Motherhood & Words

I am twenty-four weeks pregnant today, which means that I’m carrying a viable fetus.

When we were contemplating a second pregnancy, and shortly after I became pregnant, I thought that these weeks—24 to 28—would be the most difficult for me. A baby born earlier than 23 weeks has virtually no chance of survival, but 24-weekers have a 25% chance of survival. A 25% chance of survival after four or five months in intensive care, after months on ventilators, after umbilical catheters and IVs in their heads and arms, after feeding tubes taped to their faces, after complications that you only learn about if you are forced to live through them.

Many 24-weekers end up with intraventricular hemorrhages (IVH) because the pressure of the ventilators can burst the fragile capillaries in their brains. This, in turn, can affect motor and mental development as well as cause blindness, deafness and seizures. Even preemies born later, between 30-35 weeks, are at higher risk for sensory integration and learning problems.

With all that I know about what can happen to babies born between 24 and 28 weeks, I thought I’d be terrified when I reached this point in the pregnancy. But strangely, I’m not. Oh, I’m still being careful, watching myself for swelling, and trying to rest (this week unsuccessfully). But I actually breathed a sigh of relief when I woke up this morning and knew I was caring a viable fetus. I have been holding my breath for the last ten weeks, since the morning I woke up in a pool of blood, and now I’m carrying a fetus that has a 25% chance of surviving outside my womb.

Don’t get me wrong—I want the whole nine months. One of my co-workers was due a few days ago and she has just been waiting, wondering when labor would begin, and I thought: oh, right, that’s how most people do this thing. They go nine months and then labor starts and they have their babies. It was as if I was thinking about birth for the first time.

But I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I’m still waiting to see what happens. I’m still vigilant. But if I make it past 32 weeks, I’ll maybe even ask my doc about a vaginal delivery. For now, though, I know that every week—nay, every day—that passes gives the baby girl inside me a better chance at survival, a better chance at being born healthy. For now, I’ll hang onto that.

Note: I’ve already posted about some of the risks of prematurity, but it’s worth mentioning again, especially because November is Prematurity Awareness Month.

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I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. Beth on November 16, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    Yay for twenty-four weeks 🙂

    One day, one breath at a time.

  2. kristen on November 16, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    Yes, one day, one breath at a time. Wishing you well.

  3. Susan on November 16, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    Kate, I read this entire post holding my breath. My eyes are full of hopeful tears for you. Nine months. Even eight months. I’m crossing all my digits.

  4. *camerashymomma* on November 16, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    it’s good to hear an update from you. and i agree about accepting one day at a time. or to quote my favorite “what about bob?” movie… it’s called ‘baby steps’ kinda fitting. 🙂 much peace to you!

  5. Emmie (Better Make It A Double) on November 17, 2007 at 12:36 am

    I remember that milestone well. I was in the hospital then, and my joy was tempered by a wheelchair visit to the NICU that left us both ashen and silent. But from then on, it did get a bit easier every week, every terrible statistic averted or made more remote. I have no real wisdom or advice, because I remember all too well that there wasn’t a whole lot anyone could do for us except let us know they cared and were thinking about us. I can’t wait to meet that 2008 baby a few months from now, and maybe put my arm around you just because you can’t stand one more normal fussy evening or damned diaper explosion, but whatever happens, I’m here.

  6. Nancy Brown on November 17, 2007 at 12:54 am

    Congrats on 24 weeks. I am a mom of a 25 week preemie. He is now 2. He is amazing but he does have the preemie things you desscribe. come and Visit and see my man!!

  7. ~Denise~ on November 17, 2007 at 9:57 pm

    Congrats on this milestone. Wishing you many more weeks to come.

  8. Jen on November 17, 2007 at 10:34 pm

    Oh how I understand what it feels like to get to viability. I remember feeling so blessed when I arrived at that point with my 2nd daughter, Meghan. Nasty preeclampsia!

    I’m thinking of you often and hoping the big, bad preeclampsia/hellp monster stays far far away.

    Many good thoughts for you and your daughter.