Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Birthday

Thirteen years ago today, I woke to contractions. I was 34.5 weeks pregnant and scheduled for a hospital visit and pre-registration later that morning. We met my ob-gyn at her office beforehand. I still remember her words, "What do you think?"

"I think we're going to have a baby, today."

My son had been born 9 weeks prematurely. Doctors tried to stop the contractions without success. This doctor was hopeful my contractions would stop. She sent us to pre-registration at the hospital, asking them to check me again at the end of the visit.

We were given a quick tour by a very nervous receptionist. My water broke at the end of the visit and we were quickly moved into the room we had just toured. I was going to have another preemie.

There were several complications during the birth, the most dangerous being the umbilical chord was wrapped around our daughter's neck not once, but twice. Each contraction would be bring a slowing heartbeat. Enter high doses of Pitocin and I dilated from 3 cm to 10 cm in 20 minutes, avoiding a C-section by minutes. Our daughter arrived, weighing just 4 pounds 4 ounces, tiny and blue. Yet, like Kate DiCamillo's tiny mouse, Despereaux, she was "born with eyes open." My husband and I will never forget when she turned her tiny head to look directly at him the first time she heard his voice outside of the womb. The bond formed at that moment was a bond that will last a lifetime.

She was unable to maintain her own body temperature and her heart rate was of concern. She was rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit, her home for her first week. Doctors discovered a reflux that affected both breathing and heart rate and she would go home with a monitor that weighed nearly as much as she. It would be her guardian for the first year of her life.

The reason for my premature births remained a mystery. I did not drink or smoke. I ate well and exercised. I was not severely under or overweight. I was told that if we chose to have a third child, it would be a preemie. The doctor was right. Nearly five years later, our youngest entered the world, at almost the same age as her sister, weighing just 2.5 pounds. It would be many more years before we would learn the reason for the premature births. I was fighting a chronic bacterial infection. I had Lyme disease.

It has been well documented in scientific literature that the Lyme bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, can cause miscarriages, premature births and still births. Transplacental transmission has also been documented and we are convinced both of our daughters have been fighting this disease since birth. I would love to see Lyme tests for mothers and infants after unexplained premature births, though I wish we had a better test, knowing that the current test would potentially miss many.

On this day, we celebrate our daughter, a beautiful young woman, who brings so much joy to those who know her. We give heartfelt thanks to the fabulous doctor who saved her life at birth and to the fabulous doctor who has given her a new lease on life as she continues to fight Lyme and its co-infections. We are blessed beyond words.