Labor Day is a holiday that the honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country…but for me, it will always be the anniversary of one of the scariest days of my life. Ten years ago on Labor Day, my water broke twenty-one weeks before my due date.

Even though it’s been a decade, I remember the night like it was yesterday. I woke up at one in the morning absolutely drenched with sweat. Los Angeles was having a late-summer heat wave and I was really feeling it. I laid in bed for a few moments, unsure of why I’d woken up until I felt the baby press on my bladder.

I made my way to the bathroom and used the toilet, but when I went to stand up I noticed I had dark brown streaks all over my legs. I leaned down to get a better look, and that’s when I saw my underwear was also dark reddish-brown…and so was the toilet water. I suddenly realized that I hadn’t been sweating in bed, I’d been laying in a pool of blood. I yelled out, “Mike! I think I’m bleeding!”

When he went to page my obstetrician, I stood up to get dressed…and blood just gushed out of me. I remember yelling, “I’m bleeding everywhere!” which prompted Mike to run back into the bathroom with wide eyes. We decided to go to the hospital, but as we were leaving my OB returned Mike’s page. I told her what happened and she replied,   “Well…at nineteen weeks, either one of your blood clots disintegrated, or you’re having a miscarriage. If you’re not in pain or if the bleeding doesn’t get worse, stay at home and come to my office at eight.”

Thinking back on that, it makes me sick. I still should have gone to the hospital. But I hadn’t learned how to be an advocate for myself or my baby. I hadn’t learned to trust my gut. My doctor told us to wait, so we waited.

I wonder (more than I should) if things would have turned out differently if I’d gone to the hospital that night. I also wonder why NONE of the doctors who treated me over the next ten weeks said, “Hey, you know what, you and your baby would be better served at a different hospital with better resources and high-risk specialists.”  I didn’t know any better, but they did.

I carry so much guilt, even though I know I shouldn’t. I would give anything to tell the Heather of ten years ago to go to the hospital. To trust her instincts. But instead, I’m writing about it with the hope that if something like this happens to anyone else, they’ll know what to do. Have confidence in your intuition. Go to the hospital. Ask questions. Get second, third, and fourth opinions. Insist on it.

That Labor Day ten years ago changed my entire life. I can’t travel back in time, but maybe my experience will help someone in the future.

Maybe then, some of the guilt will go away.

Finally admitted to the hospital, six weeks after my water broke.