Just two-and-a-half years ago, Jessica and her husband, welcomed their preemie-daughter into the world. Their preemie was born at 27 weeks gestation, weighing just one pound, one ounce (490 grams).
|Photo Courtesy of Jessica|
Jessica's preemie spent 130 long and challenging days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Today, she is a happy two-and-a-half year old who is full of joy and laughter. She weighs 21 pounds.
Preemie Blessings: What was your experience like being pregnant?
Jessica: I would describe my pregnancy as rough. We had been trying for nearly a year and were so excited to be pregnant. But from the very start I was nervous to tell anyone – including my best friends and family. I had a flare of a stomach disorder around 15 weeks pregnant that landed me in the hospital for about a week. The day I got the all clear that my stomach condition was officially under control again was also the day we had our 20 week ultrasound. We found out that the baby was a girl and that she wasn’t growing properly. Pretty much every doctor from that point told us to expect the worst. I was put on bedrest at home at 23 weeks and 3 days and at 24 weeks and 3 days was admitted to the hospital for continuous monitoring. We tried to be as optimistic as possible in the face of really grim statistics. My amazing daughter was born at 27 weeks and 1 day.
I never got to enjoy being pregnant. I never developed a baby bump or got to eat everything I wanted. I never got to tell my friends I was pregnant with real joy. And most people we know found out either when I was put on bedrest in the hospital or when she was born. We didn’t have a baby shower or get to pick out the fun stuff for a nursery – like a crib – but we did have a baby girl on the way. So it was all totally worth it.
Preemie Blessings: Did you anticipate that your baby would be born early? If so, why?
Jessica: Absolutely. We were actually told to expect an early birth and to not get our hopes up. We found out at the 20 week ultrasound she was not growing properly. There were issues with the placenta and blood flow.
Preemie Blessings: Can you briefly describe the events leading up to the delivery of your preemie?
Jessica: I was on bedrest for nearly a month before she was born. I was determined to go as long as I could before she was born. We had ultrasounds 2-3 times per week to check on her growth and the blood flow. They had become so routine that I was surprised the day we found out we could wait no longer. We found out about 24 hours in advance that we were going to be delivering because of a scary low level of amniotic fluid and blood flow issues. We called in all of our close family and my best friend – who was amazing at organizing the family for me. We wanted as many people there to meet her in case she didn’t make it. I remember the labor and delivery room (I’d been in for weeks) was full of so many people the night before she was born and all of the wonderful noises of people talking. I had the magnesium the night before – which was pretty horrible. And a second round of the shots – which is why we waited the 24 hours after the ultrasound.
Preemie Blessings: What was your experience like in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit?
Jessica: We were there so long that our experiences were varied, but overall we were incredibly happy with the hospital and their care of our daughter. It is my only NICU experience so I don’t have much to compare it to – but the care of the doctors and nurses and other families in the NICU was just amazing. We also bonded with a few other long time resident families – which really helped it feel like a welcoming warm place. Our preemie is our only child so we don’t know any other way to become parents – so somehow it felt natural after awhile. We learned to laugh and enjoy our time. The whole experience got so much easier after she was stable and big enough for us to hold on a daily basis – which took months. I cried more the day we were going home than any other day in the NICU.
Preemie Blessings: How were medical advances and technology used to improve your preemie’s health?
Jessica: I can’t narrow it down to one. The biggest things may have come before she was born – just knowing there was an issue and getting the protective shots and magnesium. And of course simply having equipment built for a preemie so small. It is amazing looking back to see the tiny size of absolutely everything she needed.
Preemie Blessings: What has been your favorite part of parenting a preemie? And, what are the biggest challenges?
Jessica: It may sound horrible but I liken my preemie’s outlook on life to an animal adopted from a shelter. There is something in her that instinctively knows that she has beaten so many odds (and probably shouldn’t be here) and she absolutely lives every day to the fullest. She is an incredibly happy child – always easy to laugh. There is nobody I know who has less fear or more love. The hardest parts often come in the medical realm – she has had eating issues since we started feedings. That is something we have had to learn to incorporate into our lives and learn to make part of our lives instead of the focus of our lives. That mindset has been hard to achieve but well worth it. Overall, the hardest part as she gets older has been to let go of the preemie parent fears and let her grow up like any other child.
Preemie Blessings: How is your preemie doing today?
Jessica: She is amazing. She’s a pint sized version of her peers. She is on track on nearly every developmental skill. She is a wonderful learner and absorbing everything she can in her Montessori preschool. If the doctors or nurses had told us when I was on bedrest what she would be today, I would not have believed them. Nobody would ever know that she was born so sick and overcome so many obstacles – she is just a “normal” 2.5 year old.
|Photo Courtesy of Jessica|
Jessica: She has opened my eyes up to the challenges that can be overcome. She has made me realize how everyone’s best is different and that’s not just ok – that’s what makes the world wonderful.
Preemie Blessings: How do you plan to teach your preemie about prematurity?
Jessica: She is not old enough to understand that her birth and first years are any different than anyone else. But we are very open in discussing that she is different in those ways – and we are proud of her for everything she has become. We do not want it to define her – and are grateful so far it looks like she is going to define herself. But I truly hope her prematurity has shaped my life more than it will ever shape her life.
Preemie Blessings: What advice would you only share with a new preemie mom (and everyone reading the Preemie Blessings blog)?
Jessica: Trust that you are doing everything you can for your child – because that knowledge really can get you through some of the toughest decisions. And remember, your preemie is really just a child. Step away from all the medical issues and love that child.
And don’t actually strangle that 100th person who says they totally get it they have a picky eater (after you’ve been to the third eating specialist/GI/feeding clinic of the week and you are rejoicing your child had three bites of food today) – they just can’t understand what your child has been through (and you are glad they don’t know because nobody would wish this experience on anyone ever).
I'd like to thank Jessica for sharing the story of her preemie miracle with us today. I'd also like to thank Jessica for her friendship. Although we've only met in-person a handful of times, we communicate regularly through electronic means. In fact, Jessica has been a vital component of my preemie support network -- and has helped me with difficult issues involving feeding and early intervention. All around, Jessica's a great egg! I like to think of Jessica as part of my preemie family!