It is one of many joyous “moments of a lifetime”. That moment you see those two pink lines; it’s positive! You are pregnant. Your mind wanders, daydreaming about a perfect pregnancy and birth plan. You fantasize about that beautiful moment the doctor hands you a chubby, perfect little newborn. It is a dream come true. But for some, that dream turns into a frightening nightmare and an unexpected journey that changes your world forever. And if you fall into this category, you are not alone.
On a hot summer evening in 2013, I was 25 weeks pregnant. I went to bed never imagining that night, my life would be forever altered. In the middle of the night, I woke to discover my water had broken. My husband rushed me to the hospital where a doctor confirmed Preterm Premature Rupture of Membranes (PPROM). According to the PPROM Foundation, a non-profit whose mission is to support those experiencing PPROM, 150,000 women are effected by PPROM yearly and it causes 30-40 percent of preterm births. Yet, despite those statistics, many have never heard of this complication. I know I hadn’t heard of it before.
Bed rest- The hospital becomes your home
I was told I would not be leaving the hospital until I delivered and the outcome for my baby’s future seemed bleak. Doctors said most women deliver within two weeks of PPROM. Neonatologists visited with the hard facts, telling us about the odds of survival and disability for each gestational week I remained pregnant. And my end goal would be induction at 34 weeks- the point doctors believe it would be safer to have the child outside of the womb and in the NICU.
Petrified, I was given antibiotics and steroids to help the baby’s lungs strengthen, and admitted to the high risk floor to hope and wait. I could feel my son kicking and I got to hear his heartbeat twice daily on the monitor. I couldn’t stop thinking “How could this tiny human feel so perfect and be in such peril? How could I have failed my son?” And there was no answer. I realized eventually I hadn’t done anything to cause this and it wasn’t my fault.
What to do about PPROM
There is little that can be done to fix PPROM and it is rare that an amniotic sac will reseal. I began preemptive measures. All I could do was try to remain pregnant and give my son the best chance for survival. The PPROM Foundation website offers a PPROM Regimen of personal care that can be discussed with your high risk doctor.
PPROM Moms need to drink tons of water which helps create small pockets of fluid. The fluid eventually leaks out, so I drank continuously. Staying hydrated also helped avoid painful uterine contractions. I took vitamins and drank cranberry juice to try to avoid infection. When the amniotic sac is ruptured, it is easily exposed to infection. I also laid on a bed chuck that I changed each time I leaked to keep moisture away from my body. Nurses frequently checked my temperature and vitals, watching for signs of infection.
And I waited. The white board on the wall across my bed had the gestation written in large colorful numbers and each day we celebrated remaining pregnant. And each weekly milestone we celebrated more. Every week that passed meant a better chance for a positive outcome.
Coping with an unexpected journey
I read a lot and watched a lot of Netflix. I got to know the nurses that took care of me. They kept me company while my husband was at work. The highlight of my week was my journey to the ultrasound room where I could see my little man. I cried a lot. I journaled. Friends and family called and visited and sent care packages. My brother even mailed me my favorite goodies from Katz’s Deli in New York City, a welcome break from hospital food.
I found comfort and support online in numerous Facebook support groups. I connected with women across the world who were in my current situation or had previously suffered PPROM. These strangers gave me hope and inspired me to carry on. They were a positive light during some very dark days. And as the days stretched into weeks I did my best to remain positive. I feared negative thoughts would create negative results.
Fifty-four days after I arrived at the hospital in the middle of the night, my son decided he was ready to see the world. I went into labor naturally and Logan was born at exactly 33 weeks gestation, weighing 3lb 2 oz. Immediately, the NICU team rushed him away. He was not breathing due to a collapsed lung. In the first moments of his life, doctors inserted a chest tube, surgery that saved his life. I waited three long days before I got to hold my tiny son. And for 38 total days, he learned to feed and grow in the NICU before we brought him home.
Hope for the high risk
Today, he is a happy, energetic, smart, and most importantly healthy four-year old boy. He has a love of cars, music and aspires to one day be Spiderman. He has no lasting effects from his frightening journey into this world, and a heck of a story that I will share with him one day.
This is my story of hope, perseverance and a mother’s love. And I share it with the world so other women in this precarious situation will know they are not alone. In fact, recently some celebrities have come forward with similar stories. Both Anna Faris and Vanessa Lachey delivered preemies after PPROM. My hope is they utilize their platform as public figures to teach more women about this devastating complication. While there is no cure, bringing attention to PPROM will allow women to be better educated, informed and prepared if they find themselves in need.
Here are some tips that helped me get through PPROM:
- Follow doctors order and stay on bedrest!
- Keep hydrated, drink tons of water each day
- Maintain a regimen of vitamins as suggested by your doctor.
- Avoid unnecessary internal examinations to aim to keep infection chances minimal
- Schedule your day. Creating a routine helped me pass the time and gave me things to look forward to daily.
- Mark each day you remain pregnant off on a calendar and take a moment to celebrate. Remember that each day that passes is a victory.
- There are PPROM support groups. These women are in similar situations or have previously been in your shoes.
- Ask questions. Remember no question is silly and the doctors and nurses are there to answer them all for you.
- Advocate for yourself. If you are uncomfortable or have concerns notify someone.
- Stay positive, determined and hopeful for a good outcome. A positive mindset goes a long way in making the journey a bit easier.