by Samantha Rice
We’ll get a puppy and travel. That was our plan after two surgeries for endometriosis and as our 5 year anniversary approached. Little did we know that our best surprise and biggest adventure was right around the corner.
Other than an early subchorionic hemorrhage, my pregnancy felt amazing, like a dream come true as we fell in love with the active little guy in there. Things began to take a turn around 29 weeks when I started having heavy bleeding and contractions. Monitoring, fluids, steroids, and magnesium sulfate. On the morning of March 11th, we were told that I was next in line for an emergency c-section due to placental abruption.
Garner was born at 30 weeks and 6 days. As he was being delivered, I watched my husband’s face – his emotion and expression told me that we were all going to be ok. Garner was quickly wrapped up, put on respiratory support and rolled away in an incubator. Over the next few days, we sat next to him just talking and reading, participating in his every 3 hour care routine as much as possible. And I pumped. And pumped. And pumped. Providing milk to put through his feeding tube felt like the only motherly thing I could do.
The day that I was discharged from the hospital without my baby made up for 32 years of “not being a crier”. I couldn’t tell the difference between the emotional and physical pain because everything just excruciatingly ached.
On Day 5, we were able to hold our son for the first time. The alarms, the CPAP bubbles, the voices, the racing thoughts…it all disappeared during kangaroo care. Up until that point, I thought wrapping his little hand around my finger through the isolette window was the best feeling in the world. But when Garner was placed on my chest, all of the noise turned to music.
Our 50 day NICU journey encompassed our lowest of lows and highest of highs all at the same time. The tough days were filled with reflux that caused brady episodes, failed room air trials, blood transfusions, painful goodnights, so much confusion and fear. The good days were filled with celebrating milestones, freezer meal dinner dates in the parents lounge, sweet preemie clothes, creating relationships, so much pride and love.
We couldn’t wait to bring our boy home. Right along with the excitement came the anxiety. Is he breathing? Is he eating enough and gaining weight? Is it safe for him to meet family and friends? So many appointments. As the weeks and months have passed, our confidence has continued to grow. He shows us everyday that we know exactly how to care and advocate for him.
Today, Garner is 2 years old. He is healthy and happy and so incredibly handsome. His resilience, spirit, strength and curiosity are just a few of his traits that have taught and shaped us. I am humbled and forever grateful that I was chosen to be this preemie’s mama.
And whenever the world’s noise gets too loud, I pick Garner up and dance to the music.
About the Author:
Samantha Rice shares her story this month to spread awareness and thank the NICU teams who care for us and our babies. She lives in Richmond, VA with her husband, son, and big puppy. To our fellow preemie parents, – when you can’t see a way through, we are here – you are not alone.