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Challenge: NICU Parenting

Prematurity Awareness Month

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I never thought I’d be sitting here writing about celebrating our first Prematurity Awareness Month. But here we are!

Our son, Jeffrey, was born at 27 weeks and 1 day, weighing a whopping 1lb 15 oz and measured just 12 inches long. A moment that was supposed to be so special for my husband and I turned very scary quickly.

You wasn’t just that Jeffrey came early...he also came in the wrong city, zip code, STATE! We were enjoying “one last

vacation” before the baby arrived in Seattle, WA visiting some family. It was great. The weather was cooler and like everyone thinks, it rained a lot! We did some fabulous sight seeing - the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, Underground Tour, drove up to Vancouver and to Snoqualmie Falls! We packed it all in just a few days and thankfully we did.

On our 4th day there I woke up with some low back pain, applied a heating pad and called my OBgyn back home to see what they thought might be causing it. It was suggested I go into the local L & D triage to be checked out for a possible UTI. So off I went and once checked in it was discovered I had elevated BP that wouldn’t come down with time and relaxation. I was preeclamptic to be later confirmed with protein in my urine coupled with the still elevated BP levels. I was admitted to the hospital and observed for the night. The next morning was a whirlwind as it was decided I was going to be transferred to the main hospital in downtown Seattle which had a level III NICU and a high risk OB team waiting. To say I was scared is an understatement. They gave me my first dose of steroids, started me on an IV of magnesium and put me in a ambulance and on I went to the next hospital.

What progressed over the next few days what is both scary and nerve-racking. I was told we could deliver anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks which would’ve made me 28 to 29 weeks pregnant. What was progressing that they didn’t know at that time was that my body was going from preeclamptic into HELLP syndrome. We would find that out late Sunday evening. Monday morning, March 13th, I was told that I would have to have a 3 PM C-section. As I prepared for what was about to happen my blood work from that morning came back and it was going downhill fast. I was then told that the C-section would happen immediately as my liver was going into failure and in order to save me they would have to get the baby out.

At 11:35 AM our son, Jeffrey Scott Hahn, was born. My husband was elated at the fact that we had a boy… We had decided not to find out the gender before the birth. He scored fairly high on his Apgar and let out a vigorous cry upon arrival. The NICU team was ready to take action upon his delivery and after they assessed him they allowed me to see him briefly before they whisked him away to the NICU upstairs. It would be several hours before I was take him to see my son again. When I saw him I had such a hard time grasping the fact that that was my child. As bad as that sounds when you have an expectation of how something is going to be and it doesn’t happen that way it’s hard for your mind to come to the realization of what really happened. I spent a week in the hospital as they try to stabilize my liver function and my blood pressure. Every day I got to see my son and on that Friday after he was born I was allowed to hold him for the first time. I’ll never forget them placing him on my bare chest, skin to skin, how tiny he was, how overpowering the machines felt and how loud the beeping sounds were. The tears stream down my face as I looked down at him realizing that this in fact was my son and that we were in for the fight of our lives.

Our son spent 86 days in the NICU. He went from CPAP to high flow cannula to a low flow nasal cannula. He had three blood transfusions, many x-rays - both chest and head. He pacifier trained, bottle trained but most importantly he grew. He did things in the outside world that he was supposed to be doing on the inside. I’d be lying if I didn’t have many thoughts about how my body failed me during the pregnancy. I wondered what I did wrong to make this happen to me and him.

It took me several weeks to understand that there was nothing I could’ve done differently and that the best possible thing was to have him on the outside growing and thriving. It was rough being away from home, my husband at times and our dog…everything I felt familiar with. I slowly realized that I was extremely blessed with how well my son was doing considering the fact that he was born at 27 weeks. Not all stories that happen this way have as good of an outcome as ours and for that we feel extremely grateful.

Jeffrey will be 8 months (5 months adjusted) on Monday and he is doing amazing! He weighs 15lbs 13oz and is 25.5 inches long.

We are so blessed to have him home and healthy and count our blessings each day

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