This is part two in a three-part series that will probably be interesting to my immediate family only. But if you’re still reading, you can see part one here.
My doctor told me that the odds were good I would go into labor in the next 24-48 hours, since my water had broken, but I was having no contractions at the moment. My husband, remember, was camping with our boys in the remote woods of Arkansas, out of cell phone range. We could have tracked down a forest ranger to find him, but it would’ve taken hours and would’ve frightened Hubs and (even worse) the boys. We made the difficult choice to wait until early the next morning, when my Dad would drive to find them.
I was so worried that Hubs would be alarmed when he heard the news, and that his fear would rub off on the boys. I prayed the most specific prayer I’ve ever prayed when I begged God that somehow, in the middle of the night, with no advance warning, Hubs would somehow know that I was in labor and would feel peace. I called his cell phone and left a message, knowing he wouldn’t get it until he was on the road the next day.
And strangely, at midnight, in a remote tent far away, my husband’s phone beeped to tell him he had a message. He had no service and no way to retrieve it, and there was no logical explanation for why the "beep" occurred. But as he lay there in the tent, he would tell me later, he had a strange thought: "I bet Shannon is in labor. Either way, there is nothing I can do about it at this moment. Her mom is there with her, so I know she’ll be fine." He felt peaceful and calm, just as I prayed he would, and he strangely felt no sense of surprise when my Dad showed up at 6 am that morning to deliver the news of my hospitalization.
It was a little detail that was big to us, one affirmation of many that God’s sovereign hand was guiding this strange journey we were on.
As it turned out, I did not start having contractions. I had thought, until then, that once your water broke you had to deliver within 24 hours, to prevent infection. It turns out, this is only true when your water breaks at full term. When your water breaks as early as mine did, they keep you in the hospital and do everything they can to put off labor. This allows the baby time to grow, and allows them time to pump the momma full of antibiotics to stave off infection.
It was a delicate line we were walking: take the baby out now and avoid infection, or let the baby grow but risk an infection (a dangerous thing in a preemie). We felt confident in our doctor’s advice that we wait.
For ten days I stayed in the hospital while my husband, family and friends managed life at home. It was hard for the boys. Hubs brought them to see me as much as possible, but it was a poor substitution for having a mother at home. Stephen’s kindergarten teacher would later tell me that he spent an entire day hiding under his desk, he was so distraught. Hubs managed beautifully, though, nearly wearing himself out. My doctor would let Hubs take me on wheelchair strolls around the hospital, and we invariably ended up going down the hall to the NICU. The walls were lined with photos of babies who had once been very sick and tiny but were now thriving, healthy children. We hoped, and we prayed.
We were visited by nurses and a neonatolgist who prepared us for a few likelihoods: Corrie probably wouldn’t cry at birth, she would likely be on oxygen right away and would almost certainly need a feeding tube, we could expect to have her in the NICU for at least 2 weeks. We shouldn’t fear these things, because the odds were overwhelmingly in our favor–things might get complicated, but at 34 weeks, she would be fine.
I fixated strangely on the notion of not hearing her cry at birth. It was a sound I longed for. I remembered the rush of joy during my sons’ births, when I heard their little lungs fill with air and announce their arrival in the world. I tried not to hope, yet still I prayed, "Lord, could she cry? Just once?"
When I reached 34 weeks, on November 9th, we felt Corrie had grown enough that the risk of infection outweighed the risk of prematurity, and my doctor began the induction process. Labor moved slowly for about eight hours, as induced preemie births often will. But at about 3 pm, the overwhelming urge to push had me shouting for nurses. They rushed in and realized Corrie’s arrival was imminent. It had sneaked up on us, and no one was ready. The doctor hadn’t made it, and the NICU team hadn’t set up in the room. In a flurry of activity, there was shouting in my room and in the hallway: "Get the doctor!" "Don’t push!" "Page the NICU!" I couldn’t hear myself think above the din of noise. People were running, and Hubs looked terribly afraid.
And then somehow, miraculously, in all the noise, I heard a sound that reminded me of a tiny baby kitten. It was soft and weak, but it was unmistakable: Corrie was here.
And she was crying.
To be continued Thursday…