I was going in for a routine 32 week blood pressure/weight/easy peasy doctor’s visit. My husband had been traveling and came into town late the night before, so I told him to skip the appointment. He says that, “something told me I needed to be there,” so we went in together. The doctor (my regular OB was out of town that week) found I was measuring small, and they had us do an ultrasound as a precaution. I remember being bummed because the baby (whose gender we still didn’t know) was breach. It seems silly to me now knowing what I know!
I will never, ever forget the moment when the doctor came back in the room and said, “You are measuring small, the ultrasound shows you have very little amniotic fluid, and your baby is small— like two pounds small, so we’re checking you into Labor and Delivery, and you’re probably having a baby today.”
My mind went blank. Had my husband not been there I don’t know what I would have done. I couldn’t have been more unprepared, and I was scared for the health of our baby! I was pumped full of steroids to help baby’s lungs develop, and the neonatologist hoped I could stay on hospital bed rest for two more weeks. We prayed and prayed and prayed. Very early the next morning, the baby’s heart rate dropped enough that I was rushed into the OR for an emergency C-section. It was terrifying. Just as they were about to put me under, the baby’s heart rate stabilized. We were able to postpone delivery another few hours until the doctor decided waiting wasn’t worth the risk. Fortunately the doctor on call at that point was a family friend, and the mood in the room instantly changed once a decision was made. The nurses were placing bets on gender; my husband and I were excited and hopeful for a healthy baby. It was go time.
Gavin was born at 6:05 PM at 32 weeks and 3 days, and we were ecstatic he was a healthy boy! He was three pounds on the dot, 15.25 inches, and crying! When they wheeled me out I got to see Gavin for the first time and hold him with all of his tubes and wires. It was amazing, and that moment is ingrained in my mind. He was put on CPAP for the first 24 hours in the NICU but quickly transitioned to room air. We would spend the next month in the NICU while we waited for Gavin to get bigger and stronger before he could come home with us.
I spent all day, every day at the NICU: taking his temp, changing diapers, pumping, kangaroo care, and learning as much as I could from our amazing nurses. I remember one of the hardest times was leaving the hospital for the first time when I was discharged. We decided it was smarter for us to get a good night’s sleep at home (not that pumping every three hours allows that), and then spend the day with our son. I cried and cried and cried. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. There is nothing worse than having a sick child, and the feeling of helplessness is overwhelming. The hardest part of being in the NICU was the unknown, but I tried really hard to overcome those challenges by grilling the nurses and learning as much as I could, taking walks, and escaping with work on my laptop.
Ultimately, many of Gavin’s nurses became like family, and we still keep in touch with them today. One was a good friend of mine from school, and it helped to know she was taking extra good care of us. Our room rarely had less than the four person maximum, and my parents brought dinner every night, so we would sit down for dinner together, and then I’d rush back for the last feeding of the evening to see how his weight had changed. The weigh-ins were so exciting. Some days were less than others, but he was continuously gaining.
Today, Gavin is coming up on his fourth birthday and thriving— he may have started out as a little guy, but he matches up with his peers and has a big personality. I look back at those tiny diapers we changed for him and can’t believe it’s the same boy. He is inquisitive, shy around new people but quickly opens up, and just plain hilarious. Our time in the NICU feels like a lifetime ago, or even a dream. The doctors say it was a fluke, and have no explanation for his early arrival, which made my second pregnancy nerve wracking. I thank the Lord each day for blessing us with our happy, healthy boys.
I find now that we’ve been home coming up on four years, that there was so much positive about my NICU experience. I had a team of professionals watching over my son 24 hours a day, experts to give me advice, and when we did finally come home Gavin was on a schedule and we were confident in our abilities to care for him.
I love supporting other families through NFNW. I care about NICU families because it is a struggle few understand and just talking with someone that has been through it is so helpful. If I had any advice to give others struggling with their time in the NICU, it would be to take breaks and clear your head, even if it’s just a quick walk in the fresh air. It can be so stressful in those rooms, and recovering from major surgery and being a ball of hormones doesn’t help. The success stories I continually read on NFNW’s page are inspiring, and we are so lucky that healthcare for little ones has come such a long way.