34 Weeks and 5 Days: Premature Birth + Learning That Perfect Isn’t Real

Amy Coe Doll and Toddler Girl Wearing Her clothing

Amy Coe Black and White Romper

Thank you to Amy Coe  for sending us this adorable romper and baby doll.  Check out her chic baby and toddler line here.

I figured I would share a little more than I typically do on a day that is so special to me and our family.  Isabella was born at 34 weeks and 5 days. Today, June 15th, marks 34 weeks and 5 days in my current pregnancy. There are a lot of emotions involved in experiencing a premature birth, but there are some major lessons and takeaways. Below is our premature birth experience, and what we learned from it.

Isabella’s early arrival was a blessing in disguise, and here’s why:

Life isn’t perfect.  It is actually far from it.

Growing up my mom told me this over and over again. My response was always, “well shouldn’t I at least try to strive for perfection?”  What I didn’t realize is that perfection isn’t attainable. Even if there were a true universal definition of perfection, life would get in the way. Life will never allow you to achieve this so-called “perfect” status.

When Isabella was born early I realized exactly what my mom had been telling me for so many years.

Pregnancy is hard, but listen to your body. Pain can be a sign of going in to labor ahead of schedule.

I whined and moaned through my last pregnancy. I hated the gaining weight, slowing down, and the fact that people treated me as if I were handicapped just because I was pregnant.

When I told my husband at 34 weeks that I didn’t feel right, he basically ignored me.  That was Sunday night I was experiencing an intense pain. I called my doctor Monday morning because I could barely walk. They told me that at this point in my pregnancy, experiencing aches and pains in the lower abdomen and back was completely normal.

So, I wrote it off that I was being a wimp.

Throughout the day, the pains would come and go. However, that night and into the next morning they returned with a vengeance.

The lower abdomen and back pain was so bad that I couldn’t walk the dog around the block.

I even contemplated leaving the dog outside when he resisted heading back in after I cut his walk about a mile short.

Again, I called my doctor and received the same response:  If the pain does not go away by Wednesday I was to head to their office and get checked.  I had plans with my good friend Elyse to get lunch that day. The pain was unbearable. I rarely pass up the opportunity to get dressed up and go out, but I was so uncomfortable. Upon meeting her in our lobby I realized that I just couldn’t make it past the entrance to our building. I had to cancel.

Wednesday came around, I was still experiencing the same discomfort. I remember speaking to my mom on the phone, she was adamant that I go to the doctor.  They couldn’t fit me in until 2pm that afternoon, but for the first time I was early for an appointment and sat there waiting patiently.

The doctor told me, “you are fine.” The tears welled up in my eyes as I realized that maybe everyone who I spoke to these past few days was right. I was indeed just being a wimp.

I remember thinking, if this pain is normal then what is labor like?!

Upon leaving, I distinctly remember turning around at the door and saying, “are you sure I can go home?”  “Yes, but pack your bags because if you go into labor after 34 weeks you will deliver.”  I waddled half way home before hailing a cab and I remember calling my husband to tell him, “everything is fine, but if this is what the next 6 weeks will feel like I might need your help.”  Not the easiest words for me to speak.

That night we ordered Mexican and debated over which dresser to order for Isabella’s room.  I’m pretty sure that it turned into an argument over which knobs we liked better on the dresser set from Pottery Barn. In hindsight, that detail couldn’t have been more insignificant.

I dismissed what the doctor told me about packing my bags for the hospital. Big mistake.

Instead, I crawled into bed.

The pain returned in a way that was worse than ever.

At 3 am I couldn’t sleep. I woke up to write my thank you notes for my baby shower. An hour later, just after 4am, the discomfort returned. I shifted in my chair my water broke.

All the plans to have my hair blown out, nails done and my perfectly packed hospital bags waiting for me went out the window.  The next few hours were a blur. My idea of the “perfect birth” disappeared. The only thing we really cared about was the baby arriving safely.

Isabella was born in the OR in a bright, white sterile environment and was whisked away up to the NICU. I was only able to see her for 5 seconds.  She was already swaddled when they brought her over. I didn’t even have the opportunity to touch her, but had just enough time to look into her little eyes before she left the room.

The whole experience is extremely emotional, but all you can think about is the health and safety of your child.

Alone in the room, is when I realized that I didn’t care what I looked like or about what had just happened.  I just wanted her to be healthy.  I realized then, that all of the planning and preparation you do in life doesn’t matter. Sometimes, life has other plans.

I realized that I spent so much time being concerned with how everything “looked”.  Her nursery, my appearance, our family, what my husband was wearing, the color of her stroller. None of it mattered when she arrived early.  I sat alone waiting for the results from the tests they were performing in the NICU. I prayed she would be okay.  My doctor returned from the NICU before my husband did. He told me that everything appeared to be okay, but that she will remain in the NICU for monitoring.  She also told me that sometimes these events just can’t be predicted or prevented…

The NICU is a tough place. My heart goes out to any parents that had their child begin life in the NICU.

I remember being wheeled in to see her. I had to reach through the incubator to touch her little hand.  To all of my NICU mamas out there, you are incredible. You (we) are a strong breed.

My good friend Ashley told me, God won’t give you more than you can handle. I believe it to be true.

In the NICU, your strength is truly tested.  I don’t think anyone can ever prepare to have a baby in the NICU.  Babies often end up there because they surprised us bye arriving early. Or because there are complications during pregnancy. Both of which you can’t really anticipate.

The whole experience couldn’t be farther from what you see “perfectly” portrayed in the movies. You know, where the baby is born, they lay him or her on your chest, and then you resume life with your newest addition.

The experience of holding my baby for the first time with monitors and wires is something I will never forget.

I panicked when I set off an alarm. Her heart rate monitor fell off her teeny tiny foot. It scared me half the death. Every moment with her was both amazing, and terrifying.

We had to buy premie clothing and premie diapers for her little 5 pound 9 oz body. Her “coming home from the hospital outfit” that I spent so much time picking out wouldn’t fit until after she was 4 months old.  My heart hurts for the moms and dads that have to spend time in the NICU.

My heart especially hurts for the parents that have to leave the hospital empty handed without their child.

I still vividly remember leaving the hospital.  It was midnight, and we essentially were being kicked out as we had stayed to the very last minute so we could spend as much time as possible with her.  The halls being empty and quiet. I turned to my husband before we left, crying in his arms.

I would do anything to avoid that experience again.

If my doctor told me I needed to lay perfectly still in bed for the next two weeks in order to avoid the NICU, I would do it.  It’s hard to say that I won’t be holding my breath these next two weeks as I approach the full term mark of 37 weeks.

The one thing I know for sure is that I will be fine with any outcome, as long as she is healthy.

It would be incredible to leave the hospital with both daughters in tow this time around, but if she decides to come early I now know how to let go of this perfect perception of how everything should look and focus on what really matters.

Isabella Brennan

Isabella at home in our NYC apartment still three weeks before her actual due date

These past few years, life has thrown situations at me that made me realize how “imperfect” life actually is. It’s made me realize that there is beauty and strength to be found in these experiences. You will often find strength where you least expected to find it.  These difficult situations are the ones that make you a stronger, kinder, wiser, and more resilient person. They build character.

From them, I have learned to care more about what people think of me as a person rather than how I look.

With all of that being said, at the end of the day I run a blog. I often wish I was doing more. I want to have a larger impact in people’s lives.  However, the message at DYG is clear and the reason I blog is to inspire people to find the beauty in everyday life and to celebrate it. Which is exactly why I wrote this post. Even if it helps one person know they are not alone.

You never know when your “perfect” life can be turned upside down. Use this post to inspire you to make the small moments in life meaningful and special.

Please let me know if you enjoy hearing about these special moments in my life.

Is there something you want to share with me? Or, if you can relate to the above I would love to hear it!

Please email me at kate@dressyourguests.com. I love connecting with you in a more intimate way.

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