A premature baby can change your entire birth plan

December 28 |
Four days before Jasper was born.
Four days before Jasper was born.
Our baby, Jasper, was born on 27 March 2009 in Portland, Oregon. My husband and I moved to Portland in December of 2008, and I hooked up with the nurse midwives at OHSU for our birth shortly thereafter.

Before going into his birth story, let me preface this by saying that my husband, Sean, and I were planning a very relaxed (as relaxed as birthing can be, I guess) experience. First of all, we were going to take the water birth with a midwife, dim lights and music playing approach. Second, we attempted to choose a birthing center in Portland, but insurance wouldn't cover it.

Finally, we in no way anticipated that our baby would come two months early, thus necessitating a switch from the midwives to the OBs in the hospital, have a rare platelet disorder, and spend a month in the NICU.

I have covered the basics of Jasper's birth pretty extensively in my own blog, but what I never got around to speaking about are the emotional aspects of everything that happened. In order for that to make sense, some background:

I went to see my midwife on a Thursday morning for my appointment at 31 weeks. I woke up in the middle of night with cramps and an insane need to eat carrots and rice crackers. I proceeded to spend about an hour on the kitchen floor, happily eating my combination while Sean took photos and our dog, Kali, stared at me, and then went to my appointment later that morning.

I almost didn't even mention the cramps, which had slightly intensified in pain but still didn't seem so bad, but I did at the very last minute. Our midwife, Elizabeth, checked me just to see what, if anything, was happening, and discovered I was dilated a centimeter.

She let me leave, mentioning that she was going to run a test to see if I was at risk for premature labor, so I may have to come back in. I went to meet Sean for lunch, and very suddenly had pretty substantial contractions–definitely more pain than the cramping.

We called the midwives, who told me I was indeed positive and ordered me back to the hospital. I arrived and went to triage, found out I was at 3 cm, and then the OBs decided to try to stop the labor, through a series of IVs and shots, since I was at 31 weeks 5 days.

The attempts failed, and we were wheeled into a delivery room–Sean and I had no clue I was going to give birth (we figured they would be able to stop the labor), until a doctor I had never met before came in, told me I was at 5 cm and probably had an infection of some kind that was causing the early labor, and had to have the baby.

Long story short, Jazz was born at 1:21 a.m. on March 27 at 4 lbs, 6 oz–much bigger than expected, and his lungs were working beautifully.

I always maintained that I wanted a natural childbirth with a midwife, but that I was open to whatever was medically necessary if the situation needed it. As it turns out, our situation desperately needed it. My experience with the hospital was basically the complete and total opposite of what we had planned and dreamed of.

Jazz 5 mosPregnancy is in and of itself an emotional ride. You spend the nine (actually ten) months day-dreaming about what your child will be like, what your birth will be like, so on and so forth.

I don't think a lot of pregnant women and couples plan for the unexpected. If you do–kudos to you. We were completely caught off-guard by the introduction of the OBs into our birthing experience, and as a result were confused and, honestly, scared.

A lot of words and concepts were introduced in a matter of minutes–pitocin, epidurals, stripping the membranes (which I still don't completely understand), and all of the factors that come to the forefront with a premature baby–will he or she (we didn't find out the sex beforehand) be breathing on his or her own? What will the weight be?

I distinctly remember this doctor, this woman I had never met, this woman who was now so incredibly intertwined with our experience, telling me in the middle of contractions at 8 cm that our baby might not be breathing when he or she came out.

Absolutely. Terrifying.

Ultimately, however, the day of Jasper's birth was magical, holy, and full of love. The second I saw his gunky forehead (complete with wrinkles he inherited from his dad) and found out he was a boy the amount of love that surged through me was unmatched anywhere else in my life.

This being, this little baby, was worth every single moment of uncertainty or time we were scared.

Jasper spent a month in the NICU, and came out strong and healthy. We were, and remain, in awe of his spirit and tenacity. From what we can tell, he's very much into Of Montreal and IZ, colors and soft fabrics, and chewing on our knuckles.

Thank you for allowing me to share his story.