Marissa Vicario, Best Selling Author, Women's Health & Lifestyle Expert and Founder, Marissa's Well-being and Health
Valentina Antonia's Birth Story
The day started like any other Sunday. After a night of restless sleep, I woke up early. My husband wanted to try a new brunch place so we walked there and back. I spent most of the afternoon relaxing on the couch. Around 4 p.m. we drove to Whole Foods to do the weekly grocery shopping, came home, made dinner, watched some TV and went to bed.
I had no inclination that at 34 weeks and 5 days pregnant, I would give birth to our daughter. My third trimester had been uncomfortable, but I only had 5 1/2 weeks left to go. Having endured IVF and conquered hurdles during the first and second trimester, we were happy that the third trimester had been uneventful.
At 2 a.m. I woke up to a trickle of liquid coming out of me. Groggy and confused, I went to the bathroom and questioned whether the liquid was in fact urine. I changed my underwear and went back to bed, but the trickle continued so I went back to the bathroom. By then, I was certain that the steady stream of liquid now flowing from me was not urine. I woke my husband and we agreed to call my doctor. Luckily, he was on call that night; mumbled something about ruptured membranes and told me to go to the hospital.
A quick Google search informed me I would be given some medication and put on bed rest. At most, I figured I would stay at the hospital overnight for observation. I opted to take a towel to sit on in the car instead of my hospital bag.
Once we arrived at the hospital, I went right into triage, changed into a gown and socks and was hooked up to monitors. An examination confirmed that the liquid was amniotic fluid and that I was contracting, but not yet dilated. When my doctor arrived, he told us very frankly that I was experiencing preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM) and that the baby would need to be delivered. We were speechless.
I had a million questions and fears racing through my head, yet all I could manage to say was, "But we're not ready." My doctor explained that there was a greater risk of keeping the baby inside than there was of getting her out and that the survival rate for babies born after 34 weeks gestation is "excellent."
The treatment plan: They would start an IV through which they would administer an antibiotic (to treat any possible infection) and a steroid injection, a last-minute effort to develop the baby's lungs after which they would induce labor with pitocin. I could get an epidural at any time. This was not the birth I had planned or envisioned. While disappointing, I had no choice but to accept it and focus on staying calm and making the most of the labor and delivery I was having.
At around 5 a.m., I was admitted and assigned to a labor and delivery room. There was an ultrasound to look at the baby's position - head down - and estimate her weight - 5 lbs. During this time, we also met with a NICU representative who explained what we could expect after the birth - she would be cleaned up and taken to the NICU. No skin to skin and no "rooming in" during our stay. I was saddened and scared, but at that point all I cared about was delivering a healthy baby and hopefully without the need for a C-section.
After the antibiotic and the steroid and just as the sun was rising, the pitocin started. Even though there was so much of this labor that was out of my hands, I wanted to maintain the one plan I could still control and that was to go as long as I could without pain intervention. Soon after, I felt the contractions build. I breathed deeply through them as I squeezed my husband’s hand. After two hours, I could no longer handle the pain and asked for the epidural.
Once the epidural was administered, we got some much-needed sleep. Two hours later, the labor pains started to build again. My doctor came into the room frequently to check my cervix for dilation and after some time with no progression, he inserted a Foley bulb, a catheter with a balloon on the end used to encourage dilation.
As the day continued, the labor pains became more intense and closer together. Even with the epidural, I could feel intense pressure doing my best to breathe through them. With each contraction, I could feel the baby moving lower until finally I felt the urge to push. I told the nurse I could feel her head and begged for her to let me push. She immediately called my doctor and he rushed into the room with a team of maybe eight other people, did a final check on my cervix and told me to start pushing.
After 14 hours of labor and 15 minutes of pushing (the hardest and most painful 15 minutes of my life), Valentina Antonia McFarland was born on September 30 at 4:37 p.m. She weighed exactly 5 lbs. and was 19 inches long. They briefly put her on my abdomen and then she was whisked away to the NICU. Little did I know that as a preemie, Valentina would encounter many challenges in her first weeks of life requiring a two week stay in the NICU. We chose the name Valentina because it means "strong and healthy" and through it all she's proven that she is.