Failure to launch – 33 weeks and 2 days

“Sarah….Sarah…”  In some recess of my dream, I can hear my name, whispered.  “It’s Jay.  Is your phone on silent?  SARAH.”  My eyes snap open.  “It’s Jess.”  Dee has his phone in front of my face.  A quick look at the bedside clock and I see it is 1 am.  I grab the phone.

“Jay?  Are you okay?”

“Hi, Mum.  I just wanted to let you know I’m on my way to the Pregnancy Assessment Unit.”  I sit bolt upright in bed.

“Why, what’s wrong?”

“Well, we picked up my friends from the airport and took them to dinner.  During dinner I started to feel sick.  We went home and I went to bed at around 9:30pm but at 11pm I started to feel really unwell.  Then I started to feel some really funny pain.  Painful pain.  I phoned the PAU and they said to come straight in.”

“Are you having contractions?”

“I don’t know, the pain is different though.”

“Right, I’ll just get dressed and meet you at the hospital.”

“Don’t Mum.  Let me get there and have them assess me.  I am sure it is just braxton Hicks.”

“Okay.  But phone me the minute you get there or know anything, okay?”

I lie back down, turn over and close my eyes.  My eyes open.  1:15am.  I close them again.  Open.  1:20am.  Close.  Open.  1:20am.  It’s no good.   I decide to get up.  At least get ready if something is happening.  I pad through to the laundry.  Grab some jeans, a top, underwear.

I text Jay.  Hi Love.  Are you there yet?  Any news?  My phone buzzes.

Hi mum.  Am at the hospital.  I think they are going to admit me.

I ring Jay’s number.  “Hello?”

“Hi, darling.  What’s going on?”

“Well they have me strapped to this monitor thingy and they said that my contractions are very regular.  They have called the doctor, but they think I’m going to be admitted to the birthing suite.”

“Have you got your bag with you?”

“No, I left it at your house.”  I roll my eyes.  Jay hasn’t been with us for two weeks.  Constant little reminders that she is still a teenager.

“Right, I’m coming.”  I immediately jump into the shower.  I know it seems strange to shower at such an emergency and I know Jay will know that I am doing this, but I really don’t want to go to the hospital looking  like Madusa.  It takes me 15 minutes and I am done.  I rush around the house, trying to think about what she might need.

“Dee,” I whisper.  “I’m off to see Jay.”   His sleepy eyes open for a moment.  “You’ll have to take JC to school, or get your dad to take him.”

“I’ll take him,” he says.

On the way to the hospital I receive a text.  I’ve been admitted to the birthing suite, room 3.  My god.  Is she in labour?

I arrive at the hospital.  I rush into room 3.  Jay is on the bed strapped up to the monitor.  I can hear the whooshing of Baby C’s heart beat.  Em is with her.  A midwife is fussing over her.  I kiss Em hello and move round to kiss and hug Jay.  “Are you okay?”

“I’m 4cm dilated and they think I am in labour.”  4cm.  That’s active labour.

“What do you mean, think?”

“Well, they said that because it is a premature labour it might just be a false start.”

“But if you are already 4cm, doesn’t that mean you are in labour?”

The midwife interjects.  “It is not uncommon for premature labours to have false starts.  My instincts says that Jay is well into labour, especially by the look of her contractions, but we need to monitor her and check her cervix again in four hours.”  I look at the clock.  It is 2:30am.

“Have you let your mum know, Em?”  He nods that he has.

“She’s going to wait and see what happens before coming through.”  Fair enough.  We have had enough false starts for one pregnancy.

I turn to Jay, “Are you in pain?”

She shakes her head.  “I don’t feel like I’m in labour.”  I look at the monitor and the graph being fed out of the machine.  The peaks are as regular as clockwork.

“Well, it certainly looks like you are.” I say.  “Can you feel them at all?”

Jay nods.  “They are just super-big tightenings.”

Can this be it?  Can I becoming a grandmother, a Gogo, today? I suddenly miss my mom so much.  I want to share this with her so badly.

The midwife inserts a canula into Jay’s arm.  They are giving her antibiotics as a precautionary measure because she is so early.

Em looks tired.  “Why don’t you get some sleep, Em.  You are going to need all the strength you can muster when Jay finally needs to push Baby C out.”  He nods and settles down on the mattress offered to birthing partners.  They have been busy and have no spare blankets for him though.  Public hospitals, you have to love them.  I give him one of the baby blankets I have thrown into the bag.  It’s tiny on his small frame, but it’s something at least.

Jay and I talk and eventually settle down to sleep ourselves.  She on the bed and me on two chairs I have pushed together.  It is 4:30am.  At 5:30am, we are woken by the staff doing the routine obs.  Tee also arrives.  At 6:30am, the doctor checks Jay’s cervix.  Still 4cm.  We cannot believe it.  Jay sighs.  “Only 4cm?  I can’t believe it,” she says.

The day continues along with very little event.  A couple of nurses come in and out.  We are told what to expect when the baby comes.  He won’t be going into NICU, but will go into the special care nursery.  He should be able to breathe on his own, but won’t have the sucking reflex yet, so will probably need a nasogastric tube.  He will look like a normal baby, just a bit on the small side.  When he is born he will be put onto Jay’s chest.  It is important for her and for the baby to have the skin to skin contact.  We nod and get excited at the prospect of our little angel.

At 2:30pm the doctors arrive again.  They check her cervix and she is still only 4cm.  The contractions seemed to have died off a bit as well.  We try not to think that the baby might not actually be coming after all.  Surely, this is it.  I say what everyone is thinking.  “Well, I want the baby to come.  I know it is only 33 weeks, but everyone keeps telling us that he will be fine, that he will just fatten up in the special care nursery.  I am tired of this.  I want to hold my grandson.” Jay nods.  This is taxing on her too.  Tee and Em also nod in agreement.  Em has taken another day off work.  That will be 5 in total on false alarms if this baby isn’t born today.

“Well,” the midwife says, “the longer you can cook your own baby, the better it is.”  I know she must be shocked by my announcement that I want Baby C to be born a full 7 weeks early.  I don’t care.  I am tired.  Jay is tired.  All this too-ing and fro-ing is taking its toll.  Jay and I have only had an hour’s sleep.  Surely it isn’t unreasonable to expect a baby cuddle at the end of it?

A doctor comes into the room.  “Jay, we are concerned that your heart rate has been consistently high since you arrived here at 1am this morning.  I am going to take some blood to check you do not have an infection, or if there is something else wrong.”  We look at the heart rate monitor.  Her heart rate is over 100 and she has been in bed all day.  “Are you anxious?” the doctor asks.  I look at him incredulously.  No, mate.  She is 19 and about to deliver a baby.  A baby that will be a full 7 weeks early.  A baby that, if it comes today she will not be able to take home.  This, after being up and down to the hospital god knows how many times with numerous false starts.  But, hey, she is not anxious at all.  Jay shakes her head.  “I’ll be back later to take the blood.”

By 4pm, the contractions have almost completely died off.  My heart sinks.  I know deep down inside that Baby C is not going to make his arrival.  I really wish that I had not put as my facebook status that I may or may not becoming a grandmother today.  Another bloody false start.  I look at Jay.  She is exhausted.  A full 16 hours of contractions, some of which were really painful, and now nothing.  The doctor arrives to take blood.  “We have had a talk, and have decided to send you to the post natal ward.  We won’t bother checking you again.  I think it’s safe to say you are no longer in labour.  We do want to continue to monitor you though.”  He takes Jays arm and inserts a needle into it.  It misses the vein and he has to do it again.  The second time, she lets out a cry and all the anticipation and disappointment comes to the fore.  She bursts into tears.  Em hugs her.  I hug her.  But it does nothing to stem the flow.  My 19 year old baby has been through enough.  How much more does she have to take?

The doctor finally gets the blood he needs and leaves the room.  “I’m not staying here.  I will discharge myself.”  I hug her.

“You have to stay love.  You are 4cm dilated.  They are worried your waters might break.  You have to stay here.”

“I’m not going to have the baby, Mum!  I’m going to go to full term and all this will be for nothing!”

“It won’t be for nothing, Jay, we will have a beautiful, healthy baby!” Em says.  He sounds hurt, like she doesn’t get it.  I want to intervene.  Tell him that she does get it, that she is just tired.  But I don’t.  They need to work it out.  She just sits there, her big tummy jutting out, and lets the tears flow down her cheeks.  Em hugs her warmly and she nestles her head into his shoulders.  Tee and I go for a walk, sit in the visitor waiting room and have a cup of coffee.  The kids need to be alone.

Twenty minutes later we return.  Em is getting ready to leave to go home for a much needed shower and change of clothes.  He is going to bring Jay’s friends from the UK to visit her.  Jay’s friends!  They have travelled all the way from the UK to see her and now she is stuck here in this wretched place.  Tee and Em leave.  I sit with Jay.  Tears are still streaming down her face.  I want to tell her to be patient, to understand that this is a good thing.  Good for the baby.  But I know that saying it won’t make her feel any better.  The mother side of me gets the better of me.  “It is what it is love.  We just need to be patient.  It is good for Baby C.”  It doesn’t do any good.  Tears continue to stream down her face.  “I just want to go home!”  She lowers her head and sobs.  My heart breaks into a thousand pieces.  How much is one 19 year old meant to take?

A different doctor comes into the room.  “Okay, we have arranged for you to go to the post natal ward.  We will see you in the morning and reassess you then.”

“Does that mean that she will be able to go home tomorrow?” I ask.

“Provided she has settled down, I don’t see why not.”  She looks down at Jay’s chart.  “Although at 4cm dilated, that may not be the case.”  Jay lets out a little moan of anguish.  “It’s just that at 4cm dilated,” her fingers part to show how much 4cm is, “if your waters break, the cord could slip through and it could end up badly if you are not at the hospital.  If you were at full term, we would be inducing you now.”  I had not thought of the implications of that.  I look at Jay, but I can see she can’t think that far.  She just wants to go home.

The doctor leaves and I just cuddle her.  “It will be okay, my love.  We will look back on this in a year and wonder why we got ourselves so stressed.”  There is no consoling her.

It is 7pm.  I have only had an hours sleep and I need to get home.  With no baby on the way and with Em on his way back with Jay’s friends, it is time for me to leave anyway.  I kiss her goodbye and drive home.  By the time I get home twenty minutes later, I am dead on my feet.  Dee heats me up some leftover dinner which I eat.  I know it is not part of my diet, but I am past caring.  I watch a bit of TV, but my eyes are struggling to focus.  I am cold and tired.

As I slip into my electrically warmed bed, I feel my body release the tension it has held all day.  It does not take me long to feel the sweet taste of sleep overtake me.  Another false start, another failure to launch, but we will persist, we will endure.

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