By: Erin Yarbough

In honor of Prematurity Awareness Month, I’d like to share my story with you.  My name is Erin and I work in Product Development Marketing here at Summer.  Because I have worked in the juvenile industry for 10 years, I thought I knew exactly what I was getting into when I got pregnant.  What I know now is that there is no way to plan, or be prepared when having a baby - it is completely out of your control. 
I have a rare blood clotting disorder that made getting and staying pregnant very difficult.  I started out as a High Risk Pregnancy, but with the correct medications and monitoring, my doctors felt I would make it full term.  At 20 weeks we learned we were having a boy, and he was in the 50th percentile for height and weight – absolutely perfect!  They still wanted to make sure I was monitored closely so I went back at 24 weeks for another ultrasound.  We learned then that the baby had dipped down to the 10th percentile and at that time I was diagnosed with IUGR (intra uterine growth restriction).  My blood clotting disorder was deteriorating the placenta and not allowing enough nutrients to pass through the umbilical cord.  They started monitoring me more frequently and at 29 weeks they decided to admit me.  The umbilical cord was having periods where there was no blood flowing through.  This baby was coming early.
Once admitted, they immediately started me on the Betamethasone steroid shots to help the baby’s lungs grow.  I met with a neonatologist who explained to my husband and I what we could expect.  I had been to the NICU at Women & Infants Hospital several times before as part of our annual March of Dimes fundraising kick off at Summer.  But not in a million years did I ever think I would end up there and that it would be a place my tiny baby and I would call home.  Once the shots kicked in it became a waiting game.  I remained in the hospital where I was monitored three times a day and as soon as the MFM (Maternal Fetal Medicine) specialists thought he was safer on the outside than on the inside – they would take him.  Not only would my son be born early, but he was tiny for his gestational age so that compounded the situation.  It soon became very real that there was a chance he might not make it.  And if he did make it, he could be a very sick baby with lots of medical issues.  At exactly 32 weeks, after spending 3 weeks in the hospital, my water broke.  Turns out this little boy knew he wasn’t thriving inside of me and took the decision out of our hands!  On July 25th at 2:54am, our little peanut Eli, was born via emergency c-section weighing 2lbs 11oz.  He came out screaming and kicking.  Turns out those steroids and hitting the 32 week lung development milestone had helped him greatly.  He didn’t need any breathing assistance – a pure miracle for such a tiny baby. 
We were so blessed that he was alive. He was a miracle and very healthy only needing an IV, Bilirubin lights, and a Nasal G-tube for feeding. Having a micro preemie in the NICU was not an easy thing.  He was so tiny and fragile that I was afraid to hold him or even change his diaper.   It was so hard to leave him every night, and to wake up and rush up to the hospital in the morning.  His nurses became like family, and the March of Dimes provided us with a lot of emotional support.  They created events where we met other NICU families who knew what we were going through and could understand how hard it was.  Some families had more challenges than others.  It made me and my husband very grateful that our peanut was as healthy as he was.  Walking through the halls every day was sobering, seeing these tiny people fighting for their lives.  Don’t ever underestimate a preemie though – they are a lot stronger than you think!

After 31 days in the NICU, we were able to take our miracle Eli home with us.  He is thriving and chunky and his only issue is severe reflux which many full term babies battle.  At 3 ½ months old (1 ½ months adjusted) he weighs 9 lbs and is starting to grow out of newborn clothes!  I look back on my experience and wouldn’t change a thing.  While I obviously wish he was born full term, I feel blessed that I got 2 extra months with my son that most moms don’t get.  He just couldn’t wait to be with his family!