For World Prematurity Day, I have asked my mom (T’s Grami) to write a post about her experiences. My mother’s first child was born premature, and he did not survive. Both of her grandchild, my son and my niece, were also preemies. I know her story might be a little long, but it’s worth reading. I’m so grateful to her for sharing her story. And for being my mother, my role model, my friend. I love you, mom! –Roxanne
I believe that everyone needs 9 months to get ready for a baby. New moms and dads need that time together, as the next year will be a testament to the longevity of their relationship. New moms need time to read, shop, and sleep since they will not get to do any of that for the next year. Cutting short that prep time by three months is not good for the baby or the new parents. Losing that child a mere few days later can mean a lifetime of torture and heartache.
I was a young, naïve bride at 21 and pregnant within 3 months. What was supposed to be a joyous occasion was anything but since I was sick every single day, all day long. I didn’t understand why it was called “morning sickness”. The doctor said this was normal and gave me something for the nausea; I don’t remember what it was. I know now that it was my body’s way of saying something was wrong.
When I went into labor 12 weeks early, I clearly did not have enough time to prepare. How do you prepare for an emergency? Reading is one thing, but experience is a harsh teacher. Before the advent of cell phones, how do you reach a husband that travels for work? You don’t. You wait for him to get home. I drove myself to the doctor’s office, unaware that my child was in serious trouble. The doctor checked me and told me to go to the hospital to have the baby. Can you imagine?! Was there a longer discussion about what was happening and what to expect? I don’t think so. I drove myself to the hospital. It was a total of 4 hours from the time my water broke until Andy was born.
Since he was very small and premature, he was whisked away and I didn’t see him for 2 days. Andy weighed about 2 lbs, was 17” long, had lots of dark hair, and a diaphragmatic hernia at birth. He was operated on immediately to repair the hole; one lung was premature and one lung collapsed due to the hernia. He was then transferred to Mt Zion Hospital in San Francisco. I was discharged from the hospital late on Thursday and went to SF on Friday.
Before I got to see Andy, someone tried to prepare me for how he looked and what they were doing for him. It was still a shock. Several times the doctors told us what was going on, and that only about 5% of the kids in his condition survived. Our child, we believed, was in that 5%. I don’t remember much of the next few days. The next thing I remember, it was Sunday and I was shown into a private room with a rocking chair. They brought Andy to me to hold, for us to hold. We hugged him and kissed him together, and on our own. When he started turning blue, they took him away and that’s when we realized he was gone and we started crying. Until that point, we had thought we were getting ready to take him home.
The next few days were a blur with making funeral arrangements. The little white casket, lots of flowers, tears, and hugs. Our only pictures of Andy were taken in the hospital; I still have that frame of pictures. I believe the experience brought my husband and I closer at the time. We were able to talk about him, and how he would always be a part of our lives. We still believed in our large family to come. Andy was a part of our lives, and the other kids were eventually told about their older brother.
After Andy was here and gone, the doctors discovered that I had internal problems. They told me that I may or may not be able to sustain a pregnancy full term. I did continue to have problems. With each pregnancy, I was considered high risk. But I ended up with 3 full term, healthy babies. I took the decision into my own hands to not have any more pregnancies after 6 in 10 years.
Both of my daughters had preemie babies, though neither was as early or as small as Andy. My grandson, T, was born 7 weeks early, weighing 4.2 lbs. He spent the first 78 days of his life in the hospital NICU due to different issues related to his birth and development. I watched my daughter with her heartache and prayed for his survival. I always considered him a miracle baby. I was ecstatic when he came home from the hospital, and each little milestone was another miracle to me. I thought my daughter brave and wonderful for nothing more than being T’s mom, and for everything she did. All of his accomplishments I attribute to her. He is now a healthy 6-year-old, though I understand small for his age.
When my younger daughter gave birth to a preemie (her first pregnancy resulted in a miscarriage), it was expected. A was only 3 weeks early, weighed 4.7 lbs, and spent 9 days in the special care nursery of the hospital due to early delivery complications. My daughter wants another child, even knowing the risk of miscarriage and prematurity. She amazes me with her strength. Though I wonder if it could be her naivety. I can remember when Andy was born, and not thinking about future pregnancies, only about wanting a houseful of kids.
So, my perspective on having a preemie? I don’t recommend it. But in looking at my experience and those of my daughters, I consider us lucky. Why me, since my child died? I feel lucky to have the wonderful kids God allowed me to have. I feel lucky to have been able to be a stay-at-home mom for most of the time. I feel lucky to not remember all the mistakes I made with them, and still consider myself a good mom. I feel lucky that a lot of people care about preemies, and that medical research and prenatal care have advanced. I feel lucky to have raised strong, independent women that have struggled with adversity and come out ahead of the game.
For more information on how you can help all babies be born healthy, visit the March of Dimes website. The March of Dimes is an extraordinary organization with a mission to work together for stronger, healthier babies.
For information on Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernias (CDH), visit CHERUBS, the world’s first and largest CDH charity, leading the way for research, awareness, and support for families affected by CDH.