In December 2009, we found out we were expecting and it came as a surprise. We were both excited, shocked, and clueless. We immediately hit the web to find out what we should be doing and Dan got Laurie the book “What to Expect When You are Expecting”. The pregnancy was going great. Laurie had a bit of spotting in the early days and nausea while adjusting to taking prenatal vitamins, but there were no serious issues. We decided to take one last babymoon vacation before our little bundle showed up. We piled our luggage and dog in the car and took the long drive down I-95 from Pennsylvania to Florida for a week of fun in the sun.
After a wonderful week down in Florida, we were getting ready for bed on the night before our last day. Suddenly, with no prior warning signs, Laurie had repeated gushes of fluid loss at 16 weeks 6 days pregnant, around midnight on March 12th, 2010. Neither of us knew what was happening or what to do, but it seemed like her water might have broken. Laurie called her OB’s office and left a message with the nurse service. While we waited for the doctor to call back, Dan was desperately searching What to Expect for some kind of answer as to what was happening. The doctor finally called back after about 30 minutes. She told us to come in and see her, but after realizing we were in Florida, she said we should wait till morning and go to a clinic rather than an ER to avoid the co-pay. It didn't seem like she thought Laurie's water broke. After hanging up the phone, we looked at each other and decided that there was no way we were going to be able to go to sleep. We decided to go to the hospital and get checked.
The closest hospital with an ER told that they would check Laurie out, but "your water just doesn't break at 16 weeks." After getting checked in and having an ultrasound, we were told by the ER doctor that he was wrong. Laurie's water had broken (also known as pPROM or preterm premature rupture of membranes), there was no measurable fluid around the baby, and the pregnancy was no longer viable, even though our baby still had a strong heartbeat. And they needed to transfer us to another hospital that had a maternity ward. We were both shocked and heartbroken. We got our first and hopefully last ambulance ride to the other hospital.
After we checked into the new hospital and had another ultrasound, Laurie was put on bed rest until an OB came to see us in the morning. We were both very confused. Why was Laurie being put on bed rest if the pregnancy was no longer viable? The nurses told us that there were options and we had a few decisions to make, but they really couldn't say anything else until the OB arrived. That was one of the longest nights of our lives. We thought everything was done and over, now we were being given a flicker of hope.
The OB came in that morning to tell us that the second ultrasound confirmed there was still no measurable fluid around the baby and that we had the option to induce labor or wait for things to happen naturally (which usually happens within a few days, but rarely can go longer). They also said it was good that we came right into a hospital because of the risk of infection, rather than waiting. We talked to a Neonatalogist about the quality of life that the baby might have if we continued the pregnancy. There was very little chance we would even get to viability, and if we did there was very little chance the baby would be born with functional lungs because the rupture was so complete and so early. The amniotic fluid helps the baby develop their lungs and ensure proper musculoskeletal development. This also meant there was a chance of fused limbs and physical deformities. Also, an infection could have put Laurie's health and future fertility at risk too. With no fluid that early, the prognosis and our chances were incredibly poor. We talked to our OB back home and other doctors in the hospital to get multiple opinions. Everyone told us the same thing. In the end, we decided that what was best for the baby and Laurie would be to induce labor and prepare to say goodbye. Because we ended up at Catholic hospital, we then had a grueling wait for three hours, completely exhausted from not having slept, doubting if we did the right thing, to have to think about the decision we just made and get a priest to sign off that it was not an abortion.
After a long wait, the OB finally came into the room and explained that they were going to induce labor which could take a few doses of the medicine. The doctor told us it would take a few hours for labor to really start. Laurie told the nurse that she did not have any idea of what to do and that they had not taken any birthing classes yet. She was told that a nurse would help her through it all. Laurie was put on an IV drip with pain medicine and a blood pressure cuff. After about an hour, Laurie was having severe cramping. Both the IV and BP machine alarms were going off every 15 minutes. When we finally got a nurse to come in, she told us that the IV machine was going off because Laurie was bending her arm and causing a kink in the tube. The BP machine was going off because Laurie’s blood pressure was slightly low. Instead of turning off the sound on the machines, the nurse just told Laurie to keep her arm straight, double checked everything and left. Within 15 minutes the alarms were going off again. Not only was this going on, but we were also asked for our food order for the next day and had the trash in the room emptied in the room. It was a nightmarish experience, and aside from one kind nurse we saw briefly when we first arrived, the hospital staff did not make it any more bearable. We really felt like the nurses were treating us like we were doing something wrong, or maybe it was too sad for them to handle, and ultimately we felt like we were left alone without any support.
No one was listening to Laurie when she said she was having a lot of pain and feeling a lot of pressure. The nurses finally came in the help deliver the baby when Laurie paged them to tell them that the head was out. The nurses helped deliver our son--the OB walked in later and said, "Oh, the baby is here, why didn't anyone tell me?" Despite the lack of assistance, Laurie was able to deliver the baby and placenta without any problem. He was a perfect 7 inch, 4 ounce boy. We were given time to say our goodbyes. We were told that Laurie was going to be in the hospital another night. At first we were told they would transfer us into a recovery room, but they decided it would be easier for them just to leave us in the room where our son was miscarried for the night. After being up for nearly 48 hours straight, we finally got to have some sleep, and left the hospital the next morning.
We had an autopsy done and our little boy was perfect. They could not tell us why Laurie's water broke. After a few weeks of recovery, we met with the high risk doctor back home to find out if they saw anything that could have caused the miscarriage and what we could do to prevent it from happening again. Once again, we were told that they had no idea why it happened, and that next time we would just have to be monitored throughout the pregnancy. The doctors said they thought it was most likely a subclinical infection that led to the membranes rupturing, and we might have progesterone shots for a future pregnancy as a precaution, but they couldn't tell us much else.
We met with a therapist to help deal with the loss of our son. Time slowly began to heal our emotional wounds. Once we felt we were both ready, we decided to try again.
Next: Read about our ensuing Fertility Struggles