For Prematurity Awareness Month, we’re sharing Ivy’s story…
During my first pregnancy I had all of these incredible visions of what giving birth would be like. I was convinced I’d go past my due date, I’d labor in water, I’d have my bags packed with everything I needed, and most importantly I’d get to spend the golden hour snuggling my precious baby girl and breastfeed her for the first time.
But like many women quickly learn babies don’t always follow your plan!
I was admitted to the hospital at 34 weeks and 5 days because of high blood pressure in addition to contractions and protein in my urine with nothing but the clothes I was wearing. Everyone reassured me it was just for observation and there was no reason to think anything was going to happen. My husband tried to round up what I might need, but we still felt very unprepared. I got the first round of steroids to help baby’s lungs mature “just in case,” started a 24 hour urine collection, and swabbed for Strep B. But despite everyone’s reassurance I just had a feeling my little girl was getting ready to make her entrance.
Sure enough, my contractions kept getting stronger until they finally conceded that I was in fact in labor. I was never able to get the second round of steroids, and the Strep B test didn’t come back in time so I was immediately started on iv antibiotics. Because my blood pressure was still high I wasn’t able to labor in water like I had planned. And I was mostly confined to the bed with constant fetal monitoring. I met doctors from the NICU in a blur of faces and spent most of the time worrying about what would happen to my little girl. I was determined to not get an epidural so nothing would slow me down from going to the NICU to see her.
I was able to very briefly hold her after her quick entrance to the world before she was swept off to the NICU, my husband in tow, while I was left to be stitched up and recover from extreme blood loss. I spent close to 2 hours waiting and begging to be able to go see my baby. The updates and pictures my husband texted me were not enough!
Once I was able to go to the NICU, I would have spent every second at her bedside if the nurses and midwives hadn’t forced me to go back to my room and sleep occasionally. The next day, I was finally able to hold her. And then the next day we were able to try nursing!
Our NICU stay was short compared to many preemies. But when your baby is sick, 18 days seems like an eternity. My husband had just started a new job. I was in the middle of the busiest time at my job. We were scared and stressed. We barely felt prepared to be parents let alone parents dealing with a sick baby and a NICU stay.
I was so lucky to be able to spend every night in the NICU on a parent cot. I spent the days working remotely on my laptop, pumping, and napping as much as possible all while learning the ins and outs of the NICU. I became a pro at nurses schedules, rounds with the doctors, and the various acronyms and tests that they used to determine when we might be able to go home.
But no matter what it looked like from the outside it was still a constant struggle. Luckily the nurses not only took amazing care of my baby but also of me. They checked on me frequently, and sent me home to shower and get food. When my husband had a breakdown from the stress and spent a night at the hospital across town they sat with me and made sure I wasn’t alone.
We celebrated my daughters first birthday recently and I’m finding myself pouring over the photos from those early days in the NICU. It’s hard to look past the wires and tubes to try and focus on the joy. I still struggle feeling like I lost out on the birth experience I wanted. I still get anxiety attacks driving past the hospital parking ramp as I remember the fear I had leaving her every time I pulled out of it to run to the store or head home to feed the cats.
Baby two is still a ways off but I’m always wondering if the same thing will happen next time. I know I’ll have a lot of anxiety to keep working through. But I do feel blessed that I had such a great team taking care of us and know that if we do end up in the NICU again we will be okay. Every day I am so proud of my little preemie as she continues to fight and grow and thrive. As cheesy as it is she is my proof that miracles happen and that we can make it through whatever life throws our way.
At one year old she is the strongest and sweetest person I know!