My story begins on January 21, 2000, when I went for a checkup at week 29, concerned with swelling that had been ongoing for the past three weeks.
A nurse informed me over the phone that swelling was a part of pregnancy, and that I was being over-cautious. When they tested my urine sample, there was four plus protein that had spilled. The nurse was not too concerned until she took my blood pressure, to find it at 175/110! My OB immediately admitted me to the hospital and put me on magnesium sulfate to prevent me from having a stroke. I was transported to a nearby hospital with a level three NICU, able to care for a premature baby of 29 weeks.
The immediate plan was to watch the baby. If they were not able to stabilize the blood pressure or if the baby was in distress, the doctors were going to take Brianna that weekend.
Fortunately, the medicine worked and my blood pressure was stabilized with continuous medication. I was then put on strict bedrest and the immediate goal was to prolong the pregnancy as long as possible; we were shooting for 35 weeks.
I stayed in the hospital where Brianna and I were constantly monitored. They started vitamin K shots to prevent brain bleeds as well as steroids to encourage lung development. The attempts lasted for two weeks, after which the amniotic fluid level dropped to three and the placenta began to calcify. We had run out of time.
The doctors tried to stop labor for two days, during which Brianna was on constant fetal monitoring. At night the only way to catch her on the monitor was for me to sleep sitting up. The nurses would come in throughout the night to lift me up from where I had slumped over in my sleep, causing the monitor to lose Brianna...
Brianna was taken by C-Section on February 3 at 4:56 p.m. We call her our 123456 baby. She is our first baby, born in the second to third day of labor at 4:56. She weighed in at two pounds, five ounces and measured fourteen and a half inches long. Brianna received nines on her 1 and 5-minute Apgar tests, which gave us an immediate sense of relief that the vitamin K and steroid shots had been successful.
She was the tiniest thing I have ever seen and seeing her made my husband and I feel scared for her survival.
The next time I would see my daughter was in the NICU. All of a sudden, we had joined a club we didn't know existed. Tiny babies in incubators, monitors continuously going off, and parents sitting at virtually every bedside waiting for the unknown. Brianna had tubes and IV's all over her body, as well as in her nose and mouth. The nurses patiently explained what each tube and monitor was for, and gently calmed us down, ensuring us that she would be all right. We were told by her doctors to hope for the best but to be prepared for the worst, yet not to worry until someone said to do so. That was the best advice... don't worry.
We were very fortunate in that we never had any setbacks. Brianna was always one step ahead of the doctors. She came off the ventilator within four days, off the nasal another four days later, and stayed under the jaundice lights for five days. Within one week she was introduced to and tolerating breast milk in small quantities. She started with gavauge feedings, eating 1 cc. and went up 1 cc. every three feedings.
At this point, the only thing she needed in order to come home was to take all of her feedings from the bottle or nipple (she wasn't introduced to a bottle until she was a month old), gain consistent weight and maintain her body temperature. These three factors work together and, at the same time, work against each other. In order for her to maintain her body temperature, she had to gain weight and eating from the bottle caused her to burn precious calories. Brianna stayed in the incubator while the doctors found a happy medium to satisfy all her needs. Finally, Brianna accomplished all aspects of her plan.
The day we had so eagerly awaited finally came on March 19. After six weeks and three days, we took our daughter home without any monitors. She weighed only four pounds, eleven ounces, but we were told by the nurses that she would thrive at home. They were right. Six weeks later, Brianna weighed eight pounds, four ounces, was steadily gaining an ounce a day and had outgrown all the preemie clothes we'd thought she'd use forever!
We developed friendships with other parents that were not as lucky as us and did experience major setbacks. We consider ourselves very fortunate. Each time she smiles or cries, we stand in amazement that our twenty-month-old daughter is so healthy. We appreciate the battle she had to fight at such an early age and are thankful to the doctors and nurses who helped her win.