I actually wrote this post this time last year. But I thought I would re-post it (with some updates) for three reasons:
- Dude will be 17 tomorrow and this is my tribute to him.
- It’s important to me to look back on this experience and savor the fact that my son is now normal and quite healthy.
- To put my experience into the preemie pot, with so many (TOO MANY), stories of how our precious children had such a rough start to life.
(There comes a point, in every parent’s life, when you’re forced to wake up and face the fact that your children are no longer babies. The childhood stage has passed and you’ve entered a new, and in some ways, scarier phase of your child’s life: adolescence. It didn’t really hit me that my oldest son was no longer a child until he went to his pediatrician to get his booster shots a few years back and the doctor told me that he was halfway through puberty and though he still had some growing to do, he was well on his way to becoming a man.
This entry was hard for me to write. I pride myself on keeping my emotions in check. But I must admit, I could barely write this entry through my tears.)
My life tumbled out of control November 17, 1992. It was Kevin’s birthday the next day and I was frantic to find him a gift. I remember speed walking the mall, trying to find him something.
And I remember the most gawd-awful back pain, like ever. Little did I know, I was already IN labor.
I had no idea what was happening to me. I had never been through this experience before and there was no one to ask.
I woke up at around 3:00 the morning of November 18th with pains. I thought they were gas. BAD gas. So, I went to the restroom.
My water broke.
But still. I was in denial. It was too soon. This couldn’t possibly be what I thought it was, right? I woke Kevin up, told him what was going on, and he shooed me away, told me it was nothing, rolled over and went back to sleep. (I’ve teased him about this endlessly over the years).
I went back to sleep, but it was a fitful sleep. Finally, I got up at 6:00 and just sort of puttered around. The pains were getting worse and I knew, something wasn’t right, but I still wouldn’t admit that I might possibly be in labor.
Kevin suggested that we wait until 9:00, when my OB/GYN office opened, and we would see what they said.
It wasn’t until I called, told the nurse what was going on and heard the urgency in her voice to get to the hospital NOW, that I finally admitted I was in labor.
We flew to the hospital. The pains were getting pretty bad at this point, but nothing I couldn’t handle. They examined me (I think I was a three) and gave me my epidural.
Dude was born two and a half hours later. He just slipped out, he was so small, but believe it or not, he was 4 lbs and 12 oz.
That’s pretty big for a preemie. And I later learned, an advantage.
Because he arrived eight weeks too early (and on Kevin’s birthday, no less! All of the nurses got a kick out of that), his lungs hadn’t fully developed, so he had to go under an oxygen tent. Only, he wasn’t ready for that and they had to intubate him.
To top it off, and because of my stupidity, he developed a blood infection because I waited too long to go in after my water broke. He had to have a blood transfusion.
I beat myself up over that for a number of months.
It was touch and go for a while. His weight dropped pretty quickly that first week and there would be visits where the doctor told us things were looking grim and other visits where the doctor told us that things were looking up. It was an emotional roller coaster and one I would NEVER wish on anyone.
Dude was a puny kid. He had to come home on a monitor because his nervous system was still a little underdeveloped and he would sometimes forget to breathe.
(Kevin, holding Dude our last night in the hospital. We were preparing to take him home the next day).
The monitor made everyone extremely nervous; I got used to it. Though it did go off several times, only one time was an actual emergency. It was the middle of the night and his monitor beeped. I instantly woke up and raced to his room. In the past, all I would have to do was turn on the light and that was enough to stimulate him back into a breathing pattern. Only this time, it didn’t work and I had to actually touch him and gently shake him awake before he started breathing again.
I’m pretty sure I lost a year of my life that night.
There was never any explanation as to why my water broke and I went into labor exactly eight weeks early, but the booger bear slipped out at about 11:00 in the morning and we were never so scared, and so thrilled to see him in all our lives. He stayed in the NICU for six weeks because his lungs hadn’t fully developed and though he was a big preemie – 4 lbs. and 12 oz., he lost so much weight in the first several weeks he dipped down to the 3 lb. range. The hospital wouldn’t release him until he hit the 5 lb range – it took six weeks to get there.
The nurses loved him. He was smiley and generally in good spirits. He had to be fed through a tube through his nose for quite a while and his oxygen levels would dip so low while feeding that yet another monitor would beep and scare us half to death.
(His special nurse, Wendy, was very attentive and very kind to us in NICU).
I was an emotional wreck that whole six weeks and spent countless hours just sitting and either stroking him, or talking to him. We had to scrub our hands with disinfectant before they would allow us into the unit and I remember my hands looking like raw hamburger meat before it was all said and done.
Dude spent his first Christmas in the hospital. We even have a picture of Santa holding him.
It was easily the most difficult Christmas of my life and I remember crying myself to sleep especially hard Christmas Eve and Christmas night. All I wanted for Christmas was to hold my baby without having to be careful of accidentally dislodging a tube.
(My folks, holding Dude for the first time).
Even though Dude was born prematurely, he never fell behind his peers. He quickly caught up on the growth charts and has never had any emotional, or physical complication as a result of his early start. My oldest son was simply impatient to start this thing we call life. I believe he takes after his momma. *smile*
(Dude and me a few days after we were allowed to take him home. I was terrified).
Dude will be seventeen tomorrow. I keep thinking this must be a mistake – it’s really been that many years since bringing him into the world to charm the NICU nurses? And sometimes I catch myself just staring at him in wonder because my little boy is completely gone – and in his place is a handsome young man with an infectious smile and the kindest heart you will ever encounter. He is a quiet, introspective sort of personality; he’s shy but warm, subdued but charismatic. He has never been a very talkative person, but when he speaks, people listen. He is a gentle soul, my Dude, and I pray he grows up to be a well-rounded individual because God knows I made some mistakes with him. I’ve since learned from those mistakes, but I will never forgive myself for them.
Son, you have blessed our lives and given us purpose. Thank you for being such a great son, a decent human being and a special individual. I hope you remember your childhood fondly and will someday understand why we made some of the decisions we made. I now pray you enter manhood with confidence and feel ready to tackle whatever life throws at you. And I hope you will remember that no matter how old you get, you will always be our special little preemie.
Happy birthday son. We love you so very, very much.
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