We Had a 32 Week Old Preemie and It's Time To Talk About It...
There is a lot to talk about... But where do I even start? A lot has happened in the last 1.5 years (to say the least!) I feel so extremely lucky to be prego with baby number two currently. Although, at times I feel like this is all very hard I know that it truly is a blessing and totally worth it all. I love being a Mama. Having this be a high risk pregnancy, since my first was born unexpectedly at 32 weeks, I have found my mind to be a lot busier this time around. For the first time in a long time I have anxiety and at times its all too consuming. My anxiety comes from having had a premature baby and the questions and doubts that I have in regards to my body and ability to carry a baby this time around...
This article is going to be real, raw and honest. I have had a lot on my mind and I personally have found strength and admiration in reading other peoples family planning stories, stories of premature births, pregnancy triumphs and losses, and everything in between. I guess you can say I am not a person that can just keep everything bottled up inside. I'd rather share my story, so if by the chance I can provide inspiration, hope or strength to even one other person I will feel like I have returned the favour.
So what happened the first time around? I haven't formally written or talked about my "birth" story with our little boy Ben, and I have recently realized since being pregnant again I hadn't really dealt with a lot (or any!) of my emotions that came with the experience we had. I guess I swept it under the rug because I felt I didn't have time to think about it all for I had a teeny tiny baby to tend to… unfortunately that has led to me having a lot more anxiety this go around. Thus, I have been journaling and processing my thoughts to keep my mind healthy and positive.
Here goes; our first baby came a week after we returned home from living in Australia (which we had been doing for the three years prior.) We got the go ahead to fly at 31 weeks (all appeared to be good via an ultrasound scan) so off we went home to Canada to start our family. My first pregnancy looking back was blissful. Exactly how it should be really! I had little to no morning sickness, I had lots of energy, I exercised lots and had really no food aversions. I loved having a growing human inside of me. I went to the hospital 7 days after returning to Canada thinking I was having consistent Braxton Hicks (I didn't have pain, blood, fluid...nothing.) or a bladder infection. The doctor said "chances are you'll need antibiotics and you'll be on your way to dinner." I was scheduled to go have a great night out with my girl friends, many of which hadn't seen me pregnant since I returned to Canada.
After some inspections down south the doctor said "I don't know how to say this but your 3cm dilated and I can see the babies head." I am pretty sure my eyes popped across the room and then I just went into shock. Within 5 minutes I had a high risk OB and her team poking and prodding me, giving me contraction stopping pills, steroid injections and it all seems like a blur.
That night I laid on a gurney in Triage just thinking about how this is nothing like I had planned. I mean this isn't part of my "birth" plan!?! (all the pregnancy books say, make a birth plan you'll need it… or maybe not!) We then spent the next 3 days going in and out of Antenatal Care (where moms are on bed rest trying to keep babies in) and Labor and Delivery cause contractions would pick up and then die off. One night after I had been awake for over 30 hours they finally gave me morphine to see if it would help stop the contractions and finally give me some rest. I remember telling my husband that I thought morphine was the most amazing thing I ever had… I guess at the time it gave me the relief I so desperately needed haha. It knocked me out for a good 4 hours.
The roller coaster of having hours where things were fine, to the contractions returning was a mental mind game. I remember thinking "maybe they can just hang me upside down" or "was it something that I did?" On the third day a Neonatologist came in to speak with us. This conversation was probably one of the hardest I've ever had. My fears sky rocketed. The realities of having a 32 week old baby (although now having spent hundreds of hours in a NICU I know we are fortunate for a 32 weeker, they don't typically face the same issues as a baby in the 27-31 range or the super preemie range of 25-28) were terrifying for a first time prego and soon to be mom. The thought of my baby not surviving the delivery, not breathing, having brain damage, a brain bleed, spinal cord issues, permanent vision problems honestly the list was as long as the 45 minute conversation. The reality is you just never know what could or couldn't happen and we had to just wait and see whilst being as positive as we could.
That night I was told we couldn't use the contraction stopping pills anymore for its not a long term solution. They said most likely I would be going home in the morning. I woke up, no issues over night so I was feeling really positive. Finally I was going home, even though it was on strict bed rest, I was hoping that this was just a scare and that baby would bake for much longer.
We had everything in place at my brothers house (did I mention we were "house-less" cause we just moved home!) That morning I pushed the nurses to get someone to check how dilated I was prior to me leaving. The night before I was about 4-5cm and I couldn't feel any contractions over night so they said labour must have stopped and I can go home. I felt uneasy about this. I already, 4 days before, didn't think something was wrong when I initially came to the hospital and I didn't feel comfortable just leaving thinking it was okay without knowing for sure. I know they don't want to check your cervix too many times cause it could risk infection but I just needed to know.
I was finally checked and low and be hold I was 8cm….. I started to ball. I don't really remember the next 10 minutes for I was over taken with confusion, fear and sadness. Five minutes ago I was going home with the hope of keeping my baby in, and now I'm in a wheel chair heading to Labor and Delivery with more unknowns then I could count. I remember the look on my husbands face, it just dropped and we had nothing to say. We were both instantly terrified. With a team of what seemed like 10 people from the neonatal department and 4-5 from the OB team I delivered a baby boy (about 2 hours later), who to everyones relief cried when he came out. That noise I will never forget because it was something we were both so scared of not hearing. Within about 2 minutes the baby was fully checked out, and headed off to the NICU. I got to see him for about 10 seconds and then him and my husband were gone. Like poof the room went from 12-14 people to 3. Me, my OB and my amazing nurse. I remember my nurse asking me if I wanted some peanut butter toast, and I agreed. I lay there eating with a total look of bewilderment just thinking "What just happened?' "Do we have a baby?" " Am I a mom?" "Is he okay?" "Is there peanut butter on my face?" and then the biggest question popped into my head "What happens next?"
I had not even thought about after he was born. I was so concerned with if and how a baby would be born. I remember being terrified yet again. The amazing thing is the strength that just comes over you. I remember thinking that I needed to crumble, but I just couldn't. I had a baby I needed to be strong for. Mama strength is something I can't describe but it gives you the biggest will to just get things done.
I remember being rolled into the NICU about 4 hours after Ben was born. I finally got to formally meet him, all 3lbs and 14ounces of him. I cried. I cried happy tears and I cried sad tears.
He was so tiny and helpless. But instantly, I had to have hope and I had to focus on what I could do to help him. So I pumped every 3 hours religiously. Morning and night. I was set on becoming the best milker around. It was the only thing I could control in a world that seemed to be spinning out of control. I ended up getting discharged from the hospital that night and faced the reality that Ben wasn't coming home with us. I had to leave my baby; I had to leave a part of me that I barely got time get to know at the hospital to be in an incubator to be fed through a tube. I knew it was where he needed to be but it was a reality I wasn't prepared for. I cried. I cried the whole car ride home, I cried during dinner, I cried looking at pictures, I couldn't shake it, I cried the whole night. I was just still in shock. I was extremely overwhelmed but I was still feeling happy while receiving congrats messages from loved ones, I just needed a good cry and man did it come out.
The next day I got up, put my game face on and was ready to face reality. I still consider myself so lucky because he was alive, and he was our little miracle. My job was to pump as much milk as I could (every 3 hours), Kangaroo cuddle Ben (chest to chest) and be a strong mom and wife. I spent 12 hours a day for 4 weeks in the NICU. I would bring a cooler full of milk that we could feed him via a tube down his nose and throat, and then eventually bottles and 3 weeks after he was born he finally was able to feed off of me for short periods of time using a nipple shield. This was my reality. A reality that I just accepted and ran with.
It's only now when I look back that I realize how amazingly strong I was. I am so proud of myself and my husband for doing our absolute best when we really didn't and couldn't of had any expectations.
Fast forward a few infections, feeding issues, jaundice, weight gains and losses, every scan and test under the sun and Ben was ready to come home at 4.5lbs. I'll never forget that day for it didn't seem real, someone was finally going to let us go home? WITHOUT a nurse!
My life was pumping and feeding every 3 hours for the next 3 months. I spent a lot of time sitting on the couch cuddling, feeding Ben via bottle and boob and watching Netflix. The best advice I got from my discharging Doctor was "don't bring the NICU with you home. Treat him like a normal baby, forget the temperature taking and daily weigh ins. It's time to enjoy a 'take home' baby."
Fast forward 1.5 years and our little guy is a ball of energy, gibbering away and is totally the light of our lives. Was my experience different than I imagined… yes. But, I believe that it made me a stronger woman, mom and wife. My husband and I are stronger for going through it and with our second pregnancy there are risks and things we will worry about but we are really focusing on staying positive and together we know we can get through anything. You never know how strong you are until you just have to be.
I've come to realize that it's okay to have anxiety about things in life but its important to try to find outlets to express them and to find people to confide in to help you feel better. Life forces you out of your comfort zone and its how you respond and grow. Am I anxiety free now? Not a chance, but I am leaning on my friends, family and doctors to help ease my fears and to focus on hopefully having a full term chubby "take home baby!" A big step for be was accepting the past and now embracing the future.
To all the mama's out there your doing an amazing job. We all have our own struggles and our own successes. I can only encourage you to talk to one another to share your stories, your thoughts and to know that your never alone. Mamahood is a wild ride and its much better when you can lean on each other to get by.
Stay positive, stay happy and stay fit!
Top Knot Mommy