Jake arrives 13 weeks early
I had a pretty normal pregnancy, it was my first and I was 34. The only issue I had to worry about was the conization (cone shape removed from your cervics). I had in my early 20s to get rid of some precancerous cells. After 3 months I was getting sonograms every two weeks, then after 5 months every week to check the length of the cervics and to make sure I wasn't dilating. Well at 27 weeks I was going to bed for the night and my stomach starting cramping. I noticed that it was every 10 minutes that I was getting sharp pains and called the doctor.
By the time we were in the car, the contractions were 3 minutes apart. When I got to the hospital I was 4 centimeters dilated. The doctor gave me magnesium to stop the contractions and gave me steroids to increase Jake's lung production. (We knew he was a boy and named him already). I was put on bed rest and had to stay in the hospital until the birth. I was also able to get another shot of steroids for Jake's lungs the next day. The NICU staff came in to talk to me and my husband to tell us about their services. We also had friends who had two preemie babies and they came in to tell about their experience which helped immensely. During the stay at the hospital I was in the bed with my head below my feet (that was miserable) to keep Jake in...that lasted five days. The contractions were coming again and the doctor put me back on magnesium. I just had the magnesium hooked up and the doctor came in to check my cervics and I was 8 centimeters dilated. They unhooked the meds and I was told that the baby was coming today. The nurses convinced me not to take anything for the pain since Jake was so small and in the long run it was better for us both. I didn't hesitate and we got ready. The NICU staff was set up and ready to take Jake. I pushed twice and Jake was out in the world, 2lbs. 3 oz. He was tiny. I got to give him a kiss before he was swept away to the NICU with my husband in tow.
With the 10 week stay Jake had in the NICU, we were lucky to have a hospital with the 2nd best NICU in the state. The NICU was packed with babies. Jake was the 2nd smallest. Because he was able to get the steroid shots while in womb, he was breathing on his own the second day. He had to be tube fed though. He had the heart and apnea monitors on...and I know every parent in the NICU could not stop staring at their baby's numbers and watching to make sure their baby was okay. Every alarm made every parent nervous.
Jake was so tiny and my husband I were so afraid that we would break him. We made the nurses get him out of the isolette and put Jake on our chests for kangaroo care. We made them stand right next to us while we changed diapers so that we didn't do anything wrong. It was scary. The nurses would hold him in one hand and it looked like they were just flipping him around without a worry and here we were afraid that we would break him with a touch.
Since I wanted to use my maternity leave for when Jake was actually home, I went back to work part time. I would go to the hospital in the morning and hold and feed Jake, go to work for 5 hours, go home and eat and then go back to the hospital to hold and feed him at night. I spent all day on the weekends there. It was horrible to go home without your baby, but when he needed the care, his health was all that mattered. So I went into positive mode. I acted like it was completely normal and I was at the hospital all the time. We were there so many weeks that when new couples came in, we were part of the NICU tour. We spoke with all the couples and gave our story and experience. When we left, so many families said that we helped make their stay easy and less worrisome, even though every baby is different and has different issues. I felt the same about our friends who visited us before Jake was born. It helps to know how other people handle things and it isn't bad to freak out if you need to. My one big freak out was when Jake needed a blood transfusion. You hear that and think the worst. The nurse convinced me that it was like giving Jake an energy drink. He wasn't doing well, but when he received the transfusion, boy did he make good progress. I cried like a crazy person though, the one and only time I did not have my positive attitude.
One thing that helped me was keeping a journal of every day in the NICU. I wrote like I was telling Jake a story. I would write about who visited, the weight gains, the shots, how much he ate, when he was eating by mouth, when he got to wear clothes, every change and every milestone. I go back through it every once in awhile and it is hard to believe it was real.
Towards the end of the stay I was ready to get Jake home, but he couldn't keep his temperature up. The staff was great, but we were in the NICU annex at this point, for less sick babies, and it started to grate on my nerves. There were parents in the NICU annex whose babies were full term and had to be kept in for minor reasons for 1 day or a few and they were so annoying. Here you are with your tiny preemie and there they are with their big baby crying and mad because they want to take their baby home NOW. The majority of them didn't even seem concerned that the doctor put the baby there for a reason...just whine, whine, whine. Oh, I had enough. Since we were only a couple feet apart from these parents, I started telling them "at least you don't have to spend over 8 weeks like we have" to shut them up. It was a revolving door with these parents and I was so ready to be home.
In addition to my maternity leave, I took a few more months off without pay. Once home, we set up doctors appointments and my husband and I continued kangaroo care. We figured he should still be in womb and he seemed to grow like a weed with our warmth. He went home on a heart and apnea monitor...which he was on for 4 months. If we went out, we came back in, changed into fresh clothes and sanitized ourselves before holding Jake. (It was flu season). If people were sick, they were not welcome in our home. No one was allowed over unless they just showered (if they were at work all day), had clean clothes and came straight from their house. We were a little crazy, but, RSV is something we didn't want Jake to get. I would call the doctors office before we came and they would get a room ready for us so that we weren't exposed to the germs in the waiting room. They were very accommodating. The nun from my church would come over to do service with us and I could take communion. The county we live in has an Infants and Toddlers program and they would come to the house to work with Jake on development, we were always the first appointment. I never had to leave the house except to grocery shop and Jake didn't leave the house until after flu season was over. I figured after all he had been through, why expose him to something if it wasn't necessary. He was extremely healthy and my husband and I contribute that to our vigilance.
We were extremely lucky that Jake has no issues from being a preemie. I learned from a program that we were in that many preemies can have vision problems or learning disabilities. In fact, the three year study we were in, Jake was one of only a few who didn't have any issues of being premature from all the parents we met. Every preemie is truly unique.
Jake turned 8 this year and is in third grade. He is an above average student. He is kind. He is athletic. He is our miracle.
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