The Beginning of My #NICUmomlife
My husband and I found out that we were pregnant on the day of his brother’s wedding. We had just started trying again after a miscarriage the previous year. We avoided telling our kiddos the good news until the second trimester, remembering how difficult it was for them to understand the last time when “there wasn’t a baby in mommy’s tummy anymore.” We were practically bursting through the seams with excitement as they worked to put together the custom puzzle that we had ordered to deliver the news. Once they had all the pieces of the ultrasound put in place, we asked them what they thought it meant, and our oldest exclaimed, “There’s a baby in your tummy!” Our boys jumped up and down. We took videos of their gender predictions, and they accompanied us to the doctor’s appointments. This time, we thought, it was going to be different.
I was just past the 15-week mark when I began spotting. I remember agonizing over the possibility of another miscarriage, my heart breaking at the prospects of our family losing another baby, a life for which we had prayed. Tears rushed down my face as I thought of telling my children of yet another loss. To my surprise, everything appeared as it should on the ultrasound the next day, except for my pesky placenta which was deemed the culprit of the symptoms that had caused me so much grief. So, we went about the pregnancy slightly more cautious but optimistic that things down there would sort themselves out in the coming weeks. Much to our dismay, my problematic symptoms grew worse, but ultrasound after ultrasound revealed a healthy, growing fetus. At the 20-week ultrasound, most of us were thrilled to find out that I was carrying a boy. My daughter eventually came around, passing me a note later that evening that read “Mommy, I will love my baby brother.” Thankfully, it didn’t take her long to get there because within three weeks, that baby brother would be born.
Like any family with school-aged children, the start of the new academic year makes August a busy month. My worsening symptoms prompted another spur-of-the-moment ultrasound, and while baby still looked great, I was referred to a high-risk pregnancy doctor two hours away. I remember feeling so frustrated as I worked with my OB office to squeeze in another appointment during an already hectic first week of classes. It just wasn’t possible, I thought. That appointment would have to wait until the following week, so instead, I dragged two of my kiddos to yet another local office visit, unknowingly telling my husband that he needn’t bother coming as I was sure that nothing would be too different from the ultrasound just five days earlier.
To my untrained eye, everything looked normal. The sound of a strong heartbeat took my worries away for a fleeting moment that ended when my OB asked permission to bring in a colleague. That late in the afternoon, the other doctor could only be reached by telephone, so my OB returned to tell me that she wasn’t seeing any amniotic fluid other than what was in the fetus’s stomach and bladder. I immediately burst into tears. The nurse quickly rushed my children out of the room, giving me a chance to process the crushing blow that I’d just received. I was told that at just 23 weeks, a sort of gray area in modern medicine, that many clinics and hospitals would not consider my baby viable, and I was given the choice of going home or heading to the closest major hospital that could handle a micropreemie.
My husband picked me up, and we rushed out of town. Thanks be to God, our son, Garrin, survived his extremely premature birth. This personal blog will share our experiences and highlight the lessons I’ve learned on this roller coaster, which has included a 21-week stay in a Level III NICU and a far too short 3 weeks at home before his admittance to a Level IV NICU.