My name is Faith, and my husband is Chris. We were married June 24, 2000. I have two older girls from a previous marriage; ages now 14 and 11.
I was not feeling well. I called the Doctor and they told me to get my feet up and rest, and we would see how I was feeling on Monday. I already had an appointment for Monday.
I took my oldest daughter out on her paper route and still was not feeling well. When we arrived back home, I used the bathroom and found blood. This was too early - I was only at 30 weeks (this means that she was 10 weeks early. Her due date was February 8, 2001).
I woke up my husband and left my oldest daughter home waiting for her dad to pick her up (it was dad's weekend for a visit). I cried all the way to the hospital. I told my husband that I was either having or losing the baby.
At the hospital they sent me right to labor and delivery. The first thing they did was inject me with something to stop the contractions. It didn't work. The doctor came in to do a vaginal exam and discovered that I was 4 cm dilated and the water sac was bulging. They then gave me a steroid shot for the baby's lungs and rushed us to the hospital 45 minutes away.
At this hospital they rushed us into an operation room to check on us. I was dilated to 8cm already. Thank God that the water did not break. A short time later, we were blessed with a beautiful "little" girl. She weighed 3 lbs, 11 oz and was 16" long (stretching said the nurse). Her Apgar scores were 7 and 9, which is great for a 30-weeker.
We were able to hold her before they brought her upstairs to the NICU. Chris went with her.
The NICU is a scary place. I had been there 14 years before - Amber was 3 weeks early at 5 lbs 4 oz and had problems keeping food down and the hospital was too busy.
The NICU Experience
Our journey began much like all the others. Charisse was hooked up to what seemed to be a million wires and tubes - she was so small. On a good note - she was breathing very well on her own. She needed a cpap (on her nose for quick little puffs of air to inflate the lungs better) for only one day. She needed the bili light (for her jaundice, which is very common for preemies) for only a day. Everything seemed to be going quite well. She was eating and wetting. They were increasing her food everyday. I was discharged when Charisse was four days old. It broke my heart to leave, but I had two others at home waiting. We drove the hour-long trip everyday that first week. Then at one week old we noticed that her stomach was bulging - we could see her intestines through her skin. They had to put a feeding tube into her stomach. They tried this for a couple of days - no progress. So they went back in to put the tube directly into her small intestine. We were driving back and forth every other day, weather permitting - we live in Michigan and the winters are not fun. Everyday I would cry both ways to see her. I cried everyday at home feeling guilty for not being there. Then one of the nurses told me that if I was sick that I would not be able to see her at all.
We set up a small tape recorder for Charisse and redid the messages about once a week. We would read stories to her, do math problems for her, go through numbers and spelling; anything for her to hear our voices. We also brought pictures of the family for her isolette.
We were in constant contact with the nurses that cared for her. We had many ups and downs. It is amazing that you learn real fast how to convert grams into ounces and how important even two little grams are.
There were many days of weight loss. There were many days that her apnea alarm would go off and many times while holding her the alarms would go off. That was scary. We needed to remember that one bad day does not necessarily equal a set back. You need to look at the big picture while at the same time enjoying the moment that you have been given.
It is Christmas Eve Day, and we were wishing Charisse a Merry Christmas on our way to Lansing to visit Chris' family. It was the hardest visit so far. We were so hoping that she would be able to be home for Christmas. But she still was not taking a bottle.
Christmas Day - so very hard for me to see the whole family without Charisse. I was fine until Chris' little grandniece showed up. She had just turned 2. She was the cutest little girl. I lost it. It hurt me so much not to have my little girl there. On the way home, we stopped and wished the nurses and doctors a Merry Christmas and told all of them thank-you. We were very surprised to see a new outfit on Charisse and a new hat - one of the support groups at the hospital made all of the babies outfits sized just for them. Charisse gave me the nicest Christmas present of all; she had ripped out her feeding tube and I got to feed her a bottle. This was her first.
On January 4 we were told to get ready because she was coming home! We were not ready for the hours of paper work, last minute classes, the notes to schedule a doctor visit with the regular doctor, with the doctors at this hospital, schedule a check up for me, make sure we have everything we need at home. We needed to learn to use a monitor. She had had a few apnea alarms so she had to use this at home. She was so funny in the car seat because she was still so small. She was just about 5 lbs.
Home - what a wonderful thing - now we worry about RSV and the monitor and the kids handling her and a million other things.
Overall her 34-day stay was brief considering that she was a 30-weeker. We were blessed.
A few tips:
- Do not be afraid to ask questions. The only dumb question is the one you do not ask.
- Do not be afraid of the tubes and wires.
- Do not be afraid to speak with the nurses. If you are concerned about the care or lack of your child is receiving - speak up. Call the social worker assigned to you. Express your concern. I assure you, you will feel better and you can rest easy knowing that you still have some control in YOUR baby's life.
- Find support - family, friends, hospital support groups, and other families in NICU.
- Remember you are no good to your baby if you are sick. Take time for you. Your baby is in the best place it can be. Try not to feel guilty about the time away from the baby.
- Do not forget about the relationship with your spouse. You are still married. Take a night out once in a while. (This applies even after the baby comes home.)
- Help with the care of your baby as much as possible. Ask to do things like change a diaper, give a bath, etc. it is easier to learn while others are around.
- Take your infant CPR class. This would also be a good idea for your caregivers. We had our older girls and grandpa take the class.
- Never forget that this is your child. The nurses that care for him/her are trained professionals but nothing will ever replace mom and dad.
*** A note on her progress ***
At 10 months she weighs 18 lbs and is 28" long. She is sitting, saying da da da, eating "real" food with her fingers, drinking from a cup and holding her own bottle. She has 7 teeth, she is pulling herself up and she loves to stand - she is totally afraid to move anywhere when she is standing but she will stand there for hours. She is a happy, well-adjusted baby and so far we have seen no problems with her development. Her adjusted age at this time was 7 months. She seems to be keeping up with kids born at the same time as she was. We have been blessed.