This is what it’s like to be a Preemie Parent.
The first time I was told my child was going to die, I was about seven weeks pregnant. There was no way of knowing it then, but those words started me on my path to becoming a Preemie Parent.
The next time I was told my child was going to die, I was 19 weeks pregnant. My water had just broken, and my doctor gave my baby almost no chance for survival. A few weeks later, that doctor reminded me that termination was an option. My husband and I told her no.
When I was admitted to the hospital on bed rest, the doctors didn’t say my baby was going to die, but they never said she was going to live. The statistics were against her, you see. Babies whose mothers have PPROM (preterm premature rupture of membranes) at 19 weeks rarely survive, and those who do have a host of problems. But I’d beaten the odds by not immediately going into labor, and I was certain my baby would beat the odds, too. The doctors told us they’d likely take the baby at 30 weeks gestation, so that was our goal.
I read everything I could about NICUs and premature babies. Being the parent of a premature baby is something no one plans on. Your typical expectant parent doesn't stock up on preemie clothes and diapers, or research medical terms and nutritional techniques. Even though I had some time to educate myself, I was completely unprepared for NICU life -- especially Madeline's introduction to it.
The doctors decided to give me an emergency C-section in my 28th week of pregnancy because I was passing blood clots. They feared I was having a placental abruption, and delivered Madeline over 11 weeks early. Because my water had broken 10 weeks before that, Madeline's lungs were developmentally on par with a 24-25 week baby's. It was dire. They transferred her to another hospital with a better NICU. They told me she was going to die.
She made it through the night, but every time my phone rang the next day it was someone telling me she was going to die. Again. For her first two weeks in the NICU, she almost died every day. She was the sickest baby in the unit by far, with two nurses constantly dedicated to her care.
We lived minute to minute. I planned her funeral. I learned metric measurements. I scrubbed my hands under scalding water every time I wanted to see her. I filled a notebook with numbers and abbreviations (SAT, VENT, TEMP). I wondered what colour her eyes were. I was afraid she'd die before I could hold her. I memorised every single medication and dosage schedule. I watched her eyelashes grow in. I asked questions, so many questions. I learned when to use my voice and how to be an advocate for my child.