World Prematurity Day is observed on 17 November each year to raise awareness of preterm birth and the concerns of preterm babies and their families worldwide. Approximately 15 million babies are born preterm each year, accounting for about one in 10 of all babies born worldwide.
So says Wikipedia. 1 in 10 really is a lot. Jolie was one of those 1 in 10. Since today is World Prematurity Day, I thought I would tell the story of my daughter’s early birth.
I had Jolie at 40 years of age. Elderly Primigravida is what the medical world calls women who deliver a child after age 35. Sounds so awful! It wasn’t an awful pregnancy at all it just didn’t last the full 40 weeks!
Pat and I married when I was 32. We were undecided about having children. When we moved to Nebraska four years later when I was 36, I saw a new gynecologist and asked about trying to get pregnant. She did some tests to make sure all was in working order. I was called several days later and told that I was Hypothyroid and needed to begin Synthroid immediately. Always having assumed that one should follow doctors orders, I began the thyroid replacement hormone. I was retested in 3 months or so and was found to have Hyperthyroidism now. The medication was stopped and I was retested several months later and was still considered Hyperthyroid. Now I was sent to an endocrinologist who said I needed to have my thyroid “nuked” as it was dangerous to be in the “hyper” range. So off I march to take a radioactive iodine pill and sequester myself in a hotel for several days so I’m not giving off gamma rays or whatever to my husband and cats at home.
Wait more months to be cleared from all that. Meanwhile, husband becomes sick with Ulcerative Colitis so trying to conceive again isn’t wise. Fast forward almost a year to get him well and we are staring at 38-39 years old.
I find out that I am “with child” and happiness reigns! Short lived though as there is no heartbeat at 10 weeks. A D&C is scheduled and we are about ready to say never mind, not meant to be.
Four months later the little stick has a plus sign and let the games begin! This time I am a nervous wreck reading everything . I called the landlord of our cute little rent house in Lincoln and queried him about lead pipes, freaked out over a baby gift with a mercury thermometer in it and generally became a nutty nester!
It was all fun and games until about the 28 week when I was prescribed medication for hypertension and advised to monitor my blood pressure at home and call in the numbers to the OB/Gyn. My machine kept erroring out one night and my nurse neighbor came down to take my BP manually. I said, what is it? She said, it’s so high I don’t want to tell you and instructed Pat to take me to the ER.
Much of what happened next is a blur, but I began to bleed which must have been a placental abruption I was given a quick shot of medicine to develop the baby’s lungs and some magnesium sulfate at some point. The doctor came and examined me and the next thing I know she says we are getting the baby out now. I have a second to call Pat who was back at home and told him, come now!
Whisked to surgery for an emergency C-section, within minutes Jolie is born. A wonderful NICU doctor was there from a different hospital to intubate her and get her breathing. She is taken by ambulance to a different hospital with a level 3 NICU while my insurance made me stay where I delivered. Wonderful nurses took care of me for 3 days until I could be released to go be with Jolie and Pat. My mother flew in along with my adored friend Sandi and we went to see Jolie.
My mother said she looked like a little red squirrel. We nicknamed her the Fairbury hotdog, which if you’re from Nebraska you will know is a reddish colored frank. She was 1 pound 12 ounces. 12 inches long.
I was encouraged to hold her despite all the wires and tubes. She would be getting my breast milk that I was taught how to pump days earlier. She had daily brain scans looking for possible brain bleeds and daily heel pricks for blood work. Chest X-rays, head measuring and the worst were the overnight eye checks for retinopathy of prematurity. We found out later the eye doctor came down from Omaha during the overnight hours to check the babies eyes. It was best to do this when parents were not there to freak out!
Jolie was a feeder and a grower. We celebrated each ounce she put on. Pat and I were terrible at getting her to drink for us and we tried nursing but she was so small and couldn’t latch on. I continued to pump and we fed her 2 ounce bottles. When she was 5 pounds and very near her original due date of January 7th, Pat and I stayed in a hospital room overnight with her to prove that we could get her to drink 2 ounces every 2 hours. We failed.
With nurses help, we finally managed to graduate and got to take Jo home. She was greeted by her cat sisters and Granny came back up to help.
The first night we had her home, she began to desat with her bottle. I hollered to Pat to call 911. He did and by the time 4 huge medics are stomping up the stairs, she is breathing normally again.
Pat and I joke now that for awhile it was liking having PTSD. We watched her like a hawk a didn’t relax about her eating habits for years. Because of her low birth weight, she received services through an early intervention company named Brighton. For three years physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech therapist came to work with her weekly to help her with any developmental delays. She talked early but did not walk until 19 months. She graduated when she was 3 from Brighton and she was pretty much developmentally on target.
She is now a healthy 94 pound 15 year old teenage girl! Praise the Lord!
My advice should anyone ask for it, is to try to have your children earlier if possible and if it’s not possible, have a damn good doctor who you really like and trust. I don’t know why I developed the preeclampsia but I’m sure age played a part as well as my thyroid situation. But this and every Thanksgiving and everyday for that matter, we are thankful for our little early bird.