34 Weeks & Suddenly Giving Birth – Kveller
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birth story

34 Weeks & Suddenly Giving Birth

Welcome to the world, Charlotte Leona! We’re wishing Kveller contributer Tara Filowitz Arrey a huge mazel tov on the birth of her first child on August 1st. Read below for her birth story, which happened quite unexpectedly at 34 weeks:

In my last post (when I was 33 weeks pregnant) I said, “There’s something so ken ayina hora about having everything all set to go before we find out if [the baby is] alive and healthy. My Mom likes to tell me that my father’s mother (Grandma Carol) wouldn’t even acknowledge my mother’s pregnancy, even in the ninth month, just in case.” Well, there was definitely something to all of that! Despite having a blissful, super-routine, super-normal pregnancy, everything changed dramatically in week 34…

On Sunday, July 30th, I went over to my parent’s house and swam in their pool with my Pit Bull, Lucy–just like I’d done almost every other day this summer. It wasn’t anything strenuous; in fact, I spent the majority of the time floating on a water noodle. I opted out of taking a walk around the neighborhood with my husband, Paul, because at 34 weeks and three days pregnant, I was starting to take things easy. Six weeks to go!

Later that night, I was watching a DVR’d episode of Project Runway when I totally wet my pants. The weird thing was, it didn’t even feel like pee. I changed my underwear, embarrassed, and settled down to watch the show. But then it happened again, and again, and again. Ten pairs of underwear later, I was getting concerned and no longer cared who was “in or out” on the show. I called the doctor, and my OB happened to be the one on call that evening. He told me to come to the hospital so he could evaluate.

I honestly thought I’d be home that night, so I didn’t bring anything but my purse. But when I wet myself again in the parking lot, I began to suspect that this was my water breaking. My husband thought they’d send me home that night and tell me to see my doctor sometime during the week–but when your water breaks, you don’t get to go home for fear of infection.

Once we got to the hospital at 7:00 p.m., they had me lay down, checked me in (I still hadn’t turned in my OB-pre-admit form), and then began to evaluate the situation. It was confirmed that yes, my water was indeed breaking and that I would probably give birth within the next 48 hours. WHAT?!? At 34 weeks pregnant, and with a pregnancy where I’d had no problems or issues, this was a HUGE shock! We still hadn’t finished the nursery, or visited the potential caregiver, or taken our childbirth class, or even packed a bag! This wasn’t supposed to be happening now!

Since I wasn’t really having contractions, I sent my husband home (via my parents house to let them know what was up), although he gave me explicit instructions to call him the minute something was happening, so he could come back (we only live about 10 minutes from the hospital). The nurses started preparing us for the fact that our baby was going to need to spend some time in the NICU (Neonatal Infant Care Unit) after she was born, because five and a half weeks is quite premature. This was worrisome and Paul and I wondered how long we’d be without our child.

I started to have mild contractions at 10:00, deepening at 11:00. By 11:45, the nurse informed me that my contractions were already 3-5 minutes apart and did I want an epidural? I did. But first I wanted Paul there–so I called him, woke him up, and had him come over. They gave me the epidural at around 12:30ish–it didn’t hurt and I was grateful for the pain to subside. The paralysis sensation was totally weird, but it made the whole experience a lot less dramatic and painful. It also slowed down the contractions, so Paul and I both managed to get a few hours of sleep.

I woke up at 5:00 a.m. with the distinct sensation that I had to poop–which was what they told me I’d feel when the baby was ready to come. I was dilated 9 cm, so at around 5:30 a.m. the nurses told me it was baby time! My doctor came in at 5:55 a.m., I pushed for 25 minutes and then at 6:20 a.m., my baby–Charlotte Leona–was born! She was 5 lbs, 14 oz–which is pretty big for a preemie! She didn’t need any IV’s or oxygen, and no ventilators–we got to hold her immediately and my husband got to cut the cord. Charlotte is beautiful, tiny, and clearly does what she wants!

After about an hour of bonding, Charlotte was taken away to the NICU. For the next 10 days, that was the only world she knew. She seemed gigantic compared to the other premature babies. The process of having her there was hard–it felt like we’d had this surreal dream where I felt like I’d had a baby, but yet we still didn’t have one. Friends came to visit me in the hospital, but none were allowed into the NICU to see her. We did get to sleep through the night, but we also ended up going to the hospital four to five times a day to see her. Between that, pumping, and the emotional aspects of separation, the whole experience was a different type of draining. Paul coped by pulling together the nursery in breakneck time. I just cried a lot at random intervals. But, like the Holocaust survivors she’s named after (Grandma Carol and Grandpa Leo), Charlotte pulled through the adversity and managed to be small, but normal. So far, so good!

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