A Preemie's Birth Story

“Come on, Jacob, breathe baby. Breathe on your own. You can do it!

For most new moms, the first sound they’ll hear is that of their baby crying out a greeting to the world. He may sound angry, as in “why did you tear me from my comfy bed?” He may sound confused, as in “how did I get here, I was just swimming in my nice little room?” He may sound frustrated, excited, or anything else. I couldn’t tell you. I’ve only seen that kind of birth in movies. Those words above? Those were the first sound I heard after my son was pulled from me 8 weeks early. “Come on Jacob, breathe baby. Breath on your own. You can do it.”

The Long Story Short of Jacob’s Birth

I’ve shared bits and pieces of my son’s birth on this site over the years, so many of you who have been around since the beginning already know a lot of it. After Jacob was born, I sat and wrote 9 pages of his birth story so I could always know exactly how it went. Turns out I’ve never needed to refer back to it, because some things you just don’t forget.

The condensed version leading up to his birth goes like this: After six years of trying, I finally managed to get pregnant by using fertility medication. I had a textbook pregnancy the first 6 months. Vomited on cue from 7-13 weeks. Heartburn, indigestion, sciatic nerve pain, and constant trips to the bathroom throughout the better half of my second and early third trimester. Then at about 29 weeks, I started swelling. It got worse. At 32 weeks, I was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia and shipped off to a hospital that could handle preemies. I was told my son would be out within the week. He made it to the next day.

June 14, 2005

On June 14, 2005, I was hooked up to monitors and a magnesium drip (aka, the Devil’s Juice, that stuff was horrific and made me miserable, but it saved my life so I can’t really complain). Sometime around 5pm, the doctors decided that the dips in Jacob’s heart rate were not a good thing, and he wouldn’t survive much longer in my now suddenly hostile uterus.

By 7pm, I was getting prepped for an emergency c-section. I don’t remember much of that experience, except the anesthesiologist telling me to relax my back so he could insert a needle the size of Venus into my spine. Yeah, because THAT’S an experience that screams relaxation! I remember going numb from the chest down and thinking this is what it must feel like to be paralyzed. I remember tugging and pulling. I remember hearing “we need to cut a little more,” and “was that a snap?” Yes, by the way, that was a snap. The sound of my son’s upper arm being broken because the cord was wrapped around it. They couldn’t see it because he was full breech, just like his Mama. I remember the anesthesiologist telling my mom she could peek, that he was out and he was indeed a he.

Then those words, the first sound after my son was born: “Come on, Jacob, breathe baby. Breathe on your own. You can do it!” I swear, an eternity passed between those words and the sound I longed to hear. It felt like hours. It felt like years. It felt like time was never going to stop moving and the world was going to end any moment for me.

Finally, I heard it. It wasn’t loud. It wasn’t angry. It wasn’t a “yay, I’m here in the world!” sound. It was more like a squeak, like an annoyed groan, like a “stop whatever you’re doing right now before I bite you with my nonexistent teeth” sound. It was a “eaaaah.” The most beautiful “eaaah” I’ve ever heard.

Jacob did breathe on his own. Within 24 hours after that, he was on room air. After 13 days in the NICU, he was ready to come home. He was 3lbs 5oz when he was born, and he came home at about 4lbs. Our journey to wellness continued. He still had a broken arm and had to be on a heart monitor for apnea and bradycardia episodes.  I had complications from both my c-section and the preeclampsia, but we made it through. Today, my son is  a happy, healthy, highly intelligent little boy. In fact, he’ll be 8 next month!

Jacob, age 7

I am so thankful that my story has a happy ending. Too many babies aren’t born in areas where medical attention required to save their lives is readily available. I can’t even imagine what would have happened to Jacob had he been born into an area like that.

Every year, Save the Children releases a State of the World’s Mother Report, which compiles global statistics on the health of mothers and children, and uses them to produce rankings of nations within three groupings corresponding to varying levels of economic development. In 2013, the new feature is the Birth Day Risk Index — the index compares first-day death rates for babies in 186 countries to identify the safest and most dangerous places to be born. The report won’t be available until midnight 5/7/13, so I’ll update you with a link tomorrow. In the meantime, I highly recommend watching this compelling and heart-wrenching video, featuring Jennifer Garner (one of my favorite actresses and humanitarians).