YesterdayPosted: September 7, 2011
Yesterday was the one year anniversary of the day my water broke.
It was Labor Day. We’d had brunch with friends and walked the High Line. When we got home, I noticed some wetness, then lay down on the couch to take a nap while John watched the US Open and packed up our bedbuggy apartment. When I woke up, I leaked more. I was scared, but scared in a way I’d been so many times during the pregnancy. I called the doctor on duty, and he told me to come in, just in case. Even though it was likely nothing.
I remember saying to John on the Brooklyn Bridge, “I’m sure I’m just being paranoid. Sorry. But it’s better to get things checked out.” He agreed.
I’ve never been back to Brooklyn.
I waited forever in the triage room, because apparently lots of women think their water is breaking. They hooked me up to a monitor, but it couldn’t tell us anything because I wasn’t having contractions and Baby Muda (as he was then known) was too small for his heartbeat to be heard.
The first time they tested me for amniotic fluid, it came back negative. Cautious relief. But when I got up to pee, I gushed fluid.
Then the residents came. The first one tested me, did a digital exam (which one should NEVER do on a suspected PPROM case), and left. She brought back another resident. I thought I was going to like her because she had tattoos. I was wrong. Her name was Lori Spoozak, and I use it here not to be vindictive, but because I honestly think it might help her as a physician to know how I felt in that moment. I want her to know that statistically, she may have been right, but in actuality, she was very, very wrong. I want her to see how much joy Das Baby has brought us. That our love for him dwarfs everything else.
“Okay, your water has broken,” she said.
“What does that mean? What are my options?”
And this was when she told me to terminate the pregnancy. I felt like I’d lost everything, like the whole world had been sucked away. I said I’d read of cases in which membranes resealed, in which babies survived. I said, “Look, I’m pro-life, I mean, pro-choice, but this is a very wanted baby.”
She said, “What kind of baby do you want to have?”
And I said, “I’m not prepared to have this conversation with you right now.”
So she left, and Herr Husband and I broke down. I’ve never heard him cry like that. When I mentioned it yesterday, he said he didn’t remember. He remembered my crying, worrying about me. “And then I went into shock,” I reminded him. “I felt unearthly and cold.”
So the attending returned and told us that sometimes residents overreacted. That I had some fluid left (essential for lung development). That we could do expectant management: antibiotics and wait-and-see. The baby wouldn’t be viable until twenty-four weeks (at which point exactly, it turned out, the last of my fluid would dissipate). Maybe my membranes would reseal. We could see how far I could go.
They put an IV in me and wheeled me to the antepartum floor. Our nurse was Grace. My teeth chattered as she asked me questions, set up my room. She told us about a woman who’d had her water break early and who’d walked out of the hospital with a term baby. We clung to that, even though it wasn’t to be our story.
I thought I would never sleep. I worried about the moment I would wake up and remember, and have to feel the shock all over again. But I didn’t have to wake up and remember, because it never left my consciousness, even when I was finally asleep.
But can I be honest? I didn’t spend much of yesterday reliving that awful day, which vies for worst in my life, but may lose out to the time Das Baby almost died (but that can’t be the worst day of my life because it is also the day he was born), and the day he was left unplugged from his oxygen source at the hospital and took 30 minutes to stabilize.
Instead, I marveled at how far we’ve come. I watched him sit on the kitchen floor, crawling around, picking up toys with his busy little hands, and I thought about how a year ago he was a fetus who stood the slimmest chance of survival. And now he’s a baby doing all of his typical baby things. Yes, he still needs medical support. But that medical support is enabling him to live a full and happy life.
Really, I spent most of yesterday enjoying my son and not thinking about it too much at all.
But I do hope that when terrified women are Googling, “membrane rupture baby survival” and “21 weeks PROM” and “21 weeks PPROM outcomes,” they find my story. It might not be everyone’s story. We know how incredibly lucky we are. But I’d love to offer just a glimmer of hope.
Because so much can change in a year.
A fetus who squirms away from the heart rate monitor becomes a baby boy who crawls towards his toy box to pull up on it, or who crawls back and forth on the kitchen floor, from his mom to his dad and back again, laughing the whole way.