10 things I wish I didn't know about prematurity
|Me on a business trip to Alaska, a week before Chris was born--|
I was clueless my life was about to change!
2. Premature labor often feels like really strong abdominal cramps (like extra-strong menstrual cramps) and severe back pain. I wish I had known this when I was pregnant, because I was in premature labor for a couple of days. I try not to blame myself for not calling the doctor earlier and wonder how things might have turned out differently--could they have stopped the labor? We both thought that I had severe constipation. We had no clue, and we had not been informed about what premature labor was like. I was only 24 weeks along--it was too early for me to go into labor, or so I thought.
4. Babies of color fare better than white babies, which means that female babies of color have the best survival chances. University of Florida researchers found that black baby girls who weighed 2.2 pounds or less are more than twice as likely to survive than white baby boys at the same weight. This says only one thing to me: divine justice! (As they have the hardest lot in life)
|Perspective--that's my hand, way bigger than his head|
|Little Chris with glasses|
|In the beginning, Chris was under plastic wrap to keep|
his body warm--
he didn't move to a covered isolette
until he was much more stable
|Doing kangaroo care|
8. Five of the hardest things I've ever had to learn how to do:
- Leave the hospital without my baby with me, not knowing when he'd be able to come home
- Allow them to operate on my baby when he was not yet 2 pounds (heart surgery)
- Not be able to hold my precious firstborn until he was a month old, and after that, alternate each day with my husband...we both wanted to do kangaroo care (holding your baby skin to skin, which originated in Colombia and greatly helps preemies), but we had to take turns until he was healthier
- Think about quality of life and how long to prolong life support if he had been brain damaged
- Support and mourn with other parents whose babies died in the unit while we were there and afterward...one of them was a much older, healthier preemie (34 weeks) who went home and contracted respiratory synctitial virus (RSV), which can be fatal for preemies
|Our freezer stocked with breast milk|
|Santa visiting Chris in the hospital|
when he had RSV, 1997
10. Hope, prayer, and supportive family and friends can sustain us and help carry us forward in any crisis. So many people have asked me how I survived 117 days in the NICU and having my baby be born so tiny and sick. And my answer is that you never know what you can survive until you endure it. You just get through one day at a time.
We had an amazing spiritual community who had faith in Chris' survival and held us in prayer and positive thoughts. They ministered to us through meals, cards, and phone calls. Another close family friend was there immediately when Chris was born and took Mike for breakfast while I was in surgery (he wasn't able to be with me, as it was an emergency c-section with general anesthetic). Our amazing pastor had just arrived to begin her call at our church, and I met her for the first time in the NICU, praying over Christopher. That forged a lifetime connection of love and gratefulness.
|Chris' baptism, which included many of his NICU nurses and chaplain|
We are also very lucky to have a strong marriage with great communication, in addition to similar beliefs and views about the world and life. The NICU experience strengthened our marriage and helped us grow closer six years into our marriage.
I clung to my hopes as much as I could, even in the midst of the most dire news, and I imagined Chris as a healthy toddler, running along the beach. When that finally happened, I was awash with joy.
|Beach vision come true!|
|Sharing music with my wonder boy, August 2013|