My son was born at 25 weeks 1 day. For those not super fluent on pregnancy gestation, term is considered 37 weeks; most babies are born at 40-41 weeks. He was 15 weeks, or 3 months early. He came into the world weighing a stealthy 1 pound 6 ounces. In the NICU, everything is grams, for the longest time. That translates to 623 grams. Like term babies, there is a weight drop after birth. He got down to 550 grams. He had no fat yet, so his skin was red (from the blood and organs underneath) and see through. You could see the network of his thread like veins, and on occasion, you could almost see his heart beating strongly beneath his ribs. You couldn’t actually see his heart, but it would make the skin flutter if he laid correctly. It was both amazing and daunting.
I had severe preeclampsia. They don’t start watching you for it until around 20 weeks. As I have generations of preeclampsia in my background, I started monitoring my blood pressure from the first moment my ankles looked a little puffy. At 23.5 weeks, I went in for the monthly appointment. My feet were giant. I had gained 11 pounds in a month (where I had been averaging 1-2 steadily), and I came back with protein in my urine. A barrage of tests led me to a visit with the perinatologist and bedrest. I would see doctors twice weekly, and the goal was to keep him inside me for at least another 3 weeks (I was 24 and some change at this point), but nobody was really worried. I was stable. Yes I was swollen as a full tick, and my blood pressure was elevated, but it was stable. Then I wasn’t.
I saw my OB on a Tuesday for that God forsaken glucose test, which I failed. I don’t remember why at the time, but as I had been diagnosed with pre-e, she gave me the first of two steroid injections to help Mr. Man’s lungs along. I think she saw the writing on the wall. In any case, besides being wound up on steroids, I was still fine. By my Thursday appointment, I was not. My blood pressure had started to soar, and frankly I felt crummy that whole day. I was tired, and everything was difficult. I had zero energy. But, my entire pregnancy had been awful, so nothing was too alarming. My blood pressure was reading in the 170’s over 95, which was alarming, but I was convinced that it was wrong. I had my Thursday appointment, so I knew in a few hours that it’d get straightened out.
The nurse took my blood pressure at my OB’s office. 186/98. She instantly freaked out, and put me on my side. I started crying. I knew this meant hospital bed rest, which is the thing I had so desperately wanted to avoid. I had no idea that it would mean that I would be a mom approximately 3.5 hours later. The nurse took my blood pressure 30 minutes later. Still crazy high, though I don’t remember what. That bought me a ticket to observation. Ironically, I hadn’t even had my hospital tour. I had no idea where I was even going. I was met with the most fantastic nurse there ever was. Medication upon medication was administered to try to get my blood pressure down. Nada. Alecia, her real name, stayed with me, and was calm and cool. She was concerned, and I could tell, but she was there for me and my baby.
Even in the moments of extreme stress, we had moments of happiness. Little man had no desire to stay under the fetal monitor, and when you’re only 25 weeks, you can wiggle out from under it. We talked about how my husband had never felt him kick because anytime you’d try to feel him kick, he’d stop.
The anesthesiologist came in. By this point, my blood pressure had topped 200/100. I was loaded up with magnesium, so I was swollen and red. I am sure I was a sight. Everyone was constantly amazed that I was talking, and lucid, and had no signs of impending stroke. We waited for the NICU team to show up. They too were great. Every time anyone would give a report on what was coming, and what their job was, I’d cry. Then I’d apologize for crying.
You always hear about surgeons joking around while doing surgery. I had two OB’s perform my c-section, and both were hushed and serious. Even at the time, that made me nervous. At 7:26, my teeny tiny little guy was born. My blood pressure was 218/108. Before he was intubated, he cried, which is unheard of for twenty five weekers. I knew then, at that moment, that he’d be ok. And he has been.
He’s swimmingly passed every milestone that he’s supposed to. Except for speech. The kid just does not want to talk. He has doting grandparents and parents, who all understand what he wants, and the kid does not talk. We’ve been going through the process of speech evaluation, which has been hugely stressful for me. You worry if there is something that could have been done differently, or some area that you lack care . Today, was the final appointment where we met our therapist, and set up our goals, and the first appointment. I have been exceedingly nervous about all of this the entire process. But today, I feel strong and confident.
I instantly liked our therapist – which is highly unusual for me. She is calm, and interested, and loves these little kids. I haven’t met someone so into the children since Mr. Man’s NICU nurses. I know we are doing right by him, and that as a preemie, this delay in speech is expected. The fact that he’s healthy, and opinionated, and into everything, with no food aversions, or health problems, is a miracle. If he needs a little help in this one area, it’s ok.
We start speech therapy next Tuesday at 10:20.
Accepting that we didn’t do anything wrong has been the hardest thing ever. I constantly feel like I’m being judged for my parenting choices, even though by all standards, we have a well adjusted two year old boy. There are always things I would change, but you do the things you do because it works for you and your family then. Sometimes preemies need a little extra help. And we are getting our boy the help he needs.
Obviously, I am biased, but he is truly a miraculous little boy.