Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Best and Worst Christmas Ever

My son just had a birthday, which every year makes us think about his first Christmas and how blessed and fortunate we are that he is here to celebrate every Christmas with us.

When I was pregnant with him, my water broke at 21 weeks (about half way into the pregnancy). I was put in the hospital on bed rest to prevent me from going into labour. At that time, there was no way he would have survived had he been born, so they wanted to hold it off as long as possible, but everyone knew he was likely not going to make it to full term. I spent 7 weeks in the hospital. My daughter was two years old at the time, and the first night she had to leave me there, we both cried buckets of tears. We were very close and it was gut-wrenching to be apart from her that much. My husband became a single parent for 7 weeks, with all the work that goes with that but also daily visits to the hospital on top of the worry about the baby growing inside me.

At almost 29 weeks I went into labour. They tried to stop it, but only bought us one more day and on December 10 my son was born. He weighed 3 lbs 3 oz, a good size for 28 weeks, though he lost a few ounces of fluid and went below 3 lbs. I don’t remember much about the time immediately after the delivery, it’s pretty much a fog in my head. We were told he was having trouble breathing on his own, which wasn’t a surprise. The hospital staff had done a great job of preparing us for what was to come. I was wheeled in to see him before they whisked him off to the NICU, but again I barely remember it. When my husband wheeled me into the NICU later that day to see him, the nurses were all astonished that I was there, having just had a baby, and it might have been a bit soon seeing as I just about fainted and had to be taken to the sitting room to put my head between my knees.

That's me and my son

People say there’s nothing harder than going home from the hospital without your baby, but again, I was prepared for that, and after 7 weeks in the hospital I was happy to get the hell out of there and back to my own bed. The next two months (he came home February 15) were daily visits to the hospital (sometimes two or three times) and an emotional roller coaster. He had every medical problem a preemie can have – they gave him what I consider miracle drugs, surfactants, to help his lungs develop and help him breathe on his own. He had extreme jaundice and had to go under sun lamps. He had so much blood drawn from his tiny body he needed multiple transfusions. He had numerous infections because his immune system was so weak (even though we had to scrub up every time we went in the NICU). He had a broken wrist from the delivery. He had a valve in his heart that didn’t close as it normally would at birth, because it was too early. We luckily avoided surgery with more miracle drugs. He was fed by IV for weeks, eventually moving to tube feedings of the breast milk I’d been pumping.

I was determined to breast feed him because it had been such a good experience with my daughter and I knew that if any baby needed the benefits of breast milk, it was him. So I got to be best friends with the electric breast pump the hospital sent home with me. You think it’s hard getting up in the middle of the night to nurse a baby? How about getting up to sit in the dark with a breast pump. I shed a lot of tears in those lonely middle of the night “feeding sessions”.

The tube feeding was a slow process, though, because his intestines weren’t developed enough to digest even breast milk. Finally the last thing that was keeping him from coming home was being able to feed and the poor little guy was so weak and tiny he didn’t have much energy and he didn’t have a clue what to do when put to the breast. All modesty is lost when you have six nurses and lactation consultants standing around your naked chest trying to get the babe to latch on. Oy!

He was hooked up to wires and tubes and monitors. We got to be good at reaching out to poke him inside his isolette when the monitor started beeping because he’d stopped breathing, or his heart had stopped (after a few minor freak outs at first). The scariest problem of all was the bleeding in the brain. There are various categories of IVH and his wasn’t the worst, but not the least either. As there’s nothing they can do about it, we knew we would have to wait and see how this affected him.

On Christmas Day, when he was about two weeks old, we made our trip to the hospital with his gifts. My daughter sat in a rocking chair, in her little yellow hospital gown, and opened them for him. And that was the day I got to hold him for the first time. The nurse dressed him in a tiny sleeper and I held him, with a teeny oxygen mask held to his little face. It was bittersweet – they told us that day he was going to be okay – he was “a keeper” they said. There are many babies who don’t make it out of the NICU; we saw them. But it was still a long road after that. I'm happy to tell you that he is now an adult:  18 years old, smart, funny, a little lazy in that teenage boy way, but a great kid.

Happy holidays everyone! What are some of your great Christmas memories and most special gifts?


Skylar Kade said...

What a scary time that must've been, Kelly! But what a blessing that you have a healthy son.

My fave memory is when my parents, instead of buying me a big gift, donated the money to an animal rescue where I'd been volunteering. I cried over that gift--it was so thoughtful and heartwarming.

Happy holidays!

Meg Benjamin said...

Wow, Kelly, what a story! Merry Christmas to you and your family. I'm sure it's a really special holiday for you.

Erin Nicholas said...

Aw, Kelly, thanks for sharing your story. Wish my kids were here right now so I could hug them-- they're going to wonder what's going on when they walk in the door after school and I grab them! *g*

Kelly Jamieson said...

Skylar that's an awesome present for an animal lover!

Thanks Meg, and Erin, yes hug your children. There were many days I was ready to strangle my son and had to grit my teeth and remember "special" he is LOL!!


You are so lucky. Beautiful story.



PG Forte said...

Oh, Kelly. I can't even imagine how terrifying this all must have been for you. Thanks for this post and for making me remember how lucky I've been!

Kelly Jamieson said...

Thanks Loretta and PG. It is things like that that make us appreciate what we have!