When you experience trauma in your life, nothing else seems important. Everything you thought you knew is turned upside down, and things just don’t make sense. You want everything to stop, so you can focus, process, and heal, but life isn’t like that.
A premature birth is definitely a very traumatic experience, and while everything has seemed to stop for you in that moment, everyone else continues to move forward. Your focus is on that tiny, sick little baby, but still life makes demands. While you desperately just want to spend every waking minute with your baby, it’s just not possible. You may have work, other children at home, or even your own health problems.
You would do anything to switch places with that sweet baby, and to make them healthy, but you need help. Help from doctors, nurses, friends, family and co-workers. Not only do you need the medical help, but you need understanding, time, and patience.
A lot of the time, the people in your life don’t know what to do because they just don’t understand what you’ve experienced. So, they go on. Life goes on. Life continues to move forward, even when you experience a premature birth.
Today, we meet Olivia, as told by her Mom, Sylina. Sylina does understand all about a premature birth because she experienced one with Olivia. She is very passionate about premature birth awareness, and I’m so happy she’s sharing her story. Not only does she share how her life was interrupted by this trauma, but how she has moved on from it.
1.Tell us about your baby.
My water broke on its own at 25 weeks, 3 days while I was laying in bed on a Saturday. I was transported to a bigger hospital 2 hours away. Nine days later, 26 weeks 5 days, Olivia was born. She weighed 1 pound, 15 ounces. She was 13 inches long.
2.How long were you in the NICU? What was the hardest part?
Olivia remained in the same hospital for 72 days. She had a double pneumothorax (collapsed lung) causing bilateral brain bleeds. She had tubes inserted in her chest at day 3 of life. Her brain bleeds were a grade I on one side and a grade II on the other. She had a large PDA that lasted her entire NICU stay but corrected itself right before her release. She had ROP (Retinopathy of Prematurity) in both eyes, her right eye corrected before release and her left shortly after she came home. Her right lung hyper extended almost collapsing her left lung.
The hardest part of our NICU stay was the distance. It was 90 miles one way. I couldn’t be with her as much as I wanted because unfortunately life does not stop because you have a sick baby. But, I managed 4 days a week with her.
3.Do you know what caused your premature birth?
They never could find exactly what caused my preterm labor. From what I understand, I tested positive for Group B Strep. I did some research and, one of the symptoms is premature rupture of membranes. But, we were never given a definitive answer.
4.How are you and Olivia doing now?
Olivia is almost four and a half now. We are good. I think I will forever be haunted by her NICU stay but I’ve let go of a lot of the grief and guilt. Olivia is meeting milestones in her own time. I don’t pay attention to what she should be doing because an expert said so. We all learn at different rates. Olivia is extremely bright, caring, loving and a very happy little girl. Her smile can illuminate a room. Olivia has required little to no therapies, she has had no surgeries and has never been hospitalized since she came home. She’s done nothing but thrive since she got home. Olivia has been home for 4 years.
5.What advice do you have for new preemie parents?
My advice to other parents would be to take this journey day by day because there are so many ups and downs. I have learned that eventually you have to let go of some of the emotions associated with this period of time. If you continue to hold on, you are not enjoying your baby and really denying them the best parts of you.
Talk about your experience and feelings often. If no one wants to listen, join a support group. You will lose friends, and family members will become distant. Let them go. It’s their hang-up, not yours. You can’t make someone understand what you have been through.
Do research on your child’s particular conditions. However, utilize these tools as guidelines. The Internet is a wonderful source of information but they always seem to put the worst case scenarios in the forefront. Believe me you will scare the crap out of yourself. Ask tons of questions even if you have already asked them. You are your baby’s voice, their advocate, don’t be afraid to go toe to toe with doctors and nurses. They may be experts in their fields but you are mama and no one knows their child like a mom.
Breast milk is liquid gold. Even if they only get a tiny bit, breast milk has so many benefits for premature tummies. Olivia never took the breast but I pumped faithfully, every 3 hours for 3 months straight.
And finally, prematurity is not a death sentence. These children are extremely resilient and such little fighters. Much love, support and strength to all of you.
Thank you again to Sylina for sharing her beautiful Olivia with us. Please leave any questions or support in the comments below.