He Needed to Hear My Voice

This is Jack. He was born at 31 weeks at Madigan Army Hospital in Tacoma, WA in 2003. He was born early because of PPROM at 30 weeks. Before he was born I was put on complete monitored bedrest for 8 days in the hospital. During that time, Jack received steroids to boost his lung development. At 31 weeks, I went into labor and delivered him. He was a big baby, weighing 4 lbs.

One of the hardest parts of being in the NICU happened right when he was born. They whisked him off to the NICU, and I was taken back to a recovery room. My husband didn’t make it back to the hospital in time for the birth (he had just left the hospital to take our 2 year old home when I started contractions). I was alone and panicking, not knowing where our son was or how he was doing. The nurses wouldn’t let me leave my room until I was able to walk and use the bathroom. Once my husband arrived, he immediately went to find Jack. It felt like an eternity, but I was able to join them in the NICU after about an hour.

Jack wasn’t able to breath on his own, so he was intubated. Seeing him for the first time with all the tubes, wires, and tape was shocking. He had so much stuff around his face, I couldn’t even see him. He remained on intubation for 8 days. Jack was born with sepsis (an infection of the blood), and even after numerous tests the doctors couldn’t determine the cause. The first 36-48 hours of Jack’s life the doctors weren’t sure if he was going to live because he was not responding to the antibiotics. Because they didn’t know the nature of the infection, they started treating him with broad spectrum antibiotics, which didn’t work. They finally found an antibiotic that worked and were able to stop the infection. He then developed pneumonia and had a collapsed lung. The doctors were encouraging but bleak about his prognosis.

They told me he needed to hear my voice, and really the only thing I could do at this point was to talk to him. I tried, but each time I would try to say something, I would just cry. The next day, our 2 year old helped me out by telling Jack stories about her and him. It was very sweet. I wish I had thought of, or someone would have suggested, that I read to him. I think I could have done that without crying. NICU Families NW’s The Littlest Reader Project is dear to my heart for that reason.

For the most part, after Jack fought the infection our stay in the NICU was pretty uneventful. He had to have 2 blood transfusions, spinal taps, learn how to suck, and then learn how to nurse, and so many other tests— but overall, he improved quickly and was released from the hospital 28 days after his birth. Taking him home was terrifying. By doctors’ orders he was to be isolated until June (he was born in August) because of fear of RSV even though he received monthly preventative shots for the first two years of his life. The isolation, paired with moving across the country to a city where we didn’t know anyone, was extremely difficult on all of us. I would have loved to have found an online support community like this back then!

Looking back now on our time spent in the NICU I feel like I missed out on an opportunity to connect with other NICU families. I remember when I would meet another mother of a preemie, there was always an instant connection.

Because Jack was born in 2003, really before many online communities formed, I longed for connection and understanding from others who had experienced similar situations. I’m glad to be a part of NFNW because I see the great value in making connections with other NICU families, and I care about NICU families because we share a common experience.

Jack is now 13 and an incredibly healthy, happy, and active teenager! He brings constant excitement to our lives and to our family, and I’m constantly amazed at his continued growth; he is as tall as me, and it brings tears to my eyes when I think about how tiny he was!