Dayton's Birth Story

We found out on Valentines Day that we would finally be welcoming the love of our lives into this crazy beautiful world that coming October. Little did we know, our sweet boy would make his debut 12 weeks early and we would soon face the challenging reality of becoming "preemie parents".

From the day we discovered that our third, and final, IUI had worked, we were overjoyed, but knowing that miscarriages are as common as 25% of pregnancies, to say that we were cautiously optimistic would be an understatement. We had already experienced two losses in the past 4 years, so we knew the heartache all to well. At 16 weeks we found out we were expecting a baby boy and began all the "normal" preparations like sharing the news with our family and friends, choosing a name, registering for a ridiculous amount of baby items that we simple could not live without and most importantly day dreaming about how our little family would change, in the best way possible, when we would finally bring our son home. My pregnancy seemed to be as normal as possible, I was feeling great, things were progressing as they should and at every appointment we were assured that our baby boy was healthy and happy.

Then, at 20 weeks I found myself unexpectedly in an operating room.  I was told I had an incompetent cervix, which meant my cervix was unable to hold my baby any longer on its own and an emergency rescue cerclage was my only hope at prolonging my pregnancy. As I laid in the operating room, I could do nothing but hold onto every ounce of faith and hope that I had. I was terrified. It was clear to me that my doctor, although appearing to be confident, was actually unsure if his efforts would work. Only time, and I still needed a lot of it, would tell. 24 weeks gestation is considered the limit of fetal viability and I was still 4 weeks away. From that day on, I had one purpose: stay pregnant. Those two simple words were spoken over and over again, were written on the board in my hospital room and and were undoubtedly the beginning, middle and end of my every thought.

Four days later, I was sent home on strict bed rest orders. I glued myself to my bed and watched the days slowly pass. I read a lot about premature babies. I googled pictures of babies born too early in hopes of preparing myself for what might lay ahead. I did my best to plan a nursery, finish my registries and prepare the best I could for the arrival of my sweet baby. I tried everything I could to make myself believe that I'd make it full term but somewhere deep inside, even though I never admitted it then, I just knew it wasn't going to happen. The weeks came and went and finally, the long awaited 24 week milestone arrived. I knew that should my baby arrive now, our doctors had a moral and legal obligation to do whatever they could to save his life.

The next week, my water spontaneously broke early one morning. As we drove to the hospital I prayed for peace. I prayed for my doctors who were waiting for us. I prayed for my husband, who even though he never said it, I knew he was scared. I prayed for this sweet baby who we had fought so hard for. I prayed more in that fifteen minute car ride than I ever had in my life.

They admitted me to labor and delivery and began filling my body with magnesium sulfate & steroids, which made me feel like my entire body was on fire but was necessary for the baby's brain and lung development. My doctor conceded that the chance of the baby arriving in the next 48 hours was high enough that the hospital's neonatologist was ask to visit us and advise us what to expect during delivery and the hours following. He was frank and honest and informed us that our baby boy would be faced with an uncertain beginning should he arrive in the coming days. We knew the odds would be stacked against us as the harsh reality was that babies born that early had only a 50% chance of survival.

The minutes turned to hours and the hours to days and somehow my body never went into labor. I had no contractions and as soon as the magnesium sulfate wore off I began to feel somewhat normal. I was told by the most experienced doctors that 95% of women deliver within 7 days of their water breaking and anything passed that would arguably be a miracle. In addition to not going into labor, I needed to remain infection free which can be very difficult the longer your water has been broken. Every part of our boy was underdeveloped and he needed, more than anything, to stay safely inside for as long as possible. Every minute, hour and day would make a drastic difference in his precious life.

Day after day I was strapped to monitors and for hours listened to the strongest little heartbeat. Occasionally, the monitors would detect the sound of my own heart, and I swear it was like our hearts had become one. Neither one of us could survive without the other.

I spent 23 long days in the Anetnal Care unit of our local hospital before welcoming our sweet boy, by c-section on August 13th at 28 weeks 5 days. My body had finally had enough. It took just under 30 minutes from the time I arrived in the operating room for our son to take his first breath. We had been told not to expect him to cry as he would be too tiny and his lungs might not work on their own but at 6:02 am we heard the sweetest cry. At that moment, in my heart, I knew he was going to make it.

I was only able to see him from across the room before he was whisked away to the NICU. A few hours later we were allowed to see him for the first time and it was hours after that before I was allowed to hold him. He was 2lbs 14oz and I swear I loved every ounce of his tiny being before I ever laid eyes on him. We had been fighting the odds together for weeks on end and he was finally here. I was so proud of him. Like all moms and their babies, our bond was immediate and immeasurable.

For me, the hardest part was letting go of what I thought the whole process would be like. I had dreamed for years that that my baby would promptly be swaddled and placed in my arms. That the soft lullaby from the hospital loud speaker would announce to the world that our baby had arrived. That he would be pink and warm, would breathe rhythmically and naturally and that his body will just know how to keep his heart beating steadily and strong. That we would ceremoniously carry him out of the hospital, donning huge smiles, just a few days after his arrival.

For us things were drastically different. Instead of a soft lullaby filling the falls of the Women's Pavilion, we listened to doctors, nurses and respiratory therapist try to explain what every machine keeping our son alive was. What should have been the safe cradle of my arms was actually the confines of an incubator. What should have been perfectly warm, pink skin was a cold, bruised body. What should have been slow steady breathing was sporadic and methodical breaths being pushed into his tiny lungs by an ventilator. What should have been strong heart beats were just lines on a monitor screen with flashing numbers that alarmed when his heart rate registered too high or too low. When we should have been heading home as a family of three, we were just beginning our journey. While I quietly mourned the loss of the baby I thought I was getting, in reality I got the baby that was meant and made just for me. The perfect addition to our lives and the most wanted baby in the world.

The days and weeks following his delivery were hard for all of us. From blood transfusions, xrays and picc lines to blood draws, feeding tubes and constantly beeping monitors, our little boy went through it all. We visited for hours on end, when we couldn't hold him we slowly stroked his head and hands through the isolette openings, we called for updates when we couldn't be there and slowly we began getting a little more comfortable picking him up. At the time we were unaware how long he would need to stay, but we knew statistically speaking he wouldn't be going home anytime soon. They tell us to plan for discharge around his original due date. There is a reason why they call them baby steps. Their little brains and bodies can only do so much, so quickly.

Over the next few weeks goals were being reached far sooner than expected. Oxygen machines were being turned down, humidity in the incubator was decreased daily, his body temperature started to stabilize and he had his first poopy diaper, had his first bath and wore clothes for the first time. He was moved to a regular hospital crib, took his first bottle and was eventually moved to the Intermediate NICU. While it was a slow process, we loved him and encouraged him, celebrated every single achievement and did our best to enjoy every minute we had with him, even when it felt like time was standing still. If I had a dime for every time we heard "slow and steady wins the race" I would have enough money to pay our medical bills in full.

I have to say that the people who tirelessly work in the NICU are such special people and we will forever be love them for what they did for our family. They are the most caring, nurturing and warmest people on earth. They patiently explained things over and over when we were too tired and confused to remember anything. They shared in our first precious moments as a family, supported us on the hard days and assured us day in and day out that things would be ok. They became our biggest cheerleaders when we accomplished things like learning to change our easily overstimulated baby's first diaper among a spider web of wires, tubes and umbilical IV's. They loved our baby and we loved them for that.

As our boy grew stronger and stronger we began to prepare for him to go home. We attended a discharge education class, installed car seats, packed diaper bags and learned as much as we could about  how we could keep him healthy outside of NICU. We were nervous & terrified, yet excited and confident.

After 48 long days, he finally came home.

One thing is for sure, we learned a lot about life during those weeks in the NICU. That you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only thing you can be. That each and every person is born a fighter, no matter how small they are. That every family's journey and story is different but equally as beautiful.

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