Prematurity: When Babies Arrive Early
By Jessica Spooner
I didn't give premature birth much thought, until I had a premature birth.
Our son came barreling into this world at 27 weeks gestation, weighing only 2 pounds and 4.5 ounces, a mere 14.7 inches long. Almost one week prior, my water had broke unexpectedly, without warning or symptom. Everything had been going great up until that point. I followed all medical advice, refrained from caffeine, ate organic, went to all doctor’s appointments, slept on my left side, etc. I complied with all of the rules. I had even already hired my doulas as I knew wanted an unmedicated, natural birth.
I got that natural birth, and with my doula by my side, but it certainly wasn't the way I had expected it to be.
I gave birth in the OR, surrounded by doctors, nurses, a NICU team, my spouse, and my doula. Needless to say, birthing your first child 3 months early, before you've taken any classes or even prepared mentally, was difficult. It was hard to concentrate on the rapid-fire instructions that were coming at me. My doula quietly repeated the instructions into my ear; her calming presence was what I focused on to endure through the labor.
After 30 short minutes, our tiny son was born. I held him briefly and could only say “he’s so little. He’s so little.” He was promptly whisked off to the NICU, where his journey would last 13 weeks and include an infection, blood transfusions, medical tests galore, and many months of CPAP and oxygen. There were good days, bad days, and days I wasn’t sure if we would ever make it home. But, on the 92nd day, on his due date of all dates, our son came home.
Despite the high drama of my son's arrival into the world, it was still important to us to grow our family, if we were able to do so. It was unknown what had caused my water to break so, once pregnant again, progesterone shots, ultrasounds, and cervical length checks were ordered.
With the help of my amazing OB, a team of knowledgeable perinatologists, and fantastic doulas, our daughter was born at 37 weeks on eclipse day, of all days. If she couldn’t be early, she had to top her brother’s entry into the world somehow! And the first words I spoke when I held that 6 pound 14 ounce baby was “she’s so big! She’s so big!” Unlike her brother, she spent a mere 3 days in the NICU.
Our son is now a happy, healthy, and ornery 3-year-old and our daughter is a happy, healthy, roly-poly 1-year-old.
We learned a great deal in the NICU. We learned to change tiny diapers, read monitors, take temperatures, understand the many beeping alarms, and speak medical jargon. We read and sang to our son, we held him, we helped care for him, and we loved him. We learned how to be parents behind those locked doors on the third floor of the hospital, where no one should have to go.