I’ve been meaning to write about this for awhile, but I never got around to it. It’s funny, but from the moment I found out I was pregnant I knew I would give birth early, I figured it would be around Christmas, just hopefully not on Christmas.
Having babies early isn’t new in my family, although preemies are. My mother had three children and her first two were both two weeks early, while the youngest was three weeks late. I forgot to ask my Aunt about both of her births, so I’m not sure where they fell on the spectrum. But, I did learn from my Grandma that she had three of her four children two weeks early and that my Great Aunt (not blood related) had her three children about 6 weeks early (if I remember correctly.)
While I thought my daughter would be early, I didn’t realize she would be a preemie, so I thought the fact that my sister had had a preemie was just a fluke and it wouldn’t pertain to me. Therefore, I didn’t prepare or expect a preemie except to make sure there was an NICU at the hospital as a what if.
I don’t know my biological father’s side of the family and when women gave birth. So I don’t know whose side this is on or if it is on any side, but I am going to argue that if both I and my sister had preemies it may be hereditary. Now many people don’t think it can be, but I think if both my grandma and my mother had the majority of their children two weeks early that is likely hereditary to a degree, but I’m not a scientist.
So what is the point of this? Ask all your female relatives about when they gave birth if you are able to. Was it early? Was it late? On time? Was anyone born premature? It might seem silly to ask or even consider it. Maybe if I had mentioned my sister had a preemie the doctor would have listened better. I had a friend translate to the doctor when I switched hospitals about two or three weeks before I gave birth, “Is it possible that I’ll give birth early like my mother and grandmother?” The doctor dismissed my question as nonsense. She also pushed my due date back from January 8th to the 12th.
She wanted to check my cervix, but I didn’t see the point at the time. I assumed based on translation she wanted to do a pap smear, and I already had one done much earlier in my pregnancy so I wasn’t interested. In hindsight, maybe it would have shown something wrong with my cervix, I don’t know. I probably did lose my mucus plug slowly in the day or two before I gave birth now that I reflect back on it, but I never thought anything of it because it was so little and it was only one or two times that I noticed a small amount of discharge.
I honestly think at the end of the day it might have been my work. I was teaching at three schools and my main school was the roughest one to teach at. I was teaching elementary school grades 1,2, & 3 from October until I gave birth. The school I taught at was huge with 10 classes per grade and 50 students in each class. The problem with this school was that my office where I rested between classes and for lunch was on the fourth floor. I mostly taught on the first and second floor. There was no elevator in the school so I was going up and down flights of stairs nonstop throughout my pregnancy. I also never really rested in class, some classrooms didn’t have a chair for me to sit and honestly with small children sitting in the classroom does not work.
I’m an active teacher, I was always at the front of the room standing in class, walking around asking kids questions to keep them engaged, and dancing and singing along with them during each class even the day before I gave birth I taught classes dancing with the kids. I also occasionally once a week walked the 2 kilometers to work from the subway station to the school while getting a coffee at Starbucks to treat myself from my super early commute. I would leave at 6:30 am to get a seat on the subway even though I would have to sit at work for another 2-3 hours before I started to teach. All of the extra travel and early wake ups must have taken a toll on my body, although I just powered through it all.
Many people kept telling me how strong my body was or how energetic I was for a pregnant person. I might be pregnant, but my job is to show up for these children and hopefully they learn something from me. I’m also the breadwinner of my family, being a no show was not an option. Being pregnant and knowing I would be out of work for at least 3 – 4 months was one of the reasons I did the second school where I taught 7 classes back to back every Friday. At least that school had an elevator, haha. And my third school was once a week for two hours after my longest day at the elementary school.
Looking back it may have been the stairs or the fact I was standing for 40 minutes every class for between three to seven classes Monday through Friday. I probably should have taken it easier, but I wouldn’t have. I’m sure it had more to do with my workload than the occasional 20,000 steps I walked at seven and eight months pregnant. However, I always made it a point to walk at least 5,000 steps a day, if not up to 10,000. I always had one – three days above 10,000 steps as well.
Could the reason I gave birth early be from the stress on my body from my job and commute? Was it the walking? Was it PPROM which occurs in less than 3% of pregnant women? I’ll never really know and I was never really given an answer as to what it might have been. I will say though my water broke and gushed like a river, no lie. I was not part of the 90% who had a little trickle when their water broke. So what’s the point in writing all of this? To encourage other women to ask their female relatives on both sides of the family their birthing history. Don’t leave that to the unknown, but see what you might expect based on genetics.
Be prepared for an NICU trip or the possibility of a preemie. Make sure your hospital has an NICU unit before you enter your third trimester of pregnancy. Ask what the policies around the NICU are, I never did and it sucked going through it. I also never planned on a preemie, if I had known I would have given birth back in America, but if I had tried to fly home when I thought to on December 3rd, 2019, I probably would have given birth on a damn airplane since I went into labor on the night of the 5th. (Also, I’d be stuck in the USA most likely due to Covid-19). My pregnancy was completely normal and healthy all the way up until two days prior to delivery when I went for the non-stress test. I wasn’t sick, but my premature labor was a surprise and I was in denial. So do yourself a favor and your loved ones a favor who are pregnant, ask about NICU’s and learn about the risks of premature birth. I’m 35-40% likely to give birth to another preemie when I want to try for a second child. Will my body fail me again in the future?
In retrospect, I wish I had read more about the probability of having a preemie and about the NICU experience. I wish I hadn’t have gone in blind and thinking there is no way it will happen to me. So, if you get pregnant or know someone at least do a little research first about it, it may not happen to you, but your pregnancy could be the one in ten that does end that way. Until the end of time I’ll always wonder where my body failed and what I did wrong ( I know I didn’t do anything wrong). And when we are ready for a second child I will probably be anxious the entire pregnancy anticipating and wondering if I will give birth to a second preemie, hopefully not but one never knows.