Premature birth and the NICU: a personal experience

By Juviza Rodriguez

November 20, 2017

The day we took him home was one of the happiest days of our lives.

Every day I read and answer lots of questions on topics like pre-conception care, prenatal care, and how to have a healthy pregnancy. I also answer many questions about complications in pregnancy, like premature birth. So when I found out I was pregnant last year, I felt pretty well-prepared and knowledgeable. However, like many first time moms, I had a little anxiety those first few weeks.

The first half of my pregnancy was completely healthy and free of problems. However, at 23 weeks during my prenatal check-up, my doctor told me that there was a problem with my cervix. She told me that the ultrasound was showing I had a short cervix and explained I would need to go on bed rest and be treated with progesterone in order to help me stay pregnant longer. Unfortunately, having a short cervix is ​​a risk factor for preterm labor.

I had been on bed rest for 11 weeks, when during a routine prenatal check-up, the doctors told me that they would need to induce labor. My amniotic fluid was very low and they suspected that I had preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM) I was 34 weeks and 1 day. My son, Theodore (Theo), was born the next day, November 22nd, weighing 4 pounds and 14 ounces.

Although I was able to hold him in my arms for about 10 minutes after delivery, while in the recovery room, he was quickly taken to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for testing and put in the incubator. Theo was born with very high levels of bilirubin (jaundice) and had problems controlling his body temperature. Despite knowing that he was in good hands and receiving the necessary treatment, it was such a hard moment.

When I saw my son in the NICU for the first time I felt so many emotions. He was in the incubator, with the special blue lights for jaundice, and a small IV that was supplying his first nutrients. A few days after, they inserted a tube through his nose to feed him my breast milk because he didn’t have enough strength to suck and swallow on his own properly. The good news is that he had no breathing problems.

Despite these challenges, I was determined to practice kangaroo care (skin-to-skin contact) and feed him breastmilk. Since Theo was still learning to suck and swallow, he couldn’t latch, so I pumped my breast milk for his feedings. Kangaroo care is especially good for preemies because it helps them stay warm, helps them sleep better, and helps with bonding.

Having to leave our son in the hospital was a very difficult experience for my husband and me. Every day we headed out to the NICU early and came back home to eat dinner and sleep. I pumped every 2 to 3 hours and stored the milk to bring to the NICU for the next day. Theo stayed in the NICU a total of 10 days from birth until being discharged. The day we took him home was one of the happiest days of our lives.

The month of November will always be special month for me. In exactly 9 days, we will be celebrating Theo’s first birthday. He is a healthy, curious, independent, and sweet boy who can make anyone’s heart melt with his sweet smiles and giggles. It’s amazing how time flies.

November is also Prematurity Awareness Month. As overwhelming as the experience of having a premature delivery and birth was, I feel even more connected to March of Dimes’ mission, to all the women and families who share their story with us, and to all those who fight to give babies a happy and healthy tomorrow.

 

Take Action Challenge

  • Learn more about the work of March of Dimes by following them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
  • Thinking about starting or growing your family? Schedule a preconception checkup with your health care provider. A preconception checkup helps your health care provider make sure that your body is ready for pregnancy.
    • Get to a healthy weight before pregnancy and gain the right amount of weight during pregnancy.
    • Wait at least 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again. Use birth control until you’re ready to get pregnant again.
    • Get treated for health conditions, like high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and thyroid problems.
    • Protect yourself from infections. Get vaccinated, wash your hands frequently, and don’t eat raw meat, fish or eggs. Have safe sex.
    • Reduce your stress. Eat healthy foods and do something active every day.
    • Don’t smoke, drink alcohol, or use street drugs. Ask your provider about programs that can help you quit. Tell your provider about any medicines you take, with or without a prescription.
    • Go to all your prenatal care checkups, even if you’re feeling fine. Prenatal care helps your provider make sure you and your baby are healthy. 
    • Know the signs and symptoms of preterm labor. This won’t reduce your risk of preterm labor but it will allow you to get treatment quickly and that may help stop your labor.

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