My husband and I were trying to get pregnant for a year when we finally found out in August 2016 that we were finally having a baby! I waited 4 weeks before making my first appointment, as I had a positive pregnancy test earlier in the year that turned out to be a chemical pregnancy only a few days after scheduling the initial appointment, and wanted to make sure the same thing wouldn’t happen again. When we went in for our first appointment at 10 weeks, the tech said his measurements actually put him at 11 weeks 4 days, with a due date of April 2, 2017. It was so surreal to see our little creation on that screen! We had another ultrasound at 20 weeks to find out the sex and have the anatomy scan. Pretty quickly we learned that it was a boy! Everything was within normal limits for the anatomy scan. When I went over for my check up and chat with the doctor, my blood pressure tested somewhat high, but nothing that surprised me since I had just learned the sex of my baby boy. Side note, I have pre-existing high blood pressure, and had weaned off my medication (that I had been on for 6 years) at week 4 of pregnancy. Up until this point, my blood pressure had always been normal at my checkups and any time I took it myself outside of appointments. Fast forward to week 27. I had my 1 hour glucose test scheduled on January 5 late in the afternoon. Note, I was feeling fine when I got to the appointment, a little warm because I was in layers and it was warm in the office given it was snowing a little that day). Nothing out of the ordinary for me. They did the finger prick to run the tests, then took my blood pressure. Woah! it was higher than I had ever seen it, 170/110. They took it 2 more times with no significant changes. The doctor passed by as this was occurring and seemed concerned. I brushed it off as being nervous (diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder 6 years ago) about glucose test (don’t like finger pricks and worried about failing) and meeting a new doctor (I was seeing all the doctors in the practice in case I delivered on a day my primary was not on call). The doctor measured my bump, and he was measuring where he should have been for 27 weeks. The doctor did not like my blood pressure and told me I needed to go to the hospital to labor and delivery triage.
We headed to L&D. They checked us in and hooked me up for monitoring. They started me on medications to try to manage my blood pressure, and we were hoping to be discharged the next day. We had an ultrasound late that night to check on baby boy. At 27 weeks, he was measuring small, close to 24 weeks. They also noted that the umbilical cord was compromised. They would continue to monitor both of us. That night, the OB on call (also the doctor who saw me at my appointment) said it was almost certain that he would not make it to term, and that they were hoping he would stay in at least another week. I would be on bedrest until he arrived. Fear struck me. I received the first steroid shot to boost his lungs just in case he needed to be “taken out”. We don’t have family that lives down the road, so we started making calls and sending texts to let our parents and siblings know that what we thought was going to be a precautionary visit was turning into something more serious. We live in Kentucky, my husband’s parents live here as well but are 2.5 hours away, and my parents live in Louisiana. That Friday, January 6, my blood pressure was not improving, and it was looking likely that we would need to deliver in the next few days. They monitored us both closely, and that night, around 6pm, the OB said we would need to deliver that night. His parents could get there soon, but my parents wouldn’t be able to get there until much later. I was scared, needless to say. They brought me back to the OR when it was time, and gave me a spinal. That was more painful than I anticipated. It didn’t work! I had to get another one. Thankfully that took. I was cold, scared, numb, shaking… more terrified than I had ever been. The delivery was quick. At 8:25pm, they delivered my 2lb, 13.5in baby boy. I was able to see my 27 weeks and 5 days baby boy for a brief second before they gave him over to the neonatal delivery team. He was so wrinkly, and had a full head of dark hair! I was in love already. Now, I was given the 2nd shot before my surgery, but they usually want it to take its 24 hour course, which we did not have. We had about 2hours. I was not anticipating hearing my baby cry for the first time right after delivery, but there he was, giving us a cry. It was such as sweet sound. They checked him out, intubated and insulated him, and wheeled him by, just slow enough that we could see him one last time before they brought him up to the NICU. I was brought back to my room after surgery to rest. Things get a little fuzzy at this point, and the story has to be told to me by my husband because I don’t remember much. Apparently, I had a slow bleed from the surgery, very slow, and didn’t show symptoms for a few hours. My blood pressure dropped significantly, and I faintly remember them having to scratch my back and prompt me to take deep breaths because I was not doing a good job of breathing. They sent me to interventional radiology, and they were able to stop the bleed. Thankfully I was still numb from the c-section, because they couldn’t get through the artery in the right side of my groin and had to go in through the left. Yay for more scars! Funny side note, they said I was delusional. They asked where I was, and I said McDonald’s! In my defense, I was hungry, thirsty, and had been smelling coffee all day (I would get a small McDonald’s coffee every morning before work while pregnant).
I was transferred to ICU after all of my surgery stuff and I was more stable. My blood pressure would not come down! I was in ICU for about 3 days before being transferred to the mother/baby unit. I did not get to see my boy for 3 days. It was agonizing. I remember the first time I got to go up to the NICU. It was the first day I was able to walk again after surgery. I was checked in, walked through the doors and immediately saw his room. They had cut out bubble letters and decorated his window with his name: Walker. I couldn’t go in just yet, as i had to was up for his safety. When i first saw him, i had a hard time maintaining my composure. There he was, in a large box isolated from the world. i like to say he was getting a jump start on his summer tan while he was under his light with what i called his “cool shades” on. Because i was still sick with my hematoma and ongoing blood pressure issues, i could only visit him in short bursts of time. pretty quickly though, i was able to start kangaroo care with him. pictures will never capture just how small he felt lying on my chest. he felt like nothing, except for the few little wiggles he would give. we started with 1 hour a day of kangaroo and pretty quickly made our way up to a couple of hours at a time. that first week was scary, I knew nothing about survival rates of a 27 week old baby. i started reading things, and I encourage any new mom to a preemie to NEVER read anything about preemies! Stay naive! i sincerely think that’s what got me through our 81 day stay. He was intubated twice, once at birth and another time near the beginning of February. I don’t even think his time intubated would add up to 2 full weeks. After he was extubated the second time, they started to push him really hard, and he pushed back. He started to have apnic episodes that required “bagging” intervention. He hadn’t needed it before, and I’m still unsure of why he needed it after all that time. He would get bagged what felt like once a week from mid-February to end of March. We did find out that they were most likely reflux related, and my mid-March everyone was trying to figure out how best to get this kid out of the NICU because the only thing that was holding him back, that ever held him back, was his breathing. We’re fortunate that it was never really untying more than that, given his age. He started with apnea of prematurity, and now has reflux related apnea. We learned that his reflux was better when he bottle fed, so he went from taking every other feed by bottle (the others by NG tube), to all feeds by mouth. His nurse said they rarely progress them with bottle feeds that quickly. He did really well with his bottle feeds for about 2 days then started backsliding. He wouldn’t wake up to eat, would only take half a bottle, would refuse to open his mouth… Then he started having choking episodes that resulted in apnic episodes, so he had a swallow study. His food was penetrating his airway (at this point, he was taking half breastmilk/half formula), so they decided to thinking it. The decision was made to take out breastmilk completely, as it thinned any thickening they tried to do. We got the formula to the right consistency, found the right bottle, and this kid just took off! The swallow study was done on a Thursday, and we said our goodbyes to the NICU the following Tuesday.
We’ve been home for a week and a day, and he still has at least 1 episode a day with his feeds or right after his feeds. Because we were fortunate enough to be in the NICU every day for hours on end, his team and we felt as though we could handle these episodes, and so far we’ve done well. He’s done well. We couldn’t be more proud of what he’s overcome to get to where he’s at. He is 40 weeks 3 days corrected age, and will be 3 months on the 6th. He just weighed in at 7 pounds 7 ounces, and 46 cm long!
Some Kickee Pants side notes:
My sister in law introduced us to the brand when she and my brother had their first child. I knew I wanted my first outfit for Walker to be Kickee Pants, and it was! Very soon after we announced the pregnancy, our family sent us an outfit (blackbirds in a pie). I now have quite the collection of outfits for our little one. As soon as he was allowed to wear clothes, I chose to put him in the giraffe footed onesie. It was perfect, as his isolette was the giraffe brand, and the isolette cover had giraffes all over it. Very quickly this kid became the best dressed kiddo in the NICU, and it was a thing for nurses to come see what kickee outfit he was in each day. Some crowd favorites were blackbird in a pie, lion butt (as I like to call it), cassette tapes, panda bear… who am I kidding, they were all favorites! We will continue to enjoy your brand, why it was created, and what it stands for. Thank you for being a little bright spot during some of our darkest days.
#KicKeeGivesBack #NICU4U #KPspreadtheLOVE
I wanted to share our NICU story with you. It might not be as traumatic or dramatic as other stories but it's our story and it's very real.
When I found out that I was pregnant for the first time, I like many others, was scared but oh so excited. We found out several months in that we were having a boy and we were ridiculously happy. Time went on and I had a very healthy, normal pregnancy. At 35 weeks and a few days, my mom, who lives in another state, was kind enough to throw me a baby shower at my house. About five hours after my shower ended, my water broke at our house. I was petrified. I was absolutely not expecting to have a baby early. My husband rushed me to the hospital with my parents following close behind. I checked in around midnight and it was confirmed that I was in labor. At 9:22 a.m. our son Joshua was born. I didn't get to hold him for more than thirty seconds before he was whisked away from me and surrounded by a team of NICU staff members. No one told me what was happening at the time but I learned later that our sweet little boy's lungs were not developed enough and that he had to spend time in the NICU. It was estimated that he would spend five weeks in the NICU, closer to what would have been his due date. I was crushed. I'll spare you all the details but we had to deal with CPAP, intubation, surfactant, high billirubin levels, nasal oxygen tubes and a garvage tube so that he could get the all-important colostrum and breast milk since he couldn't feed and breathe at the same time any other way. We didn't even get to hold him until the day after he was born but we were so grateful for that.
One of the worst parts about having a child in the NICU is leaving the hospital without your baby. To say it is heartbreaking and gut wrenching would be an understatement. Visiting your child in the NICU isn't much better: monitors and alarms are constantly going off, you're glued to the numbers on the screen, you brace yourself every time you go in because you don't know if your child has had a good day or a bad day. I cried so much the first few days at my house without my little boy. And then one day, like a light from heaven, I had a sudden realization: Joshua's half birthday would fall exactly on Christmas. Just like that, a little bit of peace came to me.
We were some of the lucky ones, Joshua only spent 13 days in the NICU. Though those were the longest 13 days of my life, I know that it made us stronger. And I also know that there are many preemies and their families that aren't so lucky. As for me, every Christmas I say a little thank you to God for blessing us with such a sweet, smart, empathetic boy who loves everyone and everything. He will be 5 this June 25th and I will thank God then too.
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When I was pregnant with my youngest daughter, Quinn, we discovered that I had a potentially life-threatening condition called placenta percreta. With placenta percreta, the placenta grows too deeply into and through the uterus and invades other organs. We found out that the chance of hemorrhage was extremely high and so our doctors agreed that our new plan was to deliver at 36 weeks. Unfortunately, we did not make it. On the morning of April 7, 2015, at just 27 weeks and 2 days, I had a placental abruption and without saying goodbye to my 2.5 year old or other family, was rushed into an emergency c-section/hysterectomy to save both my life and my daughter's. Quinn was 1lb 12oz and 13in long. I was lucky enough to hear one cry from her before she was rushed away to the NICU and I was put under for the rest of my 6 hour surgery. Our NICU journey was long and intense. Quinn spent 109 long days in the NICU and battled infections, surgery and complications from surgery. During this time, buying Kickee Pants became almost like therapy for me. Aside from pumping, Kickee softness often felt like the only thing I could do for my tiny girl. When I was finally allowed to hold her, she was always wrapped in a Kickee swaddle. I also used stroller blankets as sheets in her isolette. I was known in the NICU as the lady with the super soft blankets. We were so blessed to have an amazing team of nurses and doctors during our stay. Truly, I cannot say enough about the kindness and strength I witnessed in the NICU. The nurses always did their best to help me feel included in Quinn's care when I felt so out of control and powerless. Our nurses took wonderful care of our tiny love and managed to give me some peace during those heartbreaking moments when I couldn't be with my baby. It was a long, terrifying road, but I will always be grateful for the care we received and for our outcome. Our tiny, but mighty Quinn turns 2 on Friday and is doing so well and continues to amaze us daily!
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Our story really began during our first pregnancy back in 2006. I experienced pre-term labor multiple times before a final trip to L&D triage the day I hit 36 weeks. After maxing out the medicine dosage to try to stop labor again that day, we were informed that our baby boy was to be born within hours. I was shocked, and tried to convince my husband I could make the contractions stop, so he should take me home since I was NOT ready to have a baby that day. Obviously that didn’t happen. Our first little preemie came into the world that day weighing a whopping 5 lbs 12 oz, and was the teeniest baby I’d ever held, but was 100% perfect. Our second pregnancy 2 years later followed much the same trajectory as our first, and again baby came at 36 weeks. She was born with “wet lungs” and had to spend a little extra time in the nursery on some oxygen support, but that little 5 pounder was overall healthy, as well.
About three years after that, we decided we were ready to try for another baby- our dream has always been to have at least 5-6 kiddos. That decision took us down a road we never expected: 6+ years of unexplained secondary infertility. We sought help from a top-notch specialist in our city where we endured multiple (unsuccessful) fertility treatments. I finally prayed that if we weren’t intended to have anymore biological children, that God would take that desire away from my heart, and draw us in to adoption.
In February 2016, my husband and I celebrated out 10th wedding anniversary. Of course, looking back over that ten year span, our lives looked nothing like we had imagined them to the night we said “I Do”. We had a 9 year old and a 7 year old, and dreamt of more, but had started to feel like the age gap was getting too big, and perhaps we should abandon attempts at having another biological child. Yet, on the morning of February 29, we found out that God must not think the age gap mattered at all. We were finally pregnant with out long-awaited third miracle.
Those first weeks saw me nervous and unsettled, praying desperately that the pregnancy was viable. I would whisper to myself (and in my mind, to that baby) “Hang in there little one. It’s you and me, and we got this!” Everything looked great in those early weeks after we first saw the heartbeat. We were elated, and decided we would let this “tie breaker baby” be a surprise gender reveal for its birthday.
The day we went for our 20 week anatomy scan, we were excited to bring our older children to see their newest sibling and share in that incredible experience. We didn’t expect they would share in us learning some potentially life-changing news. The technician identified some “concerning” markers during the scan, and we were moved to a room to consult with the maternal fetal medicine specialist. It was during that conversation that we learned our precious baby could be afflicted with a heart defect and some possible genetic abnormalities. We would have to wait 8 weeks for another ultrasound, when the baby was bigger, before we would know more. Those 8 weeks were excruciating. We prayed and researched and studied, just to try to prepare ourselves for what that would mean for our baby and our family. Finally, during the follow up scan we were told the heart defect was nothing to “worry” about, but it would continue to be monitored. They had no reason to believe any genetic abnormalities were present, however there were new problems. Baby was measuring small- only in the 2nd percentile for that gestation. The blood flow from the placenta through the umbilical cord didn’t look “optimal”. Thus began weekly trips to the perinatologist for monitoring and ultrasounds, with the caveat that they could potentially have to take the baby at any point if it was indicated during those appointments. The baby was diagnosed with Intrauterine Growth Restriction, and wasn’t receiving all the nutrition it needed from the placenta.To prepare us for early delivery, I received steroid shots to help baby’s lungs develop more quickly and was put on bed rest. The day of my 35 week monitoring appointment was odd to begin with. Living in Oklahoma, we know all too well the threat of tornadoes, but not usually in October. However that day we were in the target for severe weather. As I was sitting in the recliner during my non-stress test, I got an alert on my phone that our area was put under a tornado watch. I just went about my way, reading my magazine when the nurse stepped in and asked how I was feeling. The baby’s heart rate had climbed over 180 beats per minute, and wasn’t coming down. She immediately whisked me into the ultrasound room. The ultrasound tech came in an started taking her measurements, but was very quiet through the whole exam. She then went to get another tech. All I could focus on at that moment was watching that tiny heartbeat flashing on the screen…that was my peace, and the only reason I was keeping my composure. I was moved to a third room to wait for the perinatologist. He then moved me to another ultrasound room, where he told me the level of amniotic fluid around my baby was dangerously low, and he believed my placenta was failing- baby hadn’t grown more than 2 oz in 3 weeks. He called my OB, then turned to me and said “You need to go straight to the hospital. You’re having that baby today.”
As I walked across the parking lot to the hospital, I looked up at the thunderheads building and begged God to not make me have to take shelter from a tornado the day my baby was being born too early. When I called my husband to tell him to get to the hospital, he didn’t understand what was going on. I had to put a nurse on the phone for him to realize he needed to leave work ASAP. Just a few short hours later- without any of the bags or items I had prepared to bring to the hospital- I was on my way into the OR for my c-section delivery. I was so nervous, and thunderstorms were booming outside, but was finally starting to settle once the medicine started to take effect. Then my OB unexpectedly asked how many more children we were hoping to have. When I said “1 or 2” he told me he would only be comfortable with one more. I had a “uterine window” through which he could see straight through to our baby- my previous scar had thinned out so much that I was at risk for uterine rupture at any moment. He told us the reason the placenta wasn’t working was because it was beginning to separate as a result of the thinning uterine wall. He then informed us that any potential future baby would have to be delivered at 35 weeks at the latest. There was so much information to process in those moments...
Finally, that teeny baby arrived- crying heartily as they shuttled him over to the warmer to assess him. He was breathing too rapidly and his sugar level was too low. I saw him for a brief moment, but wasn’t even able to kiss him goodbye before they whisked him away to the NICU. I then spent the next 25 minutes laying on the OR table wondering about my baby BOY (yay!), as the team of doctors and nurses searched frantically for a lost surgical sponge. (I went to nursing school, my husband is a lawyer…we both knew what a missing sponge could mean.) It was excruciating! They finally found the sponge, and they were able to close my surgical incision.
We spent the next 6 (stormy) hours back and forth between my recovery room and the transitional NICU as they tried to let our sweet Sullivan regulate his breathing and body temp and respiration rate on his own. They finally said he was “good enough” to some back to my room with me. We spent a blissful three hours together in my room before an entire team of specialists came back to our room to take him to the Level III NICU. His blood sugar was dangerously low, and his respiration rate needing to be regulated via supportive equipment.
While he only spent 6 days in the NICU (and I was fortunate that my surgical complications warranted a longer-than-usual hospital stay for me), it was the hardest thing we have endured as a family. His big brother and sister were so great about learning proper scrubbing/hand-washing technique, being patient as nurses helped them hold that tiny 4 lb baby with all his wires and tubes, and most of all, understanding that mom and dad had to devote an inordinate amount of our time and attention to this new being, while their daily care was put into the hands of their grandparents (totally okay and responsible). That week, and the weeks that followed, as we basically lived like hobbits in our house to avoid illness and everything else that threatens a medically fragile preemie, helped our family bond and grow in ways I could never have foreseen.
I know definitively that if we are blessed enough to have that “one last baby” in the coming year or so, that even knowing it will be a preemie, we will make it! Having had three preemies now, and one that was a drastically more complex preemie, we feel so encouraged that any baby we welcome into our family will have all the love and attention (including medical) they could ever want. We know what it is to deeply yearn for a baby, and then accept whatever may come with that blessing when it arrives. We look forward to how God will bless us and our family in the years to come, but we also are content in knowing He has us right where we need to be, and are so grateful for the life lessons and experience he has given us in out children.
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