Today, November 17th, is World Prematurity Day. In honor of our micro-preemie, I am re-sharing a poem I wrote years ago. I’d tell you to close your eyes to imagine, but then you wouldn’t be able to read. So read, and then close your eyes and imagine what it’s like to be the parent of a child born entirely too soon, too small, and too sick. 1 in 9 babies is born too soon in the United States. 15 millions babies are born prematurely worldwide each year (before 37 weeks gestation). Prematurity is the number one killer of infants. And the United States has the highest rate of premature birth of any developed country. If you’re so inclined, please wear purple today in honor of all those babies born too soon, and in memory of those who did not survive their early birth.
Imagine…..Finally seeing the second blue line after trying for a year, and after 5 months of fertility treatments, only to miscarry two days later.
Imagine…..Seeing those two blue lines again five months later, only it’s so faint as it was before that you’re sure that you will miscarry again.
Imagine…..Beginning to bleed at nine weeks, and you just know that it’s over and you’ll have to start those painful shots again.
Imagine……The bleeding stops after a week, and you breathe a sigh of relief that will be short-lived.
Imagine…..Being at work and nearly fall over for the pain in your lower back, feeling like you’re going to pass out and throw up all at the same time.
Imagine…..Calling the doctor that came highly recommended, and who is touted as one of the best in the county, to be told “you just need to put your feet up, maybe get a massage.”
Imagine…The same thing happening two weeks later, and your husband drives you home from work.
Imagine….Going to that massage appt your highly-recommended, highly touted doctor suggested.
Imagine….Going into the bathroom and seeing the toilet full of blood when you stand up.
Imagine…..Thinking first that your baby is dead, and you will never be able to go through this again.
Imagine….Hearing that baby’s heartbeat on the monitor as soon as you are admitted and strapped onto the fetal monitor and your heart finally starts beating again.
Imagine….Almost finding out if you are having a boy or a girl because you think you might want to know now that you’re baby is in trouble, but then deciding, superstitiously or whatever, that you won’t because that is somehow admitting that the worst might happen.
Imagine…Your first ever ambulance ride at the age of 31 as you are transferred to another hospital that can handle a 23 weeker.
Imagine…..The complete disbelief of the possibility that your baby might be delivered that night, and will never know life because 23 weeks is “too early” to be viable.
Imagine…Praying all night, as the magnesium hotly courses through your veins, that somehow you will stay pregnant for at least three more days to get to “viability”.
Imagine…..Still bleeding, more than you thought you could and still survive, and being told five days later that you will not leave that hospital until you get to 32 weeks or deliver your baby, whichever comes first.
Imagine…The doctor estimates your baby to weigh 1 lb 4 ozs, barely more than a bag of flour, and you can’t even wrap your brain around that number, that image.
Imagine….Laying in bed, one your side, for 2 ½ weeks, sitting up only to eat, watched over every minute for how much you’re eating because you’ve lost too much weight, watched over for how much you’re drinking because although you can get up to go to the bathroom the doctor doesn’t want you up much and you already have iv fluids.
Imagine…IV changes every three days, watching more of the Olympics than you’ve ever seen in your life, feeling like you know Rosie O’Donnel, Matt Lauer, Katie Couric, and Oprah personally, not being able to read because the magnesium slows your brain down so much you can’t concentrate.
Imagine….Starting a fever at 25 weeks 6 days that will send you into labor they won’t stop because they don’t want the baby to get the staph infection they’ve determined you have.
Imagine…Yelling at the doctor that you won’t have an amniocentesis because you won’t be poked with one more needle, you won’t take the chance of introducing the infection to your baby any sooner than he might get it, you don’t want to know whether they think your baby is “viable” or not – you just want them to save him no matter what.
Imagine….Complete silence in the room after you child is born, not even being told whether you have a son or a daughter until your husband finally works up the courage to look at the baby and tell you that you have a son.
Imagine…Hearing the tiniest cry you’ve ever heard, and somehow, naively, thinking that everything will be okay.
Imagine…When you finally get to see your son three hours later, you place your pinky finger in his hand, and he grasps at it, and you immediately and completely fall in love with your baby, no matter that he looks like a tiny baby bird rather than a “normal” baby.
Imagine…..That is the last time you will see your son for five days (FIVE DAYS!) as he is transferred to another hospital and you cannot leave your hospital until they figure out what kind of staph infection you have, insert a picc line, and decide whether or not you will have to stay there for four more weeks until treatment of your infection is completed.
Imagine….Seeing your sick child’s first five days through a 2 x 2 inch camcorder screen, crying every minute, but begging your husband to continue filming as much as he can.
Imagine…Finally getting released and speeding to your son’s hospital, where your husband proficiently directs you where to go, how to wash your hands, how to know which room your son is in, which baby is actually yours, how to read his chart to know how much weight he’s gained, and what you’ve missed in five days.
Imagine…..One week later, your son’s ultrasound shows a bleed on the left side, and now you have to wait another week to see what happens with that bleed, being told this is “normal” for preemies.
Imagine…Getting that phone call at home two weeks later that your son is not doing well, his sats are dropping, he’s having more brady’s, they think he has an infection.
Imagine….Your favorite neonatologist meeting you at your son’s bedside the next morning to explain to you that it is a staph infection, your son may need a spinal tap, and you break down in guilt and tears as you leave the room, unable to face watching them draw more blood from your baby’s tiny body. Thankfully, your son recovers quickly….it wasn’t your staph infection he contracted.
Imagine…Spending four weeks pumping every three hours, injecting high level antibiotics into your picc line every eight hours, and spending at least 8 hours at the NICU watching your son, everyday.
Imagine….You and your son getting your picc lines out on the same day.
Imagine…..Feeling guilty because your son has become a “feeder/grower” while two babies in his NICU have lost the battle. Feeling guilty because the brain bleed is gone, feeling guilty for complaining about him “still” being on CPAP at 34 weeks, feeling guilty because his eyes and hearing are just fine……
Imagine…..The day before your son is supposed to come home, he drops his sats and needs oxygen for five days. He won’t be coming home when planned.
Imagine…..Bringing home your baby on Christmas Day, the greatest Christmas gift you have ever received.