Saturday, December 14, 2013

Our Preemie Birth Story

Look how tiny he is in comparison to that Soothie.
At 29 weeks my water broke.
My husband put me and our then 5 born children in the suburban and we drove past the brand new small town hospital and headed for Salt Lake City.
I knew we were in trouble.  I had read Maternal and Newborn Nursing cover to cover during that pregnancy.  I was pretty quiet and introspective during the first part of the drive. 
After the choice had been made to go to a big hospital with a NICU as a walk in my attention turned to my other children. 
I explained that my water had broken and so I would not be coming home until the baby was born. 
A little voice came from the back seat, "Mom, why can't they just patch the leak and send you home."
I chuckled and explained that was not how it worked. 
We had previously had a friend stay an extended period of time prior to having her baby.  But, as we drove I got wetter.  By the time I got into the ER I was wet to my ankles. 
There was no turning back. 

When I walked into the ER there was a Policeman standing there outside of the locked door to the ER.  I told him I was 29 weeks pregnant and in active labor.  I have never seen a man drain of color and run so fast.  He ran in a frenzied circle around the podium he was standing at and then disappeared through the double doors. 

A cheerful, but hurried face appeared in the circular window in one of the double doors.  I was scooped into a wheel chair and we were off and running.  We ran through the quiet corridor for an elevator in the other part of the hospital and before I knew it, we were in labor and delivery. 

I labored all night and then things calmed down.  I was moved to postpartum.
At this point the steroid shots started.  I managed to get all of the doses. 
I felt like I did not belong there.  It was really strange.  There I was hearing my neighbors baby coming back from the nursery, and I was still pregnant with ruptured membranes and a sick baby.

I contracted lightly for 2 days after my water broke, so no one was getting excited over my contractions anymore.  But, I was taken for a non-stress test.  The promised tour of the NICU was no longer going to happen.  The girl pushing me ran me back to my room.  No one would say anything, but I could tell from the faces of those treating me that my little boy was not doing well.
I made a choice.  I knew I had all of the doses and I was perched like a parked car atop a hill just waiting for a tiny tap and things would get moving. 
I knew my body.

I got up and showered, I was told I could.  And then I put a movie in after my shower. 
About the time the movie was over I realized we were ready to go. 
I called my nurse and she brought a monitor in.  When she saw the tracing everyone began to ricochet off of the walls.  Soon, I realized he was coming so the floor nurse pushed me down to labor and delivery.
When we got their the very young resident came in in disbelief and said everyone is acting like you are going to deliver.  I felt like saying "stick around for a minute." 
This was after all not my first rodeo.
In disbelief, he asked me to do a small trial push. 

I asked him, "Are you sure?!"
I explained that this was my 6th baby.
He said "Yes."
And, our tiny son was born.

No team in the room, no oxygen set up, no preparation.
We were so blessed, this could have been such a bad situation...
He said, "Get NICU on the Phone, they are gonna kill me."
Apparently the room where I was to deliver was being prepped still.
It was complete with a pass through window to the NICU and a team.
The next thing I knew he was whisked away over a nurses arm and she sprinted with him to the NICU.  I was lucky to catch a glimpse of him as a NICU nurse left the room with him.
My husband said it was strange to run down the hall behind the nurse as she sprinted with our new very tiny baby, stopping along the way at an oxygen station in a closet and before she continued on to the NICU.

Our 3 pound tall, little boy was born.

Our NICU stay lasted for what seemed forever to me.
9 weeks, so many have had it so much harder than we did.  I saw babies that struggled while we were there.  But, our baby did pretty well.  He shocked everyone.  He managed to never be intubated. 
I hated having him there. 
To me this was not the norm and I struggled feeling torn between wanting to be there with him and needing to take care of my other children at home so that my husband could work.
Soon the day came when we could go home.
He was there about 9 weeks and weighed 5 pounds when we got to go home.

The next 9 months were a battle. 
Our little son had bronchitis, bronchiolitis, RSV and every upper respiratory bug you can imagine.
We fought with feeding issues and anemia and general poor health.
This sweet little boy was very quiet. 
He did not complain much, but just clung to me like a weak little monkey clings to it's Mom.
I carried him with me always as I went about my daily routines.

Our sweet little buddy at 9 months old
 I remember once hearing through the gossip chain that he was not crawling because I had never let his feet touch the floor.  (Of course the gossip had not made the adjustment for his age and had not considered his lack of immune system being a good reason not to put him on floors...) 
Though it was not meant in a complimentary way, I took it as such. 
I had given this baby every ounce of strength that I had.  He knew he was loved.
And I was exhausted, wrung out and had nothing left.
And then slowly, the clouds began to part and he began to do well.
 Our precious little boy began to develop a darling little personality and a smile that lights up a room.    He had felt so poorly that he was mellow and quiet and just loved to be held.
I held him and cherished him.

Rewinding the story a bit, I managed to teach him to nurse after I got him home from the NICU with the help of a great book and some very good advice from a great NICU nurse.  I had pumped for nearly 3 months and he had only had a bottle for a very short time before he came home.  Against the odds we made it work with some really good help.  My body was not sure for a long time if we had a baby to take care of or not so the going was hard at first. 

As he grew we faced food problems.  He was very wary of new foods.
We kept a poster on the front of the fridge and on it we would draw a picture of the new foods that he had accepted to help him to remember that they were acceptable to eat again. 
We would face meal times by looking at the poster to see what foods he was "willing" to eat.
I say willing loosely.  But, the poster helped. 
Slowly we added new foods to the collection. 
We struggled with feeding issues until he was 6.

As he got a bit older he told me that he wanted to meet a Preemie who had grown up.
He wanted to check this whole thing out.
I told him about the fire fighter we had in our neighborhood who had been a preemie back when many preemies were less likely to survive.  He seemed satisfied.

I feel so fortunate to have had our preemie at the end of our family instead of the beginning.
Reading about the survival rates from the time our first was born to when we had our little man born was chilling.  His odds were great because of the time when he was born.
We are so thankful.

I know many have much more dramatic stories than mine. 
But, this is my story.
My little boy and my part of my heart. 
Thanks for reading.


  1. Very beautifully told. My nephews were preemies and I have a (God willing) soon to be adopted son the same age. It's hard to remember that my nephews need a couple extra months to be at the same level as our son. This is a good reminder of what they've had to go through.

    1. Best wishes to you and your family. I hope all goes well for you! :)

  2. I was able to take all of my babies home after normal deliveries and I've always ached for those mommas that have to leave their babies in the hospital. It must have been so hard.

    1. Thanks Valerie! It surely gave me a new perspective. I realized how blessed we were. So many have had it so much worse. We grew a lot through these experiences and I am glad for the strength that came with it.

  3. How old is your son now and is he doing well? This is such a sweet story, and you tell it in such a beautiful and humble way. He is a very fortunate boy to have been born to such a wonderful momma with an extraordinarily positive outlook on life and the world around us.
    (I wonder how the attending physician handled that poor resident...) :)

    1. My sweet boy is taller than me now. :) He was born in 2002. I have days when I pause and think about the amazing miraculous blessing he is in our lives. He was difficult in his own ways as preemies often are, but I am so thankful for him. I am so thankful for my tall thin boy.