Speaking from much experience on this topic...I have to say that I am very passionate about this day. All of my kids were born premature. I'm not talking a week or two...Most of my kids were born at 34 weeks gestation I had one born at 35 and Gina made it to 36 weeks...but the hardest was my twins born at 23 weeks gestation...a whopping 17 weeks early...yes, that is almost a whole half a pregnancy outside of me. I barely had time to enjoy being pregnant with twins. I felt them kick for just a few months...maybe. As you all know by now, Nick passed away while Kenny spent 129 looooooong days in the NICU at MetroHealth Medical Center here in Cleveland, OH. Even now, the struggle isn't over. He has over come many obstacles but has also spent a lot of his 3.5 years in the hospital for one thing or another.
Having a child early is scary for anyone. Getting educated on it helps but it doesn't make the whole experience pain free.
I had all of my kids early due to a bicornuate uterus...in other words, my uterus is shaped like a heart so it doesn't hold a pregnancy very well. I have had 3 miscarriages because of this. I was told that there was a great chance that I would never have kids because of this...and look at me...8 kids (7 living, one in heaven) later, I have proved "them" wrong. Yes they were born early because of this, but with great doctors, a great hospital and the right care I was able to have my family that I always dreamed of having! Tony and I regret nothing! We have had 8 beautiful children when we were told we would have none.
My preemies have all had different outcomes when they were born. Sydnie and Kayleigh were born early because I went into premature labor...dilated and all...but it was a blessing in disguise. You see, the two of them were born with true knots in their cords...unbeknown to the doctors, so being born early actually saved their lives. They both spent a week in the hospital for small issues then they came home. Taylor and Morgan...when they both were born, had more severe issues. Morgan was born not breathing. She was intubated for a short time to get her breathing on her own...and Taylor fought months of respiratory problems including apnea and pneumonia. Their hospital stays were slightly longer. Tony was born early because my water broke at 29 weeks gestation. I was on 5 weeks of bed rest with him. Then, because he wasn't growing anymore inside of me due to the lack of amniotic fluid, they induced me at 34 weeks. He only had to stay a little over a week in the NICU.
And the twins...well, you know their story (see birth story post)!
So you see, the beeps and alarms...the machines and the equipment in the NICU and beyond is nothing new to us. We have come very familiar with just about everything that has to do with preemies. This is why I am so passionate about this topic. Prematurity is not something to take lightly. Leaving the hospital without your baby is one of the worst feelings in the world. On top of just having a baby and all of the hormones that come along with it...then you get the baby blues about 3 days after...on top of having your baby that should be at home with you, but instead, is hooked up to monitors and machines, makes it even more hard on a new mom. Either having to stay at the hospital (in a room they provide), or having to go back and forth every day...several times a day...just to be with your baby...its so hard on new parents (and seasoned ones too).
You walk in to the NICU, scrub up...singing the alphabet song or something, walk in to not knowing what new machine, or new labs were ordered for your baby. for the real small/sick ones, no touching them because touch can cause pain. Only looking through a incubator wanting to touch...just one little touch to make sure that it was real...having a baby...this baby! You sit in the rocking chair and talk with the nurse who has been taking care of your baby. The big binder of all the stats with measurements, meds and the weights of the dirty diapers is located on the shelf close by. All the information on your baby...right there...in that binder.
When the time comes for your preemie to be released its such a happy and scary time. First is the car seat challenge. They put the baby in the car seat with the monitor on to see how they will do sitting up...if they pass, they get to come home! But first and foremost...getting a quick class in infant CPR and how to work the apnea monitor, oxygen (if needed) and/or any other equipment. You sit and wonder...omgosh...how the heck am I gonna remember all of this? then you quietly go in to panic mode about bringing this child, whom you should be comfortable with, home with you! What happens if I forget how to do something? Oh the questions!
Finally...that day comes...for some it never happens (^Nick^), but for those lucky families that do get to bring their preemie home, its an exciting yet frightening time. There are follow up appts., home nurses, and many questions about what to do next. Every runny nose, every cough turns into a call to the pediatrician. You wake up or cant fall asleep because you are just watching your preemie breath, thanking God for the miracle that is laying in front of you. Wondering why your baby had to come early. Why your body had to fail and that precious baby that your were carrying for, dreaming of, planning things around was here too early.
In the end, it all works out. No matter if your child has a whole list of problems or comes out of being born early without anything wrong...it all works out. It makes a person stronger. To be able to talk about it and educate others...to sympathize and understand what others are going through.