Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

A Confession

So, the past week or two I’ve joined a number of online discussions to talk with more parents of preemies and to leave advice or help where I can.  I’ve been having a great time and I’m enjoying talking with other women and getting to know their situations.  However, something is happening to me that I did not expect from this exposure.

My hope has been to distill the fears or concerns of new preemie parents, but what I didn’t expect was that I would suddenly be terrified to get pregnant again!  It’s been easy for me to give advice and share helpful information, especially concerning NICU life, because I left that scene 2 1/2 years ago.  I remember my experience vividly, and our family is still faced with daily challenges due to my daughter’s prematurity, but the real heart of the situation is behind me.  My daughter came home on oxygen and medications but she’s been fairly healthy and has lived a very happy and adventurous life so far.

Diving into a community of parents of NICU babies right now is making me realize again how lucky we were to get off with so few devastating problems and complications with our baby.  My most recent pregnancy lasted full-term (thought not without many sacrifices to make it happen) and boosted my confidence in my body, but there is still a large risk that I will deliver prematurely if I conceive again.  I think that because I lost my first baby to prematurity and then experienced the NICU with my second baby, thereby being my first living baby, I had no personal mother-child experiences to compare my situation with.  I didn’t know how truly discouraging my situation was because I had never bonded with a baby before and didn’t fully understand what I was missing.  I had never held a healthy newborn of my own and I had never taken a baby home from the hospital before.

Of course it was a very hard thing losing those opportunities with my preemie, but I couldn’t compare it with anything.  Now, on the other hand, I have had a full-term baby, I have had a vaginal birth, I have nursed my baby from day one, and I have taken my newborn baby home with me from the hospital.  Now,  I think having a preemie, spending time in the NICU again, and watching my tiny baby struggle to survive would be devastating.  I don’t know if I could do it again.

I need your help!  If you have had a preemie for whatever reason after having one or more full-term babies, how have you survived seeing your helpless little baby in the NICU?  How have you survived the pain and the anguish of watching your baby suffer?  How are you able to spend time with your preemie with other children at home?  I really need your words of wisdom.  Thanks.

Afton Mower About Afton Mower

After Mower (UT) lost her firstborn son at 21 weeks.  Her daughter was born a year and a half later at 27 weeks.  The NICU was overwhelming and isolating and it was through those two experiences she was led to found this social hub for parents to find the support they needed. Afton also gave birth to another daughter, born two days overdue after four months of strict bedrest. She believes it is a tender experience to hold a special baby in your arms when his spirit returns to his heavenly home, a miracle to watch tiny babies survive the risks of prematurity and a blessing to hold a healthy full-term baby after months of difficulty and sacrifices.

Comments

  1. October 2007 I had a beautiful full-term baby girl, Mikena (our first child). That pregnancy was pretty much problem-free except for high-blood pressure toward the end. Anyways, on October 31, 2008 my water broke at 17 weeks gestation with my second pregnancy during a car accident.

    My OB at the time said that she could either induce me or I could just go on with my life and let nature take its course. Well, my husband and I went to a different hospital to seek a second opinion. We were referred to a Perinatologist and we were given news mother never wants to hea–that the odds are stacked against us, that I could carry full-term but have a baby that can not breath outside of the womb, that I have a high chance of miscarriage, etc. But what the Peri also told us was that there was hope for us and our baby. That bedrest would prolong and pregnancy and if I could make it to 24 weeks I would be admitted into the hospital. So I did just that. Bedrest at home with a 13 month old! I had tons of help from my parents and my sister-in-laws. I made it to 24 weeks and was admitted into the hospital a few days before Christmas. It was really hard being in the hospital and not being able to see my daughter. It killed me inside, but I knew that what I was doing was making sure I brought a sibling home for our daughter.

    Christmas passed, New Years 2009 passed, and I was still in the hospital….We ended up having our precious little boy, Ethan, at 28 weeks 6 days gestation on January 22, 2009(1/22 at 1:22pm. He was born on National Pro-Life Day which was very symbolic for me…so many doctors wanted to give up on him before he was even born and then to see what faith, hope, srength, and determination can do for an unborn baby! We believed in our baby from day one and I knew we would have ourselved a strong baby.

    Life in the NICU was very hard for me to handle at first, the first couple days after I had Ethan I didn’t really want to look at him. As weird as that may sound…I didn’t even want to touch him or kiss him good-bye when we would leave because I didn’t want to get my hopes up and get attached to him in case something were to happen. I never told my husband that or even my family, but it all felt like a dream. The day I was discharged I finally was able to hold him and I think it was then that it sunk in to me that he was here to stay and that I could let my worries go.

    Juggling a 15 month old and NICU visits were very difficult. Mikenna really didn’t understand what was going on and she really couldn’t visit. So we made sure that we took lots of pictures and showed them to her daily. We talked about Ethan all of the time. Ethan was ventilated for a day, then on CPAP a few days, and then regular nasal canula for the remainder of his stay. Towards the end of his hospitalization Mikenna would come up to visit briefly, but still I don’t think she ever realized he was her brother. We tried visiting Ethan mostly during the evenings after she went to bed. During this whole ordeal with bedrest early on, we terminated out lease and moved back in with my parents. This made it easier for us to take care of Mikenna and keep life as normal as possible. My husband and I both work, so after 5 weeks of maternity leave I went back to work.

    It was hard not being able to be up at the hospital everyday all day, but I did what I could. That is all a parent can do. I knew my son was in great hands and I called all the time for updates…the hospital was about 45 minutes away, so I couldn’t run up to the hospital at different times throughout the day.

    Ethan spent 112 days in the NICU and came home with oxygen, medications, and monitors. After being home for 3 months, we started weaning him of the oxygen and now he has been off for 2 months now! He just turned 9 months old (about 6 1/2 months adjusted). He is one happy little boy and I am so thankful for my Mommy instincts! Mikenna loves being a big sister and I don’t think she even remembers Mommy being in the hospital and I don’t think she even realized Ethan was in the hospital too! Good luck to all! And if you have any questions, find me on Facebook- Lauren Bolte Wentzville, MO

    • Lauren, thank you for your story! I guess whether it’s our first baby or our second or third, we simply find a way to get through whatever trials we are facing. I am so happy your little boy survived and thrived. How wonderful that he is off of oxygen! I remember being amazed at how chubby my baby’s cheeks were when we first took her off of the nasal cannula at home. She was a totally new baby! Thanks again for sharing and best of luck to you in the future.

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