Source: Lauren Finney Harden
As a first-time mom, there’s so many things they don’t tell you. What postpartum recovery is really like, just how bad the heartburn can get, especially in that last trimester—or that you could be leaking amniotic fluid for days and not know it.
You might be thinking that surely someone would know if they were leaking amniotic fluid, let alone for almost a week, as I was when I gave birth to my first child. But you’d need to know my mental state first.
About a week prior to my induction, my husband started to feel ill. He was diagnosed with COVID-19, which, in December 2020, was a very scary diagnosis. I was 38 weeks pregnant with my first child. I was devastated; I knew somewhere in my heart that given hospital protocol at the time, it was unlikely that my husband would be attending this baby’s birth, but I mentally just couldn’t get there.
During all of this drama, I started to feel a little…leaky. I knew that water breaking wasn’t like the movies—it was highly unlikely I’d end up with a puddle between my legs—and I had previously had some unidentified fluids hanging around down there that had turned out to be normal pregnancy things.
As the week went on, it was getting faster and more consistent. That's when I began to worry.
During this week, my doctors tried to figure out what to do with me, a potentially COVID-19-positive pregnant woman, who was still a few days away from her induction.
Because I also have lupus and was in advanced maternal age (you know, over 35 years old), they required non-stress tests (NST) for my baby twice a week starting at 36 weeks, just to make sure that everything was progressing normally.
Maternal age alone is one of the risk factors for leaking amniotic fluid early, plus all the added stress? It was a perfect storm.
While we were trying to figure out what the hospital protocol was for my husband to be at the induction, I missed an NST at my doctor’s office because they didn’t want me to potentially infect other patients.
We decided that, a week after my husband had been diagnosed, I’d get my next NST at the hospital, where they could better accommodate me. By the time I arrived at the hospital for the NST, I knew something was majorly up. I heard what sounded like a hissing noise, or a nozzle being slowly released, coming from between my legs.
It was more than what a panty liner might absorb—this was full-on sanitary pad territory.
The obstetrician on rotation did a few tests and told me the news: I wouldn’t be leaving the hospital. They had to get the baby out of me as soon as possible because I had been leaking amniotic fluid for almost a week. And if you're wondering, it's nothing like the strong gush of fluid with amniotic sac liquid you see in the movies when a woman's water breaks.
It's a slow, harrowing trickle.
My husband, despite feeling better, couldn’t come to the hospital due to protocol, so my mom came instead. I was induced, which was horribly painful, and I did not dilate the way I should have.
The next step was to give me an early epidural, which did the trick in dilating me properly. After almost three hours of pushing—the maximum they’d allow—my baby still wouldn’t budge.
I’ll never forget what the doctor on call said to me: “This next part will move fast, just like the movies.”
And boy, was she right. They whipped me into surgery for an emergency C-section, which, due to protocol, my mother wasn’t allowed to attend.
What happened next will stay with me forever: I heard them talking about my baby, but there was no crying, no noise, in the operating room. The panic I felt had me literally screaming at the top of my lungs, so much so that they had to sedate me with ketamine in order to stitch me back up properly.
The surgeon later told me that my baby was “stunned,” which can sometimes happen.
All the details from here are fuzzy, but I remember being wheeled into the recovery room and asking where my baby was. That was when the doctor—who was quite emotional—told me that because I had been leaking amniotic fluid, my baby and I had Chorioamnionitis, also known as a chorio infection.
She had been whisked off to the NICU before I could even lay eyes on her. Chorioamnionitis is an infection of the amniotic fluid and placenta, and it happens when you’ve been leaking fluid long enough for bacteria to enter the uterus.
If you have a chorio infection and are past 37 weeks of pregnancy, they will deliver the baby, which was the case with me. I didn’t have any of the common symptoms such as a fever, a bad smell or a fast heart rate.
It wasn’t until after I was in the recovery room that I was informed that I had a high fever of 103, as did my baby, who stayed in the NICU for six days. No one tells you how heartbreaking it is to leave a child at the hospital.
Fast forward, and my child is healthy and thriving after that initial traumatic start. She meets all her milestones and is a happy little girl. I can’t help but feel guilty over my negligence of not knowing I was leaking amniotic fluid.
I’ve relived the trauma of that day many times over, enough for both of us. In the end, all that matters is that we both came out of it physically healthy, and I’ve since had time to process what happened emotionally. I can confirm, though, if I get pregnant again, I will call my doctor at the very first sign of anything feeling like it’s leaking. Amniotic fluid leakage is serious.
I know better now.
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