November is national Prematurity Awareness month. A staggering 1 in 8 babies born in the United States are born prematurely. Any baby born prior to a 37 weeks gestational period is considered pre-term. As many of us know, babies who are born prematurely, and survive, can experience lifelong medical issues and developmental delays, while some others have little to no complications at all depending how far along mom is when she delivers.
My youngest daughter ranks among these tiny miracles, as she was born at 27 weeks weighing 2 pounds and 3 ounces. Here is our story.
My Odd Pregnancy
When I was pregnant with both my daughters, I did my best to do everything by the book. I took my prenatal vitamins, increased my folic acid intake, walked regularly, ate well and did not miss a prenatal appointment. But from the moment I learned I was pregnant with my youngest daughter, I just didn’t feel right. I was uncomfortable both physically and emotionally. I ached all over and cried all the time. I know very few pregnancies are a cake walk, but in addition to a constant case of the pregnancy blues, I was tired all the time and felt like I had moved mountains if I even managed to get dressed in the morning. It was exasperating.
At about the 7 month point, I couldn’t take it anymore. I remember telling my mom that I could not be pregnant another day. I honestly didn’t feel like I would make it. At the time, I was suffering from a head cold, my feet were so swollen I couldn’t wear shoes, my heart rate was elevated and I felt too faint to stand. I called my doctor and he told me to get some rest, drink fluids and call him back if my symptoms persisted after a few days. I did what he said and decided to shake it off as just a part of being pregnant. I felt like I needed to toughen up a bit since I had nearly 3 months to go. It turns out toughening up wouldn’t cut it. Later on that night, I started experiencing sharp pains in my right side that were coming and going every five minutes and I had to be rushed to the hospital.
I was diagnosed with severe pre-eclampsia, which is a condition where the mother develops high blood pressure, has protein in the urine and could eventually have life threatening seizures. It’s serious stuff. My life and my baby’s life were in jeopardy. The only way to treat the illness was to deliver the baby. The doctor informed us of all the potential complications that came along with a baby being born at 27 weeks. He said he thought our baby had a good chance of being okay, but only time would tell. I was terrified, but I the medical staff made it clear that if they didn’t take the baby out, there was a big chance that neither of us would make it out of there alive. The doctor said he would deliver her via Caesarean section the next morning. I obliged, but I wasn’t going to claim any of those complications for my baby.
It was nearly two days before I got to see her since I was so sick myself. As much as I wanted to meet her, I’ll admit I was hesitant because of all the graphic stories I had heard about babies being born translucent and with deformities. I didn’t want to see her suffering. The nursing staff at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) assured me she was perfect and they considered her their own tiny miracle. Sure enough, when I first laid eyes on her, she was extremely small, but absolutely complete. She was so beautiful, she took my breath away. While my heart hurt to see my baby hooked up to so many machines and wires, I was grateful to see what good care they were giving her. We have a picture of her in the incubator, from that day, where my husband’s hand covers her whole body. I look at that picture often, to remind me of how far we’ve come.
Our Journey Forward
After her birth, it felt strange not to be pregnant anymore. It was hard to know that I had given birth and not have the pleasure of having the baby there with me. I’d go to the hospital daily and give her kangaroo care, which is when a mother nestles the baby against her bare skin to bond with the baby and help them heal. I cherished those moments. Her entire body could basically fit in the palm of my hand. She was so fragile, and at the same time, so strong. Eventually, she grew strong enough to come home. But, she had to be on a monitor that would beep anytime her heart stopped beating, or she stopped breathing. Needless to say, we had more scares and episodes than I care to recount.
Through it all, I just kept praying and speaking life over our situation and as she got older, she began to flourish. She picked up weight, no longer needed that monitor and was meeting all of her developmental markers. At the age of 2, she was completely caught up to her peers and no longer needed the support services given to preemie babies.
Today, my daughter is 6 years old and other than some asthma and allergy related issues, she is in overall good health. I feel blessed to be her mother because she gives me a lesson in miracles, everyday.
Do you have premature birth story you’d like to share?