been a small tear, that healed. She sent me back to my room.
She came back with a group of doctors and all agreed that I did not need antibiotics anymore. After 2 weeks, they were not effective anyway. They also agreed that if I could make it to a certain date without leaking, I could go home. It was GREAT news!!!!
Much to my dismay, two days later I awoke to a GUSH! I cried and cried. The doctor tried to keep me calm. He explained that the baby may have been laying in a position that prevented any leaking and then moved. He told me, "We knew this could happen. This is why you are here." Then he told me to expect to be there for the rest of the pregnancy.
My due date had been January 6. It was now mid September and I was told if I could make it to October 7, the baby would have the best shot at surviving. I spent the following weeks laying in a hospital bed watching TV. My Mom had flown back to Florida on September 11th. My husband had to work everyday in Newport. He came to the hospital every night but he could not use my shower, so he had to go home early to shower and change every morning. He had an hour commute both ways. He usually got to the hospital around dinner time. By then I was so starved for human interaction, I would talk his ears off.
One day I spent the whole day watching a special on prisons. I distinctly remember comparing my room to a jail cell. I laid in that bed looking longingly out my window to the parking lot below thinking, "Those lucky prisoners, they get to go outside and break rocks everyday!!!! I am stuck inside!!! I cried and cried over my imprisonment.
I also cried over the food! Oh man, was it AWFUL!!!! I used to call my mom crying about the food I had to eat. Being pregnant, nothing looked good to me anyway, but hospital food was just unpalatable. We could not afford to spend a lot of money on food though. Not with how much we were spending on gas for hubby to drive back and forth to Providence every day. Many days I would call him up on his way home and beg him to bring me some fast food. Then I made him eat my nasty hospital food.
It was all for a good cause though. I was a human incubator. There was no better place in the whole world for my baby to be, than in my tummy. Every morning a group of doctors would come in my room, stand at the foot of my bed, and discuss how I was doing. I made it a routine to sing, "A Very Merry Unbirthday" every morning too. Everyone joined in. It made the them all smile.
At each shift change, the nurses still came in and put me on the fetal monitor. My son got pretty good at evading them though. If they did not get a good enough reading, they would make me stay on the machine for a few hours more. I got really good at operating that machine and chasing down my baby so that they could measure his heart rate.
When I reached 25 weeks, they started me on steroid shots to mature his lungs. After the first shot, the baby pushed the monitor off of himself. We joked that he was pumping iron.
I was also able to request a trip down to the NICU at that point. We scheduled a time and day so that both my hubby and I could go. They brought me down in a wheel chair and pushed me up in front of an incubator with a 25 week baby inside. It was a little boy. I was surprised at how well he looked to me. I suppose I was prepared for the worst and so, I was okay with what I saw. He was tiny. His skin was see-through. His head, though tiny, was large for his body. He was wrapped up in a blanket. He had wires coming out all over the place. He had a breathing tube and I could see it pushing the air into his lungs. His chest vibrated from the high settings on the ventilator.
I think the nurses and doctors expected to have a complete basket case on their hands. In fact the hospital psychiatrist was there during the visit. I think, I even expected that I would feel differently when I saw a real preemie up close and personal. The truth is, I felt relieved. Four weeks earlier I was told to plan my son's funeral. Now, I saw that he could survive. His death sentence put every other diagnosis he would ever be given into perspective.
The psychiatrist started to come check on me pretty regularly after that. She would ask me how I was feeling, how I was handling things. Blah blah blah... Sorry to sound so negative but it always seemed like she wanted me to be depressed. One day I was watching, A Baby Story or Special Delivery on TV when she came in. She gave me a lecture about how it was dangerous for me to watch shows like that because my birth would not be like that. She then told all my doctors and nurses that I was not allowed to watch baby programs. She explained that her own birth experience had been a let down and she was still mourning it. Maybe she thought I was delusional because I remained optimistic.
I finally asked for the chaplain to come see me instead. I wanted someone to talk to who understood where my optimism came from. She and I had happy talks together. She did not mind if I watched baby shows on TV. Most importantly, she prayed with me every visit. It never hurts to have just one more person praying for you!