One pound and ten ounces is how much my daughter weighed when she was born. In the midst of the pandemic, I was admitted to the hospital due to a placenta abruption and my daughter, Grayling, was born that night on July 29th, 2020. She was 13 weeks early. Her footprint was the same size as the top part of my husband’s thumb.
I saw her for a couple minutes after she was born, and I was able to put my hand into her transfer incubator. I barely remember it as I was just waking up from anesthesia. Then, she was taken by ambulance downtown to a higher level NICU. They were better equipped to take care of her tiny body.
She had a mostly “uneventful” 71-day stay in the NICU–even though she had two shoulder fractures, multiple x-rays, ultrasounds, blood transfusions, and daily spells of holding her breath.
On her fifth day of life, I was able to hold her.
We were able to finally have our skin-to-skin time; that was our “golden hour.” She had more wires attached to her than a desktop computer. Our nurse picked her up and put her to my chest and adjusted her breathing tube, her IV, her limbs, and all those wires.
I couldn’t even pick up my own baby by myself for weeks. Especially during those first few weeks, I really struggled emotionally. I was thrown into postpartum emotions and the emotions of being away from my baby. My husband was my rock. He took care of me while I healed from my emergency c-section and drove me every day for weeks to the hospital.
As the weeks went on, I was healing physically and mentally, and things were getting easier.
Our daughter was thriving. During my visits I fell into a good routine of pumping, care times, skin-to-skin, and having a meal. I could pick her up all by myself, I bathed her, I read to her and sang to her, and we FaceTimed our family. I got to know all her nurses and was learning so much from them. The NICU had become my second home. My daughter was my comfort place.
At 34 weeks gestation, she started learning how to drink from a bottle. It took a couple weeks for her to get a good grasp on that. Then, finally, at 37 weeks gestation, we were told to bring in her car seat for a car seat test! She had to sit in her car seat for 90 minutes, with no breathing episodes. Two days later, we were going home with our baby! I will never forget that ride home and taking her in the house for the first time. Home had not felt like home since she was born, and finally we were all HOME together.
We just celebrated her two-year “homeiversary” on October 8th.
When she came home she was on oxygen, so we had a huge oxygen tank in our living room, oxygen tubes running through the house, and a bunch of smaller tanks for leaving the house. Our dogs were scared of the oxygen tubes. She loved pulling the tubes from her face. Changing the tape that held the tubes on her face was really hard. It was a bit stressful but in those moments, all that mattered was that she was home and we were all together.
She had a lot of appointments the first year. Every three months since discharge, she had been seen by the NICU clinic doctors, and has now graduated from their care! She has seen an eye specialist since birth to check her eyes for Retinopathy of Prematurity and has been cleared for yearly visits from now on.
She continues to be seen by Early On for a slight developmental delay due to premature birth. We also work very hard at home to keep up with meeting developmental milestones. We have loved celebrating all milestones together, and have enjoyed every stage of her development. She has truly made us appreciate the little things in life.
We have also added another baby to our family.
Grayling got a sister in February of 2022. I happily and uneventfully carried her to 37 weeks. Pregnancy after a preemie is not something I had heard many moms talk about in person or on the internet. I’m not going to lie and say everything was great. My pregnancy after my preemie was full of anxiety and worries.
I worried about every belly ache and pain because that was my first sign of abruption. Because my uterus was cut vertically during my emergency c-section, I also worried about a uterine rupture. I was scared I was going to have another premature baby and have to split my time with my baby at home and a new baby in the hospital. Thinking about that gave me an ache in my heart, because I hadn’t spent any time away from Grayling either.
I wasn’t sure what to do about all of the anxiety, but I had a great medical team at Henry Ford. Maternal and Fetal Medicine was who I saw and it was determined that there was no reason I couldn’t carry to term, but if you have a previous placenta abruption, you are more at risk to have another abruption.
I saw the same OB with both pregnancies. He knew our story, knew my worries, and listened to every worry I had. He really helped to make me comfortable. I also had good support from my husband, family, and friends. If you are considering a pregnancy after your preemie, I suggest talking to your doctor and making sure you have support people to talk to like your family, friends, or a therapist.
–Guest submission from Amanda Ressler