Baby Zion a 24 weeker - Birth story {Part 1}

I Follow this mom on Instagram and she and her family are inspiring! Her story gives me chills. Gives me hope. Gives me joy! She sees the good every step of the way and this little boy Zion is a true miracle! Please read her story and stick around for the next 3 parts! This one is amazing!

Check out her blog at nicuzion.wordpress.com and follow her Instagram at @_chelseawatkins

Okay, first of all. I have to say the reason behind this blog is to give glory to God for the miracles He has done in the life of our family these past couple months. He gets all of the glory, the honour and the praise for every recovery and good report!!! My husband Josh and I are incredibly thankful for every person who has supported us in any way during this journey. We couldn’t have done it without you!!!!

Second of all. I am NOT a blogger. Sorry I don’t have all the fancy “about me” tabs and all that. I just thought this would be easier than doing a massive Facebook post haha! So no judging of my non-bloggy skills! Haha!

There’s nothing quite like the first time you see that positive pregnancy test. “THIS IS NOT A DRILL!!” is all I could think when I first saw those two beautiful lines. A baby. We were going to have a BABY! Telling Josh the news will forever be one of my favourite moments.

Things went by quick. Just having moved a few months earlier to Manitoba, we didn’t have a family doctor. So Josh and I went into the Walmart walk-in clinic (fancy, I know) and got the verification that yes, we were actually pregnant! I think I freaked out the doctor at how excited I was haha! From there they referred us to a nice old doctor who would see me throughout my pregnancy. In reality, I only ended up seeing him 3 times.

Dr K. was awesome. He was an old man and felt like a grandpa in a weird way. But we trusted him because, I mean, he’s old! Older doctors are better, right?! He must have delivered a ton of babies in his career! I looked him up on ratemds.com and saw he had a pretty good review, which made me feel even better. Everyone said that he is really calm in the delivery room and likes to do things the natural way. “That’s totally how my delivery is going to be – calm and natural.” Ha! Oh my poor little naive self. I think it’s a good thing we don’t know what the future holds, or we would be to scared to go through with it all!

I had a really good pregnancy. No issues with blood pressure, extra weight gain or other abnormalities. Josh and I were overly cautious and ate extremely healthy. I made sure I was drinking a minimum of 10 cups of water a day. Logging my food everyday to make sure I got the calories and nutrition I needed to grow a baby. We checked every pack of gum, hoping to find one WITHOUT aspartame to help cure my morning sickness (its impossible. TicTacs are the way to go). I didn’t even have a sip of coffee! I worked from home, and had the luxury of being able to have naps during my lunch break. Josh and I took long walks at night and dreamt about what our life will look like with this mysterious little person. And what my perfect birth experience would be like.

Okay, can I just say, where on earth do we get this idea that we will have a “perfect” birthing story?! I think everyone has something in each birth story that was less than ideal. Baby overdue, unplanned c-section, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes. Seriously. There is SO much that the movies don’t talk about when it comes to pregnancy!!! And my picture of a beautiful short labour with my mom on one side and Josh on the other, with my perfectly packed hospital bag, well there wasn’t even an ounce of that fantasy that happened in my actual delivery! Haha!! I feel like Pinterest and Netflix didn’t prepare me for real life!

Things started to feel a little off about 3 months in. I had the strangest pain in my side that wouldn’t go away. I asked my mom if it was normal, and she said just to check with my doctor in my next appointment. Next time I saw Dr. K. I asked him about it, and he assured me it was just ligaments stretching. Huh. Again, he’s the old expert doctor who (in my head) has seen it all and must know. The pains would go away and come back, and I continued to ask him in each of my following appointments, but he dismissed them as growing pains. But hey, it’s my first pregnancy! How am I suppose to know what to feel. So we went with that. “Growing pains.”

Now let’s really fast forward. To the beginning of my 5th month of pregnancy and we had just found out we were having a boy. Oh dear little Chelsea, thinking she had so far to go still! Little did I know that a week later I would meet that baby boy…

We had a family wedding in Regina coming up at the end of July and my clothes were just starting to get a little tight. As we started the 6hr drive, Josh convinced me it was time to get some pregnancy clothes. I’ll be living in them for the next 4 months after all! We stopped by the mall and did a mini shopping spree. Oh my gosh did those pregnancy jeans feel like heaven!

As we were driving my lower stomach felt kind of uncomfortable. I figured it was just those ligaments stretching again. Nothing painful. I read on all of my pregnancy apps that now is the time when your body/baby really start to grow. I actually kind of liked the discomfort because it meant that our little boy was growing! I kept thinking, “As if he is already 22 weeks! Over half way there!”

Throughout the weekend we were in Regina I kept having the discomfort in my lower stomach. On Saturday night I woke up in the night 4 times with the most intense pain. I remember telling myself to just breathe and suck it up – labour is going to be the real pain! It’s just ligaments stretching, right?! I figured baby must be going through a REALLY big growth spurt! After waking up the fourth time I finally woke Josh up and asked him to pray for me. “I have no idea what’s going on, but I don’t think it’s normal. Just pray for protection over the baby and peace over my body.” Thank goodness for a husband who knows how to pray.

The next morning I was laughing with my mother in law. She knew I was feeling a little bit off (we left the wedding reception early the day before) and I was telling her about these pains I was having. “I can totally handle labour contractions because these pains are CRAZY!” Little did I know at that point, but I actually was in labour!

All day Josh kept telling me to sit down and put my feet up. I didn’t want to be the “dramatic pregnant woman”! So I’d listen to him every now and then, but convinced myself I was fine. Sure I those intense pains I had in the night were now happening all the time, but that was totally normal. It’s ligaments stretching. Baby is growing. Every woman goes through this. …Right?!…

Sunday night we were playing games and hanging out at Josh’s grandparents house. I was SO hot and pretty sure I drank 6 bottles of water that night. Because I was drinking so much water, I kept going to the bathroom. Something seemed off when I would go, but I didn’t bother telling anyone about it. (I later found out that I lost my mucus plug that night. Just another miracle of God holding Zion in place and protecting him from infection!)

Monday morning we were leaving to drive back to Steinbach. I had no idea what was happening but when I look back I see God’s fingerprints all over it, holding Zi inside of me. While I was showering that morning I had another one of those intense lower abdomen pains and then felt something really strange. Almost like something was in my “birthing canal”. I felt this thing, like a balloon, inside of me. I had that immediate sinking feeling, and I knew something was very wrong. I was so terrified. What on earth is that!? Is it normal?! I don’t remember my pregnancy apps talking about anything like this… I started to pray “God help me, God help me” over and over again. I said, “I don’t know what’s happening but God please protect my baby”. I kept praying in tongues and as soon as I was back in our room I told Josh he had to see what was going on. He told me he didn’t see anything, it’s okay. I made him triple check because I knew what I felt! The balloon feeling was gone and I started to thank God for keeping both me and baby safe, even though I didn’t know what happened.

I called my mom in a panic and asked her if this was normal. I didn’t really know how to describe what was happening with this whole “balloon” thing. She knew about the intense pains I had been having all weekend and she encouraged me to go to emergency once we got back to Steinbach.

Ugh. No thank you. Emergency??? I can handle a few pains here and there, thank you very much. And I’ve never had to go to emergency before, but I’ve heard that you wait for hours and then go home with a little prescription. I told my mom I’d see how I was feeling once we were back home.

We started the 6hr drive back home. Josh was very cautious and drove slow. I clenched my stomach in pain the entire drive, tried to lay down in the back and put my feet up. I think I sat in every position you can in a car!! Nothing helped. Whenever the pains got really strong, Josh would pull over and let me walk around until they went away. How on earth did we not know these were contractions… labour newbies over here!

We got home late and were both exhausted. I think we crawled into bed around midnight. We were laying down for maybe 5 minutes when Josh said “Chels, I really feel like we need to take you in to emergency tonight. This may be nothing, but what if it’s something.”Normally I would be really stubborn and fight Josh on something like that, especially when I’m already in bed! But I agreed, for whatever reason (*ahem* God!). We got dressed and headed to the Steinbach hospital emergency. We were in our comfy sweaters, me without makeup and messy hair because hey, we were only going to be here for a few hours right? I don’t even think I brought my purse!

We waited for about 4 hours until they got us out of the waiting foyer and into a small room where we waited for another 3 hours to see a doctor. I remember being so tired, and wishing they had a comfy chair for Josh to sit on while we waited. The lady who checked me in asked me about my symptoms. I told her the pains weren’t contractions, just intense pains here and there. When the doctor came in to see us, I told him the same thing. I tried telling them about the “balloon” I felt in the morning, but they dismissed that as me being crazy.

It was about 7am and Josh and I were so exhausted. We still didn’t have any real answer from a doctor of what was going on with me. I stood up to go to the washroom and all of a sudden had a huge gush of blood. I looked up at Josh in horror and started to cry. I thought for sure we lost the baby.

Josh ran out and told the nurse and they quickly put me in another examination room. I kept thinking “God has not given me a spirit of fear!”. There are so many terrible thoughts that go through your head in those moments, it’s so important to take them captive and set your mind on God’s word.

We both sat there in shock. The doctor came in and did a quick examination, and then ran out of the room. Josh prayed over me and we waited for them to come back. Longest. Wait. Of. My. Life. The nurse came back and did a quick listen for baby’s heartbeat. I started to happy cry! Baby was alive. That’s all that matters. God’s got this!

The doctor came back and said, “This is all going to happen pretty fast now. When I was examining you, I saw two little feet in your birthing canal. I called a specialist in Winnipeg and she didn’t believe me. She is requesting that you come immediately to the hospital there for further examination. We’ve arranged for an ambulance to take you there within the hour.”

I remember thinking, ‘So that means the baby is okay. Good. Wait, do we have to pay for the ambulance then? Is it bad that I’m actually really excited to be in an ambulance!? Wait, can Josh come with me? This is totally like an episode of Grey’s Anatomy!’ 

While we waited for the paramedics to take me, we had a few moments by ourselves in that little room. Josh prayed and looked and me and said, “It’s going to be okay. God’s got us.” I felt such a peace. I really should’ve been scared, but to be honest, I was just so excited to be in an ambulance!!

Josh later told me that he went to the washroom while we were waiting because he wanted to stay strong in front of me, and had a cry in the washroom. We both had our moments of fear and uncertainty. I’m so thankful for God’s amazing peace that so quickly came to our rescue when we needed it most.

The ambulance came and took me away while Josh went home to pack a few things for us. I told him it was a waste of time, because I’d be home that night. (Little did I know!) He called our families as he was driving into Winnipeg and let them know what was going on and to pray. I’m so thankful we have families who can stand with us in faith.

I was totally at peace in the ambulance, snapchatting the whole thing to Josh and my sister. I read Psalm 91 a few times. The paramedic would record every time I had a contraction.

Once I got to the women’s hospital in Winnipeg they got me into a bed at Triage. Now you have to imagine this. The Triage is a small room to begin with, and then has about 6 smaller little rooms that are closed off with curtains. There’s no real privacy. When I got there, all of the beds were full of women who were starting to go into labour – not the most peaceful noises. Once I was in my little curtained off area, I could hear the nurses at the desk talking about how they needed to get women out of here so they could use their beds for other patients. I immediately felt uncomfortable. You know that feeling where you didn’t do anything wrong, but you know that you’re not wanted where you are? Awkward. Especially when you’re already on edge.

Josh finally got there with a small backpack of stuff. Just in case. We have a blur of doctors, residents and specialists come in and talk to us. “You’re 23 weeks pregnant. Do you know what the mortality rate of a 23 week baby is? Are you prepared to be in the NICU for months? Do you need us to call spiritual services to be with you?” Honestly, I was still getting use to the idea that I was pregnant and now I had to wrap my mind around the fact that the baby was coming possibly in hours. Both of our heads were spinning from all the conversations and facts.

We then had one doctor come in, with 2 students (it’s a teaching hospital). She had a box of tissues in her hand (when is that ever a good sign?!) and sat on my bed and looked at me with the saddest face. She told us our “options” of what we could do, finishing with “Or you can let this baby go, let your body rest and try for another in the future”.

I’m sorry, what?! That’s the moment I started to cry. Like really cry. Obviously we’re not going to let this baby go!! I forget what all happened, I just remember saying that our choice is that we will do whatever it takes to give this baby it’s best chance for a healthy life. She asked me a couple times if I really knew what that meant – the type of c-section I would have to have, the complications that she foresaw with our baby, the financial burden it would be. Yes, this baby is worth whatever the cost.

I had to sign a bunch of forms after that – was I okay using donated breast milk? would I allow my baby to have a blood transfusion? would we allow them to resuscitate our baby if needed? So many things I’ve never thought of.

When we finally got a moment alone, Josh and I just cried. What a low moment it was. There in that Triage curtained off room, with the nurses saying how they needed my bed for another patient. We both had no idea what was going to happen. Josh gave our families an update and my mom texted Josh if she should come visit. I just cried and nodded. I found out a couple hours later that my older sister was coming too. I’ve never needed the two of them more. If I was having this baby today, I wanted them to be there.

After being in Triage for a while, they wheeled me down to another floor for further assessments. I had a couple of in depth ultrasounds with these specialized doctors where they analyzed what was going on. They came to the conclusion that I had an incompetent cervix and it was completely open. They weren’t even able to feel it in the examinations. There was a 4cm diameter bulge inside my “birthing canal” (hello, TOTALLY what I felt in the shower the morning before!! I know God literally pushed Zi back up and held him in place during our 6hr drive!).

Some specialist, who I was told is the best, came in said they were going to have to do a sample of the amniotic fluid to make sure it’s not infected from being exposed. And to do that they’ll have to do an amniocentesis. They basically put a large, thin needle (8cm long) through my abdomen and into my uterus to pull out fluid. Without any freezing. K, I hate needles to begin with, so this was terrible. They made Josh sit back (despite his objecting). Apparently a lot of dads faint during this. The ultrasound technician held my hand as the doctor started the amnio. Oh did I cry. And squeeze that poor girls hand. That was definitely one of the most painful parts of this whole experience. I think he held that needle in for 3 minutes. Josh said it was more like 30 seconds. Every time I cried he would have to restart and it was terrible. Again. Needles. Not my thing. Especially huge ones going through my pregnant belly.

After the ultrasounds and amnio needle thing were done, both the technician (who I guess is a doctor herself) and the doctor sat us down in a separate room and said we have two options. Option A: we can have a cerclage surgery the next morning, where they will try to find the cervix and stitch it together. This has an enormous amount of side effects for both me and baby, most significant was that if they rupture the membrane then the baby comes today as a 23+1 weeker. (23 week old babies have a significantly lower chance of survival than a 24 week old baby) Option B: put me on some meds that stop contractions, a few shots of steroids a day to help baby’s lungs and stay on bedrest until baby decides to come.

After much prayer, Josh and I knew option B was was the way to go. I just knew in my heart that if we tried to do the cerclage the membrane would break and the chances of a 23+1 weeker surviving is so slim. If I could try my hardest to hold him inside of me for even one more day, it would be worth it. We said no to the cerclage and were then taken to a bed in the women’s recovery ward, where we celebrated that our baby was alive and did a big Facebook post asking for prayer in a very uncertain situation.

We got so many texts and messages of encouragement. Even people saying that God put us on their hearts before we told anyone about what was going on. If there is one thing this experience has taught us it is the power of community. We couldn’t go through all of this without friends and family supporting us. On this whirlwind day we didn’t have the capacity to stand in faith in this situation. We knew God had it under control, but we had the blessing of being able to rest in the prayers of others. Suddenly all of those life groups, teams we volunteered with and friends we had at church all jumped to our sides and said “we got you, we’ll do the heavy lifting”. You never know when moments like this will come, and I realize now why it’s so important to have people around you who can pray and support you when those hard times hit.

A huge thank you to every person who sent us a text, Facebook comment/message/like, snapchat, Instagram message or call. We appreciated every word and screen captured it all. Sincerely, thank you.

…part two is on the way!

Henry. A 23 weeker MIRACLE

Sometimes I get attached to families and their babies. Not all of them, but for some reason certain people and their babies just get to me. And I love them....maybe behind the scenes without totally freaking them out... But I love them. I connect with what they're going through and I get teary and choked up just thinking bout them.

That's how I felt, and still do, about Henry and his sweet parents, Nikki and Matt.

I first heard of them while I was swimming with my 3 year...a very sweet 3 year old who is happy and healthy at home. My husband came outside and told me that one of his coworkers friends had just had a baby at 23 weeks. Instantly my eyes started getting that tingly feeling and my throat started to choke. 23 weeks. Twenty-three weeks. My husband said his coworker asked if maybe we could talk to them. I cried...luckily in the water so you couldn't tell!

The first thing that I thought was holy crap 23 weeks. I can't talk to these people. What do I say to someone who's baby isn't going to make it? As awful as that sounds, that's what went through my head. Our friends 24 weeker barely survived...23 weeks?!?! I was sick to my stomach. After having 2 kids, the thought of anyone losing a child makes my entire body go into a spiral.

I didn't know what to do and I didn't want to go meet her because I KNEW I was going to get attached and want to be there for them. They were at our hospital with our doctors and nurses. And that scared the living you know what out of me. It scared me.

But it wasn't about me. It was about them, their time, their baby and they needed support. So I went and gathered some things that they'd get to use once they took their baby home. I hoped that having things to use later would be encouraging. I'm not sure if it was but fast forward 4 months....

GUESS WHO WENT HOME?!?!?!

Henry is by far one of the most amazing NICU journeys I have ever been able to witness. Every time I tell someone about him I get goosies. It is so phenomanal that Henry survived being so early...but to survive with NO medical issues...that is so freakin amazing! Please read her brief journey below and visit her website to read the more detailed stories she wrote while they were in the NICU. They are so inspiring!!  GO HENRY!!!!

 

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The story of the struggle for Henry and his entrance to life; a fighting 23 weeker!

 

My name is Nikki Thompson, I am a caterer, restaurant owner and baby blogger! My husband Matt, is my best friend and the love of my life. We both went to culinary school right out of high school and started dating and fell in love almost immediately. We got married at 23 and decided at 26 that the love that we shared was too special not to create another person together to add into this perfect life that we ave created. From there it was a hard road, month after month, negative after negative we started to lose hope. Maybe we were brought together to just stay the two of us. We went to a fertility clinic to get to the bottom of it, we were giving the heartbreaking diagnosis of “unexplained infertility”, and we were told that IVF would be the only option for us. We spent our late 20’s lying to friends and family about why we didn’t have kids by telling people that we just weren’t ready or we didn’t like kids, the truth was far too real to share.

 

In October 2015 we took the plunge at started our round of IVF. Every night, at the same time, Matt gave me 3 shots in the stomach and 1 in the butt. It didn’t matter where we were, in a parking lot, at a dinner party, at a park, no one knew so we didn’t let it interfere with our day to day life. After my egg retrieval in December I got sick with Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome. I wasn’t able to move for 2 weeks I was so sick, so my cycle was canceled and all of our embryos were frozen. In January we started again and got our positive in February! From there I had a very easy pregnancy, no morning sickness, no real cravings, our baby was healthy and we were so excited to meet him, Henry, in October!

 

On June 25 everything changed, I was 23 week and 1 day pregnant. We were catering a wedding and I started having cramps. Every hour they got stronger and more frequent, the pain became unbearable as the last of the desserts went out and when I went to the bathroom I was bleeding. We raced to the emergency room and my pain was so so intense and like nothing I had ever felt before, I feared for my child, and I was sure that he was in distress. I was taken back to the room and the contractions got more and more intense, this was labor. A doctor came in and said, Your baby is probably coming in the next 12 hours and he probably wont survive. That began our whirlwind in the ER, triage then of course labor and delivery. 2 epidurals, 1 spinal tap, 1 surgery and 1 surgery reversal later Henry was born! 23 weeks and 5 days at 1 pound 6 ounces, he went straight to the NICU. We had quite a road. Henry is a NICU all star and while he had some tough days and was in critical condition for a bit he soared most of the time.

 

The NICU is a scary place in the beginning. As the mom of a 23 weeker, I had to idea what to expect. I missed out on the excitement of a delivery, instead I was drawing in fear. I didn’t get to hold my baby for the first week, and even after that, his skin was so translucent and fragile I couldn’t caress and squeeze my baby. I couldn’t cover him in kisses for fear of over stimulation. I was a mom in theory, but I wasn’t able to do the regular mom things. Everyday I wondered If Henry would thrive. Would he survive at all? 

 

I met Amanda after the second week in the NICU and she was a breathe of fresh air, she came with a basket of goodies and an outfit inside. She said “There’s something about being able to dress your baby for the first time that makes you feel like a mom”, I cried. The shirt that she brought me was one that was made for her baby when he was in the NICU, Walter. Walter was with her and I immediately fell in love with him, and even though he was a 25 weeker, he gave me hope that my 23 weeker would over come all of his obstacles. A couple of weeks later she brought another shirt and Henry got to put it on and she was right! This was a simple right of passage that I was happy to have under my belt! It’s so wonderful that she has started this revolution by helping so many mom’s like me, bond with there babies. It’s amazing what a small piece of fabric can do for the soul.

 

I’m happy to say that after 108 days Henry was discharged and is a beautiful miracle, thank god for the doctors and nurses at the TMC NICU for saving my baby and giving my family life!

 

For the full story and updates on my sweet little Henry, check out my blog LiveAndDineWell.com

19 HOURS - Carries Story [part 1]

19 Hours: The Story of Eiza and Emme

The Happiest and Worst moments of my life happened within 19 hours of each other. I got pregnant via IVF in November and the joy I felt at the first ultrasound where I got to see what looked like a lima bean was unmatched by any moment in my life up to that point. Then the following week at a check-up I got news that rocked my world; there was actually two little lima beans…TWINS! A wave of emotions hit me, and to be perfectly honest not all of them were good. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy but I was also scared and left wondering if I was capable of being a single mother to twins. I laughed and cried over the next couple of weeks coming to terms with this new twist but finally it settled in and I knew this was going to be an amazing journey.

At 14 weeks my story took another twist, I went in for an ultrasound and after the technician had problems with measurements on baby B the doctor came in with devastating news. I will never forget the words the doctor said to me, “it will be a miracle if baby B makes it through the entire pregnancy.” Baby B had extremely low amino which according to the doctor meant baby B could be reabsorbed since it was so early in the pregnancy or baby B would have issues that end up causing baby A problems. The one thing she never said was that baby B would be born and be healthy.

What does a person do with this information? Well, I will tell you that I started to question every little thing I had done over the last 4 months. Did I do something to cause this? Was this because of how I reacted when I found out I was having twins? Was I working too much? Was I not eating right? Was this somehow Karma for something I did earlier in my life? Why is this happening? How will I make it through? Is there a chance I will never get to meet one or both of these little babies? The questions just kept coming over the next few days with no real answers so I finally decided to believe in these little babies and hope for the best.

Over the next 11 weeks things started to look up, I found out at 20 weeks I was having girls and both were progressing at a normal rate and organ functions were fantastic. At 25 weeks, during an ultrasound they it appeared the membrane around baby B had ruptured so they did some tests confirming I was leaking amino fluid. On Apr24th 2013, I was admitted to the hospital for mandatory bedrest until my little girls decided it was time to enter the world. The hope was I would make it to 35 weeks. My daughters had a different plan and I went into labor just past the 28 week mark on May 11th 2013. Approximately 5 hours later, via an emergency C-Section Eiza was born at 1:37 pm at 1 lb 15 oz 12.5 in., and Emme was born at 1:39 pm at 2lb 3oz 14in. This was the “Happiest” moment in my life but due to my C-section I didn’t get to see my girls for over an hour after their birth. I did not get to spend a lot of time with them due to a bad reaction to one of the meds from my C-Section. I ended up having to stay in my hospital room in order to rest and not tear my incision. Immediately following their births, Emme was breathing on her own but Eiza was put on a ventilator. Unfortunately, Eiza’s lungs just weren't developed enough due to the low amino fluid around her throughout my pregnancy. After 15 hrs of Neonatologists trying everything and 4 hrs of me and my family holding/spending time with her in the NICU, I decided to take her off her vent and she died in my arms at 8:20 am Sunday morning which was also Mother’s Day.

The next 24 hours were a blur and I felt myself shutting down! The happiest moment in my life turned into the worst moment in my life. I just curled up in a ball in the hospital bed that had become my home over the last 4 weeks and cried more tears than I ever thought was possible. I did NOT want to move. I did NOT want anyone to tell me things would be ok. I did NOT want people to console me. I did NOT want anyone around me. I did NOT want this to be real. And at that moment I did NOT want to see my other daughter. Yes, I said it…I did not want to see Emme because I felt I had failed Eiza as a mother so how could I be one to Emme. I was in pain; physically, mentally, and emotionally and was scared this feeling would never go away. Eventually that night, with the support of my family around me I gathered my strength and went to see Emme for the first time after saying goodbye to Eiza.

It was a true struggle for me to try to stay strong as a Mom for Emme while also allowing myself time to grieve for Eiza. There were moments I felt like I could not do it because the grief was so intense. I wondered if Eiza knew how much I had loved her even though we only had a short time together. I would hold Emme with a yearning to hold Eiza in my arms. I wondered if Emme felt the same pain while at the same time fighting for her life. I would go home at night, cry myself to sleep then wake the next morning still crying. People would talk to me and I would pretend to listen while drowning in my own thoughts. I was afraid I would never truly be happy again since this sadness took over my entire mind, body, and soul.  It’s been over three years, the pain has never truly went away but I’ve found ways to deal with it. I celebrate both Emme and Eiza’s life on their birthday and I mourn Eiza’s death a day later.

I do not hide from the pain or the joy Eiza brought me in those 19 hours.  I feel Emme is aware of her sister; I talk to her about Eiza as often as possible and we talk about Eiza watching over her as her own private guardian Angel! Eiza and Emme’s story does not have the happy ending I expected when I got pregnant but it has taught me so much about how truly precious life really is.

Dear NICU, I hate you, I love you. I hate that I love you.

Everyone have that song stuck in your head now?! Good!

If you've spent a significant time in the NICU,  the love hate relationship makes perfect sense. I don't personally know how it feels if you were there for a short time, we were there 110 days...but I'm sure the feeling is similar. 

Before my son was born, the NICU was a place I'd seen on Grey's Anatomy.  Heard of it. Never more than that.  

When we were in the hospital for 4 days before he was born, all I learned about the NICU were the mind exploding statistics that it was probably going to be where he lived and died. And I hated that. Didn't even know the place but I. hated. It. 

The first time I was wheeled through the doors....bitterness. It was not in my plans and I hated that we had to be there. It was a terrible feeling but I didn't really know what else to feel. I didn't want to talk to anyone. I didn't want to hear from the couple about to take their 24 weeker home.  I wanted to be alone with whatever time my son was alloted. They'd prepared us for the worst. I had no hope left. Everyone could just go away. 

Then I saw my son in the incubator. Intubated. Small.  Sticky. Incredibly tiny.

ALIVE.

BREATHING.

They'd saved him. For now, I loved them. 

As the days went on and my son kicked statistic after statistic in the you know what, I began breaking down my little wall and began getting to know the NICU. It's nurses and doctors who tirelessly did everything they could to save our son; other people who were there in my shoes. I started to let the NICU comfort me. I started to bring my happy face. Ask more questions and not resent the nurses who, in my opinion at the time, stole moments I wanted to have (Being there when they Extubated him, his first feed, some other stuff). I learned that saving him was their top priority, even if that meant I would miss some things. I'd learn to let that go. 

The smells didn't bother me as much. I actually grew to like it. His tiny space, that barely fit a small chair to sit in, grew on me. The machines scared me less and less. I let it become my home for however long we were going to stay there. I moved in.  

Eventually, I loved my NICU. I wanted to hug and kiss it. I loved the doctors and nurses in it who loved our son as much as we did. It's hard to put into words the bonds that grow over such a short amount of time. They saved him from a death sentence infection, lung issues, heart issues...numerous other things. What's not to love about that.

When the staff started throwing around the phrases 'discharge preparation' and 'going home soon'...I began to panic! Mostly because I was scared to take home this micro human that was so fragile, but I was so sad and devastated to leave my new home. I wanted to stay with these nurses that became family. I wanted my doctors to be there when I came back from lunch. The feeling of wanting to leave so badly had turned into  wanting to go gome laced with a feeling of losing our NICU life we had grown to so seriously love. I was actually going to miss this place.

The NICU can be a terrifying place. There's just too many emotions and unknowns. Sick babies, so many beeps and machines. Never knowing anything at all ever.

Now 3 years later, I miss my NICU. I go back often...probably way you often! I miss them. All of them. Every nurse and doctor. Even if they didn't work on my son I loved them for doing what they do. I walk in and miss the smell of it. When I walk in I'm flooded with emotions and relive our stay. As hard as that is, I love it. Our outcome was fortunately better than some so it's easy to say I love it there. And I thank God everyday for that. I know others aren't as fortunate. I now do whatever I can to thank and show appreciation for the NICU. 

I guess one peice of advice if you end up there would be to try and embrace it fast. Don't let the fear and anger or whatever feelings you have get in the way for too long. It's a go with the flow place. Time doesn't exist in the NICU. Let yourself be sad. Its totally fine....but try and let it take care of you while they take care of your baby. Hate being there if you need to....but love that there is no better you could be. 

 

Hope that made sense to...anyone! 

The Truth hurts

We've all done it. We've all seen it. And we've all judged her, even though we are her (or him).

Our dang social media, internet, texting, snapchatting...whatever your vice is, you've probably done it. Totally and completely zoned out and sucked in to whatever is oh so interesting on the web. The cutest snapchat pictures. An Instagram update you can't miss. Some Facebook post that you need to like, because really, it's the best read you've had all day! Even a quick thumbs up on a photo or status update...we cannot get it out of our lives...unless of course you don't have a phone, but who is that person even?!

Now let's add a kid. You're at the store or the park. You here the DING you know means there is a new photo or update and your curiosity gets the best of you... you check it...meanwhile, maybe you have an angel child who sits quietly and calmly in the cart while you look. Or maybe you've got a minion who is no longer in the same isle as you...in a matter of seconds! Whatever the case may be let me offer you this scenario:

This is my truth because I literally just did this today...and I feel awful. And guilty as heck. And selfish to boot.

I took my kid to get a haircut...too bad I didn't read the fine print on my coupon because they closed at 6 pm....fail. Now what?? Well the husband suggests the park since my son has WAY too much energy and was inflicting havoc in the house. So to the park we went! I set down my phone, keys and water on the play equipment and we played! It was glorious because it was just the 2 of us! Usually the baby tags along but he stayed home with dad. YAY!

After a few rounds on the slide I checked to see the time, and then also had an Instagram update. Well it's just one finger click away and BAM I'm reading a post...that leads to scrolling...that leads to this person, and that person and some other person I don't know. It's really crazy how the rabbit hole goes.

I stumble upon a post from a friend about how her daughter passed away a few years ago. Tear-jerker in the park. Can you even imagine this if you haven't gone through it already?? A truly awful and sad thing to read. It's almost too difficult to stomach.

I don't know what happened to her so I began looking through her older posts. I don't even know why but I was drawn into this poor sweet girl who was killed tragically. It makes your heart hurt for them. And you begin to wonder how in the world do they go on? How do you grieve the loss of a child and give attention the ones you still have? How do you wake up and drink your coffee? How long does it take to not be overcome with sadness and grief....What if it was MY child? How would I even live if something happened to my sweet boy??

OH MY FREAKING GOSH I'm at the park with my kid RIGHT NOW and just wasted...what? 5 Minutes with him?? How long was I really even looking at my phone? What did I miss? How many times did he call my name and I didn't hear him? Did he do something absolutely adorable and I completely bombed it by being sucked in to my phone? YES. I missed it. 5 minutes of his precious life. 5 minutes that I'm POSITIVE that family would have given the world for just to be with their daughter. Geeze I suck. Like really suck a lot right now. 

I know people will say it's their time alone while their kids play, you've been with them all day, I just need some me time. This is the only time I have to look at my phone. There's so many reasons that we justify as to why we do this.

Well shoot, I almost got all the me time I could have ever wanted. My son almost died when he was born. He almost died the few weeks after he was born and then continued to fight for life even longer after that. What could possibly be more important than enjoying even the most annoying parts of your kids life? Don't get me wrong sometimes they drive me totally INSANE but I wouldn't trade even the biggest temper tantrum he's thrown for anything. Can you even imagine not being with your kid anymore? Suddenly and unexpectedly?

Let's put down our phones when the kids are around. At least give it a shot? Think about all those parents who are missing the moments we are taking for granted. It actually makes me sick a little bit to think that way...but we've let social media and the internet in general grab a hold of what we think is important....so I guess to ponder...what's important? Is there a better time to check your phone stuff? I'm sure we can find time...I know I will.

 

 

Pump baby pump!

Last chance..If you’re not on the breast-feeding train….or pumping…or milk sharing…you can skip this as I’m writing it for those who need the information/support on the matter If you are…I hope you enjoy and get some good info!

 

For a couple weeks, all we could do was feed W a drop of milk through a tube and put milk on a q-tip on his tongue so he could taste it.

Since W was in the NICU for 110 short days, I had a lot of pumping to do. It started day one. He need a DROP the first day. Literally. He was fed through a tube for a very long time. He wasn’t able to actually attempt to breast feed for many weeks due to his size and is inability to be able to ‘suck, swallow, and breath.’ He never was able to get on board either despite the months of trying and therapy. Wasn’t in the cards for us so I became an exclusive pumper!

While W was growing, I was pumping. Religiously. Every 3 hours around the clock. All day. All night. At home. In the NICU. In the car. Whatever I was doing at the 3 hour mark, I’d stop and pump. 15 minutes on the dot. It’s what I was told to do I did it for almost 2 years.

During our NICU stay I saved all of the milk. EVERY DROP. I figured we’d get into it someday. I had NO idea that I’d actually have THAT much milk!

We counted and then lost count… thousands of ounces! The NICU staff said they hadn’t seen someone with that amount of milk in a looooong time! Lucky me Really, I believe that.

We had to buy an upright freezer from Lowe’s in order to store all of the milk!

So here’s my advice, if you want it, on pumping, storing, sharing and everything else I’ve learned.

 

 

PUMPING!

  • What kind of pump should I get? If you’re going to exclusively pump, make sure you get something that’s going to last you a while. I use the Medela Pump in Style Advanced. It is worth EVERY PENNY if this is something you’ll be using often. **** A little hint on Medela—> if a part breaks, CALL THEM! They will usually send you a replacement if it’s the first time you’ve asked. I was able to get a new adapter after mine was dropped and cracked.*** Do some research on other pumps if you won’t be using it 8 times a day like I was! There are others that are single pumps, hand pumps and smaller sizes.

 

  • What kind of storage bags should I use? I have used a LOT of storage bags. Target, Medela, Nuk, Lansinoh…They’re pretty much ALL the same in regards to function. The only issue I’ve ever had is sometimes they’ll have a hole from freezing and leak when you defrost them. A simple fix, defrost them in a ziplock bag and you won’t waste a drop. EASY. So you can pretty much buy any bag you want.
  • How do I freeze the bags? When you store your milk, lay the bags flat as opposed to standing up. You’ll save a TON of space that way and they’re much easier to store. You can stack them, line them up, file them whatever fits your freezer! Find storage tips here.

 

  • Organize! Make sure you label each bag with approximately how many ounces, date, and time you pumped. It’ll really help in the end when you’re trying to figure out what to use first. Or, if you’re going to donate, the receiver will be able to know the same info.
    • We used gallon sized ziplocks and wrote months on them. Then we’d fit as many milk bags as possible from that corresponding month.  We also used plastic containers to keep the bags in order. I don’t think there is one perfect method. As long as you can remember what is oldest and use that first, go for it!

 

  • How do I help my milk supply? There are a lot of ideas of how to up your milk supply and things that have been shown to work. For me, I drink a lot of water, eat oatmeal, I supplement with fish oil and vitamin C daily. I also take a prenatal with a lactation support pill made by Gaia. There was a time when my supply was tanking. A couple of days after I started taking these, I was back up. It contains Fenugreek seed, fennel seed, raspberry leaf, Blessed Thistle herb and Marshmallow root. It worked really well for me! This was ME. There are a lot of different kinds of supplements and I’d advise you to ask your doctor or lactation expert. ** Always ask your doctor before taking any supplement.**

 

  • Pumping takes time. Be patient and find something to occupy your pumping time. I have read so many blogs and posts from people who simple don’t pump because they feel it is a waste of time. WELL, while you’re pumping, bust out this calculator and figure out how much money you’re saving! Google the ways breast milk is so good for your baby… there are a lot of health benefits! Catch up on emails and social media if you like that. Read. Watch TV. Catch up on Netflix. 15 minutes goes by fast than you think! It’ll feel like forever at first but it does get easier and it’s totally worth it! Not only for your baby, but for your wallet! Breast feeding is FREE!!!!! Pumping sucks, but you’ll save in the end. If you’re worried about the cost of a breast pump, check out the info on donating milk and pump reimbursement. Oh did I mention “they” say you burn up to 500 calories a day making milk?! SCORE!
  • Pumping on the go. If you’re going to pump in the car, invest in a car adapter! It is a lifesaver! I’ve tried the battery adapter but it doesn’t cut it! It sucks the batteries dry before I’m ever done…not to mention the power is cut in half! You can buy wipes to clean your pump parts while you’re on the road. I’ve also just rinsed with water in a pinch.  Bring extra everything and don’t forget lids or bags!
  • Moisture in the tubes and Replacement Tubes for your pump. The tubes on the pump I mentioned above get moisture inside of them. You can dry up the drops by leaving the pump on for a couple of minutes after you’re done pumping. Make sure you check the tubes once in a while for mold and replace the tubes every few months or so. I’ve even seen replacement tubing on Groupon so keep your eyes open!
  • How long is frozen milk good for?? The most common question I’ve been asked and researched myself! I am not going to give my personal opinion because I don’t want to be responsible for anything… BUT you can read the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation for freezing and storing milk here. They also provide a lot of additional information on breastfeeding and its benefits. There are many websites and blogs about what is right and wrong. Ask your doctor and do what you feel is best for you and your baby.

 

 

Donating Breast Milk

There is a lot of conversation about donating breast milk and whether or not it is a good practice. In my opinion, it is an extraordinary thing to be able to do. When I filled up an entire deep freezer, I knew I would never be able to use all of the milk. I was making enough to feed triplets. I was very fortunate to have so much milk and I wanted it to go to good use. Throwing it out was out of the question!!

I’ll share what I’ve learned and what I have personally done that has worked for me. **THIS IS WHAT WORKED FOR ME, PLEASE DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH BEFORE YOU DONATE/SHARE**

  • Where do I donate breast milk? There are MANY places that you can donate breast milk. For a list go here or google it to find out what works best for you. I decided to donate to the National Milk Bank.  I initially was attracted to them from a friend and was pleasantly surprised when I learned about their pump reimbursement program! I was pretty excited! The National Milk Bank was a GREAT experience. They are very thorough in their screening process and medical testing. They sent a nurse to my house to do my blood work. That was very helpful since my son was on oxygen and leaving the house was difficult.  They send everything to you free of charge. Find out if you qualify to become a human milk donor! You can rest assured that your milk is going to very sick babies in NICUs around the country! 
  • What are the benefits of donating? Number one, helping babies in need. Your milk is going to very special little ones that need your milk more than anything. NICUs all of the country receive this human milk fortifier and studies have shown that babies who receive human milk when compared to cows based milk, do better.. From Prolacta Bioscience:

“The milk that is collected through affiliated milk banks is tested, pasteurized and formulated into nutritional products exclusively for in hospital use. The formulations are made specifically to feed critically ill premature babies that are in the NICU. The donations do not serve as substitutes for mother’s milk if a baby is not under hospital care.

Donating will also earn you a reimbursement for the very expensive pump you purchased. If you donate with the National Milk Bank you can participate in this program. You must donate a minimum of 300 ounces to qualify for the $300 reimbursement. CHA-CHING!

Any other questions I missed???? Send me a message in the comments and I’ll try to answer the best I can!

 

 

 

Milk Sharing

Quite the topic, I know. Some people think it is unbelievably weird to share breast milk with people. This is different from donating. I donated to the National Milk Bank for quite sometime until I was talking with a friend whose milk supply stopped. She had a 3 month old and was having to give him formula because she just couldn’t get the milk, no matter what she tried. And she tried everything. I decided to start sharing my milk with her and her baby! It’s a lot easier than you think. Here’s what to do:

  • Get a sturdy box. I’ve found that no matter how many times you write FRAGILE on a box, they just toss it around anyway. Multiple times did the box arrive at my friend’s house mangled… with a couple of milk bags cracked and exposed, rendering it useless and had to be tossed. I started using Pampers diaper boxes. We’ve ordered diapers on Amazon for a long time and it seems like those boxes are pretty sturdy. 
  • Get an insulated bag for the milk (optional). I buy that $3 insulated bag from the grocery store that they sell at the registers. It isn’t totally necessary but it’s a good way to keep all the milk together and keep the dry ice in place.
  • Get dry ice. Dry Ice is NECESSARY  when sending milk. I usually buy 2, 5 lb blocks of dry ice the same day that I’ll be sending the milk. Typically I’ll be shipping around 100-160 ounces and those 2 bricks have been enough. The freezers they use to store dry ice at the store are much colder than yours at home and it will start to dissipate if you leave it in your home freezer.  “They” say that dry ice will last up to 48 hours…I don’t risk it and send everything overnight.
  • Packing your milk. I put one block of dry ice at the bottom of my insulated bag. I then load up the bag with milk and put the other block on the top. Zip up the bag (most have zippers) and place it in your box. Lately, I’ve been packing paper around the bag inside the box hoping that it’ll reduce the risk of the frozen milk cracking. They have literally CRACKED in half!
  • Ship Fed Ex if you’re sending more than 5 lbs of dry ice. UPS will only allow you to send 5 lbs of dry ice, and that simply isn’t enough to keep the amount of milk I’m sending frozen. If you’re sending a small amount, UPS is about the same price. The difference has been a couple of dollars at most. They just limit the amount of dry ice you’re allowed to send. FedEx has been great so far and I ALWAYS ship overnight. It is the best way to go to ensure that your milk arrives frozen. I drop off my milk around 9 or 10am and my recipient will usually get it before 10:30 am the next day. Make sure you tell FedEx or UPS that you’re sending dry ice. If you don’t, you could  hefty fine and possible jail time! It’s serious stuff! As long as they know about it they don’t care that you send it!
  • Sharing your milk is really easy if you do it like this. I’ve read many places that it doesn’t work and milk thaws…I’ve never had that happen so far doing it as I’ve stated above.

GOOD LUCK!!! And please contact me with anything I missed or other questions!!!

NICU musings...tips and tricks

There are so many things that can make your NICU stay, as I always said, suck a little less. I randomly think of these things so I decided to start writing them down when they come to mind...if you're in the NICU, I hope these help and feel free to add...there's never enough advice to make it...suck a little less!

communicate with your nurses

One of the very first things that happened...within the first 48 hours, was me breaking down (for the millionth time) because the nurse fed my kid without me. His first feeding. She had told me that she would be doing his 'cares' (when they take temperatures, change diapers and bedding, turn the baby if needed and feed). and feed him at 330pm. I would be there FOR SURE. So I tried to take a little nap, which is basically impossible when you're still in the hospital. I woke up at 3 so that I could pump to feed him, get somewhat refreshed and walk over to feed him FOR THE FIRST TIME. It was literally the first time he would ever have had milk. When I walked into his room, the nurse was just shutting the little arm doors you use to reach in the incubator. I looked at her and smiled...she then said, he did great, told me his temp, diaper had been changed and the milk I had brought earlier was in the feeding tube.

WHAT. THE. HECK. I was furious...and deflated... completely and utterly destroyed. Why did she do that when she told me she'd feed him at 330? It was friggin 330 right now! Well, I learned the hard way that 'cares' began 30 minutes before they feed the baby. To this day I have no idea why she didn't tell me that. I would have been there. It was so important to me to get to do his first feeding and that was taken from me...because we didn't communicate.  And for the longest time I did NOT like that nurse... I grew to like her and she became a favorite. What I learned from that, always ask questions. It's hard to know what to ask when you first get to the NICU, but ASK!! make sure you know when they will start 'cares' if you want to be there. Even if it seems stupid, ask anyway. You don't want to miss out on the big moments. I also missed him being extubated...because I didn't know to tell them I'd want to be there for that. I missed him being moved from an incubator to a new crib, because I didn't tell the nurse I wanted to be there. Those little things you assume a nurse will tell you, they probably won't becuase they're just doing their jobs and sometimes don't remember thatmom would probably want to be there...even for the tiniest things.

Sleep with some blankets

Someone told us that we should sleep with our baby's blankets. That way they'd smell like us, our house, our lives at home. They'd then make up his little bed with them, use them to support him and he'd be able to smell our little family even though he wasn't at home. I did this literally every single night. I had so many blankets! Id sleep with the ones he used that day so that I could feel close to him too. It sounds weird, but it's awesome. And a small thing to do to make it, you know.

SCRAPBOOK!

I wasn't ever a scrapbooker. I thought it sounded old and boring. And I wasn't very crafty. The second or third day we were there, a child life specialists dropped by and told me about their scrapbooking day. I was invited to leave my baby and go cut paper. Ummmm no thanks. Leaving his bed was the LAST thing on my mind and I definitely wasn't going to leave to cut out some shapes and pretty circles.

Well a few weeks and about a thousand photos later, I didn't know what to do with them...ya you guessed it, I took up scrapbooking. It was actually really fun and a great time waster when I wasn't able to hold my son. During the 3 or 4 hours he needed alone to rest and grow, I'd make a scrapbooking scene by his bedside. It was fun and turned out a lot better than I'd imagined. I am SO glad that I did it. It is probably about 8 inches thick and FULL of great pictures and memories I may have otherwise forgotten if I had tried to do it later. I was able to keep a tiny micropreemie diaper, leads, tubes, wires...all of it! It is really a great thing I have to look back on now. I'm glad I did it.

More to come later when they pop in my mind!

How we got here...our micro-preemie story

**This post was written in 2013**

It has been a ‘rollercoaster’ to say the least. This past year has been more overwhelming for every single person I know. Trying. Testing. Struggle upon struggle. Trial after Trial. My family included. Our summer isn’t to be compared to anyone else’s as worse or less trivial than any other but simply to relate to the many people who I know have had such a rough year; and those who may have to experience the same or similar things in the future. I hope to be encouraging. I hope to offer some glimmer of hope as I had a hard time seeing it at first myself…well honestly for a little longer than at first. Hearing the words NICU never meant anything to me before this other than a place where sick babies go. I know now that it is that…but it is so much more than that.

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Our experience started before our son was even born. We had been in and out of the hospital so many times I can’t even count them on my two hands. We had spent countless hours in the ER with the only result being ‘bed rest’ and

‘oh you’re only 15 weeks but that pain that makes it impossible for you to stand up straight… probably just the baby kicking.’

Yes, a doctor told me that my pain in my belly that made me cry while being unable to stand up straight was simply…the baby kicking. I was then sent home.

Everything started to be consistent in MARCH. 7 hour stays in the ER. Ultrasounds for bleeding. Low lying placenta. Bleeding. Pain. The medicine: Bed Rest. I wish I had stood up for myself because looking back now, it was obvious something was wrong. But our GYN/OB office led us to believe that it was normal.

Easter weekend was spent in the ER. Kidney Stones? Baby Kicking? Bad Dinner?

The next trip to the ER were from contractions that I timed… 3 minutes apart on the dot. I was 23 weeks. They hooked me up to all of their monitors. The contractions didn’t show up on their monitors. I must have just eaten something strange. Or maybe I was having Braxton Hicks. Even though the pain on my face was obvious to my husband, the nurses didn’t seem to think it was anything to be worried about. Bed rest.

A few dayslater it started up again. Every 3 minutes. Excruciating pain. I couldn’t get up. Off to the ER again. I was 24 weeks now. Hooked up to all the monitors at Labor and Delivery. Finally the nurses, who now know me by name, can see what I’m feeling. Although it doesn’t LOOK as painful as they feel.  I was given a shot of terbutaline and a RX to stop the contractions. And of course, bed rest. I was sent home on strict orders.

Later that night, my water broke.

I didn’t realize it at the time. We had so many weird thingsgoing on that I just shrugged it off as another thing and if it happened again, I would go in. Needless to say, that was the last night my husband and I slept alone.

At 6 am I knew something was off. I told my husband I was going to go back in. Just to make sure. He’d be just a few minutes behind me. He got ready for work and took care of the dogs.  I was checking in, barely able to see the papers through all the tears. I was upset. Scared. Sick of being in the hospital….and barely 25 weeks pregnant.

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Within a few minutes, my husband was there and not even a few minutes after he came into the room we were told that my water did indeed break. And that was the start to the hardest summer we have had together. Ever.

The minute the nurse said my water broke, it was a race. A race to stop the contractionsTo get steroids on board so our baby’s lungs would have a fighting chance. To get me into a permanent bed for the forseeable future.

I wasn’t leaving the hospital until we had a baby.

3 days or 3 months… we were admitted. I broke down. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t wrap my mind around what any of this even meant. How would it be possible that I could have this baby now? His eyes weren’t even open yet. He was barely starting to look like a human at all. I had never prayed so hard in my life. The emotions were unexplainable. I was in a daze. I couldn’t even call my mom. I had my husband call her. She was on the next plane out. We were beside ourselves.

After those first few minutes when we were told we were admitted, it was doctor after doctor. I was given steroid shots immediately to help our baby’s lungs grow. I was put on magnesium sulfate for two days. Holy crap…. if you’ve never been on that stuff…it is just awful. I felt like I was standing on the sun. I couldn’t see straight and I felt like I had the worst case of the flu. The magnesium was to stop our little man from coming so that the steroids would have a chance to work.

Later that morning we had a visit from one of the NICU doctors. Probably one of the scariest moments of my life. She was unbelievably sweet even though she was telling us that our baby had a:

‘50% chance of surviving this.’

If he did survive, there was a laundry list of things that could happen to him. From cerebral palsy to blindness, that list was…there are no words. I think somewhere around the 15th problem he could have, I zoned out. We were so overwhelmed I didn’t know what to think. What to do. What to say. I was basically just told my baby may not live. And if he does, he’ll most likely have some life altering issue.

I turned on the TV.

I watched Friends.

I tried to empty my brain of reality.

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My mom finallymade it in. Without her we would have probably lost it completely. And we were pretty close already. She took care of everything at our house. Brought us food. Things to distract us. Love. A sanity saver. She gave my husband a break during the day so he could get outside.

At this point I had been in the hospital L&D for3 days. They had taken me off the magnesium drip. Within an hour, the contractions began again. Despite all of the hopes that maybe baby would be able to stay put for a while…

(those being our hopes… one of the specialist doctors came in and told us that in his many years of experience, and my chart, this baby would be born within 3 or 4 days.)

it was day 3…and it wasn’t looking like I would be on bed rest much longer.

Another one of the doctors we had seen recommended we get an amnio test. He wanted to see if there was an infection. The amnio sucked. There was the tiniest pocket of fluid for him to extract and he had a hard time getting it.

Turns out, that specialist was right.

After a couple of hours he came back and I will never forget him saying,

“It’s time to have a baby.”

—————————————————————————————————————————

I had a placenta infection and our little man could not stay in there any longer. He is such a smart baby man and already knew that didn’t he?! I was still having contractions and the doctors needed to move it along by inducing us further to help get him out. Poor little guy was very stressed out. His heart rate kept dropping with every contraction.

We were afraid they’d have to take him out through a c-section. They didn’t want that because he was so tiny. They estimated him just over a pound give or take. THANK GOD our little genius pulled it together long enough to be born naturally. I told my husband to get the doctor because he was coming NOW. The doctor came in to check and said,

“this baby will be here in ONE MINUTE.”

It was at that moment when everything came full circle and for me, it was real. It never seemed real before then. It seemed like seconds from the time she said one minute and our room was filled with what seemed like a thousand people. There were 3 L&D nurses, 3 NICU nurses, the OB and the NICU doctor.

I was shaking. I couldn’t believe this was happening.

I didn’t have time to breath before our baby was born and handed off without even a look to the NICU staff.

7:05 pm.

I remember asking if he was breathing over and over. I finally heard the doctor say,

‘Ok, the baby IS breathing.”

Relief. The best moment of my past few months was now… when the dr brought over our son long enough for me to kiss his nose before they ran him off to save his life. He was all wrapped up. All 1 pound 12.8 ounces of him. He was so so so small. Scary small.

I didn’t know if I would ever see him alive again in that moment. I wasn’t allowed to see him for a 3 excruciatingly painful hours. The longest hours of my life. My husband was able to go and take a couple of pictures for me. I had an epidural and wasn’t able to leave yet.

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They in no way could prepare me for what I would see when I actually saw him in person. He didn’t look that small on his phone. He looked like a newborn baby with a cone-shaped head. But a baby. I couldn’t have fathomed just how tiny he was until those 3 hours later when they wheeled me in to him. FINALLY.

 

He was a beanie baby. Literally the size of your standard issue beanie baby. His tiny leg was as long as my index finger. His little hand was as small as my fingertip. I could touch him, but only for a second. Only as lightly as I could. He was intubated and needed to be left alone. By himself. Without contact. He was too fragile. His skin too sensitive for touch. He was helpless and small….he was mine. Our son.

Our little miracle born at 25 weeks and 4 days. 1 lb 12.8 oz. 13.25 inches long.

And so our NICU stay began. We were allowed to see our son anytime of the day or night (except for the few times they had a shift change). We were able to sit by his incubator all day. Anytime we wanted.

The first few days were a blur. ‘W’ as we called him, wasn’t to be moved. He was in danger of getting a brain bleed so he had to stay flat on his back for 5 days straight. We could not hold him. I could barely touch him. He had wires and tubes coming out of every thing. All over him. He was perfect though. All 10 fingers and toes. Tons of hair and a mouth just like his dads.

We would get to put a tiny but of milk on a q-tip and rub it on his tongue while they fed him. Something to taste while a feeding tube down his throat filled his belly.

 

Those 5 days were long. Just waiting for them to pass so he could get a head ultrasound and check the status of a bleed. After 2 days we were able to extubate him. The staff was pretty impressed he was able to get off so quickly. He was put on oxygen in its place. He would have what we learned to be called desats without it. He wouldn’t get enough oxygen breathing on his own. He needed the extra help..for the forseeable future.   He passed. No brain bleed!

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Now that W had passed the brain bleed ultrasound, his nurse that day asked:

“So did you want to hold him now?”

I couldn’t even answer. I just nodded, unable to speak from the joy overtaking me. Getting him ready to be held was a chore in itself. It took 3 nurses to get him ready to be moved and to take him out with the tubes and wires draped all over him. I sat in the kangaroo chair and just waited patiently for them to hand me my son.

It had been 5 days since he was born.

I was so overcome with excitement. My baby boy finally in my arms.

He was so tiny.

He was just 800 grams. A feather. His skin was just skin. No muscle or fat on him. Skin and bones took on a whole new meaning. His incubator was at 80% humidity so his entire body was moist and warm. They put him on me chest and tucked him in snug into my shirt.

And we sat there together for one hour. 

The best hour I could remember in a very long time. Our hour. (gotta love english ;))

I remember my heart slowing down. I was finally relaxed.

I counted his fingers.

I smelled his hair.

I touched his cheek.

I could only touch him lightly. No stroking his arm. He was too small and early that any amount of stimulation was extremely overwhelming to him. Kangaroo care was the best thing for him. For me. For us.

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The very next day W got an infection. He was lethargic. Sleeping. Barely moving. It took everything in him to hang on to life and fight. We couldn’t hold him for 6 days while he fought off a potentially fatal infection. It was horrible. Siting next to him. Helpless. Unable to do anything for him but wait. I looked forward to every 4 hours. That was when I would be able to change his micro diaper.

A week later, W picked himself back up from his infection. He beat it. He has such a will to live and be here with the world. And it was nearly 2 weeks after he had been born that Daddy was able to hold his son. W looked even smaller on daddy’s chest. He was perfectly content with his father. A memory I will never forget. The picture of father and son forever engraved in my mind.

Since W had been born the doctors and nurses had heard a murmur in his heart. They’d listen every few hours and it was still there. The cardiologist was called to give W an echocardiogram. I had no idea that a person that small would have such a strong heart.

The results showed that W had a PDA. Basically, a valve that should close after birth was still open. This open valve caused his heart to work harder than it needed to in order to pump fluid through his tiny body. That tied all together with his lungs having to work hard to breath since they were so immature. All of these things worked so closely together that one problem caused other problems that otherwise wouldn’t be there. Another waiting game. Praying the valve closes on its own so they don’t have to do a heart surgery.

W had spells often. Always forgetting to breath. Need stimulation to remember to take a breath. To hang on. The doctors put him on caffeine to try and keep his heart rate up so they didn’t have to reintubate him. Between all of the milk, IV fluids and meds, W’s little heart had a hard time pumping so much fluid with the PDA valve open. He was put on diuretics to keep extra fluid out.

W had to have a blood transfusion because his red blood cell count was too low. He already had an infection and they didn’t want to risk another.

At one month old, June 16, 2013  W weighed 2.6 lbs!

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The next few months were filled with sitting by the incubator. Changing diapers and feeding W every 4 hours. Blood tests. Medicine changes. Doctor after doctor poking around at his fragile body. We learned how to bath a 3 lb baby…a lot harder than it sounds! We had to learn how to feed him with a feeding tube. Position of the tube is a lot more important than I thought. Sometimes his food would go in too fast and it would all come back up. He would have a ‘spell’ were he couldn’t breath. We’d have to lower the tube. His heart rate would drop when he was fed so we had to be mindful of how fast his food went in. We learned the different numbers, beeps and alarms on his monitors. Each one had its own set of warnings and scares. Hearing an alarm never got easier. My heart would always skip a beat anytime it went off. Which seemed like always.

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Fast forward to a pound later. We would call the NICU every night before bed to see how W was doing. How many ounces had he gained? Did he food go down the tube? What was his temperature? And the most important, did he poop?! One of his biggest hurdles was avoiding a gut infection and with every poop diaper we were one step closer to avoiding that, so it became a big deal to us.

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Then there was a day that I walked into the NICU, said hello to the front desk clerk, slowly meandered my way over to Walters incubator. It wasn’t there. Our big boy baby was in a crib! A hospital crib, but a crib nonetheless! It was a HUGE deal! W had to be able to regulate his body temperature in order to graduate from incubator to crib. And he finally was able to! We still had to make sure with regular temp checks but he was growing up right before our eyes.

A CRIB!!!!!

It was a great day! It seemed like forever to get him out of that incubator and now a crib!

W finally got to move up from preemie diapers to newborn diapers. I had no idea that they even made diapers so small. When he was first born the preemie diapers were too big the had to be folded in half.

For the longest time W’s oxygen was from a vapo-therm machine that could regulate the oxygen very precisely. He finally got moved to oxygen ‘off the wall’ which was a huge deal since that is basically what regular people require when they’re on oxygen!

Being in the NICU was so difficult. So challenging. A blessing in disguise. Every emotion you could imagine. The day finally came when the doctors and nurses started our discharge planning. I almost couldn’t believe it. Walter had to pass a few tests in order to be allowed to come home. He had to sit in his car seat for 2 hours without any breathing spells. Which he did beautifully!

After being taken off his diuretics for one week and having no spells, the docs decided that W was ready to go home! He had to come home on oxygen since he needed a little extra help due to his chronic lung disease. We had an appointment with the oxygen supplier and received all of our tanks, 50 feet of hose and an at home machine that made the ambient air into oxygen. I couldn’t believe after all this time, we were finally taking our son home. 92 days later.

We were home for 5 days! The best days we had been waiting for. Until a few days in, W was having trouble breathing. He stopped eating and was lethargic, tired, and just lay there. We had just been to a doctor’s appointment when I just couldn’t watch him labor with his breathing any longer. Something was wrong. We decided after talking on the phone with his pediatrician that we needed to take him to the ER.

Not what we had planned for the day.

We were readmitted to the NICU. Poor baby boy couldn’t do anything but struggle to breath. He wasn’t eating and didn’t have energy to do anything else. It was all he could do to take a breath.

After a couple of days of testing, the docs decided that W’s heart was working too hard to pump all of the fluid through his open valve, which caused his labored breathing. His lungs couldn’t handle the extra work. He was put back on diuretics. We had to spend another 10 days in the NICU before we were sent home for a second time.

Being home and then having to go back to the NICU was almost worse than being admitted the first time. I hid in our corner. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. We had a little routine, a family at home, a life with our baby boy. I was so devastated to have to take him back in.

But that boy perked up a few days after being on meds and it was decided to keep him on them for the forseeable future. He needed them to keep his heart happy until the valve closed.

Fast Forward to 2016.

W had his heart valve surgically repaired in July of 2015, had an eye surgery in December of 2015 and now has pretty cute little glasses! He has really shown us what he's capable of...and that makes us a little nervous! He's a fighter and nothing will hold him back!