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Personal Stories ~ From Amanda
My pregnancy had been completely normal. I was nauseous through week 16, felt better in the 20's weeks. We even took an offshore snorkeling trip during the 24th week. It was great. My husband said I was a "trooper."

By the end of 29 weeks, my job as a nurse in a doctor's office was getting more difficult. I was on my feet 8 hours per day and had to come home at lunch and walk my puppy. I had planned to work right until my due date, but I was beginning to wonder if that would be possible. I mentioned to my OB that I was getting very tired. He said that I "may want to cut back, " but never really told me to. So, in true trooper fashion, I worked and hoped we'd find my replacement soon. As far as I knew, being tired was not a valid medical reason for quitting work.

I felt vaguely unwell on Sunday, week 33. I did a little shopping, including a little Santa suit for our boy's first Christmas. By the time I got home I felt like I had a tummy ache. I laid down and tried to ignore it. I looked up preterm labor in a pregnancy book. The book said you would feel contractions all over the uterus. I felt the discomfort only in the lower abdomen. As an afterthought I called a coworker, who had some preterm labor at 28 weeks. She convinced me to go to L&D. So, we hopped in the car. I did not even take a bag, since I knew I would be sent home.

Wrong. I was contracting every 3-4 minutes. My cervix was 1-2cm dilated and 80% effaced. They tried lots of things to stop the labor. I had IV fluids, several Terbutaline shots, and finally the Mag Sulfate drip. None of it worked. My OB showed up, frowning. We decided to transport me by ambulance to a hospital an hour from my home so that the baby could be close to a NICU at birth.

I was admitted to the L&D ward and given the immediate plans for my care. The Mag Sulfate drip was restarted and I was told I could have nothing by mouth in case I needed an immediate c-section. During the night the contractions finally slowed. It was awful. The Mag drip is poison./ It made me feel like I was really sick with a high fever. Just great for somebody who wasn't allowed to drink. My husband and my mom were right there. I woke up once to find my husband asleep with his head resting on the bed's siderail. He was still holding my hand.

I spent the next 8 days on bedrest and lots of medications. My contractions were never completely stopped and my cervix continued to slowly dilate. On the morning of the 9th day the meds were stopped. I'd gotten both steroid shots for lung maturity. The baby was 5lbs 4oz by ultrasound and the doctors were pleased. The doctors were concerned about the amount of medication it took to hold the labor off. They were scared that they might turn my "good" baby into a sick one since my pulse kept running so high. Besides, by this point Aaron had reached 34 weeks 3 days.

The drip was stopped at 8 am October 30th. My water broke spontaneously at 4pm. Aaron arrived at 7pm. He weighed 5lbs 4oz with Apgars of 8 and 9! The neonatal team let me see him for a brief moment. He was just a little face wrapped in a blanket! So cute! Then they whisked him off to th Level II nursery with my mom and husband close behind. A couple of hours later I finally got to see him. Sadly, I was so out of it. I don't even remember if I held him that night or not.

He was in very good shape, except for a poor sucking reflex. Interestingly, the doctors all said Aaron looked more like a 33-weeker instead of 34 like we thought.

The next day we went several times to the nursery and held him. I'd planned to nurse and had started pumping in my hospital room. Aaron was being tube-fed and we really had no idea how he would learn to nurse.

My discharge day was bittersweet. I was so happy to get out of the hospital. I'd been in 11 days. Geez, I'd never even been away on vacation for more than 4-5 days! But, it was sad to leave our boy so far from home. I was still pumping but not getting any milk.

We went every day to see Aaron. On the 4th day my milk came in. But still, I had no luck pumping. I literally got drops with each 20 minute session. The lactation specialist at the hospital was not helpful. She seemed interested only in telling me where to put my milk bottles, not in figuring out WHY I couldn't get any milk. The other staff were no better. They seemed to have no clue how we were going to transition this little barely-sucking guy from bottle to breast.

One night at home at about midnight I broke into tears. The pumping HURT. I wasn't getting anything and was frustrated beyond belief. Aaron wasn't a sick preemie and was tolerating the formula. I decided to stop pumping. It was more than I could deal with.

We got to know our son during his hospital stay. It was a pleasure just to change his diaper. If you ignored all the monitor noises and people around, things felt almost normal. Then, it would be time to leave for home and I cried every time.

Getting him to bottle feed was a slow frustrating process. The nurses stressed to us the importance of conserving his energy for feedings. Then, the Occupational Therapists would come and do a lot of stuff with him while he was feeding. What happened to conserving energy?

Finally Aaron came home on day 16, weighing 6lbs, 0.6 oz. He had only been completely off tube feeds for a day or so. I was really nervous that he would hit a bad spell and not want to eat. We woke him every 3 hours until the pediatrician said we could let HIM wake US. Didn't take Aaron long to figure that one out!

Aaron is now handsome 21 lb 9 month old. He has a mild low muscle tone problem which is probably related to his prematurity. He is doing great in Physical Therapy and is expected to do well in the long run.

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