The NICU Stay
No matter how long your NICU stay, whether it be 5 days or 356 days, it takes an emotional toll on you. Seeing your child in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, instead of taking them home from the hospital is an experience you will never forget. It’s terrifying to see your child fighting for their life.
Today, Micro Preemie Monday is a little different, in the fact that we’re not meeting a “Micro” preemie.
Anneliese was born premature, but she was born after 28 weeks and over 2 lbs, unlike most of the other babies that we meet. Her story is still important and full of hope, and I am very honored to be able to share her with you. Just because she wasn’t born quite as young or small as some of the other babies that have been on the blog, this did not make her NICU stay any less scary or heartbreaking for her family.
Her mother, Jessica, is here to tell us their story.
1. Tell us about your baby.
Anneliese Jude (Ana) was born at 35.6 weeks. She weighed 5.7 lbs and was 21 inches long.
2. How long was your NICU stay? What was the hardest part?
20 days. Though our stay seems short compared to most long-term NICU stays, by far the hardest part was the transfer to the Children’s by ambulance for possible ECMO. (From The National Institutes of Health, Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is a treatment that uses a pump to circulate blood through an artificial lung back into the bloodstream of a very ill baby. This system provides heart-lung bypass support outside of the baby’s body…ECMO is used in infants who are sick due to breathing or heart problems. The purpose of ECMO is to provide enough oxygen to the baby while allowing time for the lungs and heart to rest or heal.)
3. Do you know what caused your premature birth?
My husband Kurt and I tried for 2 years to get pregnant. I tested ovulation weekly and we would try whenever the smiley face would show up. Sometimes I wouldn’t get any smiley face, but we’d try anyways. This went on for quite a while, one negative pregnancy test after the other. In January of 2014, we decided to go seek treatment/help for not getting pregnant within a year’s time. I made an appointment with a fertility specialist and couldn’t get in till April. In February, we made the bold decision to go to Egypt in July. A week after we got home, I was pregnant. It was the most tremendous feeling in the world. I was carrying a baby, my baby, someone who would depend on me.
Pregnancy was a breeze. I wasn’t nauseous, I ate what I wanted and when I started to show and feel the baby, it was magical. We researched and researched. We planned to breastfeed, cloth diaper, and baby wear. I felt in charge and like I knew what I was in for.
I felt like I did EVERYTHING right in pregnancy. I took my prenatals, didn’t touch sushi, and ate for two. I ended up getting gestational diabetes, but it wasn’t too bad. At my 32 week appointment,my OBGYN had suspicions that I was having some high blood pressure. I played it off like it was no big deal. I wish I would have taken it more seriously. At 33 weeks, she admitted me on a Friday night to the hospital. I was put on magnesium for 24 hours. As soon as the nurse left, I threw up all over the bed. It was horrific. I was contracting a little bit, and they were worried I was in active labor. I received by two painful shots of steroids and was sent home on bed rest. I still wasn’t that worried.
At my next appointment on Monday, I went in and they re-admitted me for high pressure. I spent the next two weeks in the hospital, watching Netflix, finishing up my last Master’s class, testing my blood. I should have napped. They planned to take her at 37 weeks, and then at 36 weeks. On Friday, March 20, I was scheduled with the high risk prenatal doctor for a growth scan. Baby girl was measuring small, IUGR small at 4.5 lbs. My whole world came crashing down. What had I done wrong? I did or tried to do everything right. My OB came in and told me a scheduled c-section would be the best way to keep baby safe. The next day my pressures stayed high all day and they cut her out of me that night. The c-section was easy, I was focused on baby girl and her health. She was perfect and weighing a good 5.7 lbs. There was no meconium and she was crying. We did skin-to-skin as they stitched me up. She kept making the cutest little noises. The stand-by NICU did not think they were cute. I brought Ana back to our room to try to breastfeed for the first time. She was there with me for 3 minutes and then they took her away for her grunting. As the days wore on, she got worse to the point of incubation. On day 4, we were transferred to Children’s Hospital for possible ECMO. They diagnosed her with severe respiratory distress syndrome, pulmonary hypertension, and possible pneumonia. Watching her go by ambulance and knowing the ride alone was very risky was the most terrifying experience of my life. I cut myself off emotionally from my baby. I did not want to get close, knowing that I might lose her.
Once we got to Children’s, they switched all of her med’s and by some phenomenon, she immediately started getting better. 2 days later she was down to cannula, and weaning nitric oxide and oxygen daily. She was such a little pistol which I believe contributed to her fast recovery. Before we knew it the nightmare was over and we took her home to be a family.
Though we were only there for a short time, every NICU mom/parents have their own story that differs from person to person. The one thing we do have in common is that we all went home without a baby…
4. How are you and your baby doing now?
Ana is healthier than ever. We breastfeed and I contribute her health to that as well. We have a developmental pediatrician appointment Nov. 2 and I think she will do fine. She is meeting her milestones on time.
5. What advice would you give to a new preemie parent?
Get yourself some support, whether it’s in the NICU or Facebook. Settle in and start a new hobby if you don’t already have one. Get a trial subscription to Netflix. Rest when you can. If you are pumping, get into the groove and seek out an IBCLC. Ask questions! Question everything, know what’s going on with your baby. Remember that you need to take care of yourself, there are people taking care of your baby.
Thank you again to Jessica for sharing beautiful Ana and their story with us. Please leave any questions or comments, and Jessica will be able to read and respond.
Please remember that any NICU stay is painful and scary, so I hope this post will give parents in a similar situation support and hope.