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Challenge: NICU Parenting

My 1 lb 6 oz alligator

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I had just begun my 28th week of pregnancy the day my son was born. I was at my routine OB appointment, as my doctor was listening to my son's heartbeat and his heart rate dropped. She assured me this was normal. But, since I had felt in the past two weeks my son had not been kicking as strongly in utero as he had in the past, my doctor was extra cautious and hooked me up to monitors. Over the next hour my son's heart rate dropped three more times,. signaling that he was in distress. I was immediately taken to the hospital where I would spend the rest of my pregnancy.

Upon arrival to the hospital my husband and I met with Dr. Dix, a perinatologist. After an ultrasound performed by Dr. Dix we found out that our son had very little fluid around him and he would be born sooner rather than later. I felt like the floor had been ripped out from underneath me. Dr. Dix told my husband and I not to give up on this baby. She told us that she and her twin sister who were born under 2 pounds over 45 years ago. The doctor told her mother to give up on them. Instead, she brought them home and fed them with an eye dropper, Dr. Dix told us that her sister is blind due to her prematurity, but she has two masters degrees and can make Thanksgiving dinner from scratch include pie. These encouraging words gave us hope over the next several months.

That evening my water broke and I went into labor. I had an emergency C-section and met my baby boy, who weighed 1 pound 6 ounces. Although he was a 28 week baby, he was the size of a 24 week baby. As soon as he was delivered he was crying. I remember being so relieved that he was alive. The neonatologist allowed me to see my son for a few brief minutes before he was taken to the NICU. The second I saw him my heart broke. He was so tiny, his head was the size of a billiard's ball. How could he possibly survive?

We named our son Price, after my great uncle. Before Price was even 24 hours old he had a bleed in his lungs. The doctor explained that the PDA tube between a baby's lungs and heart closes right before birth or right after. The two options were surgery (which we were assured Price would never survive) or medication, which we did not have time for. The doctor explained that Price's lungs would fill with blood and eventually he would drown in his own blood. This was devastating, we had zero options at this point. I remember going back to my room and my husband and I prayed. Then we sent out emails and texts to family, friends, neighbors asking for prayer.

We received word from the doctor the next morning that his bleeding had stopped. The neonatologist said there was no medical explanation for what occurred with Price's lungs. My husband and I were so overwhelmed to hear this.

During our stay in the NICU, I felt so helpless. I had a two year old daughter at home and a very sick, tiny baby in the hospital. I spent my days in the NICU while my daughter was in daycare. My husband worked during the days and would spend his evenings with Price while I was at home with our daughter. Dr. Rose, one of the neonatologists, told me that I could do two very important things for my son- pump milk and read him books. Dr. Rose had started a non-profit, Books for Babies. There had been research showing just how helpful the calm reading voices are to the sweet preemie babies.

So, that's just what I did. I read every book in the Books for Babies library multiple times. One of our favorite nurses, Kelly, suggested I read a novel to Price. She explained that it didn't matter what you read, its healing for Price to hear my voice. Naturally I decided he needed to hear To Kill a Mockingbird. I'm convinced he is the youngest person to ever hear this story.

The NICU was a long uphill battle for us. Price was intubated for two months, had a bowel obstruction and fought daily just to survive. Price quickly gained the reputation as the brute of the NICU. By the time he weighed three pounds he was compared to a 3 pound alligator by one of the nurses. I began to realize that we had a very determined, fiesty baby on our hands.

After four long months in the NICU we were finally able to come home. Price had a bilateral hernia surgery just two days after his hospital release. We came home with oxygen and a heart monitor. Price had weekly visits with an occupational therapist. He also saw a nutritionist, speech therapist and physical therapist. When Price was four he was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency. He now takes daily injections.

Price is now 8 years old and in the 2nd grade. He plays flag football, soccer, basketball and baseball. He is smart, kind, funny, charming and is always up for an adventure. It has taken so long to get to this point. I am so grateful for the medical staff at the hospital as well as all of the equipment and medication that Price had access to.

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