An open letter to you, preemie momma

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Dear Preemie Momma,

As I see you today, you are hurrying out of your car to make your way to the NICU.  Your heart is pounding and your mind is racing today.  You are full of anticipation and joy to spend time with your baby, who, like many babies there, came into this world far too soon.

As you enter the NICU, you instantaneously go to the washing station to clean your hands, as you fear that any germs you brought from the outside may harm you baby. ¬†You rush down the hall and get to your baby’s isolette and talk to the day nurse who gets you up to speed with the day’s events.

You worry at every moment when those numbers on the monitor go up, or down. ¬†You jump at any moment when your cell rings, or when the nurse says, “the doctor would like to talk to you today about….” ¬†I see the worry in your eyes. ¬†I see both the hesitation and the hope that things will be alright. ¬†You fear the unknown. ¬†As everyone there tells you, life in the NICU is one step forward, two steps back.

I also see you standing by your baby’s isolette, admiring your baby and watching them grow from the outside. ¬†I see all the love that overcomes you when you look into your little baby, fighting for their life. ¬†Despite all the fear and darkness, you do believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and trust me, you will get there soon. ¬†There may be obstacles to get there- such as oral feeds and weight gain, but eventually your baby will get there.

Every moment in the NICU is a special one. ¬†You record every moment on ¬†your smartphone. ¬†Your baby book is filled with different “firsts:” ¬†First kangaroo cuddle, first bath, first day off of CPAP and so on. ¬†I see you paying diligent attention to the nurse who teaches you how to take your baby’s temperature and how to administer medications and vitamins. ¬†You’re already ahead of the game!

As time passes on and your baby continues to develop and grow, the final piece of the puzzle falls into place:  oral feeds.  Your baby has taken off without any issue!  The doctor is giving your baby the green light to go home.  As discharge day approaches, you are busy cleaning your house and making sure that everything is perfect for your little one as they deserve it after a long hospital stay.

However, I must warn you there is a scary part. ¬†When you come home, there will be no more monitors. ¬†No more doctors, no more nurses to help or dieticians to asses feeds. ¬†You are all on your own. ¬†But that is okay! ¬†Remember you got this. ¬†Remember your medical team would not send your baby home if they weren’t 100% ready. ¬†You can do this and remember you will do an amazing job because of all the prep you were given during your hospital stay. ¬†It’s all on you now.

I will warn you- you will worry. ¬†You will worry a lot. ¬†You will get scared of things that wouldn’t normally scare you, like a cold for starters. ¬†You will start doing things that most people don’t typically do when they bring a new born home. ¬†You’ll start screening all your visitors to make sure no one is ill. ¬†I hate to remind you, but your baby is still vulnerable for some time. ¬† During winter, you may be in lockdown to avoid RSV season. ¬†But that is okay. ¬†Don’t feel like you are offending anyone. ¬†Remember, you are protecting your baby. ¬†Be prepared for remarks, I am sure of this. ¬†But don’t let it bother you, as remember, no one knows really what your little family went through. ¬†Even those with the best of intentions may say something that will hurt. ¬†My only advice is to forgive them.

At times, you will feel left out from things that some people take for granted, like playdates or even talking about certain milestones. ¬†You may find yourself falling into a habit of trying to explain to a stranger “corrected” versus “actual” age, or how many millilitres your baby takes in a feed. ¬†For a while this will happen, and that is okay.

Sometimes, you may find yourself feeling frustrated or angry. ¬†You may feel as if you were robbed of so many things such as bringing your child home after delivery or having a baby shower while still pregnant. ¬†You may find yourself sometimes crying about these things and I wanted to tell you that is okay. ¬†Its okay to grieve what you and your child lost. ¬†But don’t look at it as a loss, look at it as a different beginning to the story of your little family.

And although these things may hurt and sometimes you may feel alone, know that you are not.  Know that there are so many others born before your child, who have gone on to do so well in their lives.  Know that there is a support network of parents of premature children all over the world that you can lean on, to talk to, to laugh and share stories with.

Despite all the ups and downs that you have been through, I see you right now, stronger than ever and being an amazing parent to that beautiful, strong child.  That is you, preemie momma.  You can do this.

From one preemie momma to another.

 

 

A pregnancy after a preemie

Like any married couple, my husband and I always wanted to start a family.   We always dreamed of having a large family and wanted four kids.  Our dreams came true when we found out that we were becoming parents in late February 2014.

The baby’s¬†due date was October 17th, 2014. ¬†As you could imagine, my husband and I¬†were over the moon. ¬†Of course with all this excitement also meant planning: ¬†we looked for names, we started setting up the¬†nursery, created a¬†baby registry and started planning a baby shower. ¬†Everything seemed perfect and I had a normal, text book pregnancy. ¬†Life couldn’t be any better as things were going according to plan. ¬†However at 28 weeks and 5 days gestation, a turn of events would change our lives forever…

I woke up for work at my usual time and started contracting but I did not know it.  I was in a huge amount of pain and left my office within an hour.  Later that morning, the pain worsened and I started to bleed.  My husband frantically drove me to hospital.  We found out that I was going into premature labour.  By the time we reached hospital, I was 10 cm dilated and it was too late to do anything.  Within minutes, I was rushed to the OR and gave birth to a beautiful but tiny baby boy.  Following a 65-day NICU stay, our son came home healthy.  To this day we do not know why I went into labour so early as up until that point I had a normal pregnancy.  Despite all of this, our son is doing very well and is your typical two-year old.

I am sure you are wondering if I wanted to have another child after all what we have been through.  A premature birth is in itself a traumatic experience and many parents who go through a premature birth do not want to have any more children.  I told myself that I wanted to be the exception to the rule; that I could and will have a full-term pregnancy after having a preemie.  I wanted my son to have at least one sibling to share and make memories with.  I also wanted to give myself another chance to experience something that was robbed from me and that was a third trimester.

In early February 2016, my husband and I were ecstatic to find out that we were expecting¬†our second child. My due date is October 3rd, 2016. ¬†Early on I was referred to a high-risk OB and started the appropriate monitoring and treatment. ¬†Every week I would be given a shot of progesterone (not fun) and every two weeks my cervix would be monitored (even less fun). ¬†I am not going to lie, as happy as I was when I found out that I was expecting again, a part of me was also very terrified. ¬†The chances of giving birth prematurely were now 15 percent as I had a premature birth before. ¬†Although I knew that I was going to be closely monitored, this time around I wanted to make sure that nothing would be overlooked. ¬†I was a bit of a hypochondriac in a sense where some may have thought I took things too seriously. ¬†But after my previous experience, who wouldn’t feel that way as well?

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Things were going well until I fell ill at 28 weeks and 3 days with severe nausea and upset stomach symptoms. ¬†I went to the OB triage where they kept me overnight for monitoring in fears that I may become dehydrated. ¬†That morning, I was sent for ultrasound which¬†uncovered that my cervix significantly shortened and that I was 50 percent effaced. ¬†Luckily it was still closed. ¬†I was then immediately sent to the antenatal unit where I spent a week in monitoring. ¬†The team wanted me to make it to at least 32 weeks where premature infants have minimal to no risk of mortality, disability and disease. ¬†This time around, I was given steroid shots to help baby’s lungs develop in case of an early arrival. ¬†For the remainder of the week, I was limited in terms of mobility and basically spent the whole week watching Property Brothers. ¬†The following week, things had stabilized and¬†my cervix lengthened where the team felt comfortable sending me home on bed rest.

I am happy to report that I am as of today 32 weeks!  Last Thursday I found out that my cervix is still closed and lengthened again.  I just want to keep this baby cooking!!!  As hard as it is being on bed rest, this is the best thing for the baby for now.  Although some days I feel like I am walking on egg shells, I have to maintain a positive mind and hope for the best.  Prayer has certainly helped.  For that I have my loving husband and family to thank, as well as the tremendous amount of support and care from my doctors as well as my friends. Whatever the outcome will be, I do believe that things will be alright.