One year ago tonight, Jerry was out in the Utah wilderness, outside of cell phone contact. My parents were in Virginia, camping with my brother and his family. I was here, 28 weeks pregnant, and Ronda was coming over to join me and Helen for a dinner from China Taste. I called James (the guy who always answers the phone there) and placed our order, and then Helen and I drove over there to get our food.
When I got to China Taste, there was nowhere to park. So I parked across the street and carried Helen into the restaurant. We got our food, paid for it, and I carried her (and the food) back across the street to the car.
As I latched Helen in, I started to have contractions. STRONG contractions. Not like the pissy little Braxton-Hicks contractions I had gotten used to… No, these were more than that. Helen was jabbering to me in the car and I couldn’t talk to her while I was having one. I was still able to drive, but I even considered pulling over. I breathed through the first few contractions and then realized they were coming somewhat regularly. So I timed them. 2 minutes apart. 2 minutes again. And again.
Ronda came over, and I ate what I could between contractions. I also laid down on my left side and gunned as much water as I possibly could. The contractions got further and further apart, and finally stopped after about 2 hours.
I slept on my left side that night, figuring I had dodged a bullet, not really worried.
The next day, I had blood. Not much, but a little. And then a little more blood. Still, not much. But enough for me to call the OB at lunchtime and ask, “Is this supposed to be happening?” The nurse disappeared for a minute, and then came back on the phone and said, “Come in. Now. We’ll wait for you.”
I practically THREW Helen into the car (God bless that little child — for ONCE she didn’t mess around getting into the carseat while I gathered stuff)… I collected a few magazines and called my mother-in-law, who was going to be coming over to watch Helen in an hour anyway. She met me at the OB’s office.
Helen was calm until my legs went into the stirrups… Then she freaked out. Thankfully, MIL got there right then and they were able to shuffle a frightened almost-two-year-old into the arms of her grandmother in the hallway. In two days, I had dilated 2 cm and was beginning to thin out. This was not good. I had lost my mucous plug, or at least part of it.
Was I still having contractions? Yes. Not regularly like I had been the night before, but I was still having a few every once in a while.
The doctor sent me over to the hospital to the labor and delivery floor and put me on Brethine, the most horrible drug I’ve ever had to take. It made me feel like I was five minutes late — to something. A horrible feeling. I was hooked up to monitors, and they left me alone in that room for almost three hours, with the lights off. Me, monitors, and the baby’s heartbeat. The heartbeat wasn’t consistent because I was still so small that the monitors had a hard time picking it up as the baby moved around. I called Ronda to tell her where I was. She promised to come as soon as school was out. I called the church, I think. Or maybe one of Mom’s friends. I don’t really remember. But one of the priests called and gave me his cell phone number. He knew Jerry was out of town; did I need him (the priest) to come right now? He’d drop what he was doing and come sit with me. I couldn’t reach my parents. I made a list in the notebook I carry in my purse of the things I’d need if I ended up having to stay the night, and descriptions of where to find them so I could hand the list (or read it) to my mother-in-law. I called Jerry’s dad to tell him where I was.
The nurse that was monitoring me was a sweetheart — she made sure I had lunch, since it didn’t look like I was having active contractions anymore so I probably wasn’t going to deliver as long as I stayed still. She brought me Sprite and a barbeque sandwich. That was the best barbeque sandwich I’ve had in a long time.
Ronda got there just before I was released. I cried and shook as I got dressed again, and we went home to my mother-in-law and Helen waiting for me. Ladies from the church brought me dinner. My mother-in-law went to get my prescription for more Brethine. I looked up “28 weeks gestation” on the internet and found lots of blogs of parents of 28-week preemies, most of them weighing less than 3 pounds at birth and having uphill battles to fight — months in the NICU and all kinds of respiratory problems. I was terrified. What if the baby came while Jerry was in Zion? We didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl yet; would I have to name the baby myself? We had lists of names saved on our computers, but nothing decided. I didn’t want that responsibility to fall on my shoulders alone; I needed Jerry. And I needed him to bolster me if the baby DID come and something was wrong.
I left several messages for him on his cell phone that day, messages that he wouldn’t get until two days later when he was standing at the top of Angel’s Landing at Zion National Park, feeling like he was on top of the world. By Thursday I was largely over my terror, but he got to live through it all over again with those messages. I really wished I could have deleted them before he heard them, but alas… He said that he RAN down that precarious mountain as fast as he could, running towards civilization so he could talk to me more and get the full story on a better phone line. The guys he was with offered to drive him to Vegas that night so he could come home. At my urging, he did not come home — I was doing well, the medication was working, and I promised not to move until he returned. I had lots of help; I was okay. He should stay on his vacation as originally planned. He did, but I’m sure it was a very distracted “vacation.”
In the weeks that followed Helen grew up a lot — she had to. I taught her how to climb in and out of her crib, how to climb in and out of her high chair, and her social calendar was kept full as people came to play with her while I rested on the sofa to give Baby Alice longer to bake. Helen was moved out of the crib sooner than we anticipated because of the very real possibility that this baby would get here sooner rather than later.
9.5 weeks was simultaneously the longest stretch of time I’ve ever experienced and the shortest. Alice arrived about 3 weeks early on July 14, and didn’t spend even one minute in the NICU.