Going into Labor at 20 Weeks: Tide’s Story

Tide’s story is a beautiful reminder that miracles can and do happen!


by Ashleigh Lorenz | staff writer for The Snap Mom

When I found out I was pregnant, a million thoughts ran through my mind ~ best way to share the news, boy or girl, which prenatal to take, what books should I be reading.  Never in a million years did I think one of my pregnancy thoughts would be, “Will my baby survive?”

That fateful Saturday is forever etched in my memory. I was just shy of being 20 weeks pregnant and had woken up two mornings in a row with some clear liquid in my underwear. It was a very minor amount, and, as you moms know, pregnancy causes all kinds of weird stuff, so I even thought maybe I had peed a little, and I wasn’t concerned. I proceeded to get ready to go to yoga, but I had a nagging feeling. I called my mom, and she calmly suggested I at least call my doctor.  Because it was a Saturday, I could only speak with the on-call doctor. She robotically stated over and over again, “If you think you might be leaking amniotic fluid, you need to go to the ER,” to which I responded, “I have no idea what I am leaking, or even if I am.” I reluctantly drove to the hospital. My husband was working that morning. Because I was certain this would be a quick exam just to reassure my mother and doctor, I did not ask anyone to come with me.

I was immediately taken back to the triage area and placed in an open-air room that had a curtain for a door and allowed me to hear every conversation going on around me. I received an internal exam and was swabbed to test for amniotic fluid.  I lay alone on my little cot for several minutes before hearing voices outside my sheet saying, “She tested positive for amniotic fluid.” Shortly afterward, an ultrasound technician came in.  I told her what I overheard, and she said,  “I am pretty sure they can just sew you up.” My first piece of wonderful medical advice came from the ultrasound tech, and, as absurd as it was, I held onto that hopeful statement.  The tech checked my fluid levels and delivered good news again stating that my AFI (amniotic fluid index) was within the normal range.  Shortly after she left, the on-call, “robot” doctor entered and figuratively slapped me across the face. “You have preterm, prematurely ruptured membranes and will likely go into labor within 24 hours; your baby cannot survive at 20 weeks gestation.”  She then exited and left me with a spinning head, all alone and full of questions.  I waited almost another hour before being officially checked into the hospital and given a room. At this point my husband, Chris, arrived, and a nurse began to gather information from me.  I still had not received any answers to my questions, only being told that the perinatologist would make his rounds sometime tomorrow, and I would have to wait until then to get any answers.

I think at this point I was still in denial that anything was really wrong.

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It wasn’t until the perinatiologist made his rounds the next morning that my reality began to set in.  The doctor very diplomatically explained that there was a tear in my amniotic sac and that in most cases the body would go into labor within 48 hours. He further stated that if labor did not start on its own, there was a very high chance that I would become infected due to the tear, and that the infection itself would most likely induce labor. I was told that my only options were to wait and see what happened or to abort my baby boy. Abortion was not an option, so we told the doctor we would wait. I was highly discouraged from going home, as another big fear was that I would hemorrhage and bleed out.  I was put on prophylactic antibiotics and IV fluids and told that I could not get out of my hospital bed…for anything!  Later that day, an ultrasound tech came to measure my AFI, something I would get very used to. As she began the ultrasound, I found myself turning away from the picture. I realized that I did not want to bond with this child any longer.  This baby that I had spent the last 20 weeks nourishing, loving, and dreaming of was most likely going to be pushed from my inept womb in the next day, and he would not live. The tech found little to no amniotic fluid. In less then 24 hours, my AFI had gone from sufficient to non-existent.  My nurse later explained that amniotic fluid would continue to be produced; however, it would continue to slowly leak out. Amniotic fluid is vital for lung development and serves as padding in the womb.  Without it, the risk of strangulation and banding (when the umbilical cord wraps around body parts, eventually cutting them off) greatly increases. Even if a complete miracle took place, and I didn’t go into labor before viability, there was a good chance my son’s lungs wouldn’t work, he would strangled by his cord or he would still be missing body parts.

The outpouring of love from our family, friends and complete strangers began immediately. Chris planned to continue his schedule of working two part-time jobs and going to school. He attempted to go to both jobs in those first few days and was sent home, being told he would still receive a check for that week but that he needed to be with his wife. His fellow lifeguards all volunteered to pick up his work shifts and give him the money. A close friend arranged a fundraiser, donating all proceeds to our family.  People took turns bringing us food, visiting and praying over us.  Chris and I were humbled by the selflessness of those around us. Often times our only response was weeping.

The Halloween decorations came down and the Thanksgiving ones went up. My little man was miraculously staying put, and I was not showing any signs of infection. I remained in my hospital bed, getting up for nothing, and being instructed to lie on my sides for the majority of the day.  We celebrated Thanksgiving in our hospital room with family coming to share the day. As thankful as I was to have made it this far, I still remained detached from the life inside me and also from God.  In my reflections on this time, I realize that I was scared of how losing my son would impact my view of God. My mind could not wrap around the idea of the loving God I knew and trusted for my entire life allowing the life within me to cease to exist.

I hit 24 weeks gestation and felt that the first big hurdle was passed. My baby was viable at this point, and I felt a renewed sense of hope. My medical care shifted from being only focused on me to now include my son. I wore a monitor to track his heartbeat for a majority of the day.  Specialists continued to march in and out of my hospital room on a daily basis; some were wonderful, some absolutely awful. One of my favorite doctors shared the possibility of an experimental treatment to repair the tear. I would be injected with fluids that would find the tear, bind to it and repair it.  After my doctor consulted with the originator of this technique, I was informed that because an internal exam was completed the day I entered the hospital, the risk of infection still existed. They could not repair my tear and risk sewing in an infection.

One night that will stick with me forever is the night I overheard a woman in the room next to me go into labor. I actually knew this woman through a mutual friend, and I was aware that she too had entered the hospital due to PPROM, but at about 22 weeks. A few nights after she arrived at the hospital, I heard what could only be described as labor groans.  I then overheard the most horrifying conversation take place between her nurse and the doctor. The nurse was informing the doctor that this patient had gone into labor and the doctor nonchalantly replied, “She is only 22 weeks along; what do you want me to do?” No compassion, no care, no love was shown. This woman barely made it into a delivery room before the precious life inside of her slid out too early into this cold world and into the even colder hands of this doctor.  I wept for that mother, and I wept at the miracle that was my child who was still inside of me, still being given a chance at life.

The days turned into weeks and, miraculously, my baby boy continued to grow. As excited as I was about this, there were so many unknowns about the condition my son. Amniotic fluid is necessary to provide a clear ultrasound picture. Because I had none, doctors were left guessing as to what was going on within my womb. My perinatologists set a delivery date of January 18, 2011. I would by 33 weeks pregnant. They felt that waiting any longer would put me at an unnecessary risk of infection.

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The tiny bit of hope I had been holding onto for a healthy baby was stripped a couple days before delivery. One of the perinatologists on my team walked into my room and said that they were considering transferring me to a hospital located one hour south because it had an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine (basically an artificial lung). I asked her what made the team think this was necessary and why I was just now hearing about this. All she could say was, “I don’t know.” Definitely not medical care at its finest.

The hospital transfer was never spoken about again. On the morning of January 17, I began to have some bleeding, and the doctor who was rounding that morning decided to deliver a day early to avoid things turning into an emergency.  It had been determined that I would have a C-section because I had placenta previa and baby was transverse.

After three months in the hospital on complete bed rest, I finally met my sweet Oliver Tide Lorenz. He shocked everyone by breathing on his own initially. However, right as I was released from my recovery to go visit him in the NICU, he became distressed and could no longer breath on his own. I entered the NICU only to see his arms strapped down to two boards in preparation to intubate him. This was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. After a week of intubation and two collapsed lungs, Tide had his tube removed and was put on CPAP. After a few days on the CPAP, Tide was strong enough for only a nasal canula. Things were looking up, as we prepared to bring Tide home after only 9 days in the NICU. We then received the news that he had contracted MRSA and would require 3 weeks of antibiotics. I was absolutely crushed and devastated. Even the security guards, who I saw each morning as I checked in to visit my sweet baby, noticed the change in my demeanor.  Utterly and completely defeated, I told God that I could not take anything else being wrong.  I continued to bath my son in the words of Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.” I prayed that we could soon put these trying days behind us.

 

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After 31 days in the NICU, my prayers were answered, and my sweet Oliver Tide was released to come home! Tide had very minor residual effects from his traumatic pregnancy, birth and first month of life. We continued to see a cardiologist for two small holes in his heart and a pulmonologist for the first two years of his life. Tide also required physical therapy for gross motor delays. All in all, he has been such an incredibly healthy boy who has surpassed everyone’s expectations. He will forever be my miracle baby.

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About the author:

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Ashleigh is a licensed clinical social worker who spends her days chasing her 1 and 4 year old around while nursing her 5 week old every 10 minutes. When not in the mommy role, Ashleigh works as the clinical director of  Selah Freedom, an organization that works with survivors of human trafficking.

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