Parenting’s Preemie Stories
Premature birth touches more than 11% of American families, including some of our very own at Parenting. Here we share the personal stories of how our kids entered the world, a little earlier than expected.
Sabrina James, Fashion and Style Director
I knew from my very first doctor appointment that my birth was going to be anything but normal. As I sat in my OB¹s office, 8 weeks pregnant, reviewing my medical history, the look on his face changed dramatically when he asked about a box I had checked yes next to a question about previous surgeries. When I was 13, I had brain surgery to remove an AVM (a place in my brain where arteries and veins were tied into a knot at birth). Doctors found it accidentally while doing a CT scan trying to diagnose severe migraines. Even though very few people find this before they have an aneurism as there are usually no symptoms, they were able to do surgery to repair it. I have a titanium clamp in my brain holding the arteries and veins together. He looked at me, dead pan, and said words I will never forget. “You cannot have this baby. Going into labor will cause your blood pressure to rise and your brain will explode on my table.” I, equally calm even though I never realized a surgery from years ago would have any bearing on childbirth, simply stated, “You¹re going to have to figure something out because I am pregnant and I am having this baby.”
The next few months were filled with multiple MRIs to check my brain for bleeding, biweekly visits to a high risk doctor, and tense conversations about the best course of action. It was determined that it would be potentially fatal for me to go into labor, so we were forced to schedule a C-section four weeks before my due date. I was so nervous that she would not be ready to come out. They offered me the option to inject her lungs with hormones to help speed up their development, but I refused. I demanded an amniocentesis days before my scheduled surgery to make sure she was ready. I didn¹t want my medical issues to have any bearing on her health. The results came back inconclusive. I wanted to wait, to give her another week. My doctor refused.
On May 3rd, 2006 I was greeted at the hospital by a team of top doctors. The head of anesthesia met with me and reviewed all of the risks associated with
my surgery. They were scary given my history. After my epidural was administered, something felt incredibly wrong. My vision blurred. I felt disoriented. I was shivering. I heard machines that seemed so far away beeping frantically. My blood pressure was dropping dangerously. As I glanced at the machine, I saw it read 42/17 when the doctor frantically injected adrenaline to speed up my heart. I was allergic to the epidural. They couldn¹t administer any more medication. My legs were pretty numb, but not all the way. They had to get me into surgery fast before it wore off. I was rushed into the operating room where they bound my legs to the table.
They immediately started cutting. Thirteen minutes of intense chaos, screaming doctors who were climbing on me to aggressively yank her out, and blood splattering all over due to my elevated blood pressure, a 5lb, 14oz little girl we named Kaia was held up over a curtain. She was so pale, but she cried. I held her as they injected the most powerful pain medication I have ever experienced into my IV (I had refused any additional pain medication until she was born as I knew it could impair her breathing). She was whisked away and my husband followed at my request.
As I recovered, my best friend came in and delivered the news I had been dreading. Kaia¹s lungs were not ready. She was breathing, but needed help. She would be taken to the NICU until she could breathe on her own. I was devastated.
The days that followed were a blur. When I was finally able to visit her, seeing her in that tiny bed and realizing that my daughter was spending her first days in this world alone tortured me. When I was in my room, I refused visitors. I would lay in a fetal position crying. My primal maternal instincts kicked in and I felt emotionally tortured not being with my daughter. After three days, her breathing improved, although due to feeding difficulties she had lost an entire pound. She was finally brought to my room. I remember just holding her against my chest the entire time, doing everything I could to make up for the days she spent alone. That night, she
was unable to maintain her body temperature. They kept taking her from me and bringing her to the nursery where they could lay her under a heating lamp, I would cry until they brought her back. When we were finally discharged two days later I felt like an inmate escaping jail. I just wanted her home. I remember looking down at her face as I sat next to her in the car on the ride home and whispering, "Kaia, you will never be alone again."
I am so thankful for the team of doctors (whose lives I probably made a living hell) who cared for her, were kind to me, and worked tirelessly to give me the chance to take her home with me. Kaia¹s six now, and I have no doubt that those first few days of being away from her turned me into a better parent. I appreciate every moment with her. She is so loved, so healthy, and so worth every single minute of the experience.