I'd never heard the word antepartum before I found myself in an Antepartum unit, at 23 weeks 4 days, trying desperately to stay pregnant with our first child. I'd had a placenta abruption and was admitted immediately, given the first of three rounds of steroid shots, started a continuous IV of magnesium sulfate, and was told to settle in for the duration - either until I reached 32 weeks, or gave birth, whichever came first.
I spent 21 days in that unit - 16 on bedrest, and then 5 days after I had our son, Ryley, at exactly 26 weeks gestation. They were long, boring, lonely days. It was so surreal. They don't talk about antepartum units in What to Expect, or at least I never saw that paragraph. There wasn't any mention of perinatologists either, but I got to know antepartum and perinatologists well. I had a room to myself. My husband brought in a boom box, and a VCR player he attached to the cable-less tv. I tried reading, but if you've ever been on mag, you know how well that went - absolutely incapable of concentrating or processing anything I'd read, I'd give up after a few paragraphs. I happened to be on hospital bedrest during the 2000 Summer Olympics, which were in Sydney, Australia. I watched nearly every televised minute of those Olympics. I watched sports I'd never paid attention to before. I had my routine every day...the Today Show while I ate breakfast, local news once that was done, lunch and a nap, then Oprah and Rosie O'Donnel and a snack, the news again, dinner, and then back to the Olympics until they signed off at 11pm. Lather, rinse, repeat.
In the early days, I had a lot of visitors. My dad flew in from Arizona, my mother-in-law from San Diego. They split days hanging out with me, MIL in the morning, Daddy in the afternoon. My mom and sister came in over the weekend. But as the days dragged on, and we knew I was going to be there awhile, the immediacy fell away, and I was alone most of the time during the day. My husband would come stay with me most nights, but he worked long hours, and his office was over an hour away, our home 45 minutes a different direction. Besides tv, I looked at magazines (one of my sisters put together an amazing basket for me full of my favorite snacks, candy, and magazines), I listened to baseball games, and slept. I did get to "see" my baby frequently on ultrasounds that seemed to happen every other day. He was monitored three times a day. I'd lost 8 pounds in six days, of the 14 I'd gained my pregnancy to date, so I was put on a feeding program, and my husband was told to bring in all of my favorite foods. I had my own spot in the fridge/freezer at the nurse's station. I felt like I was eating every five minutes.
I can't imagine antepartum is much better now, with the exception of social media and the availability of WiFi. The days are still long. You're still doing all you can to stay pregnant as long as possible, and give your baby the best chance for survival. There are still good nurses, and annoying ones.
After sixteen days in antepartum, I developed a staph infection. With my fever soaring to 104, and no idea where the infection had settled - if it were in my uterus or no, we had to let our baby come, and not via C-section. At exactly 26 weeks gestation, weighing exactly 2 pounds, and exactly 15 inches long, our son Ryley was born. I spent five more days in my room in the antepartum unit as they first decided how to treat my staph infection, and then worked out the logistics of administering meds through my very own PICC line three times a day for four weeks. When I finally left, after three long weeks inside, my world had changed but the rest of the world had kept spinning. It took two carts to get all my stuff to our car. There weren't any balloons, no carseat, no baby with us. That would come three months later, when Ryley finally came home on Christmas Day. My time in antepartum changed me, as much as our time with Ryley in the NICU. I'd never look at pregnancy the same again.
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