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.

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10 Responses to “Charlie’s very early arrival”

  1. Heather Says:

    What a truly inspiring and heart wrenching story!! I have goose bumps on goose bumps! I am 15 weeks pregnant with my first and am shocked to think that anything can happen at a moments notice. I am
    so glad Charlie is such a strong lil fighter. You must be so proud! 🙂

  2. Alicia Bothel Says:

    I understand you completely. My now 3 year old son Caden was to born premature. He was a bit further along then your son being brought into this world at 32 weeks. He was 7 weeks pre-term. I went into pre-term labor with contractions, had excessively high blood pressure, hypertension, and preeclampsia. He actually lost weight in the womb before he was born. He too was a fighter, from birth he had a feeding tube and still doesn’t eat the best being in the bottom 1% for his age. He is very strong willed and a very strong little man. Always running and playing, laughing, and full of energy. I am reminded every time I see him just how hard he fought to be here with us in this world and how hard we as parents must try to make everything in his little world perfect for as long as we can. But, at the same time prepare him for the outside world. He is my miracle along with his two younger sisters who were both full term babies. A big thank you goes out from me and mine to all the NICU nurses and doctors in the world that deal with small babies like mine every day and take the best care they can of them!

  3. Denise Alatorre Says:

    I loved your story, very very similar to mines. I was 23 weeks when my baby girl of 1 lb 7 oz was born. We spent 4 months in the NICU and took her home healthy as a normal baby. It’s been a bit of challenge for her to grow but she’s reached her weight and height finally and she’s the happiest 2 year old now!! I feel you for everything you went through but what made your baby stay alive and be healthy was your LOVE.

  4. Joseph Garcia Says:

    Wow! My girl friend of five years and I are expecting our first child on May 22nd 2011. After reading this I am nervous about this because my girl friend has expressed her concerns from day one.
    I am verry glad that this story has a happy ending. I am a proud father of three and I can not imagine a life without them.
    Sincerely,
    Joseph A. Garcia

  5. Jennifer Layne Says:

    I loved reading your story, I too have a little fighter. Will was born at 27 weeks, he weighed 1lb 10oz. When he was 11 days old he had to have entire colon removed due to NEC. Even though he was little the Drs. all called him “Big Will” because they said he had the will to live, he was always smiling and content. We spent 88 days in the NICU, and I am so thankful to all the nurses and Drs who took care of my little man. He is 2 now and still very small for his age but he thinks he is as big as everyone else. Nothing stands in his way, he runs ,jumps, climbs and does almost anything he wants. We still struggle with his weight and his eating but it is improving everyday. We are so thankful for our Little Miracle!

  6. Tara Hartman Says:

    I was 25 weeks when my twins Drew and Katie were born. Drew was 1 lb. 15 oz. and Katie was 1 lb. 6 oz. Drew was exposed to infection in-utero and was very sick. We feel so blessed that we got to share a few hours with him before his precious life ended. He is our angel, our brave little man and Katie’s hero of a big brother. Katie had a long road in the NICU, battling infection, chronic lung disease, and ROP. The doctors and nurses of the NICU became our family, as we spent nearly every waking moment by Katie’s side. Even though we had lost Drew, we somehow always knew that Katie was our fighter and that she would make it home. After 109 days in the NICU, that’s exactly what happened. She came home on oxygen and an apnea monitor, but neither lasted very long. Today Katie is a happy, healthy 10 month old (6.5 months adjusted) and we feel truly blessed to have her in our lives. If not for modern medicine and a few small miracles, we would not be where we are today. I want to do something to help other families in our situation, to remember our son Drew, and to make sure that preemies continue to get the help they need. I’m hoping to run a half-marathon this spring and will seek pledges from family and friends to make a donation to the March of Dimes.

  7. Andrea Says:

    What an amazing story. I had goose bumps while reading it. Thanks so much for sharing.

  8. Mark Goldhaber Says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. While our first son was born at 22 weeks and only lived for five minutes, our second son was born at 26 weeks (2 lbs, 1.4 oz), and spent 10.5 weeks in the NICU before he came home. He had plenty of challenges, and he continues to face all of them with great spirit and success.

    While we were in the NICU, one of the nurses said to us “Don’t worry. He’s a fighter. It’s the fighters that make it out.” That has proven to be very true. Over time, the parents of preemies that have made it home from the NICU have said to me that their children were always fighters. The NICU is not an easy place to get out of, but for those tiny ones who have the drive, they seem to find a way to make it.

    Best wishes to all of you who have shared your stories here.

  9. Lindsay Says:

    Thank you all so much for your comments and for sharing your amazng stories. Over the years I have read hundreds of stories and Mark is right, the word “fighter” comes up all the time. I think all babies are fighters, but some sadly are born so early or small that they just don’t have the strength to make it home.

    As parents, we’re fighters, too. We fight for them all we can. As staff and volunteers of the March of Dimes, we also fight. We fight for all babies, becaue they shouldn’t have to. Please keep sharing your stories and helping us spread the word about the seriousness of premature birth.

  10. flora Says:

    I just read all these stories and they all touched my heart. I’m a proud mom of my first born, my baby girl Vanessa born at 27 weeks, she weighed in at 2lbs 8oz and 1100 grams. It was Oct 08, 1992, I woke up in the early morning to realize my sheets were wet, I thought I was dreaming, I started feeling really bad, my husband rushed me to e. r., when I arrived, I was immediately taken care of. I soon found out that it was the amniotic sac that broke and was also told that the umbilical cord was starting to wrap around my baby girls neck. I was then rushed to DMC in Modesto,CA, I passed out on the way to the hospital, after all this ordeal, my daughter was delivered. We both survived, my husband had to break the news to me about our baby vanessa, she had many problems and a big fight ahead of her, all I wanted to do was cry, but I knew I had to get strong so I can take care of my Vanessa. As days and weeks went by, she was getting stronger every minute and setting off those alarms just to get the nurses attention. After a month went by she slowly started to breathe on her own, our lil fighter was fighting her way out of there. Our Vanessa came home on Dec 13, 1992. She is a healthy 18yr baby girl today, I thank God and all the wonderful drs who took of her and got her through the biggest fight of her lil life. Three and half years later her baby brother A.J was born a week shy from full term, today he is a happy healthy 14yr old and the typical mamas boy.

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