Halfway is Not Nearly Enough

I delivered our first son on Halloween, the day AFTER his due date. I had been dilated to a 3 for weeks and the doctor was sure that I would deliver a good two weeks early. (Side note: If you are an obstetrician and you happen to be reading this, please never tell a woman that she’ll deliver early.) Every day of those last two weeks was torture. I had a close friend whose due date was one day later than mine; she delivered two weeks early. Imagine my displeasure at hearing her “wonderful” news … “oh, to deliver early!” I thought. My feelings on an early delivery would quickly change with baby #2.

Our second son was scheduled to arrive just after Christmas. You can imagine my shock when I found myself having strong contractions in the middle of September. I was only twenty-six weeks pregnant – just over halfway through my pregnancy. How could I be having contractions? I asked my sister to run me by my doctor’s office, thinking it best that I not drive myself.  I brought my two-year-old with me; I was sure that this would be a quick visit. Surely, I was mistaking baby hiccups (or something like it) for contractions! The thought that I was actually in labor never really crossed my mind.

The nurse attached a heart monitor to my perfectly round belly and quickly called in the doctor. The OB that I adored took a look at my printout and stunned me with, “you’re in labor. We need you to go to labor and delivery. We’ll call ahead and let them know you’re coming.” I think I laughed a bit, but a minute later, I realized that he wasn’t kidding. I instantly felt sick. I said, “but I’m only halfway.” The doctor assured me that he’d meet me over there and we’d “figure things out.”


Things happened pretty quickly from there. Some of it was a blur. I received some very painful steroid shots to my bum, which I was told would help the baby’s lungs to mature. I spent the next few days in the hospital as they tried several different medications to stop contractions: Terbutaline is the first thing they tried, but that didn’t touch my contractions … I think Procardia was the next drug of choice, but that didn’t seem to do the job, either. I spent that first night in the hospital alone, telling my husband that everything would be fine and that he should go home and get some sleep. This was an insane thing to say. A woman in my state of mind should never have been left alone. Trying to be brave here was not smart. I spent the evening sobbing. I was frightened by the prospect of delivering a baby so early, so not ready to breathe or even survive on its own. Surely, it would be weeks if not months before our little one would even be allowed to come home. How could I care for my two-year-old and divide my time between home and the hospital? I didn’t sleep for days, worrying about all the possibilities.

The nurses in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) provided us with classes every day to prepare us for the road ahead. These classes included a visit to the NICU where we saw a thriving 1 1/2 pound baby with her parents’ wedding rings on her wrists as bracelets. We learned about the importance of Kangaroo Care, where newborns are held skin-to-skin on a mother’s chest; an increase in Kangaroo Care seemed to provide an increased success rate with premature infants. I was given instructions on nursing a one-pound baby. My ideas of bonding and helping my newborn to latch were suddenly dashed as I was taught that nursing would involve pumps and tubes. It was all very scary and overwhelming. The hospital had a support group for us moms who might be there long-term. We shared our fears with each other while sitting together on pillows with bottoms sore from the steroids we were being administered throughout the day. It was good to not feel alone on this journey.

Things were not going well. The medicine was not working. My doctor provided us with one other option, a drug with some risky side effects – Indomethacin. This drug had only been deemed safe for use prior to thirty-two weeks of gestation. When used after thirty-two weeks, infants were born with serious defects. We were given all of the information, then left to make a decision on our own. Being that the survival rate for a baby born at twenty-six weeks was not good (approximately 65% chance of survival), we prayerfully decided to try the Indomethacin. To make a decision like this was extremely difficult and we relied heavily on our faith to guide us through.

Luckily, my contractions stopped and I was given the all-clear to go home and “enjoy” a few months of bed rest. Months of bed rest might sound lovely at first, but it was awful for someone with an energetic toddler to care for at home. Regardless, it was certainly better than delivering a twenty-six week old baby. I was allowed to get up and shower occasionally, and I could use the bathroom, but there was not much else besides that. I remember the moment when I realized that following the doctors orders to “not lift anything over three pounds” meant that I couldn’t pour a glass of milk from a full gallon jug. Bed rest was also a challenge on my psyche, perhaps more than anything else. I started to experience some very real depression. I felt useless as a wife and mother, and I was in a constant state of worry. The lack of exercise coupled with staring at the same four walls were enough to make any mom go batty.

Fortunately, all that anxiety and depression was short lived. I – very nervously – stopped my medication at thirty-two weeks and hoped for the best. I went into labor every night, but contractions would stop by morning; this was my routine for four weeks until one early morning when the contractions were long and hard. A brief doctor visit confirmed that labor was progressing quickly and that it was back to L&D for me – this time, with an overnight bag in hand, I headed off to deliver what we were hoping would be a healthy baby. Continued complications crushed my hopes of a having a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) and after two nights in the hospital and an amniocentesis to confirm that the baby’s lungs had enough surfactant, we delivered our beautiful baby boy via C-section.

Thanks to the steroids, our son was a healthy six pounds, five ounces and didn’t spend one second in the NICU. Our journey, which had begun ten weeks earlier, had finally brought us to a miracle. Though he weighed six pounds, he was still born one month early and had no fat on him whatsoever. Preemie clothes were huge on him (as you can see below), and he had the tiniest crack where his little round bottom should have been. Despite his noticeable lack of butt cheeks :), we were thrilled to have a healthy baby boy who, just four days later, came home with us for the first time.

our miracle, pictured here at one week old wearing a preemie long-sleeved onesie

(Note: This is the third and final post in our series dedicated to Prematurity Awareness Dayto read the other posts in this series, click here.)

Emily is the happy wife of a fantastic dentist and the mother of three amazing boys ages 11, 8, and 5. Their family moved to Kansas City in 2006 and they have fallen in love with this jewel of the Midwest. Emily has her degree in Graphic Design from the University of Missouri – St. Louis and is passionate about family, art, children’s literature, party planning, gardening, food (namely dark chocolate), and service in her community. She is part of the largest women’s organization in the world, Relief Society, and is very active in her church. Their family has just begun the journey to and through adoption, and she is excited to share this experience with our readers. Her situation is unique in that their family is pursuing an independent adoption, without the use of an agency. They are hoping to add a little girl to their forever family. You can find their adoption profile at 3D Adopting.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing. The beginning of our story sounded all to similar. I’m SO thankful you were able to keep baby in utero until 36 weeks though! That is SO good!

    • Mandy, I have visited your blog as well and would like to thank you for the video you shared. Ellie and Beckett are blessed to have you. Clearly, you are a strong woman of great faith and a wonderful mother. It is a joy to have the common bond that exists between mothers of premature babies. The battles ahead can be scary and never ending. But surely you will conquer them with the courage and faith that you have built through your experiences.

      Most Sincerely,

  2. wow, i didn’t know you had a premie, too! my first was 34 weeks, my third tried to be born at like 32, but the drugs stopped the contractions and i went into labor everyday for like 7 weeks until she was born. my contractions would build up everyday and i’d think, today’s the day… then bam… gone!! i was going crazy! my husband even banned me from googling how to induce your own labor at home!!

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