Charlie’s very early arrival
Our guest post today is from one of our wonderful volunteers.
At my 20 week ultrasound, I was measuring and feeling great, and the baby was growing well. I was so excited to be pregnant. We had signed up for birthing and breast-feeding classes. We bought our first house and a new car, and negotiated baby names. We thought we were prepared. Just 5 short weeks later, though, we realized we were wrong.
I walked from work to the nearest hospital one morning with concerns about some cramping and light bleeding. The contraction monitor did not registering any activity, though, and a fetal heart-rate monitor showed no distress. I was suspicious about the fact that the cramps were occurring at regular intervals like contractions, but the machines kept everyone calm until the doctor examined me. Everything changed with his words: “You’re 6 cm dilated. Your baby is coming today.”
While I cried, the nurses sprang into action, administering steroids for the baby’s lungs and magnesium sulfate to delay labor. But my body would not cooperate. After a mercifully short labor, Charlie marked his entrance into the world with a tiny mewl of a cry that took my breath away.
Our sweet baby was immediately in danger. At just 1 pound, 15 ounces, his body was shocking in its minute perfection. We had only a minute or so with him before they whisked him away, but I was instantly in love.
Within the week, we got an education in micro-prematurity: ventilators and C-PAPs, central lines, intraventricular hemorrhages, pulmonary embolism, patent ductus arteriosis, and bilirubin counts. In layman’s terms, our baby boy was on a breathing machine, being fed through a tube in his belly, had a lung bleed and brain bleeds, and a congenital heart defect that might require surgery. He was jaundiced, his eyes were fused, and his face and body were bruised from my contractions. Some days it felt like too much to handle. But the doctors and nurses told us to believe in our son. “Your son’s a fighter”, they would remind us. And they were right; after 85 long days in the NICU, we brought Charlie home.
The tough times were not over once we brought him home. We fortified his bottles and fretted over his weight gain – and now he’s tall for his age. We wondered why he didn’t babble like other kids, and now we can’t get him to be quiet. We thought he’d never start to crawl; today he races across the playground equipment and down the slide. Charlie is now 2 ½ years old and in preschool. He is strong, healthy, funny, brave and tests us constantly. He still exhibits every bit of the fighting spirit that helped him pull through in the NICU. We are so proud.
Our experience taught me so much that I wish all moms knew:
• Listen to your body. Machines may say everything is fine, but you know when you don’t feel right. Tell someone!
• Trust in the miracle of modern medicine, and the strides that the March of Dimes and others have made to dramatically improve the survival rate of preemies.
• Understand that your baby is STRONG, and your love and support make a difference.