On March 1st, 2009, I was 34 1/7 weeks pregnant. I decided to make our baby bag to take to the hospital, even though it was really early. On that Sunday my husband and I spent most of the day going to stores looking for the perfect rocking chair, but we could not find one. So we went home and decided to play some Nintendo Wii and I still think the hoola hoop game is what did it! My husband and I went to bed at 10:30I woke up at 12:30 AM, went to the bathroom and as I removed my underwear there it was - specks of blood and water on the bathroom floor. I called the hospital and they told me to come in right away. I remember telling my husband - good thing we were prepared and made that baby bag today.
There is nothing that can prepare you for a premature baby and the emotional and physical roller coaster that follows. After we were checked in, things happened really fast. I had an emergency c-section because my water broke, I wasn’t contracting and the baby was breeched. I was so scared thinking I was not done “baking her”. But after they explained everything we knew there was really no time for planning. Five hours after I had woken up in the middle of the night, Tabatha was here! I was a preemie myself, but since my husband was two weeks late we used to joke that Tabatha was gonna be just right. We were wrong. She didn’t really cry when she came out. She kind of gave a little scream, made us cry, but then was quiet. They rolled her little crib by my head and then took her away!!! No one had prepared me for that!
It took a few hours for me to see her, after being stitched up and being in recovery, etc. As I sat there by her warming bed on my wheel chair I remember thinking she was really small, kind of yellow and hairy. No one is prepared to see their baby with a bunch of wires connected to their chest, something else on her feet, tubes down her mouth and up her nose, and an IV on her head. During her first few days of life she did not wear any if the cute little outfits we had picked. And the worst part was that I did not get to hold her for three days. She was so light. I thought to myself, “this is it? I buy rice bags heavier than this!“.
One of the hardest parts of having a baby in the NICU is having to leave. After all, the obligations of everyday life are still there. I remember going home one day and when I came back there was a small bag hanging on her crib. I noticed her crib had the cutest little blankets and not just the plain hospital one. I looked inside the bag and thought it was a mistake and that those things belonged to a different baby. Inside there was a knit hat, a blanket and a sleeper sack. There was a tag inside saying those things were from the preemie project. I felt like my baby was so loved and that somebody, who did not even know us, cared for the two of us. It was kind of poetic that it arrived when I was gone and it made everything all the more special.
I don’t know if people realize this, but for babies in the NICU everything counts as either a barrier to their growth or as an aid. As parents we are on a countdown to leave and to bring our babies home. One of the things Tabatha had to accomplish before going home was being able to keep up her body temperature without being swaddled in blankets. And so the sleeper sack from the preemie project works as an aid to help us accomplish that. The fact that it is made with a zipper that closes from top to bottom is another plus. They make the babies warm and cozy. Plus, because they are open at the bottom, you can pass all the wires through that. Then babies don’t look as scary to their parents and they more like a regular baby. I used to call Tabatha our “robot baby”.
Another barrier to taking our baby home was the fact that she was not gaining a lot of weight. By this time, we had been moved to Bay 5, because she was supposedly one of the healthiest babies. She started to lose weight and doctor Bell complained that her room was too cold. Since we had already complained about it we were really upset when he told us that, but thankfully it was fixed after a couple of days. Doctor Bell told us that babies loose body heat through their head and that she was probably working very hard on keeping her body temp and that was why she was loosing weight. So we pulled something else from the preemie project bag: her little hat. We had not been wearing it because it was too big for her small head - she was only 23 inches by the way, when she was born and weighed 5 lbs. The hat kept covering her entire face and we were always afraid of suffocating her when we were not around. But we folded the ends of the hat, put it on her head and watched her grow. Because of the dangers of SIDS we are not supposed to cover the babies when we bring them home. So the fact that the little blankets are not just cute and soft, but are also light and full of holes allow for some great naps on the bassinet while mommy works in the computer, does the dishes, etc. And the other blankets, the felt ones are great as crib mattress covers.
Yes, we have more than one blanket and more than one sleeper. I will keep this part of the story short and sweet. Very sweet. To keep up with the theme of unexpected things, we were sent home after 22 days in the NICU. Tabatha had on her sleeper - believe it or not it was snowing on that day - hat, and we covered the car seat with her preemie project blanket. The family members in the waiting room outside the NICU clapped for us, cheered us on, and congratulated us. It was a wonderful day! But less than 48 hours later we were in the emergency room. Now we know she had a milk protein allergy but seeing bloody dippers at home after having spent weeks in the NICU was not fun!
After being in the emergency room for several hours - due to blood tests, X-rays etc, she was readmitted to the hospital. We were definitely not ready for that. It was well after midnight when my husband and I went home. But much to my delight, by the time she was back in the NICU, and we saw her the next morning, there they were: a new little hat, sleeper and blanket! Once again I felt all the love from the preemie project. After another 8 days at the NICU, we finally went home for good. And this time it was hailing! So again, she had on her preemie hat, sleeper and blanket.
Tabatha is three months now (July 2009). She’s been home for two. She is almost 12 pounds. The first time I realized she was growing was when her preemie project hat did not fit her head anymore! The same one that was too big for her was now too small. She still wears her sleeper sack on cold nights and we always cuddle with her blankets on the rocking chair we found online. I am really touched by all the love and care we felt from you!
I hope I was able to express my gratitude with this rather detailed story. I truly am thankful for all you do for the preemie babies and their parents. You can’t always prepare for life’s surprises. I was definitely not ready for all the drama involving a preemie baby. And was not expecting or prepared for all the love we received from the preemie project volunteers who cared so much for our baby and made us feel so special in such a difficult time. For that I just wanted to say three thank yous: one for each month of her life.