The month of November is World Prematurity Awareness month and November 17th is World Prematurity Awareness Day – a great reason for my family, and many others to share their stories about the little ones we’ve brought into this world.
According to the March of Dimes – in the U.S., about 380,000 babies were born premature in 2015 and the survival rate of these tiny babies is increasing. Great news for many families! But it can definitely be a scary and trying time for many parents. But sharing stories of our precious miracles might help another family going through it. So, I wanted to share my story – my special preemie.
Our Family’s Miracle Preemie – Amelia
During my first pregnancy I had a few complications. I developed HELLP syndrome and my baby boy was born at 36 weeks. He was a healthy baby and, though only 5lbs, he thankfully had no major complications. I was so blessed to have him and be able to take him home after a week stay in the hospital. A few years later, we decided to expand our family and in 2006 we found out that we were pregnant again. I was so excited that my son would be having a sibling. I did not worry for a moment that I would have any complications with this pregnancy. I truly believed this pregnancy would go without a hitch and my doctors believed the same as well.
At 28 ½ weeks gestational, I was on my way to my neonatal appointment. I dropped off my 4-year-old son at a friend’s house for a playdate and off I went for my routine checkup. Little did I know, that on that day I would not return home. I would instead be on my way to the hospital for an unexpected extended stay. My blood pressure had elevated and preeclampsia had made its appearance once again during my pregnancy. What was to be a 24-hour observation stay in the hospital turned into what was to be a 10 week hospital stay until my baby was born. The doctors immediately ordered steroid shots to help my baby’s lungs to mature as a precaution. My brain was spinning, trying to desperately process it all. I was then transferred to one of the best hospitals in Charlotte, NC for premature babies.
By week 30, my blood pressure was becoming gradually worse. My doctor felt he couldn’t wait anymore. It wasn’t safe for my baby or me. We had to deliver her and once the doctor made the final decision things happened quickly. I was so scared and worried – it was too soon! We were suppose to get to at least 36 weeks – that would have been a safer time for her to enter into this world. I was so terrified and in shock when it hit me that my daughter would be born at 30 weeks.
Amelia was born 10 weeks early and was delivered via c-section. She weighed 3lbs – she was our miracle preemie. I heard her cry when she first came out and then they quickly whisked her away to the ICN (intensive care nursery) unit. I saw her for a very brief moment and I didn’t get a chance to hold her until 24 hours later. Those 24 hours were heartbreaking for me. Amelia spent her first 41 days of life at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, NC. We were told that her stay could be approximately the 10 weeks that she would have been in utero, as long as there were no further complications or set backs.
My total hospital stay was 2 weeks. I was discharged without my daughter and placed on medication for my high blood pressure. I was also given strict rules not to drive for several weeks and not to do a lot of moving around. I had to go to the hospital everyday and needed to pump my milk in order to get it to her. Everyday I filled small syringes that the ICN unit froze and they slowly gave her small amounts through her feeding tube. Family and friends came from near and far to help my husband and I with taking care of our son. They helped out with errands, meals and helped me once I came home to drive me to and from the hospital. I felt helpless, scared and heartbroken.
When I first saw my daughter, 24 hours after she was born, she was hooked up to all kinds of machines. She had a CPAP that was helping her breathe in oxygen. Her eyes were covered with a mask in order to protect her from the bilirubin lamps inside her incubator and her skin was so thin and wrinkly. My husband and I were too scared to even pick her up – we were told she needed to save every calorie that she had and movement could burn calories that we did not want her to lose. She had already lost weight like most firstborn babies do but a preemie could not afford to lose any weight.
One of the first things I did when I saw her for the first time was what was called Kangaroo Care – holding your baby with skin-to-skin contact. The nurses explained to us that our baby would benefit from this and that we should do it as often as we could. I was so nervous at first, she was so little and seemed so fragile. But sure enough once she was situated on my chest she snuggled in. I held her and sang to her to let her know mommy was there. I counted all her toes and fingers and just held her. I prayed that we would get through this together and we would be home soon.
Each day in the ICN unit it felt like a small step towards our goal. There were days when I felt frustrated, worried, and scared. We lived about 30 minutes from the hospital and my husband and I took shifts so that one of us would always be there with her. Amelia was a fighter and she kept moving forward. The doctors and nurses were always caring, upbeat and gave us hope. After a few weeks, Amelia graduated from the incubator to an open crib. She still maintained a feeding tube but was getting stronger each day. The goal they had set for her was to reach 4lbs and be completely bottle-fed…then she could go home. We were told that this was a goal that could happen before the 10 weeks. We were hopeful.
Over several weeks I wrote down what I was feeling and what Amelia was going through in a preemie journal my sister gave me. At 34 weeks gestational, she weighed 3lbs and 11ounces. She was still in her incubator and her stats were stable and steady.
This is an excerpt from my journal: “I love coming to visit you, you always put a smile on my face. Your brother says to give you a special kiss from him! We all miss you so much. You look great, very alert and getting bigger. I love watching you and seeing you move and wiggle around. You spit up a bit and I got nervous, but you were ok. So I went ahead and changed you into a fresh shirt and you didn’t skip a beat.”
On April 26, 2007, my baby girl finally reached 36 weeks gestational she was able to come home! And today Amelia is a healthy 9-year-old who continues to amaze us all! She is a bright, feisty, lovable and sensitive little girl!
My story is something that, to this day, still reminds of a time that I was feeling scared and unsure of my baby’s future. I will never forget the different beeping sounds of the ICN unit – the heart monitors and CPAP machines. I am honored to be able to share her story with all of you. My sister Jennifer and I can’t wait to be able to give back to the hospital that not only took care of my daughter, but was also a big part of my nephew, A.J.’s birth story. But that’s a story for another blog post!
The exciting news for parents of these sweet little preemies is that Pampers has worked together with the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurses to design and introduce the new Pampers Preemie Swaddlers Size P-3 diaper. The new Size P-3 is three sizes smaller than Newborn diapers to fit the tiniest and most vulnerable premature babies born in the second trimester and weighing as little as 1 pound (500 grams).
We love that our favorite brand is the first major diaper brand to offer a diaper specifically designed for our miracle babies and will be able to bring even the teeny tiniest babies the same loving touch and comfort that my own children have received with Pampers. We know just how essential it is for all babies to have that positive touch, but it’s especially important for the health and development of premature babies.
To further the importance and awareness of preemie babies, Pampers has also joined forces with March of Dimes, the only national organization dedicated to finding the causes of preterm birth, through the Touches of Love campaign this fall, celebrating all babies, especially those in the NICU, and those who care for them.
We invite you to join Pampers for World Prematurity Month and Day by sharing your favorite picture of your baby’s #TouchesOfLove moments with us here on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Until tomorrow (November 17th), every picture that is tagged with #touchesoflove will see $1 from Pampers donated to the March of Dimes. So please share all those sweet baby photos!
Are you a preemie parent? What were your experiences? Feel free to share your stories or just add your little miracle’s name below in recognition of the beautiful preemie babies that we brought into this world and that we continue to help fight for and bring awareness too!