I was 15 weeks pregnant when I heard (for the first of many times), "I think we need to be prepared to lose this baby." Easy enough for the doctor to say, right? How could I ever be prepared for my child to die? My baby (my daughter, I also learned this visit) was measuring only 15 weeks instead of the 17 weeks that she ought to have been. Babies who are that far behind that early in a pregnancy generally don't survive to be born alive.
That was a pretty crappy day.
That was a pretty crappy day.
The next weeks and months were no picnic either, but we went on with our day to day lives. And while I knew that there was a good chance that my daughter would die, I certainly didn't prepare myself for it. I couldn't give up on our Itty Bitty, as my husband and I started calling her. If her own mother didn't believe she could live, what chance did she have? We had an amniocentesis (no prolems!). I gave myself shots. I went to appointment after appointmet. And I hoped and prayed and sang to my baby girl every day.
Amazingly, I was still pregnant at 27 weeks when we moved from Kentucky to Tennessee. I hadn't even met my new doctors yet when I was admitted to the hospital and officially diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. (My doctors now think that this was the root of the problem - the pre-e set in early and messed up the placenta, keeping Itty Bitty from getting the nutrients she needed to grow.) I would be there for the duration of the pregnancy...which we hoped would be a very long time.
It wasn't. By Saturday, I had developed H.E.L.L.P. syndrome - an even more dangerous form of pre-eclampsia. We now had to deliver, even though at almost 28 weeks and 370 grams, my daughter -- now named Becca -- was too small to survive. I refused to be put under general anesthesia because if Becca only lived for 2 or 3 minutes, I was going to be awake for those minutes, darn it!
But Becca was stonger than we gave her credit for! She was able to be intubated (a surprise to the docs, as she was so small), but only needed to be on the ventilator for a total of 2 days, thanks to a dose of surfactant, a treatment for preemies' lungs developed by March of Dimes researchers. She spent 123 days (17 1/2 weeks, or 4 months and 1 day) in the NICU at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital. She received 26 blood transfusions. She broke all kinds of records - though not necessarily the kindsof records that you'd like your child to break! When we finally got to take her home, 5 1/2 weeks after her due date, she weighed about 4 1/2 pounds.
Since then, my life has been all about helping Becca reach her full potential. We went under "house arrest" for her first two winters to protect her against the potentially deadly respiratory illness, RSV. We followed up with specialists from 8 different areas and her regular pediatrician. She's been in physical, occupational and feeding therapies for over a year. She's got a feeding tube and takes growth hormone injections to help her grow (she's still about the size of a child 1/2 her age), but she's doing great. She's strong and happy and generally healthy and fun. And on this blog you can watch her learn and grow...and turn her mama's hair grey.