How to Prepare When You Know You´re Giving Birth to A Preemie
When I was in the beginning of my 26th week of Pregnancy with Quinn I began to realize that things were not going as planned. My blood pressure could not be maintained in a normal range, and I had been in and out of the hospital three times for monitoring. The day I was finally admitted I knew that I wouldn’t be leaving until my baby was born. That day my doctor sent me down to see the high risk doctor for the first time. During our first visit he took tons of measurements, and the look on his face told me that there was reason to be concerned. This visit was of course for the first time in weeks I was at the appointment all alone, and I had difficulty comprehending what he had to say. He told me the baby was not growing properly, and it was unlikely that I would be able to carry this pregnancy much further. The baby was measuring 21 days behind in size (they estimated she was about 1 pound 9 ounces) he used the term IUGR to describe what was going on, and said due to my blood pressure issues her growth was being stunted. He also had many other concerns such as the nearly nonexistent amniotic-fluid, and the restriction in the blood flow going through her umbilical cord. I was told that as soon as the cord showed any signs of reverse flow they would deliver her immediately. Obviously all of this was shocking, but now I needed to prepare myself for what all of this meant in terms of the care my baby would need once she was born. One of the first things discussed with me was the importance of receiving steroid shots, and magnesium. Like any type of medical care doctors will make the best decision based on your case, but in my case the steroids helped Quinn’s lungs develop quicker, and the Magnesium helped to lessen the risk of a brain bleed. Both of these things seemed to do their job, because Quinn was able to successfully wean off of breathing assistance over the course of weeks, and luckily never suffered from a brain bleed.I realize that not everyone‘s preemie journey is the same, and many moms don‘t have any time to prepare, but if you do spend a significant amount of time on bed rest there are things you can do during your hospital stay that will help you understand what you will be experiencing. First and foremost stay off of google! You can properly educate yourself without reading every “what if” out there. Your baby will follow their own course and you don´t need to read about every possible outcome from a premature birth. Instead, ask to talk directly to a neonatologist. The doctor I spoke to was wonderful, and spent over an hour explaining to me that babies born as early as Quinn need to grow before they can learn to do all of the things on their own that are required for life. Things that you take for granted when having a healthy full term baby like maintaining body temperature, digesting food, and a baby breathing on their own were things Quinn would be born not being able to do, and would need support until she was able to. He explained to me that as overwhelming as it was going to be to see my child hooked up to so many tubes and wires that these would be her lifelines, and without them she would not be able to survive.If you can´t speak to a neonatologist it‘s often helpful to talk to a fellow NICU Mom or another individual who understands the journey. I was also able to talk to Sam about her course with Maddie, which helped me understand what I would soon be experiencing. The support of other NICU moms or dad is essential, because they truly understand the ups and downs that you will be going through.After giving birth I had to learn how to accept the NICU as my new normal. In the beginning I cried because this was not the way things were supposed to be. It took me awhile, but once I was able to accept our journey for what it was, I was able to embrace a much more positive mindset. I’m a firm believer in energy, and if you put positive energy out there your journey will be a lot easier. That‘s not to say you still won‘t have bad days (I spent tons of time crying especially when I was by myself), but I learned to see the beauty and uniqueness in Quinn´s journey, and decided that as long as she continued to fight I would try my best to stay in a positive mindset. The beginning and the end of your NICU journey will be the hardest part (at least I felt that way in my experience). In the beginning I was truly concerned for my daughters survival. It was a lot of waiting to see if Quinn‘s body would begin adapting to the things that she needed to for survival. Looking back, the most important thing during this time period is to just focus on your day to day journey. I knew in the back of my mind that prematurity could cause an array of long term effects, but it was more important in that moment to just simply focus on my baby’s day to day progress. On the flip side at the end of your baby’s NICU journey you need to start looking at the big picture. Schedule any appointments or follow ups that you will need to as your baby begins to approach discharge. I had to make appointments at the cardiologist, pulmonologist, opthamologist, pediatrician, and the developmental follow up clinic. All of this can be overwhelming, but over the course of that first year our appointments became less and less.The last bit of advice I have for your journey is advocate for your baby. You will be spending time with your baby on a consistent basis and begin to understand their “normal” behavior, and not so normal behavior. If you have questions or concerns ask a nurse or doctor. I could never say enough wonderful things about the people who cared for my daughter, and found that they were quick to listen to any concerns that I had. As you begin your NICU journey know it‘s not going to be easy (but nothing worth fighting for usually ever is), and your time in the NICU will be filled with tons of ups and downs. It´s ok to have both joy and fear, laughter and tears, and triumphs and setbacks. Sometimes you´ll feel many of these emotions even in the same day. In the end, even though there are days you will feel broken, you will begin to realize how strong you can be when it comes to the wellbeing of your child.