A Mother's Story of Premature Delivery

Jane Clayson tells her story of a premature delivery at 27 weeks.
Jane Clayson tells her story of a premature delivery at 27 weeks.
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Jane Clayson has risen to national prominence as co-host of a network morning news program and has covered high-profile national and international stories for both CBS News and ABC News.

The following are excerpts from Jane's diary that she kept when her son, William, was born at 27 weeks gestation. After weeks of uncertainty, Jane and her husband, Mark, finally took their son home on Feb. 13, 2006. William weighed more than 6 pounds.

A baby born before 37 weeks is considered premature. Preemies can have numerous health challenges: extreme jaundice, anemia, serious infections, gastroesophageal reflux, abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eyes and respiratory distress due to underdeveloped lungs.

The Day

It was Sunday afternoon, Nov. 27, 2005, when my water broke. Looking back, I knew I didn’t feel quite right that day. My back was achy and I was just generally tired and unsettled. I remember standing in the kitchen and telling Mark, my husband, that I just wasn’t myself. But I was only 27 weeks pregnant, so I had a long way to go in this pregnancy. At least that’s what I thought.

The amniotic fluid started trickling out of me just before we left for church. It wasn’t much at all, at first—and so we left anyway. In the car I called my doctor, just to be sure. She said it was probably just a discharge of extra fluid—sometimes that happens in pregnant women. Not to worry ...

As we walked into the church, the trickle turned into a light stream. We turned around and drove home. Within minutes of arriving back at the house, it was obvious I had a full water break. I kept thinking: "Twenty-seven weeks. I’m only 27 weeks."

I was so upset … screaming, crying. I laid in the back seat of the car as Mark drove me to the hospital. With every contraction, I told him to drive faster. The water seemed to be gushing out. We got to the hospital and I’ll never forget being wheeled into the labor and delivery ward … and through my tears saying, "It’s too early. Babies can’t be born at 27 weeks. It’s too early. It’s too early." The nurses were amazing. They calmed me and held my hands as the doctors examined me.

The News

William was delivered via C-section.
William was delivered via C-section.
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The news wasn’t good: ruptured membranes. Premature, ruptured membranes. I soon found out there's not much you can do to fix that. It’s kind of like trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube. What’s done is done. I was nearly hysterical, crying in that hospital bed.

The doctors and nurses kept telling me I shouldn’t be blaming myself, that nobody knows why a pregnant woman’s water breaks. But I was sure it was something I had done. Even though I’d done everything right in this pregnancy, I’d worked like crazy putting up Christmas decorations those two days before—bending, reaching, standing up and down, lifting.

I will always believe that’s what made this happen. And I will forever be sorry … to you, my baby William … for not giving you a better start.

I remember being wheeled into the operating room ... leaving Mark in the hallway until they administered the anesthesia. When he came in and held my hand, I was more scared than I had been in a very long time. I could not believe this was actually happening. My baby was actually going to be born at 27 weeks gestation.

The NICU

Baby William weighed only 2 pounds, 13 ounces at birth.
Baby William weighed only 2 pounds, 13 ounces at birth.
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I remember walking into the neonatal intensive care unit for the first time. Actually they rolled me in on a bed. It was just a couple of hours after my C-section—4 a.m. I was flat on my back, still groggy from the anesthesia. When the nurse pushed my gurney into a room full of babies in their incubators, I distinctly remember thinking they looked like little caskets lined up, one after another.

How could anything so small actually survive? These must be dead babies in their little caskets, I thought. Our baby boy, William, was 2 pounds, 13 ounces. As I put my hand in the isolette, tears streamed down my face. Both my hands covered his body. You could barely see him for all the wires and cords and the oxygen mask on his face.

For me, the hardest part of this has been letting go of the expectations—the expectations that every mother has—of holding a brand-new little baby in your arms—a baby that is strong and healthy. My baby is NOT. And that dream of a strong healthy baby—the one you always have in your mind—is hard to let go. I can't hold my baby when I want to. Sometimes he is too sick to even come out of his incubator. When I do hold him, it’s for about an hour a day. Right now, he’s too sick to even open his eyes.

Jane holding William
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The most powerful emotion I feel every day is guilt. I carry so much guilt. What did I do to cause this? Why did this happen? I tried to do everything right in my pregnancy.

I did everything I should have done … and still my baby was born at 27 weeks.

I am so sorry, William.

I am so sorry.