This week’s spin cycle prompt is “birthdays”. I have probably told what I know about my birth a dozen times, but you can’t raise enough awareness of premature birth. Or pester your readers enough about the emotional pain it inflicts.
I was born on Friday, June 27, 1986 at 12:03 AM at Dijkzigt Hospital in Rotterdam, Netherlands. I had my first ambulance ride right that night when they took me to Sophia Children's Hospital. Both hospitals are now part of Erasmus Medical Center, the university hospital in Rotterdam. Sophia Children's is the largest and oldest children's hospital in the Netherlands, having celebrated its 150th birthday a few years back.
I was estimated to be born at 26 weeks and four days gestation. When I was fifteen, I calculated what should’ve been my due date based on the day I was conceived (which my parents knew precisely because it was my father’s birthday). I then figured my gestational age should’ve been 25 weeks and two days. This weighed heavily on me because my mother had told me that, back then, they didn’t treat babies born under 26 weeks gestation. Now I realize that estimated due dates are just that: estimates. You can’t determine a baby’s gestational age just by looking at it, and the date the baby was conceived ony loosely predicts the date the mother last menstruated. Furthermore, I’ve never been able to find information on guidelines for treating babies in 1986. Now, doctors do have strict guidelines by which they don’t usually treat babies born under 25 weeks gestation. See my reasoning above for why this is nonsensical.
I spent 94 days in the hospital, of which I spent roughly six weeks on the ventilator. I went home on my supposed due date, September 29. While in the hospital, I had all three problems now seen as predictors of poor outcome: a lung infection, retinopathy of prematurity (the eye condition from which I’m now blind) and probably a brain bleed leading to hydrocephalus. The ROP and hydrocephalus were both discovered when I was five months old.
Each year around my birthday, my parents tell stories of how they walked down Gordelweg, where Sophia Children’s was located at the time, from the metro station to the hospital. In Rotterdam, cars are more of a hindrance than a help, so they didn’t have one. I don’t remember ever walking that route because I was discharged from follow-up when I was three. Now, I tell this story more often on my blog than my parents tell it to me.
As I’ve mentioned a couple of times on this blog, my birth story still impacts me. Having become more laid-back about my due date has helped. When I was a teen, I truly thought I’d be retroactively taken off life support for being a poor outcome. I still think so at times. Sometimes, I wonder what it takes to heal the psychological pain that I feel the circumstances surrounding my birth inflicted.