Being thrust into parenthood when our son was born at 23w5d. His NICU experience, infertility, and other miscellaneous musings.
November 16, 2010
1 in 8
Our Miracle at 2 days old
Did you know that 1 in 8 pregnancies result in premature birth?
That premature birth is the number 1 killer of newborns?
That premature babies cost ten times more than healthy babies?
November is prematurity awareness month, and even now, almost five months after Andrew's birth I sometimes find it hard to believe I am one of those statistics. I'm still amazed at those numbers. In some ways, it shouldn't be so shocking to me.
We've spent 140 days in the INOVA Fairfax NICU, which often has a census of 90+ babies. Not all of those babies are preemies (some are fighting other issues) but at the same time, not all premature babies end up in the NICU either. Prematurity is considered any birth before 37 weeks, and there are more and more "late-term" preemies who don't need NICU time, but still can have developmental problems later in life. We've personally met more than a few parents who have lost babies due to prematurity - either at birth, or weeks or months after a long NICU battle. And, I've seen my insurance claims (OMG - thank you for good insurance!) and know that Andrew is truly a million dollar baby.
Why? Why prematurity happens, why this happened to us, to my new friends at the NICU, to anyone is a question that I still don't understand and struggle with on tough days. Until now, I haven't shared Andrew's birth story on the blog. In honor of the 1400 babies a day born prematurely, I will tell it now.
Up until 23 weeks, I had a perfectly normal pregnancy. Andrew was measuring right on track, always had a strong heartbeat, and I felt good with no morning sickness and no complications. We had found out a few weeks prior we were having a boy, and the excitement was setting in as I was finally needing to wear more and more maternity clothes. On June 22, at 22w6d, I went to dinner with J and my brother, and had a slight headache and a backache. Figuring I overdid it that day, I went to bed early. Through the night I tossed and turned and noticed that my belly got hard a few times. I even pointed it out to J once, thinking that maybe these were those Brandon Hicks contractions that people talk about. It wasn't painful, and I certainly didn't think it was preterm labor!
The next morning, I felt better and headed off to work as usual. When I used the restroom, I noticed some spotting on the toilet paper, and called my OB just to be safe. She wanted me to come in...just as a precaution. Worried, but just expecting to be told to rest and drink more water, J and I went in around 11 a.m. I knew as soon as she examined me that things were just not right. I was dilated 1 - 2 cm and just like that my perfect pregnancy was gone. I knew it was bad. I knew that the chances of a 23 week old baby making it were slim to none.
My doctor sent me immediately to a maternal fetal specialist for an in-depth ultrasound, which confirmed the dilation. My choices were limited...do nothing and risk imminent delivery, or try to get a cerclage - a stitch used to close the cervix and hopefully prevent further dilation. In a haze of disbelief, we decided to do the cerclage. After all we'd been through to get pregnant, we couldn't let it go without a fight. We literally walked across the street to the hospital and by 1 p.m. I was in triage, waiting to go into surgery.
The cerclage was successful, but after 5 days of bedrest I began develop a fever - a sign of infection. We were told that if an infection presented itself, that our only choice was to deliver, since an infection in the uterus would be very dangerous for both me and Andrew. Not only did I have a slight fever, but I was experiencing fairly regular contractions. I was in denial, but my amazing husband insisted on calling the doctor when my temp reached 99.1. Another trip to Reston hospital, this time being shown to a labor and delivery room was one of the most heartbreaking moments of my life. We decided we still wanted to fight for our child, and requested a transfer to Fairfax, which has a Level III NICU and is able to care for very premature babies. (I'd soon learn the term "micropreemie" to define the smallest and youngest miracle babies - delivered before 26 weeks and usually under 2 pounds.) We arrived at Fairfax around 11:30 p.m. and they quickly prepped me for an emergency c-section. I was relieved at this decision, as I don't know if I could have labored and given birth under those horrible and terrifying circumstances. I was certain Andrew was not going to make it.
I remember laying on the table in the OR just before the c-section, looking at the clock on the wall. It was about 11:50 p.m. I prayed that he would be born after midnight. It may seem strange that at that moment I wasn't praying for him to live (I didn't think he could, even though the neonatologist gave us 30% odds for a baby his gestational age), or for me to be ok, I just wanted his birthday to NOT be on this horrible day. If I could just make it until midnight...
Andrew was born less than 30 minutes after we arrived at Fairfax hospital, at 12:07 a.m. on June 28. 2010. He was 640 grams - 1 pound 6.5 ounces and we heard him cry twice when they delivered him.
We still don't know why this happened, what caused my body to decide he was better off outside than inside. We don't know why we were fortunate enough to have him survive, when the odds were so against him and so many others weren't as lucky. We do realize everyday that we have a fighter, that we are blessed that he is with us, and that we are changed forever. We are now part of the 1 in 8.
We love you, Andrew!
You amaze us every day.
**For more information on prematurity, check out the March of Dimes. They are an amazing organization whose research, advocacy, and education help prevent preterm births.