When Baby Is Born Too Soon

Glenna Gill

The story of a little fighter.

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My water broke suddenly in the sixth month of my pregnancy with my daughter. I was sitting at a table and coloring with my two young boys in the lobby of an auto shop when I felt a gush coming from beneath me. At first, I wondered if I’d peed myself in public, and I hurried to the ladies' room feeling embarrassed. Before I could unbutton my jeans, another splash of warm fluid left me even more soaked. It didn’t occur to me that my water could have broken because I was only six months pregnant. Surely it was way too early.

One of the shop’s customers knocked on the bathroom door, and she asked if I needed help. I told her I wasn’t sure. She led me back to the lobby to sit down in a chair and told me to stay as still as possible. I tried not to shake as she called 911. The thought of something being wrong with my baby was too terrible to comprehend.

An ambulance arrived a few minutes later as I made arrangements for somebody to pick up my sons. Their Grandma Barbie from their father’s side arrived just as the paramedics told me they couldn’t wait any longer. After I was placed on a stretcher, she came to my side looking concerned. She told me that miscarriages were sometimes “part of God’s plan,” and I began to cry. Losing my baby would be the worst kind of heartbreak, although I didn’t say that to Barbie. She held my hand as the stretcher was being put in the ambulance. I missed my mother-in-law very much, but she belonged to my ex-husband even though I wished she was my mother.

I arrived at the hospital red-faced and sobbing, not understanding what was happening. I’d been taking good care of myself and the baby ever since I found out about her. A nurse tested the wetness with a purple stick of paper and informed me that it was definitely amniotic fluid. She said the doctor would use medication to stop me from delivering, but I would have to stay in the hospital until the baby was actually born.

I went into panic mode. What about my two sons who needed me? I worried about losing my job because of the time I would miss. My whole life changed in a split second, and there was nothing I could do about it.

The nurse wheeled me to my new room. It was a large private room with a bathroom attached, but the nurse told me I couldn’t use it. I wasn’t allowed to shower by myself or even get up to go to the bathroom. They told me to use a bedpan when I needed it. My orders were to stay as still as possible while laying on my back, no turning side to side. It sounded like torture, but I would have done anything to save my daughter.

My second husband, Micah, was the baby’s father. He arrived at the hospital a few hours after I got there, telling me it would have been sooner, but he was chatting on MySpace. I held my tongue before I questioned him further. I’d have to be an idiot not to know what he really meant, but at that moment it seemed like he was the only person in the world who cared. He told me that my sons were going to stay with their grandmother. I sighed with relief, knowing that Micah couldn’t and probably wouldn’t take care of them. I hoped it would be different with his own daughter.

Micah caused more of a scene rather than being helpful. He harassed the nurses that came into my room and turned up my TV as loud as it would go. I turned it back down, explaining that my nurse had said there were other mothers on my floor who were also trying not to have their babies too soon. When I thought about those women, I wondered if they were as anxious as me. We were all separated but going through the exact same experience.

I couldn’t let myself get distracted by Micah though, even when he showed up with a crock-pot full of pot roast and vegetables that I imagined stunk up the whole floor. He showed up on Sundays to watch football all day, which I spent most of begging him to turn down the television. I tried not to think about the scenes he was causing because I needed to focus on not giving birth too early. Every day I spent in that hospital bed gave my daughter a greater chance of surviving, and I was determined not to get worked up over Micah’s shenanigans.

By the second week of my stay, the nurses apparently noticed that I seemed depressed, which was true. I hadn’t yet seen my boys because their father thought it would be too “confusing” for them. Micah acted like a child, and it made me sad to think of what kind of father he would be. A therapist was sent into my room to talk to me, but all I could do was listen with tears forming in my eyes. I had nothing to say about my current situation, and the therapist eventually left and never came back.

In the middle of my 26th week of pregnancy, one morning I woke up feeling crampy and uncomfortable. I quickly called the nurse's station, and when a nurse arrived she looked at the little monitor attached to me. She said I wasn’t having contractions according to the monitor, but the cramps kept occurring every few minutes. I tried to stay still and not worry about it, but suddenly I felt a strange sensation beneath me. I pulled back my covers and was horrified to see a miniature foot sticking out of me.

In a panic, I screamed for the nurse to come back. Within seconds, the hospital staff surrounded me, and I was rushed into the operating room under anesthesia for a Cesarean section. The last thing I remembered was counting backward from ten. When I woke up a few hours later there was a doctor standing over me.

“Your daughter is alive,” he said in a gruff voice, “but it’s touch and go right now.”

A short time later, a nurse showed up to wheel my stretcher to my new room. I thought of the mothers I’d left behind and said a silent prayer that their babies would live, too. My baby was less than two pounds, and I was kind of disappointed that I delivered so early. The nurse offered to take me past my newly-born daughter’s incubator, but all I could glimpse were tubes and wires and a flock of nurses surrounding her. The image was both shocking and disheartening.

I named my baby Victoria. She needed a name no matter what happened. I wasn’t ready to give up hope that she would pull through; however, the doctors weren’t as optimistic. Victoria was already facing heart surgery to close a small flap in her heart that hadn’t closed during pregnancy. Still in pain from my operation, I dragged myself to my daughter’s side every day. I wanted to really see her even though I couldn’t touch her or hold her as much as I wanted.

They released me from the hospital four days after surgery. My doctor told me he wasn’t sure why my water had broken in the first place. “Things just happen sometimes” was as close to an explanation as I got. It broke my heart not to go home with Victoria in my arms, but I made the trip back to the hospital every day to sit with her. Victoria’s brothers repeatedly asked when their new sister could come home. I didn’t tell them I was still afraid she wouldn’t come home at all.

Victoria got a little bit stronger every day. She came through her surgery with flying colors, and the nurses told me she’d be ready for an open incubator soon so she could breathe on her own. Even though I was at the hospital every day, Micah didn’t show up once, which didn’t surprise me at all. In fact, I started thinking about divorcing him even before I got home.

One day, I was sitting next to Victoria when a nurse came up behind me.

“Do you want to hold her?”

I wanted that more than anything in the world and was overjoyed when she placed Victoria into my eager arms. Her lovely hazel eyes looked up at me, and I fell even more deeply in love. She was the perfect little girl, and I vowed to protect her with everything I had. I never wanted to let her go.

After close to three months, Victoria’s doctor told me she was ready to come home. The nurses worked with me on getting her to take a full bottle. They didn’t want her to lose even the smallest bit of weight. I had to make sure she could drink a four-ounce bottle in fifteen minutes. It was a struggle at first because she kept falling asleep, but after a while, we both got the hang of it. The experience made me feel like a brand new mother all over again.

The day I brought Victoria home, I took her to my bedroom and put her on the bed and got down next to her. We stayed that way for hours because I couldn’t stop staring at her. I missed work that day, but I didn’t care. Nothing was more important than being with her, watching her breathe, looking into her brilliant eyes blinking back at me. We’d both been through a lot, but she made me want to fight as hard as she did.

Victoria is fourteen years old today. She’s still tiny for her age, but the girl is a pistol. She speaks her mind and is not afraid of anything, always standing up for what she believes in. She gets picked on for being small sometimes, but she takes it in stride. She loves life beyond all boundaries.

My little girl is a miracle, and I don’t take a minute with her for granted.

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I write about lifestyle issues, including such topics as parenting, mental illness, family, substance abuse, marriage/divorce, and inspiration. My hope is that these stories will help people suffering from similar issues by reading about other's experiences.

West Palm Beach, FL
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