by Lee Cordon, Dallas Blogger, DoSayGive
In our modern medical era, I naively thought that there was a treatment or cure for most high risk pregnancy conditions. When my water broke at 14 weeks gestation, a condition known as Preterm Premature Rupture of Membranes or PPROM, I found out the hard way that this wasn’t the case. I’ll never forget looking at the bouncing figure on the hazy ultrasound screen (hazy because these machines see through water and I didn’t have any) and not believing my ears when the specialist advised us to terminate the pregnancy.
You see, medical professionals, particularly those trained in the high risk field, are taught that there is little hope – and definitely no “fix”- when a woman’s amniotic sac breaks before viability (23 weeks). Their main priority is the woman’s health and once an amniotic sac ruptures the woman is at risk for infection, bleeding, and death.
My eyes glazed over as I listened to the grim statistics my MFM doctor shared: the chances of a baby surviving to viability without me contracting an infection were very slim. The chances of my baby developing enough lung tissue to breathe on her own were even slimmer. And the fact that I also had a partial placental abruption and bleeding made everything even worse. “Even if for some reason you made it to viability,” she said, “this baby would be severely disabled, both mentally and physically.”
When my husband and I begged for any trial or alternative treatments around the country we could try, we were told that none of them had proven effective. Most just introduced infection, which is what we were trying to avoid. There was nothing we could do except go home, get in the bed, and “pray for a miracle.”
So that’s what we did.
For the first few days, though, I sobbed under my covers, lost in my own hopelessness. But every time I cried more fluid leaked out (pregnant women are always producing fluid, but when your amniotic sac is ruptured, it would just leak out). It made me want to be still and never move or laugh. The stress of it all was almost too much.
Then my sister forwarded me a website she found about PPROM. I searched desperately for stories of hope on the page. Most of the PPROM stories had sad endings. But then I stumbled upon a story of a baby boy whose mother PPROM’d about the same time. And he survived! I read the story over and over again, looking for any similarities and gleaning any tips as to what this mother did to help avoid infection and keep her baby inside.
After a week I started having a bit more hope. My mom pretty much moved in with us to help with our two-year-old. I started a website to keep friends and family up to date. My sweet OB was encouraging and hopeful at my next appointment. The fact that I hadn’t miscarried that first week was a huge turning point.
During my time on bed rest at home, I filled the days with reading and writing and praying. I couldn’t watch tv because it seemed so trivial in such a serious time. I only got up to use the bathroom and took a shower every few days. And, based on the advice from the mothers in the PPROM group board, I drank a ton of water. Not only to help avoid infection but to aid in the development of amniotic fluid. There is no scientific proof for this, but I was desperate to try anything.
Nine weeks passed. At 23 weeks gestation, I was admitted to the hospital since the baby was considered “viable.” I thought things would be so much easier in the hospital where they could monitor the baby often and get her out quickly if possible. But I found the opposite to be true. The six weeks I spent on the antepartum floor were extremely difficult. I’ve never felt more alone in my life. Not only was I away from my family, but sleep was impossible with the constant interruptions (and the bed was just awful!). And I was routinely reminded of the probable ending of all this bed rest: our baby probably wouldn’t be able to breathe when she was born and would pass away within a few minutes.
At 29 weeks gestation things took a turn for the worse. I was raced in for an emergency C-section. It was like out of a movie. They were able to get her out so quickly. The whole time I was praying she would cry when she was born. Crying might mean she had enough lung tissue to breathe. When they pulled her out we heard a little whimper. And instead of putting her on my chest to take her first and final breaths, they raced her up to the NICU. I only saw a glimpse of her as they raced by, but I was not upset. I was praising God that they were doing just that. It meant she had enough lung tissue to be intubated.
Our 29 weeker spent three months in the NICU. The first few days were touch and go and there were several times we almost had to say our goodbyes. But she prevailed. We prevailed. Don’t get me wrong, the journey has not been easy. The first four years of her life were filled with surgeries, buttons, and therapy almost every day, but it has all been worth it. The 15 weeks on bed rest were worth it.
Our preemie is nearly nine years old now. She goes to a rigorous academic school, plays soccer and basketball, and not surprisingly, is the most determined child I know.
She also gave us hope when I PPROM’d at 23 weeks with my fourth child. You can read her story here.