BLOG: Joy and pain on World Prematurity Day - | WBTV Charlotte

BLOG: Joy and pain on World Prematurity Day

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

I have to admit. It's been a while since I have looked at the kids' photos when they were newborns! When picking out a few photos to help tell our story for today's #SperowsNest blog in honor of World Prematurity Day, the flood of emotions comes back. 

Happiness, joy - overwhelmed by worry, tears even anger.

I couldn't have imagined the emotional rollercoaster when not one but BOTH of my children were born prematurely. My daughter Camryn, now 6, was born at 32 weeks. My son, now 4, was born at 28 weeks.

I don't talk about this a lot. It was really a rollercoaster for me personally. But I'm hoping someone out there who has a preemie can get some level of comfort that they aren't going through this alone, and others who have never gone through this experience personally, can have a better understanding of the seriousness of premature birth.

Camryn, our first born, was due in the month of September. But overnight, on a morning in July, I felt like I had a nagging stomach ache. My pregnancy up until that point was a breeze with no complications so I certainly didn't think I would be giving birth nine hours later. But that's what happened. At the hospital, the doctors did what they could to stop the labor and during that time gave me surfactant (a major breakthrough in premature birth research discovered with the help of the March of Dimes) to help mature my daughter's lung functions before I gave birth. My baby girl would come into this world weighing 4 pounds even. She was able to breathe on her own (many preemies can't do that and have to be put on breathing machines) and she could be fed from a bottle on her own (without the need for a feeding tube.) She was a ROCK STAR in the NICU and only had to stay 2 weeks before we were told she was ready to go home. In my son's case it was more complicated...

William was supposed to be a July 4th baby. During my pregnancy with him I was taking progesterone shots weekly. My doctor said there was an 80%+ success rate in preventing preterm labor. There wasn't a conclusion as to why I gave birth early with my first child. So we thought with the weekly shots, surely it wouldn't happen again! But it did.

At 28 weeks I was in a meeting at the WBTV when I felt that "nagging stomach ache" feeling again. It went away. Then came back. Went away. Then came back. I was having contractions. I literally walked out in the middle of the meeting with no explanation.

By the time I got to the hospital I was already fully dilated. What?!! Everything was happening SO fast. They're taking off my clothes, getting me in a hospital gown, putting in IV's, feet in stirrups, we're having this baby NOW NOW NOW! Then more complications changed the plans: I had to have an emergency c-section. I get whisked to the operating room. A flood of people we're giving me all kinds of instructions: 

"Everything is going to be okay" 

"Hi, I'm your anesthesiologist"

"We're cutting here"

"You're going to feel this now right here" 

But the one I will never forget is my doctor saying the moment before William was born: "I just want to let you know when I take the baby out he's not going to be crying so don't be alarmed." Ummm. I'm sorry. I'm alarmed!!

William was not breathing when he was born. And my husband had to watch, stoically so I wouldn't panic, as nurses did chest compressions to get my son breathing. I don't even know how much time passed but it seemed like an eternity before I heard his tiny cries. He weighed 2lbs 10oz. They whisked him away to the NICU, carted me to the maternity ward and when everyone left the room, I sobbed. One nurse stayed behind and held my hand while I cried. She didn't say a word. Just held my hand. I never saw her again during my hosptial stay. I wish I got her name. I would give her a big hug today.

We would spend the next three months visiting the NICU daily. William could not breathe on his own which is normal for many babies born early. His lungs just weren't developed enough. He was intubated and was fed through a feeding tube. He was hooked up to all kinds wires to monitor every element of his vitals and development. Tests would have to be done to make sure there wasn't bleeding in the brain, at one point we thought he would need blood transfusions, his eyes would get checked regularly to make sure the blood vessels were developing and there were no signs of Retinopathy of Prematurity or ROP. I would eventually have to go back to work after my maternity leave and still my son wasn't home. My public life meant I had to be smiling and upbeat on TV.... but inside, during those days William was still in the NICU, it was agony.

There were good moments in this journey. The NICU nurses do an amazing job helping you find joy in the positive experiences and when those key milestones were hit. We just wanted our son home though. One of the hardest parts I remember is being discharged from the hospital and not being able to carry your baby home with you. No mother or father should have to go through that but that's what happens for most when their child is born early.

William would finally be discharged but even after coming home there multiple doctor visits weekly. There would be weekly occupational and physical therapy sessions  to help him reach his milestones and make sure there weren't physical or mental disabilities arising. At one point we thought he would need surgery to insert a feeding tube through his stomach because he still struggled to eat from a bottle and didn't have the suck, swallow, breathe ability when eating from a bottle that babies have when they're full-term. But we were able to avoid that option.

It really wouldn't be until William was three years old (that's only a year and a half ago) that I finally felt like things were "normal." As terrifying as his entrance into the world was, I constantly had to rely on faith and that God's will be done. We had many people praying for us during this time. All glory to God that today we can say BOTH children are healthy and thriving. People are shocked when they see them now that they were preemies. They are just regular kids.

It's safe to say we had the "best case scenario" when it comes to having a premature child. Many other children have cerebral palsy, and other physical or mental disabilities from preterm birth. Some of those tiny babies in the NICU have to undergo high-risk surgeries because certain organs haven't developed completely.

Preterm birth is serious and comes with many emotional burdens on both moms and dads. I don't wish what we went through on anyone. I do hope that after reading this blog you'll have a heightened awareness and desire to learn more about premature births, and support those organizations or events that help spread awareness and promote research to help stop preterm births.

Thanks for reading friends.

~Christine

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