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Challenge: NICU Parenting


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On Wednesday, March 19, 2014, I called my husband at 4 in the morning. I had an awful pain in my right shoulder blade. I couldn't take a deep breath. And I was 33 weeks pregnant. My husband was at work at the time. He came to pick me up and take me to our local ER. Once there, I had a sonogram on my gallbladder (they suspected gallbladder problems). More tests were run, blood was drawn. I was moved to the labor and delivery unit and hooked up to the non-stress test machine. After an hour or so of monitoring, I was told by my doctor that we were going to be transported by ambulance down to Kansas City (an hour and a some change from our home) to a bigger hospital (St. Luke's) because I had pre-eclampsia. They had a NICU, which my soon to be born that day baby would need as a 33 weeker. I was given a steroid shot in hopes that my baby's developing lungs would get a jump start on maturing. I was supposed to get another one the next night, if I was still pregnant at that point. Once we arrived at St. Luke's, my water broke on its own. The MFM had wanted to wait for labor until after I'd received another steroid shot. But my body had other plans. At this point, I was also informed that my pre-eclampsia had worsened and turned into HELLP syndrome (my platelets were dangerously low, my liver enzymes very high). The only fix for this was to deliver my baby. As my water had already broken, I was given pitocin to quicken the labor. After 7 hours of labor and 21 minutes of pushing, my beautiful 4 pound 12 ounce daughter made her appearance in this world! She came out showing off her fully-developed, healthy lungs! After delivery, and seeing her for a few short minutes, she was moved to the NICU to be evaluated. She stayed in the NICU for 18 days. Thankfully, she was very healthy. She only had a bit of jaundice and needed to learn how to eat (a feeder-grower, the NICU nurses and doctors call them). She was contained in an isolette for a few days until she could maintain her own body temperature. She also had a billy (bilirubin) light above it that shone ultraviolet rays to battle the jaundice. Her eyes were covered with a tanning-bedesque eye mask. We joked that she was working on her tan, as she couldn't wear anything more than a diaper while getting the UV light. Then she was moved to an open air bassinet. She continued to improve and eat/feed better. She gained weight well. She only had a few bradychardias (forgetting to breathe, as preemies do sometimes). While our daughter was in the NICU, my husband and I were lucky enough to stay at my aunt and uncle's house. The Ronald McDonald Charity House was a choice, but we decided to stay with family. Each day, we'd arrive at the NICu around 8 am and stay until about 6 pm. We would do our daughter's "cares" as the nurses called them--we changed her diaper, took her temperature, and held her while she was fed through a gastric feeding tube (in her nose). She tore that feeding tube out soooo many times! She was feisty! I tried to pump breastmilk for her but didn't have much luck. Thankfully, St. Luke's has a donor program. So she received donor milk through her tube. Thank God for those amazing donor mothers! After about 15 days of tube feeding, we tried a bottle. She did ok with it. We tilted her on her side to slow the flow of milk. It was a slow process but a success! Every day, we got closer to the finish line! After 17 days, we were told we could "room in" at the hospital and have her spend the night with us. Her heart monitor only went off a few times that night. A success! The next day, we were informed we could take her home! The only requirement was a heart monitor that she was to wear 24/7 for the next month. They would then evaluate how she was doing after that month's results. After 18 long days, we came home! We were very lucky. Some preemie parents are not as lucky. Their babies stay months and months. They have successes and fallbacks. Some preemie parents never bring their babies home. It's heartbreaking to be in a NICU. But it is also so very amazing to see such tiny little beings fighting so hard to live! It's a beautiful, scary place to be. I wouldn't trade my daughter's journey in the NICU for anything. It has made us realize how lucky we are, and how to be more grateful and appreciative of the little things in life! Preemies are amazing little fighters! Proud to be a preemie parent! And love and prayers to all those who have or are facing prematurity!

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