For us, it was never the question of whether or not our son would need the NICU. We knew he would. It was whether or not he would make it to the NICU.
Imagine finally conceiving after several months of trying. Imagine a perfect pregnancy aside from the typical “morning” sickness. Imagine finding out your firstborn is a boy! Now fast-forward to 18 weeks. Imagine all that is being taken from you without warning; that there is a <1% chance your baby will make it to viability and survive. That was our destiny.
After rushing to the emergency room at 18 weeks gestation, we learned that we were among the 0.4% of pregnancies complicated by midtrimester preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM)… in other words, my water broke remarkably early. Even as a hospital pharmacist, I didn’t know the significance of our circumstances. We learned that the majority of mothers deliver within 14 days of rupture (>75%). We needed 6 weeks just to reach viability. Even if we did, by some miracle, reach 24 weeks, we were assured by our high-risk OBGYN that the chances of our baby not having major complications was virtually impossible. The odds were stacked against us; you could imagine our heartbreak. Just yesterday we were working on the nursery and singing to our baby; today we are mourning what could have been. How does life go forward from this point? How does one start over?
We were given two options: induce or go home and wait for labor. We chose the latter with one provision – we prayed. My husband and I made our story known right away. We posted on social media, called our family and friends, and started a prayer chain… we needed prayers, and we needed them quick. The response was overwhelming. Family, friends, and complete strangers from all around joined us in prayer over the next several months. This, we are confident, made the difference in life and death for our baby.
Just a week after my water broke, we found an amazing specialist, Dr. Berry Campbell, who offered us an “optimistically realistic” attitude. He restored a little glimmer of hope for us and, for that, we could never repay him. He sent me home with bed rest and performed two amnioinfusions over the next few weeks.
During my 6.5 weeks at home on bed rest, there were times I just got down. I imagined that if I felt that down in my own home, that it would be so much worse when I completed the remainder of my bed rest in the hospital, an hour from family and friends. I knew I needed something to remind me of God’s power so I wrote a couple of Bible verses on bright construction paper to take with me and tape to the wall. I thought if I got sad or lonely, I could look at them and gain some peace. Then family, friends, nurses, and people in the community started sending me encouraging verses and quotes. Before long, my entire wall was filled with them; I called it the Wall of Hope. It worked! When I started feeling sorry for myself, when my hips hurt from lying for so long, when I was lonely, when I was tired of getting poked and prodded, I would look at my wall of hope, and there I would find strength. Surrounding myself with words directly from our Savior’s mouth kept my head afloat.
Then at 31 weeks, after 2 procedures and 13 weeks of bed rest, there was our little miracle, Abraham Owen – all 3 pounds and 10 ounces of him! He was whisked away into the NICU just as he came into this world. Even with all the tubes and wires, he was the most precious thing I had ever laid my eyes on.
Abe had a very trying first few days of life. We later learned that his NICU doctor, Dr. Lauze Volk, and NICU nurse, Jessica, did not leave Abe’s side the entire first night of his life. Due to the low amniotic fluid after rupturing, his lungs were very immature requiring mechanical ventilation. In addition, he had a chest tube, blood transfusion, antibiotics for a resistant blood infection, and IV nutrition. I learned that one of the hardest things a mother can endure is seeing her child in pain; however, I did have peace in knowing the care provided to Abe at The Women’s Hospital of Saint Joseph East was exceptional. These doctors and nurses were an extension of our family during his stay. Abe continued throughout his 5 week NICU stay without any major setbacks, quickly learning to breathe on his own – something we weren’t sure would happen even after he was born.
Finally we were going home! No oxygen, no tubes, no monitors... just our baby. After 18 weeks of hospital life, you could imagine our excitement to start living again – to have our family together! We were able to cuddle and kiss on Abe without manipulating wires and monitors. It was the moment we had dreamt of for weeks. We were home for 3 days when we experienced our first major setback. Abe had been having trouble catching his breath while feeding but it reached a point where he turned blue and fell limp. We were able to stimulate him to breathe again but knew he needed further medical attention. We loaded up the car and rushed to The University of Kentucky Children’s Hospital where we stayed 2 more weeks feeding and growing.
Today I look at my healthy, happy 3 year old and realize how blessed we are. Through this experience I have been reminded that I am not in charge of this life and cannot control everything. God has much greater plans for our family than I could have ever made myself. Maybe this was His plan – to use an amazing platform like this to spread awareness of prematurity and help change lives, both physically and emotionally!