Young and scared, but full of hope, Deanna found herself figuring out how to be a mom in the NICU. This is her own story in her own words:
My husband and I got married on December 2nd in 2011 and two short months later on February 1st, 2012, we found out that we were pregnant with our first child. We weren’t really planning the pregnancy so it was a shock to see that little plus sign, but we were still overjoyed and very excited to be parents. The first time we got to hear the baby’s heart beat was at 7 weeks gestation. We were so excited to hear that little thump, and we had our first ultrasound done the same day which was also very exciting. The baby looked like a little speck in my womb but I was still so proud of that picture of my little peanut.
The pregnancy was going great. Every doctor visit was fine, the baby was developing fine, and everything was fantastic. Except one day when I was at 20 weeks gestation I started to have a really sharp and painful cramp in my stomach and since this was my first pregnancy I wasn’t sure if the pain was normal so I decided to go to the emergency room to make sure there wasn’t anything wrong with the baby. They performed an ultrasound and the lady doing the ultrasound gave us a “sneak peek” at the sex of the baby. She told us we were having a girl but to still go to my OBGYN appointment for my ultrasound there to be sure. The doctors assured me that nothing was wrong with the baby and said it was only stretching pains.
We left the hospital so happy and even more excited to find out that we were most likely having a girl, which is what we were hoping for. A week later we went to the OBGYN appointment and they were right! We were having a beautiful baby girl!! We were given our ultrasound pictures. One picture was to show the sex and in the other, our little girl was holding her feet in her hands and looking at us, I was the happiest woman alive! I couldn’t wait to go out and buy baby girl clothes and little head bands and pink stickers to decorate her wall. I was just so thrilled to be a mom and to be having a beautiful little girl.
Then at 23 weeks pregnant, I started to feel pain in my stomach and back, and it just kept getting worse. I sat down to try and relax, and I felt like something was coming out of me. I was petrified! I screamed for my husband, and he and my mother took me to the ER. They did a pelvic exam and two nurses tried to figure out what it was that was coming past my cervix. They both said they’d never seen a case like that before. The older nurse said that whatever was going on with me wasn’t normal, and she thought it’d be best to call my doctor in. My OBGYN doctor came and did another exam. She told me that I was dilated to 1 cm and that something was protruding through my cervix so she had me transferred to another hospital that had a neonatal intensive care unit or NICU.
Upon my arrival at the hospital I was immediately given steroids to mature my baby girl’s lungs more quickly in case of early delivery, mag and pricartia to prevent labor, along with intravenous fluids. At this point I was even more terrified! I was in tears when they explained what a NICU was and how slim my baby’s chances of survival would be if I were to give birth that early. I started to feel sick and got a headache. My heart started to pound really fast and all of a sudden nurses are running into my room because my heart rate was at 180. It turned out I was having an allergic reaction to the medication that they gave me to prevent labor. After I was stable, I and the baby were monitored for one night. I got to go home the next day under the condition that I stayed on moderate bed rest. I was so scared the whole time I was home. I knew that something was wrong but the doctor at the hospital didn’t really listen to me when I tried to tell her how I felt. I was just sent home.
Two weeks passed then at 25 weeks gestation exactly, I went to the bathroom and I felt something stretch and then pop…. it was my water! I just remember being in shock. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me, happening to us, and my world started to crumble. In a panic and in tears I stood up and yelled for my husband and my mother who was over for lunch and told them that my water had broke. My husband helped me to our bed and laid me on a towel while my mother called the ambulance. The ambulance arrived and rushed me to the hospital. They called in my OBGYN doctor and she explained to me that what happened was called PPROM (preterm premature rupture of membranes). She also explained to me that even though my water had broke I could still carry my baby up to 34 weeks before labor would be induced, but I would be on bed rest in the hospital until I delivered.
I was then transferred to another hospital since ours doesn’t have a NICU. I was given more steroids, fluids, and magnesium. I was so sad and scared and my husband just seemed to be in total shock. Here we were, happily married newlyweds – I was 18 years old, my husband was 21, we were young, healthy and happy. This was our first child. Whoever would have thought that we would be sitting in a hospital room when I was 25 weeks pregnant, here to stay until I delivered my baby? I remember crying a lot and holding my belly hoping and praying that she would just stay in there a little longer. I wanted to keep her inside of me where I knew she was safe and warm and protected.
But on July 3rd 2012 at 4:00p.m., at 25 weeks and 5 days into my pregnancy I went into active labor. The doctor said there was nothing they could do besides deliver the baby. All I could think was “NO!” – not my baby, it’s too soon. I cried, I prayed, and I freaked out. I called my mother and told her I was in labor and she made it to the hospital at 10:00 p.m. At 11:18 p.m. I gave birth to a beautiful, teeny tiny baby girl. She weighed 1 pound 10.3 oz, and was 14 in long. I had so many different thoughts and emotions but two things were certain: I’d never loved anyone more than I loved her and I was more scared than I’d ever imagine could be possible.
Four very long hours passed before we were able to go upstairs to the NICU and meet our newborn daughter, Kira. She was so tiny. Her hand didn’t even fit all the way around my finger…. I instantly fell in love. We got to watch them change her diaper and heard the tiniest little adorable cry. She was red; we could see every vein and every bone in her tiny little body. Her ribs were pulling all the way in showing me that it was very difficult for her to breathe on the cpap machine. I knew we had a long, hard road ahead of us, and I was hoping for a miracle.
Weeks 1 and 2 were kind of hard. Kira had her good days and she had her bad days, but we were getting more confident and she seemed to be getting a little stronger. I was pumping breast milk for her every two hours and had a pretty good supply stocked for her in the NICU freezer by the time she was actually able to eat through her NG tube. When she was three weeks old we were told that she had a lung infection. She had blood coming out of her lungs when they were suctioned; she was on an oscillator at 100% oxygen and was still desatting. We were told that there was little hope for our precious Kira. I felt my heart shatter at the sound of the doctor’s voice telling me that he needed my consent to give her steroids as a last attempt to save her life. I agreed to the steroids, and against all odds, they worked.
Kira came off of the oscillator, went on the ventilator for 7 hours, and then back onto the cpap! We were the proudest parents ever. She was doing amazingly well. Over the next two months we started to do more things with and for Kira. We were able to attend her care times every three hours when we would change her diaper, take her temperature, and feed her. We also got to hold her and do kangaroo care. The kangaroo care was my favorite part. It made me feel like I could protect her again. We were both content and at peace whenever I got to hold her. She also started gaining weight. At two months old she weighed 2 pounds 9 ounces. Sadly after two and a half months my milk dried and I could no longer breast feed, which was very disappointing because I wanted to do it so badly. It was especially sad considering I only got to actually breast feed her once.
Then at three months old we found out that Kira had a staph infection in her eye and it had gotten into her blood stream. She needed a blood transfusion for the 4th time, and her little belly was so swollen and awful looking that the doctors feared NEC. I couldn’t believe it. She had already come so far and was doing so well.
What happened? Why was this happening to her? I felt so helpless and worried and even guilty. I felt like it was my fault, I should have found some way to have carried her longer. I was a nervous wreck. Thankfully, it turned out that she didn’t have NEC. And over about a week of antibiotics the staph was gone, too. Now Kira was over 3 pounds and doing great. Her father and I were so proud of how well she was progressing. She was still on the cpap but at 34 weeks gestation she was put on the nasal cannula. She also took her first bottle and had her first bath at three months. I was so happy to finally get to be a mother to her. Little by little there were fewer tubes and more and more family time, and we were loving every second of it!
Then finally, on October 16th, 2012, after three and a half long months of the NICU rollercoaster ride, many tears, much struggle, and Kira fighting with everything she had, we were able to bring our amazing, beautiful, and strong little 7 pound baby girl home.
She was still on the nasal cannula and had an apnea monitor. The first few months at home were pretty hard. I was a young teenage new mom, and I started to feel really stressed. I went to the doctor where I was told I had post-partum depression and was given an anti depressant. The anti depressant worked and after my depression was taken care of, I was able to spend a lot more time with Kira. We developed a very strong bond, and Kira and her father did as well.
Now, as of July 3rd 2013, Kira is 1 year old, she has absolutely no health problems, she weighs 18.5 pounds and is 28 and a half in long. There’s no more specialists, no more oxygen, and everything is great. She’s crawling, pulling herself up, eating solids, talking, playing, and she is the happiest and most lively baby I’ve ever seen. We were truly blessed with a wonderful daughter, and we are one little happy family now. We couldn’t be more proud of our baby girl or of the life we’ve built.