Today is World Prematurity Day... something I don't speak off too often because our NICU experience seems like SUCH a lifetime ago. It was an AWFUL and yet preciously sweet time when we clung to the Lord in complete desperation for the life of our premature son. I've written bits and pieces before about Parker's birth and what a miracle this little stud is but in case you're new here, I wanted to rewrite it. Every time I look at these pictures, I'm overwhelmed with gratitude for my children... the children I statistically shouldn't have.
After my cancer, we were told I probably couldn't have children but if we wanted them, to not prevent them and hope for the best. We did a little more than that and prayed for children but in God's timing... which was sooner than we expected. 6 months after my last chemo, I was pregnant and I was ecstatic! We had no idea how far a long I was so based on ultrasound measurements they gave me a due date of May 5th (which ended up being Avery's birthday 2 years later!).
I had an uneventful pregnancy and really enjoyed being pregnant other than the fact that my hair quit growing since I was too busy growing a baby. I was desperate for my hair to get out of that awkward "growing it back out" length. It was stuck.
One night, I leashed the dogs up to take them for a walk when I saw out of the corner of my eye, my neighbor's dog charging at me. I scooped up my pug and was struck by the German Shepard. I screamed for Daniel and he came running. He kicked the dog off me but I had already fallen on my belly and was in a panic. I knew something wasn't right.
We went to the hospital, where they patched up the back of my leg (which looked like hamburger meat) and kept me overnight to monitor me. I was spilling proteins, contracting and my heart rate was elevated. The next day, they sent me home but told me I better rest a lot and see the doctor every other day to be monitored.
5 days later, I drove to the grand opening of Harris Teeter (because that's what you do in the suburbs!). I bought toilet paper and got a Starbucks but I could tell something was off. I had my blood pressure taken along with the 65+ Sun City senior crowd and the pharmacist wouldn't let me leave until I called my OB. Apparently it was bad... really bad. I felt like I had consumed 3 shots of espresso... except I hadn't. Of course, they told me to come RIGHT NOW... to which I replied "I'm going to go home, pack and bag, take a shower, shave my legs... and then I'll come." Vain? No Not me.
Obviously, that didn't go over very well and so I drove my hairy legs and chipped toe nails to the hospital... with nothing except my wallet. Daniel was out of town and got that dreaded call. The "haul hiney home RIGHT NOW and abandon your co-worker in another city" call 'cause this baby's coming. We don't know whether the dog attack cause my pre-eclampsia or if I had it and we became aware then but either way, my blood pressure was too high and no amount of magnesium was keeping this baby in. I took steroid shots to develop Parker's lungs and I remember high risk doctors giving us statistics. I've never been so thankful to have been on too many drugs to really remember what they were but I was blissfully loopy because they weren't good.
The next morning I woke up after a wonderful night's sleep on Ambien and said "is it normal to not be able to see anything?" Um. No. Doctors rushed around while I obliviously put on makeup for my pending c-section...'cause these pictures are going in the baby book!
Parker was born 8 weeks too soon on March 21, 2009 via c-section weighing 3lbs 10oz. It was love at first sight.
He was whisked away to the NICU and Daniel went with him. He filmed the doctors and nurses explain what each tube and wire was. At 14 minutes old, Parker quit breathing and we have the beginning of Parker being resuscitated on film. It's the worst home video... EVER. If "America's Most Horrifying Home Videos" was a show, we'd be millionaires.
I didn't get to see Parker for 3 days other than in pictures and videos. His doctors would come see me and I remember asking them if he would live. The answer to that should be "yes, of course" but words like "we don't know," "most likely" and "time will tell" are what I got. It was like a knife... I quit asking.
He spent a few days on the ventilator until he got too frustrated with it and ripped it out.
He spent a while on the c-pap and under the glow worm lamp for jaundice. Parker was fed by TPN and given medicine every day to try to close his PDA. He dodged heart surgery by hours. HOURS. For the first few days, we could only lightly touch him until day 5. On day 5, a sweet nurse could see my desperation to hold my precious baby and she let me for 5 minutes. His stats actually improved during those 5 minutes. It was heaven on earth... even though I look greasy and tired.
NICU really is a roller coaster. One day, he's doing great and we'd get to bring him home in the next week or so and then the next day, they think his bowels are dead and will need surgery and possibly be here for months. One day he's taking a bottle like a champ and the next day he was having brady's and forgetting to breathe. I don't think I've ever prayed so much and with such fervor.
I was discharged after 1 week and spent every single day driving to and from the NICU twice a day. Once during the day alone and once after dinner with Daniel. I quit taking any pain pills so I could drive to be with my baby. I didn't care how much it hurt. I sweat off my baby weight under those yellow itchy gowns. NICU moms can I get an amen?!
I walked into his isolet one day and remember thinking how handsome he looked... it took a nurse pointing out that he was off c-pap and I could see his face! He wore the nasal cannula until he was discharged. He was 8 days old and 3lb 8oz in that picture.
We became very close to our NICU nurses, particularly our primary day and night nurse. They humored my 3am "can I just talk to my baby?" calls. Most of the nurses were amazing and I can't say enough about how dedicated they are to their jobs. They are angels on Earth to NICU parents. An acquaintance of mine is a MUCH more eloquent writer than I'll ever be and was featured on the Huffington Post with her Dear NICU nurse post. Heather is a micro preemie mom who blogs at Team Hucks about their little fighter, Tucker. Make sure to swing by and tell her "hello!" They're in their 2nd year of isolation... a not so fun part of having a preemie... and I know she'd love some encouragement. Those days can be long and lonely!
Parker was classified as a "wimpy white boy." It's a real thing. They're just slower to do most things... like breathe, take bottles, etc. So we waited... and waited for him to just "get it." Not so unlike life with him now... it's all in HIS time. Once he "got it" he became an expert at eating and breathing and went from 3lbs 7oz at his smallest to 4lbs 10oz. 4 weeks after he as born, 8 weeks too soon, we strapped him into his gigantic car seat and brought him home.
I almost feel like I cheapen other people's NICU stories when ours was only 4 weeks. It's such a small blip of time in the grand scheme of things but each minute crawled by. We meet many parents whose babies were in the NICU for 6+ months and they were so encouraging to us and genuinely happy for us when we got to bring our son home, knowing full well they still had a long and uncertain road ahead.
Babies came and went in the NICU... and not all went home. I read many blogs about NICU babies and each time, I'm humbled by our outcome. We still struggle with some preemie related issues but in the grand scheme of things... it's nothing compared to what it could be. If I didn't tell you Parker was a preemie, you probably wouldn't know.
So there you have it... our preemie story. Our 3lb 10oz "screamie preemie" who has made our lives fuller and richer than we ever thought imaginable.
"Every good and perfect gift comes from above" James 1:17