Tuesday November 17 is World Prematurity Day. Today we join the March of Dimes in their campaign to raise awareness about premature births and wear purple to show our support. 1 in every 10 babies will be born premature. Today we celebrate the nearly 15 million babies who came into the world a little too early this year and we remember the more than 1 million babies who didn’t survive their fight with prematurity. Each story of prematurity is different, some worse than others, but never the less, the effects are felt for each family. We encourage you to share your story and wear purple to show your support for preemie power! Reader be warned, this is a long and personal post so if you’re in to that then read on…
At 29 weeks pregnant I went into preterm labor. I had been feeling “off” that day and sure enough that night, my contractions picked up and were coming about every 3 minutes and gaining in intensity. We rushed to the hospital, the drive took all but 5 minutes but it felt like the longest car ride of my life. I had so many thoughts flooding my mind. I had seen first hand the effects of prematurity. My sister went into labor with her twins at 23 weeks and delivered her miracle babies at 23 weeks and 5 days and even though they are beautiful healthy bouncing 5 year olds, the fear stuck. I knew if my babes came at 29 weeks that it would be a long hard road in the NICU, their lungs weren’t ready yet, they wouldn’t know how to eat, they wouldn’t be able to regulate their body temperature, I knew the struggles that they would face and it terrified me.
The doctors pushed magnesium sulfate to stop the contractions and gave me a dose of steroid shots for the babies lungs. After a few hours, they were able to stop the preterm labor but kept me on home bedrest for the remainder of my pregnancy. We set a goal for 34 weeks and I had weekly doctors appointments and stress tests to monitor the babies, my contractions, and my blood pressure. At my 34 week appointment, my doctor gave us a new goal of 37 weeks (full term for twins) but the babes had their own agenda.
On January 12th (Exactly 35 weeks along) my contractions started to pick up again. I had a few errands to run so I went out to Target and Best Buy (I was a horrible “bedrest” patient) I remember driving home and feeling horrible, thinking to myself, this was probably not the best idea. About an hour later I was in pretty active labor but had “cried wolf” a few times already so thought it was just another false alarm. It just so happened that my doctor was on call that night and so was my husband so they convinced me to come get checked out, just in case. I packed my bags, picked up the house, fed the dogs, and headed to the hospital. Our babes were born 2 hours later via c-section on January 13th (the first of many times they would keep us up all night).
Easton weighed a little over 4 lbs and Everly weighed a little over 5. Easton had some trouble breathing so was put on CPAP and IV fluids right away and hooked up to so many monitors. Everly seemed to be the picture of perfect health. She was classified as a “feeder and grower” the best possible category in the NICU.
About 4 hours after my surgery, I was able to wheel down and see the babies. I had done some skin to skin (kangaroo care) with them while I was being stitched up but couldn’t really hold them. I so desperately wanted to hold my babies. I kept sending my husband down to the NICU to take pictures and sit with them.
The first time I held Everly was the most amazing and frightening experience of my life. She stopped breathing, every monitor she was hooked up to started going off, and the nurses rushed over to get her. She started breathing again maybe 30 seconds later. She had 2 more minor Apnea spells that same day which bought her an automatic 5 days in the NICU. Easton on the other hand was a little fighter. He wanted to be with his mama as much as I wanted to be with him. On day 2, he took his NG tube out all by himself. The nurses left it out and determined he was eating fine without it. On day 3, he showed up in my room…to my surprise, the NICU doctor had discharged him and the NICU nurse brought him to my room… he was all done. Just like that.
We often refer to Everly as our little drama queen and she earned this title when she was just a few days old. After her Apnea spells, she seemed to be thriving. She was gaining weight, breathing well, maintaining her temperatures and basically ready to go home until her body temperature started dropping. She had to be placed under the warmer and monitored for a few more days. On day 6, Easton and I were discharged. It was a happy moment but not how I had planned it. I will never forget the feeling of having to leave one of my children behind but knew she was in the best care and that her NICU team was amazing!
After 7 days in the NICU, Everly was able to go home. I remember being filled with excitement, terror, and amazement. Both of my babies, home with me. Our family was complete. When I look at my beautiful healthy babies, I’m so grateful for the road they walked. There are much bumpier, rougher roads… some with happy endings and some with horrible endings. Ours was an easy road, a very easy road with a very happy ending! My 35 weekers are largely unaffected by their prematurity. They are smaller than other babies their age, but that’s it. No major health concerns, no further battles to overcome, they are healthy! The outcome could’ve been so different but thanks to modern medicine, an amazing NICU staff, and sheer will, our outcome was the best we could hope for!