Cali, a listener of Healthful Woman and High Risk Birth Stories, volunteered to share her own story. Cali’s first baby was born unexpectedly premature. After months of nausea symptoms, Cali went into labor at 31 weeks. She shares her experience caring for her son, Jagger, in the NICU as well as her second pregnancy.
“An Unexpected Preterm Birth” – with Cali Rosalia
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Dr. Fox: Welcome to “High Risk Birth Stories” brought to you by the creators of the “Healthful Woman” podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Nathan Fox. “High Risk Birth Stories” is a podcast designed to give you the listener a window into life-changing experiences of pregnancy, fertility, and childbirth. All right. Cali, thank you so much for coming on the podcast and for reaching out to volunteer to tell your story. I really appreciate it. How are you doing?
Cali: Yeah. I’m doing great. Thank you for having me on. I’m so excited to talk about my birth and everything that happened afterwards.
Dr. Fox: Excellent. Well, it is great. And we were just chatting before, and I asked you how you even found the podcast because you’re all the way in California and I’m not. So how’d you find us?
Cali: I’m the type of person that I like to do my research on everything that is going on with me at the time. So I was researching pregnancy podcasts, and I came across one called “My Essential Birth,” and you were a guest speaker on that, and I really liked your episode. So I looked up your podcasting, and I started listening to every single episode. And when you started doing your High Risk podcast, I started listening to all those.
Dr. Fox: What motivated you to volunteer your own story? Because, I mean, we have more listeners than we have volunteers.
Cali: With my first birth, the baby was premature, and it was completely unexpected, out of the blue. So my husband and I were in no way prepared for anything that happened. And it just kind of made me wonder like how many other people are out there like that that just have no clue and had never experienced anything like that. So I enjoy telling my story, that way other people can see that, you know, they’re not the only ones going through something like this, or if they’re like me where they feel like they need to research everything, don’t skip over parts of research. I never looked up anything to do with premature babies or the NICU because I thought, “Oh, that’s not gonna happen to me,” but it did.
Dr. Fox: Let’s get started with your story then. So we’re talking about the birth of your son, Jagger, correct?
Dr. Fox: And he was born in February of 2019, so a couple of years ago. So he’s a little bit over 2.
Dr. Fox: He must be tearing up the joint, right?
Cali: Oh, my gosh. Yeah. He’s a wild animal.
Dr. Fox: And you guys at the time and currently are in California. Yes?
Cali: Yes. In California in the Central Valley.
Dr. Fox: [Inaudible 00:02:33] And we were talking before that your name is Cali, and you’re not named after the state of California. However, you do have an interesting source for your name, right?
Cali: Yes. The song “Going Back to Cali” by LL Cool J, that was my mom’s favorite song when she was pregnant with me. So that’s how she came up with Cali, and it’s spelled the same way, C-A-L-I.
Dr. Fox: Love it. That’s awesome. So I guess at the time you got pregnant, it’s 2018, you’re living in California, and you’re married at the time to Jason?
Cali: Yeah. We actually found out that I was pregnant two weeks before the wedding.
Dr. Fox: Oh, wow. All right. There we go. Game on. Good stuff.
Cali: Yeah. So no drinking for me at the wedding, all the morning sickness, all that fun stuff.
Dr. Fox: You’re like, “Why is she so violently ill over marrying this guy?” That’s a bad sign, isn’t it, Margot?
Dr. Fox: Excellent. So you get pregnant, and, you know, things are rolling along. What was it like in the beginning of pregnancy? Were you super excited? Was it, you know, difficult on you physically or emotionally? How was it?
Cali: At first, I was very excited because my husband and I both, you know, wanted a baby. We’d been trying, and about a week after I found out is when all the pregnancy symptoms started to hit. So all my excitement turned into nausea and vomiting, and I couldn’t keep anything down. It was really rough. I ended up taking a month off of work because I was so sick. I couldn’t even just get up and function. So I was vomiting every day, every single day for the first 16 weeks, and I lost about 7 pounds, but the baby was healthy. So in all my appointments, you know, they’re like, “Oh, you’re fine. This will just go away after the first trimester. Baby’s healthy. You’re good to go.” And I was like, “Okay. This sucks, but the baby’s fine.”
Dr. Fox: Where are you in life at that time? Like, you know, how old are you, give or take, and what kind of work are you doing?
Cali: Twenty-seven, 28. And I work in a collision center for a car dealership. So a lot of interaction with customers, a lot of walking around the shop, it’s very busy. So I was trying to keep up with my work while I’m vomiting in the bathroom on the side, and it was pretty rough.
Dr. Fox: Right. And how did you find your doctors or your midwives, whoever was taking care of you?
Cali: Yeah. So it’s actually the insurance I have through my employer, which is Kaiser Permanente. I don’t know if they have that in the east coast, but it’s my favorite healthcare provider here. So I was very happy that I had them, and they do whatever doctors is on call. So for all my prenatal checkups, I would see the same doctor, and then when you go in to deliver, it’s just kind of whoever’s working at that time.
Dr. Fox: Got it. And other than the nausea, were there any specific concerns you had at the beginning of pregnancy either related to maybe your history, your family history, or just, you know, things you’d heard from friends and family? Was there anything that was specifically worrying you other than the fact that you’re throwing up every day?
Cali: No. Actually nothing. I had though…because they kept telling me the baby’s healthy, that’s all I was worried about, “Is the baby okay?” and they said, “Yep. Baby’s fine.” So I really just had no worries. I just wanted the nausea to go away because I was tired of vomiting, but everything was going perfectly normal, you know. There were no kind of warning signs that anything might be off or anything might happen later on.
Dr. Fox: Right. And then…so you said it went till you were about 16 weeks, and then did it just sort of stop suddenly, or did it, you know, slow down over time?
Cali: It went from vomiting every day to vomiting two to three times a week until the baby came out.
Dr. Fox: Oh. So it really didn’t go away, it just got better?
Cali: No. And everyone had been telling me, “Oh, it’ll go away after the first trimester. You’re almost there. You’re almost there.” And it just never went away.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. Not true. For many people, that’s the case, what have you. Were you on a lot of medications for it or you didn’t want to take any, or what was the situation there?
Cali: They did prescribe me Zofran for the nausea, which I took for maybe about two weeks, but I was kind of leery about taking it because I had researched everything I could on it and there were a lot of risk factors and potential side effects. So after about two weeks, I stopped taking it, and I just kind of powered through the rest of the nausea.
Dr. Fox: Wow. And did you begin to pick up weight again after you lost the initial 7 pounds?
Cali: I did. By the time I delivered, I had gained 7 pounds. So I gained my 7 pounds back that I lost and then 7 pounds on top of that. So that’s 14 more.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. That’s a big turnaround. And then so once the nausea, vomiting didn’t go away, but let’s say maybe a more manageable level or just less often, how did the pregnancy go from that point on?
Cali: It was good. My body would hurt a lot. I had a lot of back pain, a lot of that round ligament pain in the front. I actually went to the ER once because it hurt so bad in that round ligament, which I don’t know what it was at the time, but it was so painful. I went in, and they did an ultrasound. They checked me. They’re like, “Oh, it’s okay. You know, it’s your body going through the process.” And I was like, “This sucks.” But I mean, everything, you know, was normal. There was nothing really that happened that was abnormal or worrisome or anything like that.
Dr. Fox: Right. And are you guys the couple that likes to prepare a lot for after birth, like you were already, you know, buying clothes and getting furniture and painting a room and doing that? Are you more of the, you know, let’s wait till the baby’s born type of people?
Cali: Oh, everything beforehand. I had the room all ready to go. We had all the clothes, all the diapers, the bassinet was set up, everything.
Dr. Fox: So you knew it was gonna be a boy?
Cali: Yes. Found out right away as soon as we could.
Dr. Fox: Okay. So you have all this ready to go. And then what happened in your third trimester?
Cali: It was a Sunday evening, and we were making dinner. We had chicken in the oven, and I started…
Dr. Fox: You actually had chicken in the oven or that’s like a euphemism that you…
Cali: Yes. Chicken.
Dr. Fox: Okay. Got it. All right.
Cali: There was actually a chicken cooking in the oven for dinner. And I was walking around, kind of picking up the house, and I started feeling like I was leaking down there, and I didn’t know if it was normal because I heard, you know, in the third trimester, you could start discharging more and things like that. So I kinda just kept an eye on it for maybe about 30 minutes or so, and then I told Jason, I said, “Babe, this feels like I’m leaking a lot. Like, I think maybe we should call Kaiser.” So I spoke to an advice nurse, and she said, you know, “Monitor it for the next hour, and if it starts leaking down your thigh, then you need to come in right away.” So we did that, and it was leaking down my thigh. So we’re like, “Okay, well, we’ll just go in and have them check me out just to make sure everything’s okay.” So we took the chicken out…
Dr. Fox: How far pregnant are you at this time?
Cali: Thirty-one weeks and four days.
Dr. Fox: Right. So I mean, you’re a couple months early. You’re totally not expecting this to happen.
Cali: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. We figured, “We’ll go drive into Kaiser. They’ll look at me. They’ll say it’s fine. They’ll send us home.” Right?
Dr. Fox: Right.
Cali: So we were just kind of going in for peace of mind.
Dr. Fox: What did you think it was if it wasn’t your water break, then just some discharge, or maybe you peed or something like that?
Cali: Yeah. Because I had a close friend who would tell me she was pregnant a couple months before me, and she’s like, “Oh, yeah. I would leak all the time. I thought I was peeing myself, that it’s fine.” So I figured maybe that’s what was happening to me. I wasn’t used to that much discharge coming out. We just headed over to Kaiser. They’re about 20 minutes away from us. We didn’t bring anything with us, you know, hospital bag or anything because we figured they’d just sent us right back home. We got there, and at about 9:00 p.m., got us into a bed. They did an ultrasound. They did a swab in there. A little while later, they came back, and they said, “Well, this is amniotic fluid, so you’re not leaving.”
Dr. Fox: What was it like at that moment?
Cali: I was in so much shock. I couldn’t believe it. I was like, “What do you mean we’re not leaving? Like, I’m only 31 weeks along. I still have two more months left.” And they said you’re leaking fluid. It could be, you know, the sac could kind of heal up on its own and you could stop leaking or it could continue leaking. So you need to stay here. We’re gonna monitor you and the baby.” And at the time the plan was for them to keep me there at the hospital for two weeks, and, you know, if I kept leaking and everything, then at the two-week mark, they were gonna induce me to get the baby out. So I just bawled my eyes out. I had cried. I was upset. I didn’t understand. My husband, who is a worrywart, you know, was trying to be strong for me in front of me, but he was completely upset and worried. So they got me into a room. My husband went back to the house to start packing a bag because we were gonna be there for two weeks, called family, called close friends, let them know what was going on. And he came back to the hospital, and they had the monitor on my belly and everything. And at that time, my back was hurting really bad. And I figured it was because the uncomfortable hospital bed. So I was like, “Man, this is gonna be miserable. Two weeks on this bed, my back is already hurting, and it’s only been a couple hours. I don’t know how I’m gonna do this.” It was actually contractions that were starting in my back. I just didn’t know what that was.
Dr. Fox: Meaning the water broke first and you were not having that pain, and then a few hours later while you’re there, the pain began.
Cali: Yes, exactly.
Dr. Fox: Got it. Okay.
Cali: And I didn’t even know that you could have like…that you could feel contractions in your back. I had no clue. I thought it was only in the front. So that’s why I thought, “Oh, my back is just hurting from the bed.” After a couple hours went by and my husband was sleeping, you know, on that little pullout bed in the room, and I was at this point crying because my back was hurting so bad. So the nurse came in, gave me a heating pad, and then they said, “Well, let’s just check you and see if maybe you’re dilating.” So they checked me, and I was about 5 centimeters, and that was only a couple hours after them telling us, “You’re leaking fluids. You’re gonna be here for two weeks.” And they said, “Okay, at this point, call whoever you want to call to get here to be in the room with you because the baby’s gonna come.”
Dr. Fox: Wow. At that time, I’m curious, did you have any either understanding or did they talk to you about what to expect for the baby at 31 to 32 weeks? Meaning are you thinking in your head, “Oh, my God. This is crazy, but my baby will be okay,” or, “Oh my God, this is crazy and my baby won’t be okay or maybe yes, maybe no”? What was your understanding at that moment in time? Because you’d just only been there a few hours, you know, never thought about this before, obviously.
Cali: I really had no idea of what to expect when the baby came out, and I don’t remember anyone there talking to me about that, about what it would be like. I don’t know if that’s because I was, you know, going through contractions at that point and I was in labor, so I don’t remember anyone talking about that. But I was concerned about the baby coming out if he was gonna come out alive, you know, or one of the things that was said to me was the nurse came in, and she asked if I wanted an epidural or if I wanted the pain medication through the IV. And I said, “I don’t want an epidural. I’ve never wanted one. I don’t want one.” But I was thinking about maybe getting the IV meds. And she said, you know, “You can get that. That’s your choice, but we don’t know if the baby’s gonna come out struggling to breathe or, you know, his condition. So the least amount of medication that you have in your system is gonna be most beneficial to the baby.” So I said, “Okay. Then let’s do nothing.” So we just went on natural. They did give me magnesium, and they gave me a steroid shot.
Dr. Fox: Right. And probably antibiotics, I’m guessing. The hospital you were at had a NICU?
Cali: Yes. And I didn’t even know what a NICU was at that point.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. Because, I mean, frequently, you know, if it’s a hospital that has a NICU and whatnot, they’ll come down and talk to you about, you know, what to expect and, you know, what it’s like. But usually, if someone comes in at 9 at night, and their water’s broken, and they’re not in labor, everyone’s like, “All right. You know, admit her. We’ll get her tucked in. We’ll give her this, we’ll give her that, we’ll go her this.” And, you know, tomorrow they’ll come and talk to her and tell her what it’s like at 32 weeks, 33 weeks, 34 weeks, but probably just happened so fast that there wasn’t time to really have that full…because it takes a long time to go over all these things with you. Probably just didn’t have time to have that full conversation with you, but you’re left sort of with that uncertainty. It’s very disconcerting, obviously, to not know what’s gonna be and even not know what to expect.
Cali: Yeah. Exactly. And I’m sure they would’ve come in, you know, like you said, the next day and talked to me about all that, but there was just no time. It just kind of happened out of the blue, and they didn’t even know why. They couldn’t tell me what brought it on, what caused it, so…
Dr. Fox: Right. What about your… Was there an obstetrician there with you at the time? Because you mentioned the nurses, the nurses. Who was the doctor?
Cali: I don’t remember ever seeing or talking to the doctor until the baby was coming out.
Dr. Fox: Whoa. All right.
Cali: Yeah. But I had my husband, Jason, in there with me in the room, obviously. And then we had my mom come in, and she was in the room with us too. My mom thinks that maybe I was in shock because I don’t remember my mom being there. Like, I remember hearing her talk a couple of times, but I don’t feel like I was fully, I guess, present in the room. I was just kind of so deep in my own just pain and fear. I don’t really remember all the people that came in and out.
Dr. Fox: Right. It is possible that, you know, of all the people around in the room, one of them was the obstetrician that did all the things and spoke to you, and you would not remember that or think it was a conversation with a nurse. Yeah. That happens. I mean, that happens a lot. That’s not so uncommon. And so you’re in labor, you’re not getting an epidural. You’re in pain. You’re 5 centimeters dilated. And, obviously, you’re aware that you’re gonna deliver at this point, like, it’s happening, and it’s happening in the near future. How did you ultimately deliver? What happened?
Cali: I just kept having all the contractions in my back. So I felt like my back was breaking. I felt nothing in the front. And after a while, it was about 9:00 in the morning. So about exactly 12 hours from when we got there, I started feeling that urge to push, and it felt incredible to push. It was like a relief, right?
Dr. Fox: Yeah. You pushing. It’s the pain.
Cali: Yes. It felt so good. And he came out quick. I pushed for about seven minutes, and he was out.
Dr. Fox: Wow. Okay.
Cali: Yeah. And I swear I felt every single fingernail and toenail scrape on the way out.
Dr. Fox: Wow. How much did he ultimately weigh?
Cali: He was 4 pounds, 6 ounces.
Dr. Fox: That’s pretty good for 31 weeks. Did he scream when he was born? He squeal?
Cali: He did. Yup.
Dr. Fox: That must have been a relief.
Cali: It was. Yeah. He came out very healthy for being that early, and they weighed him twice to make sure that he actually weighed that much because they’re like, “Wow, he’s a good size.” They did take him right away and put him in the incubator. And they didn’t let my husband cut the cord because they just had to cut it and get him in there. And they put the three IVs in his belly button. They put him on a feeding tube, the oxygen.
Dr. Fox: Right. Did he need to be intubated with a tube down his throat or just the oxygen in his nose?
Cali: No, just in his nose.
Dr. Fox: Oh, good. Okay. That’s a plus. And how long was he ultimately in the NICU?
Cali: For 31 days.
Dr. Fox: Thirty-one days. Oh, which is about, you know, what’s gonna be expected at that point. You wouldn’t expect much shorter than that, I guess. So once he delivered, and you’re like, “Okay, he’s okay,” in that sense, at least in the short-term he’s okay, how long until you were able to, you know, go to the NICU, spend time with him, hold him, feed him, you know, whatever it was to, you know, really start to bond with him because, clearly, it wasn’t right away because they whisked him away?
Cali: Exactly. Yeah. They took them away right away. They got me stitched up because I did tear, they got me cleaned up, and then they immediately put me on a pump, a breast pump, which I was in shock because I didn’t know anything about that either. They started trying to get that colostrum out. So maybe…
Dr. Fox: You’re like, “This is a medieval device.”
Cali: I know. Oh, my gosh, that was awful. It was so bad. And I had no clue that was coming. So it was a shock upon shock upon shock. After he came out, maybe an hour or two by the time I got all cleaned up, pumped, then they wheeled me over there to the NICU. I went in with my dad because Jason had already, you know, been in there spending time with the baby while I was getting cleaned up. So I went into the NICU with my dad, and I saw Jagger for the first time in there, and I just cried my eyes out because I never expected to see my baby in this box hooked up to wires and cables. And it was awful. It was the worst feeling ever. I could put my hand in there and just gently rested on his leg or his hand, but I couldn’t, you know, make a petting motion, you know, to touch his skin. I couldn’t hold him. I couldn’t move him. I could just barely touch his little skin. And that’s all I could do for the first three days. They wanted to make sure that there was no bleeding in the brain and make sure that he was pretty stable, which he was. That was fine. But, yeah, so for three days, I couldn’t hold him, which was really rough.
Dr. Fox: After the three days, did that sort of…the experience of how, you know, terrible that was, you know, scary that was to have him in the NICU, did it ease up a little bit? Did it get better or not until he came home?
Cali: It got a little better. I guess I got used to it, but I cried every single day for those 31 days. And for the first probably two and a half weeks, I would cry as soon as I walked in there and saw him in his little incubator box. Like, I couldn’t help it. I just bawled every day.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. Listen, I think that’s really powerful and it’s important because, again, you’re talking about a situation where he’s doing well and it’s still so terrifying, and it’s scary, and it’s upsetting just the fact that he’s premature and he’s in a NICU and he needs all these things. And, again, this is a situation where things are going well, and you can imagine, like, how difficult it is for parents in that circumstance, how much more so it is for parents whose kids are not only having this but aren’t doing well. It’s a very difficult experience to have a kid in the NICU.
Cali: It is. And we did see other parents there where their babies came in either before our son or after and they were in a worse state. You know, one of the baby right next to Jagger did have that tube down his throat. While we were there, there was a 24-weeker that came in, which was terrifying. You know, that baby was so small, and every day there was a team of doctors in there doing little surgeries on him or, you know, a little procedures, and it just made me appreciate how healthy our baby was, but I still just couldn’t get over emotionally how terrifying and horrible it was to experience that. And he was super healthy. You know, he was able to get off his oxygen pretty quick. He was already a big baby. He was 4 pounds, 6 ounces. So by the time he came home, he had just hit 6 pounds. So he was a decent size. He was pretty healthy, and it was still…it felt like it went against every natural kind of instinct I had. Like, my baby’s not supposed to be in that box. My baby’s supposed to be with me on my chest. I’m supposed to be touching and feeding him. It was awful.
Dr. Fox: Was there anything during that time, that month or so that either the NICU did or maybe family or friends did or you did yourself that made it a little bit easier on you? And I’m gonna ask you, is there anything that they did that made it worse?
Cali: What helped me was researching other stories about premature babies because, until we experienced the NICU, we had no clue how common it actually is, you know, premature birth. And we kind of felt like at the time we were the only ones going through it. So reading other stories about other people experiencing it just kind of made us feel less alone and like it’s gonna be okay. Look at all these other stories and our baby is pretty healthy. I don’t think there was anything anyone did to make it worse. Everyone was really supportive. Everyone, you know, wanted to come into the NICU to see him and be there with us, and we had a really great support team between our close friends and our family. So that was really great. That helped us through it.
Dr. Fox: That’s great. And then when you ultimately got to bring him home with you, what was that like?
Cali: Oh, my gosh. I think about that day a lot. We got there in the morning because we would get there every morning for the rounds, you know, so we could see how he’s progressing every day. And that morning after they did the rounds, the doctor came back with a couple of nurses to our pod, and, you know, they said, “Okay, he’s doing really good. He’s keeping his food down on his own. You know, he’s off the oxygen, etc., etc.” And I was holding him at the time, and the doctor looked over at our nurse who had been taking care of him that day and said, you know, “Do you feel confident in these parents taking their baby home, that they care for him?” And she said, “Yeah, absolutely. They’ve been here every day. They take care of him every day. They’ve been feeding him.” And the doctor said, “Okay. Then he can go home today.” And I was, again, shocked, like… And I just started crying again. I’m a crier. It was the best day of my life, like, hearing that I could take my baby home. It was incredible. I was so happy.
Dr. Fox: That’s amazing. Was there any fear at the same time about, you know… Because a lot of parents are like, “Wait a second. Like, at 10:00 in the morning, this kid has like 46 monitors and, you know, 6 professional staff watching him all day, and then like 2 hours from now, just us, so, like, what the hell do we know?” Was there any of that? Right. Where’s the oxygen monitor? What’s going on? Where are the wires? Where are the beeps?
Cali: Yes. There was as soon as we got home. We were just so happy and excited to get him home, and then once we were home, we’re like, “Wait, where’s the monitor that tells us his oxygen and if his heart’s okay?” And, yeah, that was hard to use too because we were used to that constant noise of the machine and telling us that he was alive and everything’s fine. And then we got him home, and I was just constantly looking at him, putting my hand on his chest, making sure he’s breathing. Yeah. That was hard to get used to.
Dr. Fox: From that point, were there a lot of issues related to his prematurity? You know, as an infant and, you know, growing up, obviously, the pediatricians know that he’s premature, and when he’s 3 months old, they sort of judge him like he’s 1 month old because he was born two months early, but was he progressing well in those first six months and the pediatricians were happy with his progression? Or was there a lot of like, “Oh, because he’s premature, this is going on, this is going on”?
Cali: We did have some high-risk appointments with the doctor, so they could just check his development, and everything was going great. The only thing that he kind of fell behind on a little bit was his eating, eating solids using, you know, a spoon and a fork, but everything else was fine.
Dr. Fox: I have a problem with that too. Yeah. That’s hard.
Cali: I know. I do.
Dr. Fox: It’s difficult. Yeah.
Cali: Yeah. But, yeah, the way, you know, when he started crawling, and walking, and interacting with toys, and making, you know, goo goo ga ga noises, everything else, he was perfectly right on track.
Dr. Fox: It’s an amazing story because, you know, everything’s going fine, and it’s like this massive, like, shock to the system, like a whole month of your life that just sort of like is removed from, like, a normal story, right? The normal story is, you know, you get pregnant, you go through, you have your baby, you take him or her home, and this, and you have this whole month in between that’s like a total shock. What about this story do you really want to impart to the listeners? Like, what are the lessons that you want people to take away from this?
Cali: Don’t go through the pregnancy thinking it can’t happen to you, I guess. That’s kind of what I did. I had a pregnancy app, you know, every day tell me how big the baby is and what development was going on that week, and it would also give articles, you know, what to expect if you’re having multiples or what causes prematurity, and I would always skip over those. I was like, “Oh, I’m not gonna have a premature baby. I’m not even gonna read this article.” Things like that. So I was just completely unprepared. I had no knowledge. I thought I was alone. So I guess if you do go through something like this, you’re not alone. It’s way more common than what you might think. And it really helps to reach out to other people for support, you know, just to be there with you. You know, my mom would come to the NICU with me and just sit there with me while I held him. And just so you feel like you’re not alone because it kind of becomes your life. That was our life for 31 days, was just the NICU all day long. We’d go home, shower, sleep, and then go back to the NICU the next day. And it kinda…it feels kind of isolating a little bit because normally you hear about, you know, people bringing their baby home right away, and then people come to your house, and everyone’s cuddling him, and it’s this fun time. And we kinda missed out on all that.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. And then do you think that maybe it would not have been as shocking, at least at the beginning, if you, again, either had read some of that or, again, maybe it was a podcast or whatever it is, sort of understood like what is preterm labor, what is preterm birth, what to expect? You’re saying that maybe it would have made the transition to that a little bit easier for you?
Cali: I think it would have. Maybe that’s just, you know, my personality. I like to know everything before I go into it. But I feel like maybe doing my research and not thinking that, you know, it would never happen to me. Just kind of be prepared for anything. And I also say that about, you know, making a birth plan. Don’t write down this birth plan and think it’s gonna happen line by line exactly how you want it. You got to kind of be prepared for anything to happen. And I wasn’t prepared for that. I was just expecting it to go how I thought it would in my head.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. No. I think those are really important lessons. And then, you know, as an epilogue to this, our listeners don’t know this, but you are now home after another birth, right? You have a baby who’s 3 weeks old. And so you went through a pregnancy, a whole other pregnancy, and birth. So, first of all, congratulations. That’s awesome.
Cali: Thank you.
Dr. Fox: And so this is your daughter, Kaia?
Cali: Yes. This is Kaia. And this birth is everything that I wanted with the first one. It was really difficult. Once we found out I was pregnant again, we were trying. We wanted it so bad, but immediately I felt the anxiety of, “Oh, my gosh, this baby’s gonna be premature just like my first one was. I’m gonna miss out on all these newborn things again.” So for the first 31 weeks, it was all nerves, and anxiety, and worry, paranoia. But she ended up making it to exactly 39 weeks, and I went in, and I had her naturally again. There were no meds with this one. It was way more painful because she was three pounds heavier than, you know, my premature baby. So that was awful, but it was everything that I wanted that I didn’t have with the first one. So she got to go on my chest, you know, right after she came out. Jason got to cut the cord. There was no NICU. We got to bring her home. It was incredible.
Dr. Fox: Was it the same hospital?
Cali: Yes. Same hospital.
Dr. Fox: And did they do anything this pregnancy because you were “high risk” from your last birth?
Cali: Yeah. So I had been on progesterone, the progesterone pill until I hit 37 weeks, and then I was able to stop taking that. And they did have me come in for extra appointments, extra ultrasounds, and, like, anatomy scans, things like that. But nothing happened. This pregnancy was perfectly fine the whole time.
Dr. Fox: No scares, huh?
Cali: No. No scares, just me being paranoid and worried, but…
Dr. Fox: Well, it’s not paranoia. You went through it already. It’s not like… You know, it’s quite reasonable if you’re… I’m curious, how was the nausea, vomiting this pregnancy?
Cali: It was really bad in the first trimester. I ended up having to go to the hospital for fluids, but after the first trimester, it pretty much cleared up.
Dr. Fox: Interesting. Yeah, different.
Cali: So completely opposite from the first one.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. That is interesting, you know? And, again, we say that to people that, you know, you could have two different people who have different pregnancy symptoms, you would have the same person in different pregnancies who have different symptoms, and that we don’t really understand why that is, but it’s absolutely the case. That happens. And so during this pregnancy, what happened after 31 weeks? Were you just like, you know, “We’re playing with the house’s money here, like every week is awesome, you know, one less week of the NICU”? Or do you sort of figure out like, “That was a fluke, and it’s, you know, we’re done with that. It’s not gonna happen”?
Cali: After 31 weeks, I felt relief. And I was like, “Okay. I made it this far, and Jagger was okay at this point, so this baby is gonna be okay if I do have her right now.” So after that, every day that I was still pregnant was like a gift, and I felt so happy, and I was trying to enjoy it, you know. And I was just really grateful that I was making it that far, that far. And then it was weird because I did have high blood pressure in the first trimester of this pregnancy. So the doctor said, you know, “We do want to induce you if you get close to, you know, that 38, 39 weeks and the baby’s not here yet.” So this whole time I was thinking, you know, “I got to keep this baby and keep the baby, and I don’t want a premature baby, keep her in.” And then we got close to 38, 39 weeks, and I was like, “Wait, we got to get this baby out because I don’t want to be induced.” I have heard horrible things about Pitocin, and, you know, it was good to kind of have to flip, and now I was trying to get this baby out, so…
Dr. Fox: Yeah. I talk about it all the time with people who had a prior premature birth where their pregnancy is like, “Please stay in, please stay in, please stay in, please stay in,” and then very quickly it shifts to, “Please come out, please come out, please come out.” That happens in about six minutes, right? It’s like, “Nope, I’m done. That’s it. This baby’s got to come out.” Did your doctors have…you know, I imagine there is no explanation, but did they have an explanation for you? Did they talk to you about why the first time you went early with no explanation and the second time you went full term with very little intervention? Did they have any…did they just throw their hands up and say, “Well, you know, who knows?”
Cali: Yeah. That’s pretty much what they did. They had no clue.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. So that would be. Yeah. We’re not blaming them. Like, we just don’t know. We don’t understand this. It’s so interesting and complicated, and why this happens one time and not another, we just don’t understand it.
Cali: Exactly. And I think that made it worse. I think I would rather know what caused it because it kinda…
Dr. Fox: Us too.
Cali: It kind of made me go through this kind of guilt phase, thinking back to…
Dr. Fox: Oh, God.
Cali: Yeah. Every single day of the pregnancy, “What did I eat that day? What did I pick up off the floor that day?” There were two instances that I thought, “Oh, my gosh, maybe that was it.” I was in a parking lot, and I went into a store, and then I came back out to my car, and someone had parked their car kind of close to mine in the parking spot. So I opened my door as much as I could, and I had to kind of squeeze my pregnant belly in there. And I’m like, “What if I just squeezed in and the pressure on my belly caused the water to start leaking or…” You know, anything like that. I just went through this phase of guilt and it’s my fault I made this baby come out, but there’s just really no way to know what really caused it.
Dr. Fox: Yeah. I mean, we sometimes know. There are causes of preterm birth that we understand and we find out and we could diagnose and we can, you know, sort of address. But there’s so many times that that’s not the case. We just don’t know what it is. And maybe it’s a little this, a little that. Maybe it’s just something that’s a one-time thing. Maybe it’s random. Maybe every pregnancy, there’s just an element of luck to it. But one of the things we know pretty well that it’s not the other things you’re describing, that it’s not because a woman did something or didn’t do something or, you know, it was too active or not active enough. It’s just doesn’t work that way. If only it were that simple, right? If only I could tell people, “Don’t squeeze into a car, and you will be fine.” But it’s very, very natural for people to sort of go back in the two, three days before something happens and say, “Oh, it must’ve been something I did.” It’s unfortunate. It’s understandable. That’s human nature, and people are gonna do it, but, you know, “I spend so much of my day trying to, like, literally convince people, like, it’s not your fault.” You feel like, you know, Robin Williams from “Good Will Hunting,” like, it’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. And it’s hard to convince people that. They just won’t buy it. Like, “Nah, you’re wrong. It’s my fault.” And it’s unbelievable. Yeah. How’s it having two kids now? Wow. Amazing. So now you got a newborn at home again. How’s it?
Cali: Oh, man, it’s crazy. My toddler is tearing up the house, and then the baby cries because she’s hungry or has a wet diaper, and it’s just a mess right now, but I love it. And I love having the newborn at home, and it’s awesome.
Dr. Fox: Wow. That’s great. Cali, what an amazing story. First of all, thank you for listening. I appreciate it. Thank you for reaching out to tell your story. Thank you for telling your story and for everything. You know, you describe it so well, and talking about, you know, your emotions, what you’re feeling, and how helpful it is for other people to hear these stories and, like you said, to know, number one, this could happen to someone, number two, to know that you’re not alone if this happens to you, but also for people who are never gonna go through this or are never gonna be pregnant or whatever it is to understand what others go through when this happens, to be supportive of them and how to understand what they’re going through, it’s just so relevant to so many people.
Cali: Yeah. Exactly. Again, it definitely helped me to have that support there, just people to listen to what I was going through and just kind of…even if they didn’t give me advice, you know, just to kind of sit there with me and be there with me emotionally, that helped a lot.
Dr. Fox: Amazing. Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
Cali: Yeah. Thank you for having me.
Dr. Fox: Thank you for listening to “High Risk Birth Stories,” brought to you by the creators of the “Healthful Woman” podcast. If you’re interested in telling your birth story on our podcast, please go to our partner website at www.healthfulwoman.com and click the link for sharing your story. You can also email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you like today’s podcast, please be sure to check out our “Healthful Woman” podcast as well where I speak with the leaders in the field to help you learn more about women’s health, pregnancy, and wellness. Have a great day.
The information discussed in “High Risk Birth Stories” is intended for information and entertainment only and does not replace medical care from your physician. The stories and experiences discussed in our podcasts are unique to each guest and are not intended to be representative of any standard of care or expected outcomes. As always, we encourage you to speak with your own doctor about specific diagnoses and treatment options for an effective treatment plan. Guests on “High Risk Birth Stories” have given their permission for us to share their personal health information.