When I married my husband in 2001, I added two more daughters and a son; as well as a grandson and granddaughter to my growing family! About a year later, my daughter became pregnant and I was ecstatic!! A baby boy was due to make his appearance in July 2003. Sometimes, though, God has other plans…
On the night of April 10th, 2003, my daughter called me and told me she was bleeding and cramping a little. I wasn’t really worried that much, but told her to get Tom to take her to the ER, just in case. When I got to the hospital, I found out my daughter was in labor…12 weeks early!! That night was the beginning of a journey that tested and ultimately strengthened my faith.
They were able to give Wendi corticosteroids to help strengthen the baby’s lungs and speed up development of his brain and digestive system. Then they gave her magnesium sulfate to stop her labor. The next morning, they loaded her in an ambulance and with lights and siren going, drove her to a hospital 120+ miles from our home that had a Neonatal ICU (NICU) and excellent reputation with premature births/babies.
We drove separately to the hospital and talked with doctors who explained what they were doing and (repeatedly) made sure we were aware of the risks associated with babies who were born early, such as cerebral palsy. For the next three days Wendi would go into labor and they would administer the magnesium to stop it. She became violently ill from the medicine and started vomiting blood. I slept on the floor of my daughter’s hospital room praying that she and the baby would be ok. The only good news we had was that the baby had turned and was in position to be born.
I went to sleep on the night of the 15th and awoke to the sound of my daughter saying, “OH!” That was all, but it was loud enough to wake me. They had checked earlier in the evening and she was about 4cm dilated and the baby was still head down. I called the nurse to come check her because I was afraid she was in labor again. Not only was she in labor, but she was fully dilated…AND the baby had turned. He was breech!
Everything happened very quickly then. They rushed around getting her ready and handed me a form to sign giving permission to do an emergency C-section. My poor daughter was terrified. She had never had surgery before and the urgency of the situation was obvious by the flurry of activity around her. Within minutes they had whisked her out of the room and off to surgery. I guess someone came and showed Tom and me where to wait…I don’t remember much about that. Sometime after midnight we heard people talking and rapidly wheeling something down the hall headed in our direction. We stepped out of the waiting room just in time to catch a glimpse of my beautiful, TINY grandson, being rushed by. They couldn’t stop to let us look…they were headed to the NICU, a place we would come to know very well over the next month.
I have fainted twice in my life. Once after a major car accident and again when I was pregnant with my son. I doubt if have ever come any closer since than when I first saw my grandson. I had never seen a premature baby before. I didn’t know that babies could be born so small and survive. He weighed 2 lbs 14 oz and was 15″ long. When you compare that to his mother, who was 8 lbs 4 oz and 20″…that’s a HUGE difference!! His little foot was the length of the first digit of my pinky (3/4″).
My grandson, Brooks, was born on April 16, at 29 weeks gestation. He had an Apgar Score of 1. His tiny heart was beating, but that was all. We were lucky, though. He only had to be intubated for about 24 hours then was able to be swapped to nasal oxygen. The less intubation time, the less chance for lung damage. His dad and I were allowed to go see him for a brief time. At first they had him on an open table. In my ignorance, I assumed that was a good thing, but learned that moving to an incubator was a step UP! He had so many wires all over his little body and they advised us to keep “touching” to a minimum, as his skin was so thin that it hurt instead of comforted. The whole experience was surreal and I’m sure I resembled a zombie those first few days.
My daughter came through surgery ok, but wasn’t able to go see her baby for three days. She was very sick and the doctors were worried about her as well. She saw pictures of Brooks, but he looked so big in them that I tried to stress to her how little he was. It was still a shock. By the time she was able to be wheeled to the NICU, Tom had been allowed to briefly hold their son. I have a picture of the first time she held him with me in the background looking down at them. That is one of my two most favorite pictures EVER. The other is of my son holding HIS newborn son.
The first few weeks of Brooks’s life reminded me of a runaway roller coaster. One day he would be doing ok, the next…not so well. He lost weight at first. I think at his smallest, he was around 2 lbs 4 oz. He was fed breast milk that his mom pumped; a few drops through a tube at first then gradually increasing. After a time they even let us hold the tube. The days ran together and every gram of weight he gained was a victory. The social worker secured us a room at the Ronald McDonald House close to the hospital so we could be near him. If you ever eat at McDonald’s, please consider donating to their charities. Being able to stay there was a blessing in so many ways. Not only was the cost a small fraction of the cost of a hotel, but we were able to be close to other families sharing the same experiences, and that was very comforting!
A couple of weeks after Brooks was born, the doctors came to talk to us. He had developed an infection due to his immature digestive system…it was serious. They started antibiotics and stopped the breast milk . At one point, my grandson had two IVs sticking out of the top of his head. If things weren’t serious enough, doctors told us they thought the infection had spread to his brain. If that had happened, his chances of survival were very low. A spinal tap brought us great news. The infection hadn’t spread. Slowly, my grandson started to improve.
I will never forget the day I walked into the NICU and Brooks’s incubator was gone. They had moved him once before to another part of the NICU, but told us immediately. This time he was just…GONE. There had been other babies who weren’t there anymore. There were days when they closed down the NICU indefinitely, so these precious babies could pass on surrounded by their families. When I couldn’t find Brooks, I was terrified. I looked all over and found a nurse who wasn’t working with a baby and found out that my precious grandson had progressed enough to move to Continuing Care. He was one month old the day he took this important step toward being able to come home.
There were milestones Brooks had to reach in order to go home. He needed to weigh at least 4 lbs; maintain his own body temperature; and go a certain number of days without an episode of apnea (periods where breathing stops) or bradycardia (heart rhythm slows down.) He had to learn to suck on a bottle and swallow while breathing. At this point we were able to visit much more often and hold and feed him. At times, he would stop breathing and we had to learn how to stimulate him to breathe again.
Finally, the day came when they told us he was ready to go home. We were so excited! Papers were signed; follow-up appointments were made; we had taken the required CPR classes and been instructed in his care; pictures had been taken; and Brooks had been checked over head to toe by the doctors and nurses. At the last minute, one nurse said she wanted to check him, “one more time!” As she listened through her stethoscope, she started frowning and called the doctor over. His lungs had collapsed. They told us later that if we had left the hospital that day, our precious baby boy would have died on the way home before we would have been able to get him to the hospital. The nurse said she just, “felt like something wasn’t quite right.” I know it was our Lord whispering in her ear that day.
One week later, after showing us how to “beat on his back” with a rubber “hammer” and do his breathing treatments, my grandson came home. He was 10 1/2 weeks old and a little over six pounds. He had chronic lung disease and a cyst on his liver. Otherwise, he was healthy. He mostly outgrew the lung problems and no longer has to have breathing treatments or an inhaler. His lung capacity might be slightly lower than other children, but considering what it could have been we are definitely blessed. I have no doubt that miracles happen…I see one every time I look at my grandson!