Born at 28 Weeks -- A CafeMom Preemie Story

Cynthia Dermody
15
premature infant

Photo by MissDipper

My friends and I were talking the other day about all the big babies born these days. My friend IRL just had a 10 pound baby. A co-worker had an 11 pound baby! Everyone is always wowed but thrilled when a big baby comes into the world, because most times it's a sign of health and thriving.

Imagine a baby being born at a little over one pound. That's what Derek, son of Preemie Moms group owner MissDipper, weighed when he was delivered by emergency C-section 16 months ago.

November is Prematurity Awareness Month, a time to remember that not all babies come into the world when they're supposed to, and that not all moms have the birth of their dreams. Here's MissDipper's story so we can all understand premature birth and some of the struggles that these moms go through a little bit better.

Warning Signs

My blood pressure started rising at the 24th week. Hospital tests showed trace amounts of protein in my urine that did not confirm pre-eclampsia. I ended up on labor and delivery two additional times over the next week before my primary doctor referred me to a perinatologist, but I couldn't get an appointment for another two weeks.

By the time I saw the perinatologist, I had lost most of my amniotic fluid, so my son was not getting the blood flow he needed to stay alive or grow. He told us our son needed to be born in the next day or two or he would die. My husband and I were stunned. The fact that he was better off on the outside than on the inside was terrifying. I'd never heard of a baby born this early and didn't know his chances of surviving.

I was admitted to the hospital, an hour from my home, immediately. Blood work showed that not only was my son in danger, but I was also in danger as my blood platelets were dropping quickly. They gave me two steroid shots to help Derek's lungs develop quickly before the C-section that happened in 20 hours from my initial appointment. 

The Birth

Prepping me for the surgery took forever. I was so swollen that it took the anesthesiologist three tries to do my spinal tap. By the time the perinatologist had a chance to start, it was crunch time and they didn't even have time to pull the sheet up in front of my face so I couldn't see what was happening. I could have watched the whole thing, but I chose to face away.

The most pleasant sound was my 1 pound 8.4 ounce 13 inch baby crying for the first time. I'd been told I probably would not hear him cry because his lungs were not developed. I can't tell you how excited I was to hear that cry. It's not a sound I can explain. I can only compare it to that of a distressed squirrel. My nurse whispered in my ear that things were good because the NICU team was keeping him in the delivery room to record his foot prints. If he'd been in danger, they would have whisked him away to the NICU and taken the prints later. I knew he had a great start and hoped he'd have a great chance at survival.

Struggle to Live

The first few days of his life were the most crucial. Derek was never intubated. This was another miracle. He was placed on room air with a c-pap machine for just a few days. He was quickly moved to a high-flow canula, which meant he was progressing nicely.

Derek had his ups and downs as preemies do, but by the grace of God he had more ups than downs. He received a blood transfusion, was given lipids and other medications to make him grow, and battled anemia several times while in the NICU.

I Can't Hold My Baby

The hardest part was being on the same maternity floor as the moms with full-term babies. The first night I heard other babies crying and the moms in nearby rooms trying to console their little ones, cooing, singing to them. I just sat in my bed and cried. I wasn't allowed to hold my baby yet.

A week later, finally getting to pick him up was the most precious moment since his birth. To hold a baby that could fit in the palm of one hand showed me just how delicate he truly was. Since Derek was my first child, I didn't know what it was like to hold a baby for the first time without wires and tubes. Each time I wanted to hold him, I had to ask for permission. It took time to prepare his apparatus so I could carefully get him out of the isolette. The chair had to be in the right position, I had to have a hospital gown on so I didn't pass germs on to him, and I had to adhere to a strict hand-washing procedure. Nothing about his stay was easy.

Jealousy and Tears

There was a break in the day when the parents were not allowed in the NICU for the shift change. It was at these times that I would sit at the entrance of the hospital for some fresh air. It was difficult to watch the mommies of full-term babies get wheeled out to their cars to load their bundles of joy in their car seats and take them home only days after their birth. I'd already been there weeks and then months. I never knew when we'd get to take Derek home with us. 

I became very jealous of these mommies. I also had a tough time with the babies in the NICU that only spent a few days or weeks in there. I cried each time another baby went home. Tears of joy for those moms and tears of pain of knowing I had to keep waiting.

Tears were a common experience daily. I cried for different reasons each time. I cried when I was able to hold him and longed to have him home. I would dream about what that first time would be like. While I rocked him for hours on end, I would close my eyes and imagine I was home in my living room just cuddling my baby with no wires, buzzers, nurses, doctors, ultrasounds, ear tests, eye tests, needles, feeding tubes -- nothing holding us back.

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When did Derek get to go home? How is he doing today? Click Preemie Story Part 2 to find out.

Are you the mom of a premature baby? Was it anything like Derek's? Introduce him or her to us .. tell us your birth story.

 

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