It seems fitting that November is Preemie Awareness Month, since our little preemie was born in November.
I have to admit that prior to giving birth to Little One, I never so much as gave any thought to premature births or the causes of prematurity. No one I knew had a preemie before. After all, getting pregnant was supposed to be a piece of cake, right? You meet someone, you fall in love, you buy a house, you buy a dog, you buy stuff for your house (like that five piece bedroom set you have always dreamed about!), you have sex, you get pregnant, and nine months later you pop out a baby, right?
Things don’t always happen the way one thinks they are going to happen. In fact, nothing turned out the way my husband and I thought things would. We never even considered the fact that I may have a high risk pregnancy. We could not foresee me being put on strict bed rest for the last five weeks of my pregnancy. We did not even think that my cervix would be almost completely effaced at less than 24 weeks.
Luckily for us, everything was okay. Well, despite a few rocky moments and a lumbar puncture. I honestly thought Spinal Tap was just a band. I never thought my less than 3 lb baby would have to go through the pain of having one! Fortunately for her, there were no blood transfusions and she had no major complications.
For the thousands of other preemies out there, blood transfusions are not uncommon. It’s surreal to think about one’s new sense of reality and what is “normal” when you have a preemie. People don’t really know what you’re going through if they haven’t had to experience it themselves.
I never imagined having to learn about CPAPs, NG tubes, Bradycardia, Tachypnea, lumbar punctures, or any other scary sounding terms! What is even scarier is that these soon become “normal” words to parents with a baby in the NICU.
No matter how many times I’ve had to tell Little One’s story or speak about premature births, I always get choked up. She was only inside me for a little more than half of the time she was supposed to be in there. She was only 2 lbs, 3 oz at birth. It is amazing how resilient and strong a tiny, fragile-looking baby can be. Her will to live was so strong and she continues to be a head-strong, spirited little girl. She’s a survivor and she demonstrates this to us every single day.
I remember the day of her birth so clearly. It is almost as if it happened just yesterday. I was wheeled into the observation room after complaining of stomach pains (which happened to be contractions!). After the doctors looked at me, they went on their lunch break because I “had an hour or so” to go. I had the urge to push, despite the nurse’s pleading. She did not want the baby born with no doctors in the room. Three pushes, and Little One cannon-balled her way into the world. She landed on the hospital bed and I stopped her with my foot! Of course, she was tethered by her umbilical chord, so she wasn’t going to go far anyway.
The whole thing was like a whirlwind to me. The nurse called a Code Pink, wrapped Little One (Junior at the time, since we thought we were having a boy) up in a special blanket to keep her warm, and within minutes, a medical team of doctors, nurses, and RTs came rushing in. The baby was intubated for the first 24 hours of her life. Her Apgar scores were surprisingly good for a baby born so early. They were 6 and 9.
There was no doctor in the room to deliver Little One, so it was funny that they had to ask Hubby for the time of birth. Hubby never got to cut the umbilical chord because the doctors needed to work quickly. After they worked on her, they wheeled her away. I would not get to hold my newborn baby for almost two weeks. Hubby got to follow the medical team and watch as they cleaned Little One up and put her in her own isolette. He got to hold her hand through the portals/windows of her isolette. The doctors worked on me with the afterbirth and I didn’t get to see my baby until nearly four or five hours later.
It was sheer agony to not be able to hold my newborn baby. Most moms get to feel their baby’s warmth when the doctors place him or her on their mom’s chest. Most moms get to nurse their baby right away. I had to wait a few weeks until Little One got stronger and bigger. Most moms get to take their baby home with them a few days after giving birth. I had to commute to and from the hospital every day for Little One’s first 70 days of life in the NICU.
It is my hope that by spreading awareness of premature births, we can save more babies. How? By supporting NICUs everywhere. By raising funds for projects, research, testing, and even just services to help parents of preemies cope while their infants are in the NICU. That is my hope. It’s probably a lofty dream, but I hope one day that the rate of premature babies won’t be as high as it is now.
I never dreamed that I’d have a preemie, but I think this experience has made me appreciate motherhood so much more. Never take your children for granted (even when you’ve got a screaming toddler who is driving you nuts because she wants to wear Argyle tights and nothing else). They truly are little miracles.
November 17th is the day dedicated to raising awareness of premature births. Join the collective effort in raising awareness of premature births by checking out Bloggers Unite – Fight for Preemies and The March of Dimes – Prematurity.