29 Week Preemie
Having a premature baby at any gestation is devastating. In 2011, I gave birth to my first baby at 29 weeks and 2 days. We had a 3 month NICU journey with some amazing nurses! I will never ever be able to thank them enough for saving my baby girl. My husband and I had a very rough time parting with our daughter on a daily basis. Nothing can ever prepare you for the heartbreak of being a new mother, and not having your baby constantly by your side. What helped us a lot, was the internet and other preemie parents. Knowing that we were not alone, helped us better understand what we were in for. I will explain to you our NICU journey, what helped us cope through those 11 weeks, and what life was like after we brought our baby home.
I went into labor very unexpectedly. I realized earlier in the day that my baby was not moving as much as she usually did. That is enough to freak any mother out, (and the fact that I am a hypochondriac just made it 50x worse!) So, I called my doctor and left her a message. I got a call back within the hour saying that I should just continue to monitor babies movement, because since she had hiccups earlier in the morning, they weren't concerned. But let me tell you something, when you are pregnant, you know when something is wrong.
I went along the rest of the day normally. I relaxed in bed, then went over to a friend's house. We went out to complete our baby registry's since she was pregnant too, and only 2 weeks ahead of me!
We finished shopping around 7pm and I was completely EXHAUSTED, as I was most of my pregnancy. So, I decided to go home and take a short nap before my husband got home at 8.
When my husband got home he woke me up, and I knew something was wrong. I had back pains that I usually did not have, but I just summed it up to the fact that I was 29 weeks pregnant, and a hypochondriac. (Seriously, I worry about EVERYTHING!) Hubby took a shower and decided to go to Sheetz to get me out of the house for a little so I would stop worrying. WORST IDEA EVER!
When we got to Sheetz I could not stand up. The pains weren't excruciating, but they were enough to make me double over. I went home and laid down, and the pains subsided for about an hour or two, but then they were back at it again. I was hunched over on the bed, and hubby kept saying "try to sleep, you'll be fine in the morning." But I told him we needed to go to the hospital.
Men do not understand the pain of labor.
We got to the hospital at midnight. I went into the bathroom to change into my hospital gown and realized that my mucus plug came out and I was bleeding. The nurse then checked me for dilation. I was only 2 cm, but my contractions were 4 minutes apart. I was given steroids to help babies lungs develop quicker, and told to take it easy.
Because this hospital is so under equipped, (it really is a horrible hospital, everybody complains about it now,) I was sent via ambulance to Hershey Medical Center, since they had a NICU.
I arrived at Hershey med around 2. My husband, father, and stepmother all beat the ambulance there! I was immediately admitted into labor and delivery and hooked up to the contraction machine. They took blood, tested me for strep B, and gave me an IV.
The IV was horrible! It made me pee literally every 40 minutes. I actually timed myself and got up every 40 minutes to pee. I would've went more times, but it was a hassle standing up and walking to the bathroom while I was connected to everything.
At 5 am I was still having regular contractions, but I was still only 2cm. I was hydrated very well, and my Strep B test was negative. I was told to just take it easy for the rest of the day, and that my labor would probably subside since it didn't seem to be progressing. During this time they had a NICU curse come down and explain what happens in the NICU, just in case. She asked me what my biggest fear was, and I told her that it was my baby not surviving. Her response is something that I will never forget, because they were the best words that I have ever heard in my life. "A 29 weeker that does not have any underlying complications has a 95-97% chance of survival in our NICU." That was enough to calm me down for the rest of the night.
When the doctors told me that my contractions would probably stop, they were right! By 8pm my contractions were only coming every 40 minutes, and I was still only 2cm dilated. I was told that I would stay in the hospital until midnight so I could have my second dose of steroids, then I would be sent home on bed rest for the duration of my pregnancy. I was so happy to be getting out of there! But, I still had the IV in, and my 40 minutes had passed, so I had to pee again. I stood up to walk to the bathroom...and my water broke all over the floor!! Most women say that their water doesn't splash out onto the floor like it does in movies, but mine did!
I was put back in bed, and told not to get up no matter what. They even gave me a bedpan! The doctor told me that he wanted to keep the baby in until she couldn't safely be in there anymore. Every day that you are able to keep your baby in counts.
By midnight my contractions had come back full force. I opted out of any pain medication, and just dealt with it. I was only 4cm, but I was told that baby was probably going to make her appearance within the next 24 hours. I was scared. So scared. But, I kept thinking that my best friend was born in the same hospital at 29 weeks, and that was back in 1993. If they were equipped to handle it then, then I should have nothing to worry about...right?
By 3am it was time to push. Within the last hour I had jumped from 6-10cm. I pushed a total of 3 times and out came baby. My room was immediately SWARMED with NICU nurses, doctors, and medical students, ( Hershey Med is where Penn State students get their training.) There were literally 16 people in the room not including my husband and I. The plopped baby on my chest long enough for us to take 1 picture, then she was put in an incubator and rushed up to the NICU.
I got to see my baby an hour after she was born. Since I went into labor on the day that I turned 29 weeks, she was 29 weeks and 2 days. I couldn't believe it. It was heartbreaking and beautiful all at the same time. This was my baby, she was here, and she was doing very well for a 29 weeker. But at the same time, she was in an incubator, wrapped in what seemed like hundreds of wires and tubes, She also had sunglasses on to shield her eyes from the billi lights since she had jaundice.
She was a tiny baby and so fragile. She was 2lbs. and 13oz. and 14 in long. She looked like a baby doll! The nurse started explaining everything to me. They were monitoring her heart (good,) and her oxygen (good,) and they were pricking her foot very often to check her blood. She told me that the first 24 hours are the most crucial, that those hours can determine how her NICU stay is going to go.
I stayed with her from 4-5:30, then went downstairrs to sleep, since I hadn't slept since my nap 2 nights prior. But, I only slept for 2 hours, because I couldn't wait to go up and see what was going on with my baby. So, at 7 am I went back upstairs. She looked the exact same, and she was in the same state. Her nurses told me that I should start pumping, because she will hopefully be able to eat within the next 24 hours. So I spent the rest of that day staring at her, and occasionally taking breaks to pump.
That was the night that I got discharged. It was hard. Especially because I got to hold her for the first time right before I left. I was only allowed to have her out for about 5 minutes, but they were the best 5 minutes of my life at that point. When I put her back it was time to go. I cried all night. From the second I left the hospital until the second I went to sleep. I woke up at least 5 times that night and went through every single picture that I took of her on my phone. Looking at pictures of her helped me a lot during her stay. I had pictures on my phone, on my camera, and I printed a few out and put them in frames on my nightstand.
My husband got off of work the next 2 days so that we could spend most of our time at the NICU. When we got there the next morning they had her feeding tube in and were giving her 2 cc's of breast milk. Besides that, nothing else changed for the remaineder of the week.
Week 2 was different; During this time they put her on caffeine, since she was having pretty regular drops in her heart rate. The caffeine kept her heart rate up. She was also taken out from under the billi lights since her Jaundice had finally dissipated.
During week 3 nothing changed, we were in the same position. It was Thanksgiving week, and we spent the entire holiday with her. During her NICU stay we visited her every single day, except 3 days during this week when we had a cough.
Weeks 4-5 remained constant. They moved her into a new room, but everything was the same. There wasn't much improvement, except that she gained all of the weight back that she lost after birth, plus 2 oz.
Week 5 was really hard for me. Since they take so much blood from preemies, they often times need blood transfusions. Which is exactly what happened to us. It was a week before Christmas, and I was sitting in the NICU watching a tube of blood be disbursed into my preemie who was only supposed to be at 34 weeks gestation right now. The nurses could tell I was having a really hard time. What they did helped me a lot. They cut 2 pieces of cloth, one piece they put under the baby's head, and the other I wore under my bra strap. We swapped the pieces everyday. This had multiple purposes; A, it would help me to feel like I had a piece of my baby with me all of the time. B, it would increase my milk supply. C, it would get her used to my smell.
Around week 5 we became rather close with the parents of the baby next to ours. The baby's name was Mateoh, and was born full term, but he had Omphalocele. He was born with all of his intestines, and abdominal organs outside of his body. They hung in a bag over his belly button and very slowly proceeded to go back into his body. Becoming friendly with the other parents in the NICU made it easier for us. We had people to talk to who understood what we were going through.
The blood transfusion made a major difference in our baby! As much as I hated watching her get a transfusion, it made week 6 a lot easier. She was able to regulate her breathing, and stopped having bradys and Desats. This allowed her to have her giant oxygen mask off, and now she was only wearing a nasal cannula! It was Christmas day when we walked in and were able to see her tiny little face. The improvements just continued from here.
The first day of week 7 we walked in and couldn't find our baby. We realized our baby's incubator was not in her normal spot, so we walked around for a minute trying to find her. Then we realized that our baby was still in the same spot, she was just out of her incubator and in a bassinet! She was able to maintain her own body temperature, and did not need the extra assistance anymore. Without the oxygen mask and the incubator, she was starting to look more like a normal newborn.
Week 8 brought on a new challenge; getting her to feed from a bottle. She was now drinking 2 oz of milk at each feeding, and they were really looking to get rid of her G Tube asap. Another step towards coming home. However, my baby had a really hard time drinking from the bottle. We were lucky if we could get her to drink a quarter of an once before falling to sleep or becoming disinterested.
This was also the time that my friend had her baby. We had been best friends throughout our childhood & we loved sharing our pregnancies together. So, when she had her baby girl full term and perfectly healthy, I was completed jealous! I couldn't help it! I was happy for her, and happy for baby, but it was hard. They even had to induce her, because her baby did not want to come out. I was there for her entire induction day, she was only in labor 8 hours, while I was in labor for 32, and I couldn't stand being there the whole time because I just felt myself comparing her perfect delivery, to my complicated one. I felt like I was going to cry. I called the NICU at least 4 times in those 8 hours to hear about any updates on how my daughter was doing. She got to take her newborn home 2 days after he delivery, and I couldn't even go to her house. Partially because I was so busy in the NICU, but also because I would just break out in tears. I was happy for her, but sad for me.
Week 9 proceeded the same, except this was the week that she was able to stop her Caffeine, and get her nasal cannula taken out. We were told that she would hopefully come home in a few days!
Week 10 approached and we had scheduled a sleep in night. At our hospital, they have a room that is like a regular hospital room adjacent from the NICU. This is for the purpose of moms and dads getting a trial run with their baby. During our trial night everything went pretty well. They brought her in in her bassinet, no nasal cannula, no heart rate monitor, and no oxygen monitor. She was free of everything except her G Tube. The night went perfectly, I set an alarm for every 3 hours so that I would remember to get up and feed her in case she didn't wake up, but she did! She was taking about half of her bottle, before I had to put the rest in her G Tube.
The next morning she was brought back into the NICU so that the doctors could make their rounds. I was nervous because this is when we would find out if she could come home that day or not. The doctors originally said no, since she was only taking half of her bottle. But I was so impatient, and I knew that she was fine, and I just broke down. I started crying, and you could tell that the doctors felt bad. They had a speech therapist come up to make sure that everything was ok with the way that she was swallowing, and to make sure that her throat and mouth were working together. Everything checked out fine. She was gaining weight evenly, and was up to 7 lbs now! Between my tears and the encouragement of the speech therapist, the doctors were persuaded to allow me to take her home. Before we left, they pulled her feeding tube out, but they taught me how to change it in case I needed to use it at home. I was told to make a pediatrician appointment in 2 days so we could make sure that she was still healthy.
And then that was it. We left the NICU that evening at 4pm, and took her home with nothing attached to her.
After Coming Home
During her first pediatrician appointment everything was fine. They were satisfied, and we didn't have to go back for another 2 weeks! However, we did have Early Intervention come to our house.
Over her first year they monitored her development. I had issues producing breast milk, so she was put on Similar NeoSure formula. She continued to grow regularly, she hit all of her milestones within the first year that she should have. She rolled over at 7 months, sat unassisted at 8 months, and even crawled at 11 months! The only challenge we had was getting her to walk, which took until 15 months, which is actually the average age that babies start walking. Early intervention and her doctor were very please with her development, and now she continues to develop like any other child that is her age.