Two and a half years ago, Early Bird was born at 28 weeks gestation. She spent the first 10 weeks of her life in the NICU, where she had to learn to breathe, eat, and regulate her body temperature without assistance. Things she would have been born able to do if she had not been so early. After she came home, there were numerous doctor visits, both to her pediatrician and to several specialists — cardiologist, gastroenterologist, otolaryngologist, ophthalmologist. For a time, we also had a nurse and developmental specialist come into our home once a month. The nurse would administer an RSV shot, and the developmental specialist would assess her progress in the areas of speech and motor development. I jokingly told people my baby had more medical professionals on her case than my octogenarian grandparents.
Today, Early Bird is still underweight, and she has reached important milestones well after her peers. She didn’t walk until 18 months, and her language consisted of incoherent gibberish until just a few months ago. Getting to where she is has not been an easy journey. Yet, she is happy and does not seem to be suffering any long-term problems.
All of the above has given me reason to question and even fear having another child. But, despite my fears, I am expecting another baby. And tomorrow, I reach the 28-week mark. The day after that, I will officially be farther in this pregnancy than I reached in the last. I am simultaneously scared and relieved.
This pregnancy has been more worrisome than the others. Every time I use the restroom, I am afraid I will find blood. (I had bleeding on more than one occasion last time.) Every time I bend over or squat down, I am afraid the pressure will cause my water to break. (It broke last time while I was on the floor wrapping a birthday present.) Every time I feel the slightest twinge of pain in my abdomen, I am afraid it may be a contraction. (It turns out to be ligament stretching or gas.)
Despite my fears, this pregnancy has been the one with the fewest problems. I have not had any spotting or bleeding. There have been no signs of infection. I had bleeding and infections with both Omelette and Early Bird. However, both times I was blissfully unaware of the risks these problems bring with them. Now, I know what can happen. And I’ve been having dreams about going into premature labor and even losing my baby.
This pregnancy has also been the most closely monitored. I have been seen by a genetic counselor because of my age. I have had non-routine ultrasounds to check the length of my cervix. My doctor asks different questions than were asked in my previous pregnancies. And every Friday, I go in to get a shot of progesterone intended to help me carry to term.
Many women count down the weeks remaining in a pregnancy. There are even social media apps that will tell all of one’s friends how much time is left before baby makes his or her debut. For this pregnancy, I have not been counting down. Rather, I have been counting up. For me, making it to 28 weeks is huge. (No, this is not a comment on how big I have gotten.) And each week, making it that one step farther brings a renewed sense of relief. And a reminder that I’m not there yet. I won’t be able to completely let go of my fears until I am holding my healthy full-term baby. Of course, that’s when the normal fears of parenting will take over. But those won’t seem so bad considering all I’ve gone through to get to where I am today…