Today is Fight For Preemies day. 1 in 8 babies are born too soon. Last year my BFF guest blogged for me about the incredible life and death difference 3 precious weeks made between her daughter B, born at 26 weeks (passed 2 days later), and son E, born at 29 weeks. I knew other preemies that I mentioned, but never in a million years did I think in just 9 days I would have one of my own.
If you are not new here, please bare with me ;)
Austin was born via emergency c-section at 34 weeks on Thanksgiving morning, 2009. I had been having Braxton Hicks since I was 15 weeks. At 20 weeks I had a very scary day where I felt so much pressure, I was sure I was in pre term labor. An US confirmed a shortened cervix, but no immediate danger to baby Austin. I was checked at every appointment after that. I continued having pressure and pain. By 30 weeks I was having to take a warm bath every.single.night just to calm my contractions enough so that I could fall asleep. I self-prescribed myself bedrest one day after an awful, scary night, that no nurse cared about. I knew my OB was concerned and would have brought me in, but it was as impossible to get to her as it would be the queen.
Finally at my almost-34-week appointment I was ordered bedrest, pelvic rest, no work, relax, baths, and rest. Austin wasn’t moving much so after an NST and an US I was sent to L&D for a steroid shot (for his lungs because he was predicted to not bake too much longer) and an “hour or two” of monitoring. Dilating, contracting, and a heart rate dropping baby all kept me on hospital bedrest (complete with bed pans!) until Thanksgiving morning, 10:28 am, when my beautiful little baby boy was born. He was purple, but SCREAMING, when he came out.
I’ve heard that your baby’s first cry is the most beautiful sound in the world, and it is. And then hearing it when you’re afraid it may not be there at all? Heavenly.
Austin was bigger than expected, was breathing great, had a hardy appetite, but wasn’t gaining weight or maintaining his own temperature very well. He was in the Special Care nursery (which the nurses called the NICU, and I call it as well here on the blog just for sake of argument and ease) for 15 days. I was refused kangaroo care and breastfeeding. I did whatever they told me in fear and so I could bring my baby home.
Now he’s home. I am a little resentful of my experience in the NICU, but I push away those feelings whenever they creep in. I have a happy beautiful HEALTHY baby boy. You would never in a million years know that he was 6 weeks early or slow to gain. He’s 20, may be 21, pounds, SO talkative and so playful. He’s the sunshine on any cloudy day, and makes my life make sense.
Last year I stressed the importance of knowing the signs of PTL. I knew them. I knew them well. But did anyone EVER listen to me?! No! Turns out my placenta was shot, completely done, and that’s why Austin and I were having such a hard time. No one would listen to me, and it almost cost my baby his life. Thankfully my OB (who always believed in me, always listened, but like I mentioned before, was IMPOSSIBLE to get to) felt like something wasn’t quite right and sent me to L&D. What if she hadn’t? I don’t want to think about it.
Knowing the signs of PTL is vital. But so is advocating for yourself, and for your child. If it doesn’t feel right, GO GET HELP. Go to L&D. L&D is like the ER for pregnant women. JUST GO. Who cares if they roll their eyes at you? For ONE, it’s their JOB to take care of you, so they can get over it. and TWO, once you’ve been examined and told all is good, then you know. Baby is okay, you’re okay, and you can rest easy. Better safe than sorry, right? Trust your body. Trust your instincts. God gave us these motherly instincts for a reason. At this point, only YOU know your baby, no one else. Take charge.
Once your baby is here, take charge. What if I had insisted upon kangaroo care? I bet we would have been home a week earlier. What if I tried breastfeeding when the nurses weren’t looking? I bet we would have never battled nipple confusion for months (thankfully our breastfeeding relationship is amazing and is still going strong). What if? I will probably wonder What If? forever, and I know I can’t. But I can wish that I had been an advocate for myself and my baby a little more. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter about anyone else but Austin. Or your child. Or you.
Walking down that hallway from the NICU to my hospital room empty handed was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life. I have lost 2 babies and I never thought any thing could be worse. But when I had Austin I felt like an even bigger failure than ever before. Why was my placenta so small and shredded? Why couldn’t I carry him to term, keep him safe inside of me? I couldn’t touch him, hold him, feed him, change his diaper. Nothing. I couldn’t take care of my own baby. I sobbed countless times walking down that hallway. The only saving grace I had was my relationship with my pump, the one and only thing that I could give my baby that no nurse or neonatologist could provide was my milk. Breast milk is so important for preemies and their fragile GI tracts and weak immune systems. I may not have been able to feed him at my breast, but I was giving him my milk, with extra calories that God added in for my preemie (preemie milk is fattier!). It was a trying time, and he wasn’t even sick. I can’t imagine the pain and fear a mother and father must face when scared for their baby’s life.
1 in 8 babies are born premature. How can we stop (or decrease) this crisis?
-Know the signs of preterm labor. Some of the symptoms may surprise you. A valuable resource is Keep Em Cooking.
-Listen to your instincts
-Be an advocate for yourself
-More importantly, advocate for your baby
Do you know a preemie that you love and want to honor today? Join Bloggers United and Fight For Preemies!