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

Sam’s Story

This is Sam’s story:

The day before my baby was born, we went to a routine doctor’s appointment. I was excited. We had just gotten back from our last vacation before our little one arrived, I was feeling better, and my baby bump was finally getting bigger. This was also the day that I was forced to drink that nasty orange drink to have my sugar tested. My biggest concern throughout the pregnancy was that I would develop gestational diabetes and that they would not go away after birth which had happened previously in my family.

The doctor’s visit began normally. We were 29 weeks along in the pregnancy.  They weighed me in. I was still -3 on the weight gain, but had made progress since losing so much at the beginning of the pregnancy. I peed in a cup and they took me to an exam room. During the routine checkup, my blood pressure was elevated. They immediately put me on my side and had me lay there for a few minutes. We were waiting for a nurse practitioner who was running late so we had plenty of time. It was during my rest that my cousin, who is a nurse for another doctor at the same office, came in and asked why they found protein in my urine. I was still at a loss. I wasn’t for sure what exactly that meant even though I knew it was checked at every appointment. They checked my blood pressure again.   Although it wasn’t as high as the first time, it was still high enough to raise concern. A doctor was in our room within a couple minutes and we were on our way through the pedway to the hospital where I was going to have further tests done and some monitoring.

At this point, I was confused. I wasn’t for sure why things were so crazy when I had just started feeling better. I was finally to the point where I was able to do things again. I had energy to get stuff done. We were working on the nursery that night!

At the hospital, I was hooked up to fetal monitors and blood pressure cuffs. I loved laying there and being able to hear my little one’s heartbeat. My husband left to run an errand and to grab something to eat. While he was gone, the doctor came back in. My blood pressure had spiked and they were sending me to see a specialist at another hospital about 30 minutes away. (Later my husband told me that he saw the monitor when he walked in and it was 190/101.)  I had severe pre-eclampsia. They told me things were going to start moving quickly as they prepped me for the trip. They immediately gave me a steroid shot for the little one’s lungs and started me on magnesium sulfate to stop any potential labor or seizures. They put a catheter in. I begged them to let my husband take me. Unfortunately, I was forced to go in the ambulance.

Once we arrived at the other hospital, my baby’s heartbeat was continually monitored. After meeting with the specialist, we were told that they wanted to try to wait 48 hours to get a few more steroid shots in for my little one’s lung development, but that we would deliver earlier if necessary. The little one was already in position to deliver. She didn’t have very much amniotic fluid surrounding her, and her heartbeat was beginning to be erratic. She was in distress. Throughout the night, my water started leaking. I was given injections to keep labor from starting. The baby’s heartbeat continued to be erratic.

Somewhere between 7:00 a.m. and 7:30 a.m., we met with the specialist again and found out that our baby was going to make her entrance into the world as soon as the delivery team was assembled and a spinal was successfully completed on me. I am so very thankful that the spinal was successful and my husband was there with me. He even had the chance to cut the umbilical cord. Our beautiful baby girl weighed in at 1 pound, 9 ounces and 14 inches long.

Looking back on it, I was more scared right before delivery and right after than I was during my baby’s stay in NICU. The baby was immediately taken from the room. What I didn’t know until months after her birth was that she had to be resuscitated.

A few hours later we were told that our little one was being transported to a larger university hospital to the NICU unit because she was still too little to stay in their nursery. My first look at my little one was when she was strapped into an incubator and ready for transport to the other hospital. She was on a ventilator. Her chest, so small, was covered by straps to hold her in place during transit. He tiny hand wasn’t big enough to clasp around the tip of my index finger. It was there that I had to say good-bye to her not knowing when I would see her again or if I would.

That was on Saturday. I was not able to travel to see my baby until Monday. We called later Saturday night and learned that she was off the ventilator, but other calls throughout the next day didn’t give us a lot of information. Those days were torture. My doctor gave me a free pass to travel to the other hospital across town on Monday. I had to be wheeled out of one hospital and into another.

It was the first time I saw my baby at the other hospital that I couldn’t help myself any longer. Looking in the incubator at the precious baby that my husband and I had brought into the world, I cried. And cried. I felt as if it were my fault that she was born so early. I felt like it was my fault that she wasn’t ready, that she was smaller than she should have been. But there she was, our little miracle, kicking her arms, trying to get out of her swaddler. Already such a fighter.

It was then that we began our 67 day journey in the NICU and neonatal nursery.

We quickly learned the routine of the NICU. Only two people at a time; stop to wash your hands; don’t rub your baby, only pat her; and most importantly, the beeps and buzzes that are consistently having you look up at your child’s monitor to see if its her.  A’s are for apnea, B’s are bradycardia, etc., etc.  This became normal to us and I quickly forgot that others outside the NICU didn’t know what we were talking about.

The first week we watched and anxiously awaited the reports every day. Has she gained any weight? Has there been any change? What have the doctors said? Have you turned her oxygen down any?  Any new developments?  She had every nurse we saw at the NICU describing her as “spunky” and “feisty.”

Week two in the NICU brought our first realization that just because our little bundle of joy was here, it didn’t mean that she was okay and would always be okay.  Don’t get me wrong, I still had the feeling that she was going to be fine, no matter what, but when we got the call that they were testing her because she wasn’t as perky as usual, I was scared.  They said that the chances were that it was 1) an infection in the fluid around her brain or 2) a heart problem or 3) a blood infection.  What a set of choices!!  They had already performed a procedure on her to draw out some fluid from her spine to test to see if it were an infection in the fluid around her brain (without our permission, I might add) and had drawn blood to check for a sepsis infection and were going to be doing an ultrasound to check her heart and/or x-rays.

By the time I got to the hospital, they had determined her heart was fine.  The fluid had not shown anything negative either.  So now we had to wait for the blood cultures to determine what kind of sepsis my daughter had.  And I’m sure for any of you who had a child with a blood infection, it takes forever for those results to come back.  My daughter had almost completed her regimen of antibiotics before they determined that she had staph warneri.

That was one of the biggest scares we had in the NICU.  We also had another bout a few weeks later where they thought she may have developed another staph infection or NEC, but testing showed negatives results for both and she was back to her bouncing baby self quickly.

The biggest problem we had in the NICU following the first two episodes with staph were getting our little one weened off the oxygen and getting her to pick up weight.  At times it felt like we had one nurse working with us and the rest working against us.

I went back to work only two short weeks after having our little one.  I only had four weeks of leave and wanted to save some time for when she came home from the hospital.  That made for a long seven weeks of working all day and then going to the hospital every night.  But no matter what happened every day, seeing my little one at the end of the day made it all better.

The day that I called to check on her and found out that they were moving her to the Level II neonatal nursery, I was ecstatic.  I could not drive to the hospital fast enough.  I think it was the same when we found out she was totally weened off her oxygen and that she was out of her incubator and in a heated bed.  With each of those steps, we knew that it was getting closer to time to bring our little one home!

The big day finally arrived and although we were both so excited about bringing our little one home, we were very anxious as well.  I know I didn’t sleep well the night before.  We waited at the hospital from about 8:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. for our little one to be dismissed.  Our favorite nurse got to be the one who discharged us so we were able to say goodbyes.

Our daughter came home weighing in at 4 pounds, 6 ounces.

The next two weeks were a blur.  We were all adjusting and it wasn’t easy.  We didn’t come home on oxygen or have any other complications to worry about other than the little one just being little.

Fast forward four months and that’s where we are now.  We’ve only had one big scare when our daughter had phlegm in her throat and couldn’t breathe.  Other than that, we’ve tried to follow all guidelines and keep her healthy.  Now, she is six months old and weighs in a little over 13 pounds.  She’s happy and healthy.  We only hope that we can continue to nurture her growth and keep her this way.

Throughout our whole NICU and neonatal nursery stay, I never once doubted that my baby was going to be okay.  That she was going to make it.  I could not fathom the idea that she might not make it.  I knew she was a fighter and I had to help fight for her, too!  There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t give thanks for being able to be a parent to a beautiful, smart, funny little girl who won the hearts of everyone around her from minute one.

Samantha Pridgen About Samantha Pridgen

Samantha (KY) is the mother of Roxy, a micropreemie turned preschool princess. Roxy was born at 29 weeks weighing only 1 pound, 9 ounces. Now a healthy 4-year-old, Roxy has no long-standing complications from prematurity. Samantha writes about her family as well as Roxy's early arrival and prematurity at Mommy to a Princess. You can also find Samantha on Twitter, Facebook, or email her at samanthap@mommytoaprincess.com.

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  1. […] as the Ambassador family in 2012.  I submitted guest posts to PreemieBabies101 (here, here, and here), became a regular contributor, and guest posted for other moms of preemies.  We gave Roxy’s […]

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