It started 2 months before my due date. The contractions hit during breakfast and I had to let my 6-year-old take the reigns. As she made toast and bananas for her siblings, I laid on the couch to relax and breathe through them.
It took about 5 days for them to totally go away. I thought they were Braxton Hicks and maybe they were. Several doctors and midwives told me that I could have contractions everyday until my due date and that they might be worse than with my previous births. It was totally normal. But I didn’t have them with my previous pregnancies so I had nothing to compare them to and I took the professionals’ words as law.
A month later the contractions started again. They were the same as before, so I laid down and tried to relax. This time, the kids weren’t cooperating and as I tried to discipline and reconcile them, the pain was getting worse. Finally, I asked my husband to take over and went to lay down upstairs. Not understanding the difference between these contractions and the one’s that I had a month earlier, after an hour my husband came upstairs to check on me. He needed me to go downstairs and watch the children so he could start working.
That switch never happened because my water broke! It was NOTHING like my previous birth experiences so I was in a panic. 4 weeks before my due date and I had done little to prepare other than setting up the bassinet in our room. Luckily, we had just bought a bigger car literally a few days before or we wouldn’t have been able to fit all the kids in the car!
5 Things You Need to Know About Preemies
I never dreamed I would have a Preemie, only unhealthy, first-time-moms have preemies, right? Wrong! 1 in 9 births are premature. That is a huge percentage and the medical community still doesn’t understand why. There are some risk factors that may increase your chance, but I didn’t even have one of those!
Prevention may not be possible, but preparation can. Whether it is your first pregnancy or your 6th, here are 5 things you need to know!
1. The Truth About Braxton Hicks
These contractions are virtually painless. They may cause some discomfort, but if you are experiencing frequent menstrual-type cramping, don’t take a chance. Call your doctor right away or get medical help if you are less than 37 weeks pregnant and have 4 or more contractions in an hour, even if they aren’t very painful.
You might feel embarrassed about going in and it ends up a false alarm, but caring about the well-being of your child is nothing to be ashamed about. Don’t be like me and end up wishing you would have went in earlier.
2. Fast and Furious
Your pain is likely to transition from bearable to excruciating in minutes. Because baby is smaller, it can start to enter the birth canal before you’re fully dilated. What does that mean? There could be no transition phase! That’s why it is so important to be prepared.
The sooner you can get things ready for baby the better. Pack your bag months in advance. Research labor online before going to your birthing class. And start touring hospitals and asking about their policies soon after your 20th week. Some hospitals do not have the capabilities to care for premature babies and that means your baby would have to be transferred. I’ve even heard of some hospitals (mainly in the UK) that will not give care to babies born before a certain gestation or who don’t weigh a certain amount.
3. The NICU
Even if your baby isn’t premature, they could end up in the NICU if you have any complications during labor. This intensive care unit is very unique. Once admitted into the NICU, your child cannot leave unless discharged by leading pediatrician. Of course it is probably in the best interest of your baby, it can also be a point of contention if you are not happy with the care your child is receiving.
Another thing you need to be prepared for is the lack of rooms for parents. My baby was lucky in that he only had to stay in the NICU for 5 days. I was able to stay close by in my postpartum room and then in an extra room in the NICU. For some parents, their baby spends months in the NICU and they have to leave their baby and travel to and from the hospital. If you live far away from the hospital you can check for a Ronald McDonald house close to the hospital where you can stay for free as long as your baby is admitted.
I believe that feeding my baby frequently and just being there to hold him, helped him recover quickly. So, you’ll want to try and be with your baby as much as possible. This is extremely stressful when you can’t stay in the hospital, so try to find people to help and support you. Graham’s Foundation offers care packages for parents of preemies that will help with information and encouragement whether you are in the NICU or transitioning home.
One more thing you need to know; it is a depressing place. I know there were little miracles all around me and my baby was one of the healthiest ones, but I couldn’t help but cry all the time I was there. My baby’s nurse had had a preemie herself and comforted me by telling me she did the same thing. The atmosphere is one of struggle and heartache. Help yourself overcome the fear and anxiety with lots of prayer, get outside for fresh air, you might even invite some friends out to lunch or a happy movie to allow yourself to relax.
4. The Cost
The NICU is expensive. Each day in the NICU may almost be triple the cost of regular postpartum care, so the bill can quickly become life-changing. Make sure you understand what you will be charged for, how much everything is, and what your insurance does and doesn’t cover. Don’t be afraid to ask the price, but don’t be surprised if no one knows.
One tip that I have is to try and be discharged from your postpartum room as soon as you can, as each day is about $1000. Take advantage of the free meals that NICU parents get, and try to pump or nurse as much as possible.
If you don’t have insurance, make sure you know the hospital’s policy because some may send you home before your baby is ready if you can’t pay the bill.
5. The Bright Side
Thanks to medical advances if your baby is at least 26 weeks, his chances of survival are very good (80%). New discoveries are making this percentage rise each year. By being proactive and doing research even if you are not at risk, you can try and prevent, or more importantly, be prepared for preterm labor.
Everyday your premature baby gets older, your worries will fade and he will be just like any other baby – a little miracle worth all the stress in the world.
Are you a parent of a preemie? I would love to hear your experiences and advice. Please leave a comment!
If you know a new parent, please share this post with them!