“You need to get out.”
I was about 28 weeks pregnant when my husband dropped what every pregnant military wife wants to hear…. “babe, I will not be here when the baby is born.”
I knew this was a possibility but still hearing the official news was heartbreaking. We just found out we had a high risk pregnancy as I had a severe case of polyhydramnios (excess amniotic fluid that occurs in about 1-2% of pregnancies). I already looked like I was 40 weeks pregnant and was in lymphedema therapy for the swelling twice a week.
You see, my husband Austin is a Cobra pilot in the United States Marine Corps and I could not be prouder of him. We are both from Bucks County, Pennsylvania and at the time were stationed in North Carolina. I am an Oncology Nurse and was working full time for the local hospital that I would be delivering at. Preparing myself for the possibility that Austin may not be there as we started trying to conceive mentally helped me not have a nervous breakdown, but it was still a tough pill to swallow.
I was scheduled to be induced at about 39 weeks on Friday, September 7th for the polyhydramnios. My mom and dad planned to come down from Pennsylvania and my best friend Amanda, a fellow military spouse, planned to be with me during my hospital stay.
On Wednesday, September 5th, 2018, I just felt strange.
I worked an entire shift and was more uncomfortable than usual. I was having increased swelling and a ton of Braxton hicks. Amanda came over after work and we walked for over an hour around the neighborhood and reviewed what I had in my hospital bag. Before she left that night I said “keep your phone near you, I have a feeling that tonight is the night.”
Sure enough, I began having contractions that were intense and regular. When they became 3 minutes apart, I called Amanda. Of course she didn’t answer! I called again and again and finally called her roommate Chuck who said “Alanna, are you okay?” In which I huffed out “GET AMANDA.” Amanda was on her way and I called my husband. To my surprise Austin answered and said “if you can wait until Sunday to have the baby, I will be able to facetime!” I wanted to strangle him… that was another 4 days away.
We arrived at the hospital and they confirmed I was having regular, intense contractions 2 minutes apart, but my cervix was not even dilated. She said they were going to send me home and left the monitoring device on my belly. About 10 minutes later, the nurse comes back and says “I just woke up the doctor and she will come talk to you, but in the meantime we are admitting you”.
Boluses of IV fluids were started, a ton of labs were drawn and they whisked me to labor and delivery and strategically placed me in the room right next to the OR. The doctor, who happened to be my main OB/GYN, came in. She told me the baby was extremely lethargic and they are trying to get him to wake up with some bolus of fluids, but if he doesn’t respond in 30 minutes they are taking me to the OR for an emergency c-section. I signed the consent and just sat in bed, as Amanda sat in there with me. I was scared beyond belief. Fortunately the baby became more responsive and the emergency c-section was off the table for the time being. However, they said they were not letting me leave until I had this baby. It was time! The induction process was about to start.
My nurse Babs looked at me and said “you are getting in the shower right now because it is the last one you will take for a couple of days.” I was on continuous monitoring so she told me I had to call her the second I was done. I did as told and she came rushing in with a heated blanket and wrapped me up, reconnected my belly monitor, and Amanda blow dried and straightened my hair in bed. I felt like I was at the hospital spa, until Babs inserted that Cervidil into my cervix which felt like a tampon covered in sand paper. All of my spa illusions went right out the window.
After the cervidil, I received 4 doses of cytotec, another cervical ripener to try to get my cervix soft. It finally did the trick and the doctor was able to insert the foley bulb. I was ready for my epidural!
At this point it was Friday at 10am.
Saturday afternoon comes and my water finally breaks and the foley bulb comes out, ironically at the same time my husband sent flowers to the birthing suite. My girlfriend Holly came to sit with Amanda and I and we all cried with happiness. We thought maybe the baby would finally come today, coincidentally, my father in law’s birthday…. How special. But the baby had other plans.
My parents arrived Saturday night and my mom and Amanda shared the little guest bed in the room, not wanting to leave my side. Sunday rolls around and I am exhausted and defeated. No one wants to tell me there is a hurricane coming either… and a bad one. You might think I am referring to my pending labor and delivery, but there was a tropical hurricane building outside my hospital window.
Amanda went home to “take care of the dogs real quick”, but in reality, she had to board up her windows. She didn’t want to add to the already stressful situation I was in. She too was defeated from watching such a slow induction and seeing how tiring it was on me, in addition to the fear of the growing storm. A new MD comes in, Dr. Labenne, the only OB I did not meet during my multiple doctor appointments because she was on maternity leave herself. I also had a new nurse named Tifni who was a rockstar.
After I instantly realize how much I love Dr. Labenne and Tifni, she cranked the pitocin up even higher.
“You are almost at your 24 hour mark since your water broke…. I am going to do a c-section and if I come back and there is still no baby, we have to take you to the OR.” I was only 6cm dilated but took this news well; I just wanted the baby to be healthy and safe no matter how he entered this world. But my body was tired and I was hungry. I was losing steam. About 30 minutes after Dr. Labenne left the room, I had such severe pain and was vomiting uncontrollably. The epidural was no longer working and I was miserable. No one could quite figure out what was going on and they went to get the doctor. Tifni looks down below and goes “THE BABY IS COMING!” We all cried.
It was time to push and Amanda just made it back in time. It was now Sunday…. SUNDAY! Just as my husband requested. He was able to be on facetime for the entire experience and the nurses made sure he had a front row seat.
Giovanni Michael was born on Sunday, September 9th at 1:30PM after 83 hours of induction and labor.
He was perfect. All was perfect. Until Austin asked what our plans were for the hurricane coming. My mom reminded him we recently dealt with a hurricane, but my husband clarified, “No, this is serious, there is a CAT 5 hurricane that is predicted to make landfall in Wilmington. You need to get out.”
Because of multiple complications, we were in the hospital until Tuesday night, September 11th.
Since Giovanni and I both had high fevers when he was born, we had pending blood cultures to make sure there was no systemic infection. It was the only time we showed any signs or symptoms of infection throughout our stay in the hospital, but his pediatrician wanted to keep us until the blood cultures resulted, which would not be until Wednesday. I fought tooth and nail for her to discharge us, but she would not budge.
Our neighborhood in Hampstead was under mandatory evacuation orders because of our proximity to the intercoastal waterway.
We not only had to be out of our neighborhood by 8am on Wednesday, September 12th, but out of the hospital. If you weren’t discharged by then, you were stuck until after the hurricane had passed and it was safe to do so. I spoke with the nursing manager on the unit and we agreed that if I could get Giovanni an appointment in Pennsylvania for Thursday, then she would push to have me discharged, and fortunately she did. My parents quickly moved all of our important belongings to the second floor of our home, brought in the outside furniture, packed up important documents and clothes, and secured our home. They also loaded up the cars so we could leave. They were rockstars.
On September 12th at 4am, we evacuated with a 3 day old baby on a 14 hour to drive back to Bucks County, PA.
I cried, a lot. I didn’t know if we would see our house again, I cried about the 9 months of wine I saved and had to leave (unrealistic, but hormones make you do weird things!!) and I was just an overly tired hormonal wreck. My dad had my dog, Diesel, and their dog in his truck and my mom was with Giovanni and I. Since my mom can’t see in the dark, I had to drive until daylight (in my diaper because the bleeding was rough). After 14 hours, we made it back to Bucks County. We were safe.
Over the next few days I watched in horror as Hurricane Florence wreaked havoc on our town.
She made landfall in Wrightsville Beach, the beach town located right outside of Wilmington. Many people lost homes and roads were completely gone. Amanda had severe damage to her home and was displaced for months. Our neighborhood had a lot of damage, but we were by far the luckiest house on the block. We were only missing 3 shingles and some fence damage. I still count my blessings.
I was unable to get back to North Carolina for weeks due to the roads being washed out. I did not even want to take that risk with a newborn, even though my father in law said he would drive me back. Giovanni, Diesel and I stayed with my parents up until my sister in laws wedding, which was 5 weeks after I had Giovanni. My other best friend, Allie, graciously watched Giovanni for me so I could support my sister on the most special day of her life. I knew she needed me too since her big brother could not be there. I danced the night away in my white dress with my diaper underneath (yup, still needed that thing 5 weeks later!) and had an amazing time. A few days later, Austin was able to fly into Philadelphia and meet his son.
After 6 weeks of being away from home, we were all back in North Carolina and started our chapter as a family of 3.
Giovanni is by far the most social, outgoing little boy I know. He is now 3 and the highlight of our lives. We call him our hurricane baby or G-Storm at times. I have no hate or bitterness towards that time as God gave us the most precious gift, Giovanni, and I know throwing him out into the real word so young has only shaped who he is.
A beautiful story of something no one could imagine but the out come was wonderful. God blessed you with a beautiful family. Merry Christmas 🎄 my friend
Wow honey I had no idea what you went through. Your a strong lady. So proud to know you! Love Donna Swank
Wow honey I had no idea what you went through. Your a strong lady. So proud to know you! Love Donna Swank