Today is November 17, 2009. It is just another day for most of you, but for those of us who have a preemie in our life, it is a very special day. November is Prematurity Awareness Month and there is a group of us that set aside today as a perfect chance to talk about our experiences. I highly recommend that you find each and every blog and read all of the stories. You will be amazed by each and every one.
I never knew how badly I wanted to be a mommy until I found out I was pregnant. I was a normal little girl and played with dolls and played house and had pretend weddings, but when I hit 30 and was still single I just figured marriage and motherhood weren’t meant for me. I made my peace with it. I have an amazing family and I love being an Aunt. I have a fantastic job and I was laying the foundation for my career and doing a lot of traveling. Things were pretty darn good for me. And then…
I found out I was pregnant on January 7, 2002. I actually had a very normal pregnancy, for the most part. I had cravings and I started getting a little baby bump and I started nesting and creating a space for my little bundle of joy. I assumed I was having a boy and had a whole list of names picked out and nursery themes and I was fully prepared to welcome a little boy into my life. I had my 20 week ultrasound and my doctor asked me if I wanted to find out the sex. As the doctor was doing the ultrasound we were talking and carrying on just a normal conversation and suddenly on the monitor I saw the words “It’s a girl”. Chloe. It was the only feminine name I ever considered.
I went to see my OB/GYN on June 13, 2002 for my regular 27 week follow up visit. The nurse was concerned because my blood pressure was elevated. She told me to lie down on my left side for a little while and then they would check again and see how it looked. After a little while she came back in the room and it was still elevated. My doctor came into the room and told me that they were a little worried and he wanted me to walk over to the hospital for observation. Yep, you guessed it, this is the point where I start to freak out just a little.
Fortunately, my wonderful doctor had an office that was attached to the hospital and I just had to go down a few floors and across a hall. I remember feeling a little like a zombie as I walked over to the hospital by myself. I called my sisters and my mom while I was walking and tried to explain the situation to them as calmly as I could – I didn’t want anyone else to worry, I was doing enough of that on my own. I changed out of my clothes into a hospital gown and tried to comprehend everything the nurses were telling me. I had no idea that when I climbed into that bed on 6/13/02 I would not be leaving it again for 3 weeks.
I was diagnosed with preeclampsia (pregnancy induces high blood pressure). The first 3 days I was in the hospital I was attached to the blood pressure machine and it took readings every 2 hours. My readings were so high they were afraid I was going to have a stroke, but they were also afraid to give me any medication. The nurses gave me steroid shots to try to speed up Chloe’s lung development and they brought in a social worker to talk to me about the possibility of her being born prematurely. They gave me a couple of books to read and a few pamphlets and that was it.
My 24 hour observation turned into 3 weeks of bed rest. Bed rest. Ugh. Yeah, right. I didn’t rest at all. I was still hooked up to the blood pressure machine and I had to do a whole list of kidney function tests every day and the nurses were constantly coming in to check on me and do various blood tests and I went for daily ultrasounds.
I was taken for what turned out to be my last ultrasound on July 1, 2002 and was told that there was reverse flow thru the umbilical cord. This was the last straw for my doctor and I was scheduled to be induced later that evening. Unfortunately, Chloe did not like to be rushed and even in utero she could pitch a good fit! Her heart rate did not respond well to being induced and off we go for an emergency c-section.
I was wheeled off to the operating room and given a quick spinal. My oldest sister was with me thru the entire surgery. She sat next to me and talked to me and held my hand. I will never, never forget that as long as I live. Along with my sister there were no less than 20 other people in the operating room waiting to whisk my baby off as soon as she was born.
My beautiful daughter was brought into this world thru an incision about 3 inches wide. She weighed in at a whopping 2 pounds 8.5 ounces and she was 14 inches long. Yep, I know you are thinking it right now – you have a roast in your freezer that is bigger than that.
The nurse brought her around to show her to me and then she was gone. Chloe was taken to the neonatal intensive care unit and I was taken to my recovery room. After about 12 hours of attempted sleep I was finally wheeled over to the NICU to see my daughter.
Nothing that anyone says could ever prepare you for walking into the NICU for the first time. The first thing I noticed was that it was so organized and clean and sterile (in a good way). Once you were buzzed into the “clean room” you had to sterilize your hands and put on a cover up so that you didn’t transfer any germs into the very tender environment. And then you were buzzed on thru into a large room with 10-20 plastic, see-through incubators set up and a few clear, plastic cribs.
Now, here is the one thing that no one prepares you for in all of the discussion of possible prematurity – you may not get to hold your baby when you first see her. Nope. Not for a full week in my case. That was the longest week of my entire life. I was allowed to touch and stroke her skin, but I was not able to hold her in my arms because she was so small and fragile.
The number of tubes and sensors and machines that were set up to monitor each and every movement that Chloe’s little body made were scary and amazing at the same time. There were so many beeps and buzzers and sounds it was hard to take it all in. I was terrified the entire time. She had a sensor monitoring her heart rate, a different one keeping up with her oxygen level, an IV (that they had to keep moving around from her foot to her head and everywhere in between), a feeding tube, a sensor monitoring her temperature, an id bracelet and a nasal cannulae for oxygen. It was hard to find her under all of that equipment!
We were relatively lucky in that Chloe never had to be on a respirator. She spent a few hours on nasal cannulae and then a little time under an oxygen hood and then that was it, she was able to breathe on her own. She had a little jaundice, so she had to spend a little time under the bilirubin lights. She had a problem with anemia and had to have 2 blood transfusions while she was in the NICU. She was able to have her feeding tube removed after 3 weeks and I was there to give her the very first bottle.
Chloe was discharged from the NICU at just under 5 pounds and sent home after 7 weeks. She is now 7 years old and completely and totally healthy and happy. She is smart and funny and silly and I absolutely cannot imagine my life without her. I would not trade my daughter and the experiences we both had to get her to where she is now for anything in the world.
The NICU at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital is an amazing place that is filled with some of the most talented and gifted and caring and wonderful nurses and doctors that I hope you never have to meet. They saved my daughter’s life. I will never be able to thank them enough for that gift.
The March of Dimes has been doing wonderful work for decades and never gets enough recognition for the advances they have helped bring about. I refuse to even think about what could have happened to Chloe without the work that has been done by the March of Dimes. Everyone should support them in every way possible. They need money and they need volunteers so that they can continue to fight for preemies and save even more lives.
Boy, oh boy, was my mom a tough broad…or at least that is what she wanted everyone to think. She used to tell me and my sisters that if we were looking for sympathy we could find it in the dictionary between sex and syphillis. She and my father set very high standards and my sisters and I were expected to live up to them.
There weren’t any unreasonable rules at our house, but you were expected to follow them without question. We were taught to do our own laundry by the time we were 8 and we were expected to help with the chores around the house every Saturday. Homework was to be done each and every night – no waiting to the last minute for reports or presentations (one of the pitfalls of having educators for parents). There was no going out on a school night and we were all expected at the dinner table – and we actually talked to each other while we ate (no tv, no Walkmans, no phone calls, nothing). We went to church together every Sunday. We were expected to wear a dress to school at least once per week. And if we were too sick to go to school then we weren’t allowed to do anything fun that day either (and if it was a Friday, then we weren’t allowed to do anything fun all weekend). I’m sure there were a few more rules that I am forgetting!
The punishments for breaking the rules were not unreasonable either. I spent some time grounded and had to do some extra chores on more than one occasion. More often than not the punishment of a disappointed parent was enough to deter all 3 of us from anything more harsh than being a late on curfew. There were a few punishments that were a little more severe – my oldest sister kicked a door and put a hole in it and had to use her allowance to pay for a new door and my middle sister liked to slam her door when she got mad so my mom took it off the hinges for a few weeks. But even those were punishments that fit the crimes.
However, those who were so fortunate to know my mother best know that she was one of the most caring, compassionate and wonderful people ever to inhabit this Earth.
My sisters and I were constantly bringing home strays – dogs, cats, friends, boyfriends. They were all welcome at our house. We had a family tradition of having a nice dinner on Sunday evenings – something special and usually served on the “good” dishes (and almost always including a glass of wine). On an average Sunday we would have around 8-10 people at that meal, even though there were only 5 of us in the family at that time!
Tomorrow is September 30 – my mother’s birthday. This would have been her 75th birthday. She has been dead for 3 years now and I still miss her so desperately it feels like yesterday. It was completely and totally unexpected, but I don’t think that I would feel any different if it was a loss that I had been expecting for years. I know that my sisters and my dad are mourning and grieving and missing her just as much. I am very lucky to have them and we do a great job of supporting each other.
My mother’s absolute favorite saying was “Put on your big girl panties and deal with it.” I guess it is time to heed her words and hike ‘em up and try to get through the day.
People carry a lot of titles. The day I was born I became someone’s daughter, sister, cousin, niece, and godchild. Since then I have also been someone’s friend, enemy, girlfriend, employee, one night stand, best friend, shoulder to cry on, boss, punching bag, booty call, aunt, mother, maid of honor, fiancee, wife, step-mother and many other names I don’t care to repeat.
It is more than hard, it is downright impossible, for me to decide which one of these titles I have carried with the most pride, so I have chosen 4 of them to embrace fully and completely: I am the Mother to Chloe, the most wonderful 7 year old little girl in the whole entire world (I realize I haven’t met them all, and I do know a few others, but I am quite biased on this and stand by my statement). I also happen to have 2 of the coolest step-kids ever created. Shannon is 18 and Shawn is 16 and they may not be mine by birth, but I have earned the right the call them mine over the last 3 years. I am the Wife to Terry, who is the man of my dreams and I cannot imagine spending my life with anyone else. I am the Sister to Becky and Casey and they are some damn cool chicks. And I am the Friend to what I consider an amazing group of people that seems to be expanding more and more lately.
I did not have the normal course to motherhood – although I have to wonder if there is a “normal” course to motherhood anymore! I became a single mom, quite by accident, in July 2002. My daughter was born at 31 weeks and 2 days into my pregnancy and she weighed an amazing 2 pounds 8.5 ounces. She spent the first 7 weeks of her life in the neo-natal intensive care unit at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. She is now a very happy, healthy, and scary smart 7 year old and you would never know she had such a scary start to her life. In addition to Chloe, I am lucky to be the step-mother to Shannon and Shawn. They entered my life as teenagers and changed me forever. I may not have given birth to them, but over the last 3 years we have had our own share of labor pains and we have established a wonderful relationship.
I guess I didn’t have a particularly “normal” trip down the aisle either. At the tender age of 35, and as a single mom, I met my husband online using Match.com in January 2006. We dated for 3 months before becoming engaged and then a short 6 months later we were married (and no shotguns were involved). I waited a long time (and kissed a lot of frogs) to find my Prince Charming. He is the love of my life and the man of my dreams.
The sister part is pretty normal. I have 2 smart, wonderful, talented, gorgeous sisters. They are both older than me and until I was about 20 years old I wouldn’t have spent 5 minutes alone with either one of them – not even if you paid me (or them)! We grew up in a completely normal, boring, middle class family – and we spent a lot of “quality” family time together as a group, but we didn’t do a lot of sisterly bonding. In fact, my sisters used to chase me around the house and threaten to cook me for dinner! However, as we have all aged and mellowed we have found that we truly like each other and we hang out just for the fun of it a lot. I consider them to be 2 of my best friends.
And now for the Friend part. I am a very lucky person. I have a lot of friends. I have work friends, church friends, school friends, JustUsLeeg friends, Facebook friends, Twitter friends, and family friends. I have friends that live as close as one street over and as far away as England. They are all extremely important and very special to me in one way or another and they have all had an impact on my life. Over the course of the last year I have been lucky enough to reconnect with a bunch of my childhood friends and to get to make bunches of new friends thru social networking on Facebook and Twitter. I also have my very own BFF – my oldest and dearest friend is GiGi – we have been best friends since the day she walked into my life at the age of 8. I would not be the same person I am today without her friendship and I am grateful to her for that every day.
I’m sure that I will gather more titles as time goes by, some will be more appreciated than other, but for now I cannot imagine my life if I didn’t carry any of the ones that I have earned so far!