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Vonda's Parenting a Preemie Journal

~ Meet Vonda

VondaHi, my name is Vonda (vonda on the boards) and my husband's name is Bruce. We are the proud parents of a beautiful daughter, Adriana. We all live in the sunny South of the USA. I am a reporter for the local newspaper in the small town where we live, and I am currently working part-time from home. Bruce has two jobs, one as a finance director and one as a pastor. We were married on April 15, 2000 in a beautiful ceremony at his church. Since we were both older when we got married (he was 42 and I was 32), we decided to try to start a family as soon as the honeymoon started.

We were naïve. We thought you get married, get pregnant and nine months later you have a baby. We soon found out that is not always true. We became pregnant with our first baby five months after we were married. Sadly, that pregnancy ended in a miscarriage in Nov. 2000. After one cycle, we found ourselves excitedly, but anxiously, pregnant again. I should have known early on that this was not going to be an easy pregnancy. I did not have many signs of pregnancy like I did with the first one, except for a missed period. Around eight weeks I started hemorrhaging, and we raced to the doctor expecting the worst. An ultrasound was done and we rejoiced when we heard and saw the baby's heartbeat. I was placed on a week's bed rest and told to return to my doctor at the end of that time. When we went back, the doctor said everything looked fine and we were placed on the payment plan. I was glad to get that far and thought the doctor must have been confident that this baby was going to make it.

Everything seemed to be going fine until I was about 25 weeks pregnant. I was swollen, but I dismissed it as a normal pregnancy thing. I called my doctor's office and the nurse said to cut back on salt and keep my feet elevated. I did that and went on my merry way until June 29 when I was 27 weeks. On that day, I was at a baby shower for one of my husband's co-workers. While we were eating, my vision became blurry and stayed that way for about an hour. I dismissed that as a migraine, which I have about every six months. The next day after a day of shopping with my mother and a friend, I began hemorrhaging profusely on the way home. When we arrived at the hospital, the doctor found the baby's heartbeat right away. Once again, we thanked God for that wonderful news. The doctor decided to send us to another hospital because the hospital where I was had a level II nursery. The one he sent me to had a level III nursery, which he said the baby would need if I delivered. After being at the hospital for a couple of days, the doctors determined I had developed pre-eclampsia and that a portion of the placenta had torn away from a fibroid I have. On day six of my hospital stay, the high-risk doctor said I was getting too sick to keep the baby inside me. We were so scared and did not know what to expect. Everyone assured us she had a very good chance of surviving. The sweetest sound I have ever heard was her cry when they took her from me. She arrived 12 weeks early on July 5, 2001 by cesarean section weighing a whopping 2 lbs., 2 oz. at birth and measuring 13.5 inches. We could fit her into the palm of our hand. A friend of my family said the bleeding episode was probably a blessing because we went to the hospital because of it. Pre-eclampsia symptoms are so similar to other symptoms that women tend to ignore them, like I did.

We named our sweet baby Adriana Rae. The name Adriana is from a Vince Gill song, "Pretty Little Adriana" (we didn't know how true that title would be) and Rae is after my father, Ray, who passed away three years ago.

Adriana did well, especially for a 28 weeker. When she was in the NICU, we were told to expect a roller coaster ride. We learned new medical terminology and came to know her nurses like family members. Since we live 75 miles from the hospital, we stayed at the Ronald McDonald House across the street. We brought her home after seven weeks, five weeks ahead of her due date. We were told to expect her to stay until at least a couple of weeks before her due date.

When she was first born, she did not know how to suck because babies do not develop that reflex until about 34 weeks. A couple of days after she was born, I was able to start pumping milk for her. I quickly built up a large supply and when she went home, we bought a deep freezer to store her milk. She is probably the first baby to receive a freezer as a going home present. I still pump for her today because I was too nervous to try nursing her directly because of her apnea episodes. Premature babies have a tendency to go into such a deep sleep that they forget to breathe.

Before she left the hospital, we learned how to give her an iron supplement and a medicine to stimulate her lungs and heart. She was sent home on an apnea monitor, which she is still on today. If the monitor alarms, we check her breathing and her color. If she needs it, we are to stimulate her by touching her or patting her until the monitor stops beeping. In a worst-case scenario, we will have to give her CPR, but thankfully, we have not had to do that. Hopefully, in the very near future, she will come off the monitor. She has not had a true apnea episode in some time. We are looking forward to that day, but we will be very nervous when that happens. Now that she has started rolling and becoming more mobile, she gets caught in the cable that connects her to the monitor. We try disconnecting her when she wakes up, but sometimes she is quicker than we are.

Along with her pediatrician, she sees an ophthalmologist and a hematologist regularly. The eye doctor checks for retinopathy of prematurity and the hematologist checks for hyperbilirubinemia and anemia. So far, everything has come back fine and she does not have to see the specialists again for a while. An early intervention specialist comes every week to work on her development. Right now, Adriana is in the range of five to six months, which is what she would be if she had gone to her due date. For a long time, I felt like all she did was sleep. She rolled over right after Christmas, and now she is making great progress.

As the parent of a preemie, I deal with many emotions. Most of the time I am elated because I feel so blessed to have such a gift. Sometimes, I get down because she is not doing the things other babies her age are doing, and I feel guilty. I feel like my body let her down. I have to remind myself that developmentally, she is right on track and everything is fine. When she does something new, I gain more hope that she is going to be fine.

Thank you for taking the time to read my journal and finding out about the whirlwind life of a preemie family. You will find joy, laughter, tears, and honesty. I hope you enjoy getting to know my family.

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