World Prematurity Day is Nov 17, 2016

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World Prematurity Day is Nov 17, 2016

November 13, 2016

Written by: Janice Avivi

Becoming a parent is not always in easy feat. In my case, getting pregnant was hard and required a multitude of tests, surgeries, fertility drugs, and fertility treatments. Carrying a baby to term also was hard. Both of my babies were born at 35 weeks gestation.  I didn’t get to hold them for several hours, almost a whole day for my second.  There was no bonding, no cuddling, no nursing.  I didn’t even get to see my second for several hours.

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With my oldest son the pregnancy was pretty uneventful up until just under 35 weeks.  Then I noticed some fluid leaking, I went in to the hospital to be checked, and ended up being admitted, the next night involved a rather scary emergency c-section when my son was in distress.  team-canadaI didn’t get to hold him right away because he had to be brought to NICU for some minor breathing trouble, but he did quite well and was ready to be discharged when I was.  He seemed like he wanted to be an early Christmas present for mom.  My husband, although thrilled to become a dad, joked that he would have preferred baby waited until January, as planned, because January birthdays are much better for sports when so many sports are dictated by calendar year.  Being early, he was small to begin with, at 5 pounds 6 ounces, plus neither of us are tall people, and he is the youngest on his team.  But, he is healthy and happy, and what more could we really ask for.  For Hockey World Junior Championships, he had his own teeny tiny Team Canada jersey – it was one that you can buy for a teddy bear.

Fast forward 25 months to when I was 27 weeks pregnant with our second.  My oldest was having surgery to remove his tonsils and adenoids, and that night in the hospital with him, I started having contractions.  At least I thought they were contractions, since I didn’t really have many with my first before the c-section.  I tried to shrug it off, and rested.  The next day after a call to my OB, I was told it was likely just due to stress of the surgery.  I was home from work with my son while he recovered for a few weeks, so had lots of opportunity to rest.  The contractions settled down, and I was told if they got more intense to go get checked again.  Things were calm until I was back at work and moving around.  I had an appointment with my OB the next day, and she was busy with deliveries, so there was a wait, (did I mention my OB had come to the hospital at 10:00pm for my first to do the c-section rather than just who was on call??)  The nurse saw me sitting rather uncomfortable having contractions so had me go lay down.  When my OB arrived, she immediately sent me to the hospital for steroid shots to help baby’s lungs develop, as she felt baby would be early.  I was only 30 weeks pregnant.  The next day I went back for the second round of steroids and they ran more tests.  I was admitted.  It was one of the saddest and scariest days of my life.  I had never spent a night away from my oldest, and I was so scared of what lay ahead for the baby I was carrying.  The neonatologist met with me and explained what to expect and risks of baby being born at that stage, as well as what difference a few days, a week, 2 weeks would make of baby staying put.  I think I only absorbed part of what he was saying – all of the scary parts.  I was terrified and alone (my husband had to be home with our son).  I bawled all night long.  My husband was thrust into the world of single parenting.  At 31 weeks, they realized that my membranes had ruptured, although not fully and there was still plenty of fluid.  It was then a delicate balance of allowing baby more time to grow and develop vs. monitoring me closely for any signs of infection etc. I am so thankful that my husband was able to bring my 2 year old to see me every day. It was a long 6 weeks on bed rest, mostly confined to my hospital bed, unless I was pushed somewhere in a wheelchair occasionally.  It was a long emotional roller coaster of being worried about the baby, missing my son, missing my life. I had accepted that I was doing what was best for baby and that I was the only one who could take care of him, and my son had others who could care for him. I think I cried at some point every day. I had several scares where I went to Labour and Delivery because we/they thought baby was on his way. I had some amazing friends who would text with me at 4:00am when I was scared and sad, who would listen to me cry, who would bring me treats and companionship, and who helped care for my son when my husband couldn’t including the times I ended up in Labour and Delivery.  Throughout my hospital stay, I jokingly called the unborn baby “Trouble”, as he was sure causing a lot of trouble for his mommy.  Little did I know how much trouble there actually be.

At 35 weeks and 5 days my OB told me it was time. I had avoided infection, and baby was looking good in ultrasounds and fetal monitoring. However it had been 4 weeks with ruptured membranes and the risk to baby was getting too high.

Since we were a few days further than baby #1 we thought we were home free. Boy were we wrong. He was born blue, not breathing, completely unresponsive. I lay on the operating table helpless and bawling as I listened to the frantic calls for help from NICU, and the commotion around my baby, myself begging him to breathe or cry. My husband was positioned between my head and the baby so I couldn’t see, and he wouldn’t move, I think as a way to try to protect me. They intubated baby and whisked him away.  I remember the fear, and myself being unable to do anything to help.  I have never felt so helpless and so afraid in my life.

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In recovery, I willed my legs to move so I could go see him, but they just wouldn’t. I cried and cried and cried some more. My husband would bring me updates, scary updates. They talked about transferring him to another hospital with a higher level NICU. They had talked about scary things that could be wrong. They started cooling off his little body to try to prevent and minimize swelling in his brain.  In the end they thankfully didn’t need to transfer him, and they couldn’t really explain what happened. The NICU staff was amazing and I am thankful for them every day.

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They wheeled my whole bed into the NICU a few hours after he was born so I could see him. Our first pictures of him he is covered in cords and tubes. I finally got to hold him more than 13 hours after his birth, only for a minute. I didn’t get to try nursing for several days. I was discharged 4 days after his birth but didn’t want to leave. I was torn and felt guilty, for both my boys. When I was with baby, I felt guilty for not being with my 2 year old, especially since it had been so long since I was home. I felt terrible leaving baby there alone. Each time we got close to him coming home, I was devastated when they said he needed to stay longer. It had been so long since we were all under the same roof.

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The road for my baby wasn’t an easy one.  He endured 2 attempts at a spinal tap, but the first was unsuccessful, and the second didn’t get a clear fluid sample.  He had a multitude of bloodwork done, and all came back negative for the various infections and things they tested for.  He was intubated for less than 24 hours, was able to have it removed, and had a CPAP machine after.  He had a nasogastric feeding tube placed that allowed him to be fed through this.  Because of that, he had poor sucking reflex and took a while to learn to breastfeed (but he did!).  He had x-rays and ultrasounds.  I asked lots of questions and armed myself with as much knowledge of what was happening for him as I could.  He came home after 15 days in NICU.

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The NICU is an amazing place and truly saved my baby’s life.  I still get teary when I try to imagine what his outcome would have been if it weren’t for the NICU staff and respiratory therapists.  There are people in this world who will do everything in their power to help a newborn baby breathe.  The skills and dedication are phenomenal.  I am so thankful for the resiliency of my first born, the strength of my husband, the comfort of my friends, and the will and determination of my little fighter – Trouble.  He has the nickname to this, day, almost 5 years later.  I think about the experience around his birth regularly, and am so thankful that he has turned out to be a strong, healthy, little boy.

To spread the message of love and care around World Prematurity Day, Pampers developed a heartwarming video Touchesoflove to celebrate the births of tiniest and most vulnerable premature babies.

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