7 Weeks Early

Almost three weeks old!

Almost three weeks old!

The contractions started just before 5pm.  I didn’t know that’s what they were.  It was my first pregnancy and I’d never felt a contraction.  Everything I read about contractions emphasized back pain.  Oh the back pain!  I had no back pain. So much for preliminary research.

What I had was pain across my lower abdomen that seemed to come in waves.  While watching my students study during the last few minutes of class for the day, I chalked the pain up to intestinal problems.  The one classic pregnancy symptom I’d had the joy of experiencing for several months was constipation.  I assumed the pain was my intestine finally in revolt, not contractions.

Also, I was only 33 weeks along.

I noted the increasing intensity of the pain as I caught a ride home from a fellow teacher.  I thought it odd when I finally  scurried into my bathroom at home that I didn’t really have to go.  Still, I did not think contractions.  It was 7 weeks before my due date.  I didn’t even dismiss the thought of contractions.  The thought has to enter your head in order to dismiss it and the idea of contractions never did.

By 6:15pm however, I was in sufficient enough pain to ask my husband to call my doctor.  My doctor told me to get in a warm shower and sent my husband off to buy some pregnancy safe pain killers.  When the shower failed to lessen the pain, I began to think something was wrong.  Then there was blood.

I called my husband.  He turned back before ever reaching the drug store.  He was on the phone with my doctor when he walked back into the apartment.  As I was yanking on clothes in the bedroom, I heard him ask “How much blood is there? If it’s just…” He stopped talking.  He’d seen the bathmat.  In less than a minute we were in the car on our way to the doctor’s office.

Thankfully, Dr. Batistuta’s office is only five minutes from our apartment and he was working late.  It was about 7pm and the office was empty except for the doctor and his secretary, as my husband helped me climb the stairs to the exam room.  The pain was now so intense I wanted nothing more than to close my eyes and breathe.  But there were questions and Portuguese verbs to conjugate in order to answer.  I used to think speaking in Portuguese on the phone was difficult.  Speaking in Portuguese during a contraction is much harder.

Placental Abruption.  That was my Portuguese phrase of the day.

My doctor explained that the baby’s heart rate was elevated and that combined with the blood and contractions made him think the placenta had torn from the uterus and blood was now pumping into the uterus.  I was headed for an emergency c-section.

After a flurry of discussion between my husband and the doctor, some quick phone calls made by his assistant, they confirmed no office with an ultrasound was open to confirm this diagnosis so we would be going straight to the emergency room.  At least, that’s what I was told happened.  I was still lying on the exam table breathing through contractions and pain that went from aching to breathtaking, never completely disappearing.

A little before 8pm I was standing outside with my doctor trying to have small talk in Portuguese while my husband got the car.  Twenty minutes later my doctor was wheeling me into the emergency room and pushing me over to some nurses who began giving a flurry of instructions in Portuguese.  I was being prepped for emergency surgery 7 weeks before my due date and strangely enough I was not panicked.  I was too occupied with breathing through contractions and understanding the directions I was given to really dwell on worst case scenarios.  Contractions are a great distraction.  Contractions and conjugating Portuguese verbs.

I never thought I would die.  I never thought I could die.  I never thought my baby would die.  In the moment, I never once feared for my life or my baby’s.  It was only afterwards, when researching placental abruptions, that I learned just how serious the situation was.  Not as much for me as for her.  While I lay on my side curled into a ball having a needle stuck between vertebrae, I was worried about the kinds of complications my daughter could have being born so early.  Would she have eye or ear problems?  Would she have some sort of neurological problem?  Would her lungs be working yet?

I didn’t bring any of this up to my husband as he sat by my head in canary yellow scrubs pointedly not looking in the direction of my open abdomen.  The c-section is certainly one of the most surreal experiences of my life.  To be fully conscious while your abdomen is opened and people stick their hands in and root around your internal organs…well, surreal doesn’t quite cover it.  I felt tugging, sometimes hard tugging but absolutely no pain.  There was one hard tug and suddenly a baby was crying.  I cried for the first and only time all night.

My daughter was born at 8:50pm on July 11.  We thought she was 33 weeks but her initial exams put her developmentally at 35 weeks.  She was just small so the ultrasounds underestimated her age.  She was 2.005kg or 4 1/2lbs.  She was on oxygen for a day and then under a UV lamp for four.  Some problems concerning her lactose tolerance resulted in her staying in Intensive care for 26 days.  But those 26 days are the subject of a future post.

4 months old!

4 months old!

Yesterday, my daughter celebrated her 3 month birthday.  She smiles and coos and refuses to sleep during the day anywhere but in a someone’s arms.  That’s why there haven’t been many posts recently.  It’s hard to type with a baby in your arms.  A perfectly healthy, happy, and breathtakingly beautiful baby.




  1. What a story and what a beauty! I think sometimes we underestimate what a big deal this giving birth business is. That’s why birth plans are so important, it’s so good to talk through every possibility with your birth partner. Thanks for sharing #fromtheheart

    • I think parents go into pregnancy and birth not considering the life-threatening situation it can sometimes be. I didn’t. I was perfectly healthy and had the most uneventful pregnancy ever right until the moment my placenta tore away from my uterus. Of course this isn’t the most likely outcome but it should be discussed as a realistic possibility. There should be your ideal, everything goes-perfectly plan and then there is the plan that gets you a healthy baby and mom when things go wrong. Because in the end the most important thing having a healthy baby, not the process in which it entered the world.

  2. Thanks so much for linking this story up! Your far-from-imagined birth story had me prepared for every eventuality (including a packed hospital bag at 30 weeks) #fromtheheart

    • The fact that my story can and has helped other moms be a little more prepared is the silver lining. Because of this experience, I’m all about preparing for the worst and then being thrilled when things go as planned.

  3. This is such a wonderful story. It kept me compelled the whole way through. Such gorgeous photos too. Congratulations!

  4. Pingback: My Daughter Is Bilingual. So, What? | Brynn in Brazil

  5. Pingback: 28 Days in a Brazilian NICU: The Milking Station | Brynn in Brazil

  6. Oh wow, Brynn. You brought me to tears. I hope to someday soon meet your beautiful baby girl and give you a big hug. Sending love.


  7. skarrlette

    Since I last wrote a reply. I ended up having a surprise c section due to a breech, I was devastated did not want a c section. But their was nothing I could do. I feel we have a lot in common my baby was born November 21 and it was a girl. And the sleep deprivation is killing me as well as the c section recovery. I worry about my daughter and how I can take care of her when I am nodding off from lack of sleep I worry so much. Maybe you can tell me how you got through the beginning.

  8. skarrlette

    Hi, I am curious, have you thought about buying a Moby wrap, a special wrap for young babies that lets you have your baby in front of you hands free. They sell them here in the US. Which brings me to another question. What do they have in way of products for children in Brazil? Such as learning toys, developmental toys, gear etc? Because here in the US the choices are endless.

    Since I am moving to Brazil with a newborn I am worried about access to resources that I would have here in the US.

    • Baby gear in Brazil. Well, I can only speak to what is available in Vitoria and in comparison to the US, it’s not much. But Vitoria is a very small city. If you’re moving to Rio or Sao Paolo, I can guarantee the choices will be greater but still nothing like the endless options you have in the US. At least in Vitoria, there is not the market for “stimulating” and “developmental” toys you have in the US. Many Brazilian parents who can afford it buy their baby gear in the US. I’ve heard so many stories of expectant parents bringing strollers, car seats, toy, etc. back from the US.

      Without a doubt what you can find here in Brazil will be more expensive than the equivalent in the US.

      So this is a lot of writing to say, bring what you can from the US.

  9. I was completely on edge reading this story! I’m so happy everything worked out and you have a healthy baby!!

    Contractions and portuguese verbs – yes that is definitely enough to distract you.

    Big congratulations! (for both baby and speaking portuguese!)

    • Thanks Lindsey! We’re doing fine. Both the baby and my baby related Portuguese vocabulary are growing very quickly.

  10. Excellent writing — we’ve missed your posts. It was heart-stopping reading about your experience. Can only imagine what it was like for you!

  11. Congrats! Sounds very similar to the story of my oldest. 34 1/2 weeks, didn’t think I was in labor, baby was breech, emergency c-section. I never thought that there was any risk to me or to my baby, until day 17 of her being in the NICU and being totally tired of commuting to the hospital, and wondering why they wouldn’t let me bring her home. But then she came home on day 21. And now she is 10! Enjoy every moment!

    Oh, and btw, I had two successful VBACs afterwards (one was even a home birth). Granted, it was in the US. But despite what everyone might say, it is possible…

  12. Yesterday I saw the video of Audrey and completely forgot she was born early until I saw this post!! I’m so grateful for the videos I’ve taken of Colin because, truth be told, I don’t remember much until he was at least 6 months old. Thanks for sharing your story! Miss you!!

    • Miss you too! I hope you’re feeling good and ready for your new addition and becoming a family of four! I hope your new baby has significantly less stressful arrival. : ) Or at least has only good stress.

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