When a baby is born prior to 37 weeks, they are known as premature.
- In the United States (in 2014) 1 in 10 babies was born prematurely.
- In Canada, the average was around 1 in 12.
I hardly knew anything about premature babies and I never expected to give birth to one myself. Although my pregnancy was tumultuous, I still figured I would be able to carry my daughter to term.
I didn’t create a birth plan and I was fairly relaxed and easy going about delivery plans. From the moment I found out that I was pregnant, all I wanted was to be able to deliver my baby safely.
At 32 weeks when they found the pseudo-aneurysm on the umbilical cord at the placental insertion, the doctors were pretty certain that I would be delivering that day. I was shocked, overwhelmed and terrified. Like I said, up until that point, my biggest concern was when and where my water would break.
We left the doctors, went home and quickly packed our hospital bags. (Weeks before this moment, I had spent hours researching and over planning what needed to be packed in the hospital bag. I needlessly stressed myself out. Especially since, when the time came that we were required to have our bags ready, we quickly ran through the house and threw everything we could think of in a duffle bag).
Luckily we didn’t have to deliver that day. They ended up sending us for additional ultrasounds and meetings with McMaster’s high risk team instead. I was able to carry our daughter for a few more weeks! I’m very thankful for that now!
Throughout the next three weeks we had many ultrasounds completed and met with a variety of different doctors. Our meeting with the NICU doctor was extremely helpful since we knew nothing about premature babies.
The NICU doctor explained that anytime they deliver prior to 37 weeks, the baby could require special assistance with a few different things.
A) She might need help regulating her sugar levels
B) She might have difficulty breathing on her own
C) She could encounter a spout of jaundice
D) She might have difficulty feeding
We listened closely as he explained the different scenarios and how the doctors and nurses would compensate for each. We went through every option and patiently waited for our next appointment which was when I was 34 weeks and 6 days.
After the routine ultrasound, our doctor was becoming increasingly concerned. Although the aneurysm hadn’t shown any changes within the last 3 weeks, our daughter’s heart was starting to develop fluid around it and the blood flow in her middle cerebral artery was going too fast. He sent me over to triage for a Non-Stress test while he discussed further with the other doctors.
A few minutes into my NST, he came back and indicated that I would be having a C Section the following morning. I would be officially 35 weeks at that point. We headed home, had dinner and tried to figure out how to prepare ourselves for the next day. Although we knew our daughter would do better outside of me, we were having trouble understanding the ramifications of delivering at 35 weeks.
We arrived at the hospital at 7AM. It was right when the nursing staff was switching over, but they were fabulous. Right away they led us to a spot in the corner with a bed, a few machines and a curtain. She provided me with a gown and hooked up my IV. The IV provided me with some fluids first and then a couple rounds of antibiotics. After that, I was given a drink to stop any movements within my stomach and intestinal tract.
Shawn was given his scrubs, we got ready together and then waited until 8:45AM. At this time they took us over to the operating room. Shawn had to wait outside while I got my spinal block.
This was when I finally got extremely nervous and worried. By the time they finished giving the spinal block, I had enough time to get my legs up on the bed before things started to go numb. Thankfully, Shawn was allowed back in this room right as the panic started to set in.
They started working right away which took me by surprise. I’m not sure why I was waiting for some type of sign that they would be beginning. I also wasn’t expecting to feel anything during the surgery…however, as the one nurse described it, it felt as if someone was doing dishes and my stomach was the sink. Nothing hurt, it just felt bizarre.
About 15 minutes later, I heard the squeals of my newborn baby girl! They put her under the heat lamp, weighed her and completed her Apgar score. Shawn was able to watch as they checked her over and he was able to cut the umbilical cord. I could kind of see what they were doing if I turned my head, but I was really in a daze throughout the entire surgery. They bundled Hadley up in a blanket and brought her over for me to see. At this point I was getting stitched up.
Everything throughout the surgery went very quickly. The team was remarkable. They took Hadley directly to the NICU for further assessment and care. Shawn went with Hadley to the NICU, while I waited for my room in the delivery ward to become available.
Shawn sent me lots of pictures and videos from the NICU so I was able to see Hadley. Right away they got her hooked up to a CPAP machine. They drew her blood, hooked her up to the different leads, hooked up her IV and placed her in an incubator .
Unfortunately, I was unable to go see her until around 4pm that day. Shawn helped me up from the hospital bed and into the wheelchair. I was not expecting to be in as much pain as I was. I rarely take Tylenol so needing medication was a first for me. He took me in to see our baby girl and as soon as I saw her I instantly started bawling. The NICU lights were very dim and the room was constantly beeping and buzzing with different monitors and machines. The babies were spaced out and each area had a rocking chair and curtain that could be drawn for more privacy.
Even though the NICU doctor explained everything to expect after delivery, I still wasn’t prepared to see my little girl hooked up to all of these machines. I found myself extremely emotional each time I saw her.
Everything from this point on still felt extremely surreal. It was hard to believe she was here and that we were now officially a family of three. We went back and forth between our room and the NICU everything hour or two to take her temperature, change her bum, attempt to feed her and snuggle with her. After that, we would go back to the room, attempt to pump, sterilize the pump and then do it all over again.
As you can see through all of this, it was very difficult to find any time to sleep. We also found it very difficult to want to sleep when she was down the hall too. We wanted to spend every minute beside her bed so we could at least be holding her hand.
Around 11pm on delivery day, the nurse took Hadley out of her incubator and allowed us to hold her. It felt so amazing to have our first snuggle. I never wanted to let her go. We sat in the rocking chair for a couple of hours and enjoyed the time together.
By the second day after delivering, we were able to watch as they took her CPAP machine off. She did very well breathing on her own. She had the tiniest little cry which almost sounded like a little goat. It was so devastating to hear but also so cute. Like I said, it was an odd combination of emotions for a few days.
The lack of sleep certainly didn’t help with my emotional roller coaster either. By the fourth day I found myself crying very suddenly and for no reason. It definitely felt better to get the tears out though.
Finally we were able to give her a bath! Like any new parents we had absolutely NO idea what we were doing. Thankfully the nurses were around to help us every step of the way (and laugh at us when we didn’t realize we were suppose to take the plastic wrap off of the tub before filling it up with water).
We received help with feeding her, burping her and getting her dressed. They completed a couple of cautionary checks with ultrasounds and scans throughout the days we were there and everything showed that she was doing extremely well.
The doctors indicated they attempted to complete her hearing test, however, she didn’t pass it at this time. Of course, the flood of emotions took over and we thought she was unable to hear. However, the doctors continued to reassure us that sometimes you just need to try the test again in a few days once they’ve had a chance to clear the fluid from the ears and develop a bit more.
Around the third or fourth day they noticed she was very jaundice. They placed her in the phototherapy machine for treatment. At first, we were shocked. We thought, our little baby is not jaundice, she’s perfect! However, looking back…she was as orange as a pumpkin.
By day 6 we were allowed to be transferred to the hospital in our home town. They placed Hadley on the stretcher within an incubator and placed a phototherapy paddle in her incubator to continue treatment as well. The team wheeled her away on the stretcher and naturally, I bawled again. We ran (as fast as one can after a C Section) to collect our things from our room so we could arrive at the next hospital at the same time as she was getting there.
I remember pulling out of the parking lot feeling each bump we drove over. As we pulled outside we each winced at the light. We only then realized we hadn’t left the hospital walls in nearly one week.
We made it back to town just as she was arriving. We went up to the NICU there. There were hardly any babies in the room. We met the team of nurses and they showed us around. They informed us that I would be allowed to stay in what looked like a dorm room, but Shawn would have to leave at 11pm and he was allowed to return at 6am. As they put it “Dad can go home and get some rest.” I remember almost toppling over. We have this brand new baby, I’m an emotional roller coaster and you want my husband to go home and get some rest. I remember muttering that he would be staying as we’re not living in the 50s anymore and this is OUR baby, not just MY baby.
We snuck around the hallways and hid in the family common room trying to catch a few minutes of sleep here and there. Shawn wanted to be there just as much as I wanted him there. We did get in trouble the following day for him staying but too bad!
Anxiously we waited around all day waiting to hear if she was cleared to go home. We gave her another bath and did her carseat test. Shawn hooked her up in the seat. She looked so tiny sitting in the chair. The nurse helped us hooked her leads back up and we watched the monitor for the entire hour while they checked to see if she was fit for discharge.
They completed another hearing test – which she passed! And, before we knew it, it was 6pm and we were getting discharged. We couldn’t believe it. It was surreal to finally be getting to go home. We bundled Hads up, put her in the car seat and placed her in our car. We drove at a speed of probably 10km per hour.
She had the best care we could have ever wished for and we were thrilled to be home starting the next adventure!