Today is the first ever World Prematurity Day. In honor of that, I am honoring my very own preemie today.
Just over two years ago, we brought our little girl home weighing 4 pounds, 6 ounces, after a 67-day stay in the NICU.
Roxy was born at 29 weeks and 1 day on September 5, 2009. Eleven weeks early due to preeclampsia. She weighed in at 1 pound, 9 ounces at birth and was a mere 14 inches long. She did not cry in the delivery room. Rather, after her daddy cutting the umbilical cord, she was immediately resuscitated.
We only saw her for 10 minutes that Saturday afternoon. She was being transferred to a bigger hospital with a Level 3 NICU. The first time I saw her, I couldn't believe how tiny she was, but she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. She was looking out of the isolette at all of us around her with big black eyes that seemed to take it all in. She was upset, but she was so small, we couldn't hear her cries.
I remember my first time in the NICU crying next to her bed because I felt as if I had failed her in some way. It was my body's fault for failing to keep her safe until she was able to survive this world on her own.
Throughout our NICU journey, it seemed like we took two steps backward for every one step forward as is common for a lot of NICU families. Roxy contracted a staph infection her first week in the NICU from her PICC line. She had to be put under bilirubin lights for jaundice. She was tested for necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC); she had numerous ultrasounds of her head to monitor her Grade I Intraventricular Brain Hemorrhage (IVH); and her eyes were tested bi-weekly for Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP).
We battled for weight gain, learning how to suck a bottle of breastmilk (we never really got to try breastfeeding), keeping her temperature up, and weaning from the oxygen.
We quickly learned the jargon and acronyms of the NICU. NICU, PICC line, crit, As, Bs, desats, and the list continues.
After two weeks, I had to return to work so I juggled working 8 hour days and hospital visits at night. I wanted to be sure that Roxy knew we hadn't forgotten about her and we would always be there for her. While I was at work, I would call to check in before work, at lunch, and on my way to the hospital as well as after I got back home each night. I think the nurses were tired of us when we finally got to come home.
The firsts are different for a parent of the NICU. You have the first time your baby wears clothes, the first time they are able to have breastmilk (even if it is through a NG tube), the first time they take a bottle, the first time you see them without a nasal cannula, the first time you are allowed to change a diaper, give a bath, or hold them.
For any parent who has to experience the NICU, it is scary and strange and you are thrust into it not knowing what or why or when. It is amazing to see the fighter in these tiniest babies come out. Roxy proved how strong she was time and again while we were there.
When I think back to those days, I am so thankful for the doctors who were patient, but kept alert on the most minute changes in our baby. The nurses who took the time to explain terms we weren't for sure about and who knew our baby by her given name rather than by Baby Girl Pridgen. For Nurse Sherry who pushed Roxy a little bit more than others because she knew she could do it. I'm thankful that the March of Dimes has a mission that all babies will be born healthy and hope that there will be an end to prematurity one day.
Don't forget to hug a preemie today on World Prematurity Day!
Do you have a preemie? What is your story?