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.  Last year, I told you about how my son Eli, was born at 32 weeks weighing only 2lbs 11oz.  He spent the first month in the NICU but is a happy and healthy toddler today.  The first year with a preemie was quite a rollercoaster, compounded by the fact that when he was only 6 months old, I learned I was expecting again!
My second pregnancy was much better than my first.  I was taking weekly progesterone shots to help me get to term, and I almost made it!  Baby X was born at almost 36 weeks gestation.  He is what they call a “late pre-term baby”.  However his entrance into the world was much scarier than his brother’s.  We thought because he stayed in for four weeks longer than Eli, and was much bigger that we wouldn’t have any scares.  Now I know that even a late pre-term baby can have health issues at birth. 
As I told you about last year, I have a rare blood clotting disorder that made getting and staying pregnant very difficult.  Since I already had a pre-term birth, I was at an even higher risk for another one.  Around 34 weeks pregnant with X, I started to notice he wasn’t moving as much.  My OB was more cautious with me due to my history and started having me monitored several times a week to make sure my little guy was okay in there.  With each passing day I couldn’t believe how much farther along I was.  I had already made it past the point where I had my first son, so this had to be a better birth experience.  At 35 weeks and 5 days pregnant I failed one of the monitoring tests.  They were looking for the baby to move a certain number of times, and he appeared to be very sleepy.  There wasn’t much concern because some babies can just be sleepy and still be perfectly fine, other times it can be an indicator of things going south.  My OB decided to keep me overnight for monitoring, just to be cautious.  In the morning I had an ultrasound where they checked the baby’s umbilical cord.  What they saw was very alarming.  The blood flow in the cord was reversed, meaning that my body was taking blood and nutrients from the baby.  They needed to deliver immediately to save his life.  We barely had enough time for my husband to get to the hospital before X was born!
As a second time preemie mom, I was feeling optimistic about the birth despite the news we had just been given.  I knew they would get him out right away, and they estimated that he weighed about 5 lbs.  We were still hoping for a take home baby.  Sure enough he came out screaming, and weighing exactly 5 lbs.  Eli wasn’t even 5lbs when he was discharged from the NICU!  They evaluated him and determined he looked great, and handed him to my husband.  We were able to spend a few minutes together and they took him back to my room to wait for me.  As soon as I entered the recovery room, we immediately did skin to skin.  It was such an amazing experience to snuggle my newborn since I was hardly able to even to see Eli after he was born.  Many preemie moms are often separated from their babies upon birth.  It can be very traumatic. 
All of a sudden I looked down at this sweet baby on my chest, and he was blue.  The nurse quickly picked him up and tapped his feet to startle him and wake him up.  He let out a scream.  It was scary, but he recovered quickly so we stayed calm.  They started running tests on him and about 30 minutes later an intern came in to tell me that he needed to go to the NICU.  His blood sugar was low.  She said that anything below a 40 required a NICU visit, and below a 20 required a central line of glucose.  Baby X had a blood sugar level of FIVE.  I was able to kiss him goodbye before they whisked him off.  I knew he was in good hands, and that I had been incredibly blessed.  Several times throughout the course of that day, I almost lost him.  It was almost 6 hours before I was able to go to the NICU to see him.  His sugar was so low that he needed help breathing and was on CPAP, a machine that was helping the pressure in his airways.  His heart was also working extra hard and they were concerned about that.  He had a central line through his belly button giving him glucose and several IVs.  They had to prick his heels for drops of blood every 30 minutes.  His poor little feet were black and blue and he was so sick he didn’t even cry when they poked him.  He might have made it almost a month longer than his brother, but he was much sicker.  He would not be a take home baby, not yet.
Having a newborn in the NICU and a one year old was quite the challenge.  I would say that enduring the NICU with a second child is much harder than with your first.  I felt incredibly torn and felt as though I wasn’t doing a good job taking care of either son.  Thankfully the March of Dimes has a family center at our hospital.  It has a big fish tank, and I was able to take Eli for walks to go see the fishies.  It helped break up the long days we spent there.  I would balance our time between visiting X and taking Eli to the family room so he could run around, and play with toys that they keep there.  Once again I was learning firsthand what an amazing organization the March of Dimes was. 
I am very grateful to be a mom to preemies.  Both of my boys have very special stories on how they entered this world, and going through this experience has made my husband and me even more appreciative to be parents.  I now know what it is like to have a miracle granted – twice!