We were anticipating an early and possibly quick delivery with our rainbow baby. But never could have imagined how early and how quickly. This is Austin's story.
Austin's due date was May 10th, 2020, Mother's Day. Due to my history of preterm labor and delivery and this being my fourth pregnancy, my OB had taken all precautions to prevent an early baby. From multiple doctor visits to injections weekly, my pregnancy was followed very closely.
On March 6th, 2020 I started to experience contractions while at work. At first they were seven minutes apart and within an hour went to five minutes apart. Luckily, I work just a floor below the labor and delivery department at the hospital where I was to give birth. I called my OB's office and was told to immediately head up stairs. I was 30 weeks and 5 days pregnant. After a 12 hour hospital stay, no progression of my cervix (I was dilated to a one) and a round of steroid shots for the baby's lungs I was able to go home with the promise to come back as soon as something changed. The next morning, I went back to the hospital for more monitoring and another round of steroids. It was determined that baby was fine and there were no signs of labor, so I was able to go home.
On March 9th a plan was made at my OB's office. I was reminded what to look for for impending labor and what to do just in case things progressed quickly and we weren't at the hospital yet... it was a scary thought but I felt comfortable with our plan.
On Wednesday March 11th, I worked a normal shift. I got home from work, went to change my clothes and go to the bathroom. It was then I lost what I can only assume was my mucus plug. After a call to my OB office yet again, I was sent back up to the hospital. This time, I packed a bag. I knew that if I didn't have a baby that I would most likely be put on hospital bed rest.
Once my husband and I got to the hospital at about 6pm, I was checked immediately and was dilated to 3cm. It was explained to me that I could be in labor and if I was they would not try to stop it. Because the baby had received the steroids from the two previous injections, it would cause more complications to me to try to stop my labor. The plan was to wait and see if my body would stop it on it's own. That was the hope anyways.
A nurse practitioner from the NICU came and explained what would happen should our baby be born this early. How he probably wouldn't be crying. How he might need help to breathe. It was scary and overwhelming but we were still holding out hope of not delivering our rainbow this early. We figured we were in for a long night and my husband had to get home to Owen, our 3 year old. I told him I'd call him if anything changed. At this point I was 4cm. I was in touch with our friend and birth photographer, Nicole, and it was decided that she would come be with me "just in case" baby was born and also so I was not alone. Throughout the night, I was dilated to 5cm but there was still hope that my body would stop on its own. I was hooked up to IV magnesium, which was done to soften all the muscles in my body and then therefore the baby's body. It's done to relax his head/brain to reduce brain bleeding during delivery which is a common problem in preterm babies born under 32 weeks gestation.There were some contractions but nothing overwhelming or regular.
The next morning, March 12th, 2020 at 31 weeks and 4 days pregnant, the plan was for the doctor to check my cervix mid morning. Depending on where it was at, we would either continue with the magnesium (it made me feel awful) or wean my body off and get ready for an inpatient hospital bedrest stay. Ryan (my husband) and Owen were on their way up to the hospital so Ryan could be a part of the discussions. At this point, my contractions seemed even farther apart but when they came they were very strong and intense but mostly in my lower back and butt, not at all in my belly. I still hadn't had my cervix checked yet.
At about 10:15am, I received a bedside ultrasound. They were specifically looking at measurements of the baby, size of his head, and amniotic fluid level. The ultrasound tech had a very hard time getting the circumference of Austin's head because he was too low... that should have been a clue that maybe I was closer to delivery than thought. At about 10:40am since nothing seemed to be happening, we decided that Ryan would take Owen home for a nap and that he would come up later that afternoon. So, my boys left.
Minutes later, the doctor walked into the room to determine what the next steps were going to be. He barely said two words, when I felt a gush in between my legs. I thought my water had broken. He checked right away and it wasn't my water that broke but a bloody show. He then checked me and I was 9cm dilated. It was 1050am. He said that baby was pressing on my bag of water and that he needed to break it to get the baby out. My husband had just pulled out of the hospital parking ramp and was driving towards home. He was going to miss the birth of our baby.
Thankfully, Nicole was on it and immediately texted him to come back. To hurry because baby was coming. The NICU was alerted and the birth team started to assemble. The doctor wanted to break my water but everyone was asking him to wait for Ryan. He was literally running through the hospital carrying our toddler. It was chaotic and everything happened so quickly.
As soon as Ryan and Owen appeared, the doctor broke my water and not many pushes later, Austin Thomas Angell was born at 1113am on March 12th, 2020. He was 3lbs 12oz, and 16 inces long at 31 weeks 4 days gestation. He was crying. I will never forget hearing the sound of my tiny baby crying. It was amazing. After a few minutes of him lying on my lower belly, he was whisked off to the NICU team. I didn't get to see him again until 2 hours later.
Austin spent 4 weeks and 5 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care unit during a global pandemic. I'm happy to say he is finally home with his family and I'm forever grateful for the team that helped me bring him into this world and for the NICU team that saved his life. He is so so tiny but my goodness he is so so strong.