Our parenting journey began at 26 weeks and 4 days
November is Prematurity Awareness Month
Both of our children were born prematurely due to spontaneous labor — Carter was born at 26 weeks and 4 days and Aubrey was born at 32 weeks.
Only 6% of premature babies arrive before 28 weeks. These babies are termed “micro-preemies”. Most need life-saving interventions and there are lifelong repercussions from being born so early.
While 10% of preemies are born between 28 and 32 weeks, 32 weeks and up typically fare the best in their NICU stays, don’t need as many interventions and often fully catch up developmentally, etc. For us, these statistics have held true.
With Carter, my first pregnancy, everything was fine and there was no indication that I would deliver early. So, when I started having very bad back pain, I had no inclination that it could possibly be labor. I felt like a “baby” calling my obstetrician (especially in the middle of the night) so I tried to manage the pain on my own.
It was around 5 a.m. that my membranes ruptured and we knew that something wasn’t right, but I still had no idea I was in labor. When we arrived at the hospital and discovered I was 6 centimeters dilated and Carter was coming fast, we were in total disbelief. It was March 20, and Carter wasn’t due until June 22.
It was icy that morning so delivering at our local hospital was our only option. I was given magnesium via IV and steroids to help his lungs and brain but we will never know if they were effective.
Carter’s extremely early birth caused him to need other life-saving interventions. He thankfully was only intubated right at birth and for his trip up to the level 4 NICU at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. He was able to come off the ventilator and use other breathing assistance until he was strong enough to breathe on his own.
We were able to go a bit further in my pregnancy with Aubrey thanks to progesterone injections that my husband gave me weekly starting at 16 weeks. I also was also able to receive steroids at 28 weeks pregnant with Aubrey and a second dose when I was in labor.
Aubrey needed a little oxygen for her first few days of life, but quickly became just a “grower and a feeder.” She did receive early interventions during her first year and a half of life, but quickly caught up developmentally and hasn’t slowed down since.
Carter has an autism diagnosis. He also has some significant vision issues that we are still sorting out. He doesn’t have Retinopathy of Prematurity (or ROP) which is the most common eye condition resulting from premature birth, but without a doubt, his visual field deficits and enlarged optic nerve are from lack of time in the womb.
He still has significant fine motor delays and is receiving occupational therapy through a private facility and school. Carter also has an open PDA, an opening between the two major blood vessels leading from the heart. He requires bi-yearly echocardiograms and cardiology follow-ups.
All of these conditions stem directly from his extreme premature birth.
One in 10 babies are born prematurely. I will never know why it happened to us the first time around. And once you have a preemie, you are far more likely to deliver prematurely in later pregnancies as well.
I am so thankful we made it to 32 weeks but I will never stop yearning for a full-time “normal” pregnancy and delivery. I will never know what it feels like to have visitors at the hospital see me and my baby. I will never know what it’s like to deliver and be discharged with my baby in tow. I will probably never stop feeling the loss of these things.
The pain of NICU never leaves you. It isn’t just the shock of what happened, but also the pain of what didn’t. It is a journey and one I am so proud of myself, my husband, children for enduring. I live in awe of both of them and know I am lucky to live among true miracles. Awareness is contagious and I am thankful to share my story with all of you.
Lauren Martone is a blogger for ParentingNH from southern New Hampshire. You can contact her at email@example.com. Lauren and her family’s story were featured in the July 2015 issue of ParentingNH, and also in the July 2018 issue.