November 17th is World Prematurity Day.
This is a day set aside as one way to honor the millions of babies who die each year from being born too soon, along with the 14 million who struggle to survive.
Our Christmas Eve dinner consisted of sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, salad and a ham – a delicious 4.5lb ham.
Around the table we sat ready to eat this beautiful meal and celebrate Christmas and our new baby, who also adorned the table, all 4lbs 3oz of him, laying snuggled in a lovely blue and white Moses basket next to the bread basket.
Our baby was special – he came too early and we didn’t want to let our precious gift out of our sight.
We all took a deep breath as we cheered to the holiday and thanked God for the healthy baby and mommy sitting at the table. Eight long days in a hospital and 10 amazing, thoughtful and loving nurses that cared for us through the marathon we already endured.
We had our little guy, at 34 weeks and 1 day…6 weeks early via emergency Cesarean. Not romantic at all, there was no hospital bag packed, no exciting phone calls to tell everyone we were in labor. We didn’t talk about names and how cute he or she would be. Our baby shower gifts were all over the living room floor. The crib was in pieces all over the nursery.
We weren’t ready for a baby, let alone the journey that lied ahead.
Our 4lb 3oz little guy entered the world screaming, surrounded by a team of nurses and doctors and an ambulance ready to transfer him to a bigger hospital with a better Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that would care for him. I laid on the operating table being comforted by the nurses while my baby was quickly whisked away with my husband and a different team of doctors and nurses. They told me he was a boy and that he was breathing. I closed my eyes and waited. My mind went a thousand different places… I waited and I waited – I spent 2 days without my baby, I didn’t hold him or see him for almost 48 hours. I needed a blood transfusion and wasn’t strong enough to go to him. He needed me and I couldn’t be with him, my first baby, the baby I dreamt of my whole life, spent the first two days of his life without me. The nurses brought Polaroids of him and my husband stayed with him in the special baby unit so he wouldn’t be alone…while I laid in my hospital bed dreaming of holding my baby.
Luckily, he was ok and didn’t need to be taken to a better equipped hospital. His lungs were strong and he was a fighter and the staff was comfortable caring for him in the special baby unit there. He was born one week shy of developing his suck swallow reflex, which meant we would have to teach him to eat and nursing was going to be a challenge, if he could even latch on. We spent every hour with a doll size bottle massaging his mouth and his throat and teaching him to swallow the tablespoon of breast milk that I was able to squeeze out (my milk took days to come in, since my body wasn’t “baby ready” yet). My husband stayed with the nurses and worked endless hours feeding our little helpless baby, while I watched and cried — the hormones, the surgery, having to heal from toxemia and preeclampsia…I just cried. I thought about the fat chubby baby I thought I would have, the baby that the nurses would place on my chest after hours of pushing. My husband and I would marvel at our creation and laugh about all the names that I called him and how many bad words were said during labor and how cute and fat his cheeks were. We had none of that, we had a lot “you’re lucky,” “he is tough,” “it’s going to be a long journey.”
Again, we closed our eyes and said a silent prayer for our little miracle.
All the clothes that laid across the living room floor were no use to us, three month, newborn etc – they were all way too big. We needed premie clothes now and special nipples and a different car seat that would hold our 4lb miracle. We were so unprepared for this little guy.
And then there were the nurses, what special Angels… they laughed, cried, cheered, encouraged, walked with us and loved both the baby and us. They showed us and taught us how to handle and feed our baby. I don’t know what we would have done without them… We cried together on Christmas Eve, when the doctors said we could go home. As we walked to the car and put the baby in the back seat, I thanked them for the forever bond that we would now have and they waived and told us that he was just as good in our care as with them and sent us home.
On Christmas Eve, we brought our 4lb baby home. We dressed him in a red and white candy cane striped pajama that was the smallest thing I’d ever seen, we bundled him in blue and white and placed him on the table next to the bread basket.
We held up our glasses and cheered. I said another silent prayer, thanking God for the nurses, for my health, for my husband, my family and for my little premie who already endured a marathon and still had a ways to go.
Happy World Prematurity Day to all the little fighters out there and to the families and nurses that give these babies a fighting chance! #MoveYourMtn