On June 5, 2006 I had a routine doctors appointment. I can’t remember why, but Dan had come along with me. Other than some swelling that had hit me hard during the prior two weeks after my sister’s wedding, I felt fine……..even though I could only fit my feet into flip flops and could barely see my toes. I had lost 45 pounds during the first 30 weeks of the pregnancy and I had gained 42 of those pounds back within two weeks. Guess that was God’s way of saying something was wrong. So as I entered my doctor’s office I was nervous. I’ve ALWAYS had high blood pressure, even back in the days when I was in single digit sized jeans. I was being watched throughout the pregnancy because of it, but not to the point where I was on bed rest or had to be admitted to the hospital. For this particular appointment, I was at her second office which just so happened to be on the same campus as the hospital. We entered the room, I was weighed and the nurse took my blood pressure and didn’t say anything. My doctor came in, asked me how I was feeling and asked if I was extremely nervous…..she knew me well by this point and knew that I tend to over think things……and I was nervous. She took my blood pressure again and didn’t tell me anything. She asked me to lie down on the table and rest for a few moments. She left the room, turning the lights off before she left. She returned, took my blood pressure again and I knew something was wrong. My blood pressure was 190/130. She told me that I had to go across the street and that I needed to head to the labor and delivery floor. I was just shy of 32 weeks pregnant.
I sat in the observation room for almost an hour while they monitored my blood pressure, turning my body every which way to try to get it to go down. It wasn’t. They called my doctor and she ordered a sonogram. While I was nervous because I was now on my own since Dan had returned to work, I still thought that I was going to be sent home that day and put on bedrest. I was wheeled into the dark and cold room where the sonogram took place. He asked me a few questions and then he told me what I didn’t want to hear…….you won’t be going home today. Confused, I asked why and what was the matter. With barely enough fluid around her, she had stopped growing and she wouldn’t make it much longer. He told me that if my appointment had been a week later, that we could have lost her. A horrifying thought that no parent should have to face, no matter how far along you are. I was wheeled out of the room into the hallway where I waited for a nurse to come pick me back up. I sobbed, trying to hide my tears since I was across the hall from an OB/GYN office where mother’s were going in for their own check-ups. I frantically made phone calls, still shocked at what I was told.
I was placed on steroids to help strengthen her lungs. Dan stayed with me and my sister drove out from Syracuse. I don’t remember much about the hours leading up to her delivery. I do however, remember falling asleep and waking up to my hearing my sister’s voice saying that the baby’s heart rate was falling and that it wasn’t going back up. It took awhile for someone to come in, so she went back out…..it was shift change…..but she didn’t care because she knew what was happening. Some doctors came in, looked at me and watched her heart rate continue to fall. It was time. Coupled with the fact that they needed to get her out ASAP and that she was still breech, I was given an emergency caesarean. While they were performing the surgery, my doctor, who I am thankful to this day was able to perform the surgery, apologized. She told me that if and when I have another baby, I would be required to have another caesarean. At the time, I didn’t care……I just wanted my baby out and I wanted her to be healthy. I don’t remember much other than I was having a difficult time breathing. I heard my doctor say here she comes and a tear come from Dan’s eye. She was here and she was breathing. She was the smallest baby I had seen up to that point. My sweet Lillian Grace was born at 8:29am at UMASS Memorial Hospital in Worcester, MA, was 16 1/2 inches long and weighed in at 3lbs 1 oz……
I was unable to visit her in the NICU for the first 24 hours. Horrible thoughts raced through my head. What had I done to her? Would I be a fit mother if I couldn’t even do this right? The first time I saw her though, everything was erased from my mind, and my focus shifted to looking forward to the day when she would come home with us. She got down to 2lbs 3 oz and then after 5 or so days, the numbers started to climb. Each day and each ounce that she gained, brought her closer to coming home with us. She was one of the lucky ones. Surrounded by micro-preemies and babies with so many complications, I felt blessed that other than her weight, she was completely healthy. We lived around 45 minutes away from the hospital, but each day I was there by her side and each night that I left to go home I felt heart broken that I had to leave her there. Just being in the NICU itself was hard on me. While there were a few parents who were also by their child every day for hours on end……so many of the babies had no visitors, particularly the babies born with complications. It broke my heart. I’m forever thankful for the staff at the NICU who answered all of my questions every day and who took care of Lillian each night while I rested.
A couple of days before she was released, I remember walking into the CCN (continuing care nursery) and seeing this…..
I laughed and cried at the same time!! How in the world was this carseat going to protect her when it looked like she was going to come right out of it?!! Thankfully she passed the carseat test with flying colors. Now it was just time to wait. Three more ounces and she was all ours. Hospital policy was to release at 4 lbs. She hit that milestone on July 4, 2006 and she was granted her Indepedence. It was a long 4 weeks for us, but it’s so much longer for so many other parents that had been in the NICU for months on end waiting and waiting for their babies to be sent home. We were one of the lucky ones.
Today, Lillian is my pride and joy. There’s NOTHING in this world that I wouldn’t do for this little girl. She makes me laugh, frustrates me to no end with her messiness, brings me great joy each time she hands me one of the drawings that she made for me at school, and makes me proud each and every day that she is mine. For this child of mine, brought into this world five years ago today and released into it on Independence Day, is the perfect mixture of me and my husband, who are in fact, complete opposites of each other! She is caring, stubborn, silly and FIERCELY independent. She is the greatest gift I have been given in life and I’m proud every day to be her mommy.
Happy Birthday Lillian Grace! And if you get a chance and have a few extra dollars, please donate to these two wonderful organizations who helped us out so much during Lillian’s time in the NICU…..
March of Dimes- The local chapter in Worcester, provided preemie clothing for all of the NICU babies. If you haven’t shopped for a preemie before, the next time you go to a clothing/baby store, be sure to check out the selection……it won’t be much. Also consider picking up an extra outfit and donating it to your local NICU. I kept a couple of my favorites, but donated the rest of Lillian’s preemie clothing to the hospital. They’ll appreciate it more than you know. March of Dimes also provides far more services and research, but the simple act of giving is what touched me the most!
Project Linus- Each baby in the NICU at UMass was given a quilt, afghans and hats to keep our babies warm. It was so nice walking into the NICU for the first time and seeing all of the colorful creations that so many wonderful ladies made for all of the families.