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Challenge: NICU Parenting

A Vacation to Remember

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Imagine going on a vacation in the sunny state of California, 2,000 miles away from home, to escape the harsh Minnesota winter, with your husband and two daughters. Sounds great, right?

Now imagine going on a vacation in the sunny state of California, 2,000 miles away from home, to escape the harsh Minnesota winter, with your husband and two daughters, and waking up in a pool of your own blood at 20 weeks pregnant. Can you say nightmare?

After receiving a thumbs-up from my OB/GYN at my 20 week ultrasound appointment, I boarded a plane with my husband, and daughters Brienna (6) and Kelsey (4). Little did I know, I wouldn’t be returning home for many months from our vacation.

It was a trickling sensation down my leg that woke me one night at 2:00 am, I sat up in bed and saw blood everywhere. My husband rushed me to the emergency room where I was admitted for hemorrhaging with unknown causes. The doctors told me a decision needed to be made, attempt to sustain the pregnancy or end it. They told me to realistically expect the baby to die and to consider my options of a casket or cremation. I wanted to vomit. The decision to attempt to sustain the pregnancy was easy, the process was nearly impossible.

A surgeon performed a cerclage, which basically sews your cervix shut and doesn’t allow you to give birth. I was told I would not be able to leave the hospital and would be on permanent bed rest until I had the baby. I cried uncontrollably saying goodbye to my girls and husband as they traveled back to Minnesota to tend to work and school. I sat alone in my hospital room learning life lessons in faith, strength and determination. I learned the “true” meaning of bed rest as I was allowed one short walk down the hallway each day, bathing consisted of a sponge bath in my hospital bed and a bed pan was provided in lieu of a restroom. The medications given to me during my stay gave me the side effects of the stomach flu and I continued to hemorrhage to the point of anemia. Was I going to die? The thought was crossing everyone’s minds but no one was saying it out loud.

At 26 weeks pregnant, my body decided it was time. My husband took a red eye flight to be with me during the birth of our son. Easton David Holland was born weighing 1 lb. 13 oz at birth or the equivalent of a stick of butter. During the birth, there were numerous nurses and doctors in the room, crowded around me and pushing on my stomach trying to find a heartbeat. In the frenzy, I caught a glimpse of my baby as the doctor held him in the palm of his hand. He didn’t cry. He was taken away immediately and my husband and I were left alone in the hospital room not knowing whether to celebrate life or to mourn an impending death.

Easton was in the UCLA, Santa Monica NICU for two months and every extremity was covered in tubes and wires with the constant beeping of the monitors. I became an expert on terms such as chronic lung disease, apnea of prematurity, total parenteral nutrition and necrotizing entercolitis. The first time I held my son he stopped breathing. It was a symptom of prematurity and I would soon learn that it would happen hundreds of times before it would get better. I couldn’t allow myself to completely bond with my baby for in the back of my mind, I feared that he may not survive. I missed my family. I missed my normal life. Heck, I missed my bed. The separation from my family grew increasingly harder and as I spent time staring into Easton’s incubator every day, I felt hopeless and empty.

On May 19th, Easton was approved by his doctor to take a private jet to the University of Minnesota Children’s hospital. Three weeks after that, he was transferred to Maple Grove Hospital. He was back in Minnesota and so close to home! I know it sounds crazy, but it was harder having him so close to home. I was unable to separate my time between being a mommy at the hospital and being a mommy to my daughters. They weren’t allowed to visit their brother in the NICU in order to prevent infection so I went alone. EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. I lived at the hospital and when I was home, I would just breakdown crying on my husband’s shoulder afraid that my baby wasn’t going to survive.

After three NICU’s and 127 days in hospitals battling infections, multiple bouts of necrotizing enterocolitis and numerous blood transfusions, Easton came home. I was elated and terrified. These days, he has more doctor appointments than I can count and is still working on catching up in life. As I’ve spent time with him, our bond has grown so strong and I’ve fallen completely in love with my baby boy.

As time passes, our family is slowly returning back to a sense of normal and we are learning how to live with a preemie which involves buckets of hand sanitizer and face masks. It’s in the uncontrollable giggling and cooing Easton’s sisters elicit from him that I can almost forget for a moment that any of it actually happened. It all begins to fade away and seem like a bad dream. It’s when Easton’s hands and feet catch the light just right, that I’m reminded of the past year. You see, he has hundreds of tiny scars covering his extremities from the blood draws, pokes, pricks and IV lines which will continually remind us of his journey and fight for survival. Easton is a tiny but mighty fighter and he is my hero.


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