Today we’re excited to feature a story and photos from Carissa, mom to a 31-weeker whose strength inspired his mama to go back to school to become a NICU nurse. If you’d like to be a part of our Prematurity Voices series, email your story and photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is Leland. My 31 weeker. I became a parent to a preemie on Nov. 29th, 2010. After spending two weeks in the hospital trying to keep him in, it became too risky. At 32 weeks exactly, they induced me. At 7:54pm Leland came into this world, weighing an even 3 lbs and at 15 1/4 inches, with no noise and hardly breathing.
They rushed him to the NICU before I could lay my eyes on him. It took an additional four days before I was stable enough to visit the NICU. On Dec. 4th my nurse broke me out of my room to go meet my son for the first time. As soon as we got there and I laid eyes on my baby, I fainted. It took another two days before I was allowed back.
At that point he was losing weight and was about 2 lbs 10oz. I was discharged from the hospital two weeks after having him. I went home with an empty feeling. The next morning I went to visit my sweet boy and for the very first time in 15 days I was able to hold my son.
As Leland grew, my health grew worse and I was admitted back into the hospital for surgery. I stayed only three days but once again left the hospital without my son. The night I came home I received a call from the NICU doctor; he told me that Leland was struggling too much and could not breathe on his own so they had him on a ventilator and they had to do yet another emergency blood transfusion. He had an infection he needed to fight off. He needed rest. They asked me not to hold my son until he was more stable.
Even though I was not able to drive, I saw my sweet boy multiple times each day. Leland spent two and half months in the hospital. We were finally able to take him home, but only on a monitor. At this point he still could not remember to breathe on his own. We would be woken multiple times each night alerting us that our son had stopped breathing even with the caffeine compound drug he was on to stimulate his brain to remember. It went off over 16 times in one night. His inability to remember to breathe eventually resulted in hospital stays.
It was heartbreaking that my 6-month-old could not remember to breathe. What did this mean for his future? He spent seven and half months on that monitor, which delayed his mobility. Just as things started looking up, the MRI told us differently. The plates in his skull weren’t fusing. He was going to need surgeries and in the meantime he had a helmet to see if it would improve on his own and reshape his head. Thankfully, after five and half months with his helmet we saw improvement! Not only did it do the reshaping the best it could but his plates were fusing.
But Leland’s struggles didn’t end there. Not only did he spend two and half months in the NICU, seven and half months on his heart monitor, five and half months with his corrective/protective helmet, but he also spent 15 months in physical therapy, we had two hospital stays since being able to go home with him, he went through another painful surgery this last fall and we are about to start occupational therapy next month. There are even concerns involving autism or severe anxiety, yet that’s nothing compared to what was predicted for his future the day he was born.
The day after Thanksgiving, we were able to celebrate Leland’s third birthday! We now have a very happy, very little 3-year-old.
Having a preemie has changed our lives in so many ways. Leland is truly my daily inspiration. He’s changed how I view the world and the definition of love and even my understanding of the determination preemie parents have. In fact, I’ve been attending college for the last year to get my bachelor’s degree in science of nursing so I can become a neonatal nurse.
Yes, the NICU stay and the transition home can be a roller coaster of emotions. But I feel absolutely blessed that Leland is here today and feel honored to be his mother.