by Marie Franks
Justin was a surprise to me from the very beginning. In fact, I almost fainted when I saw the little line turn pink on the home pregnancy test. But, it seemed instantly I knew he was exactly what I needed.
From the beginning I had that "feeling" he was a boy. Most of my pregnancy was pretty uneventful. My weight gain was right on target, didn't have high blood pressure, and wasn't uncomfortable at all. I felt glorious and I was loving being pregnant. So, you can imagine my surprise when I went into pre-term labor at 34.5 weeks. I was in the car and all of a sudden knew something was weird. I said "I'm in labor" before I even had my first contraction.
Then, ten minutes later, I felt a tightening in my belly. Everyone kept telling me it was just a Braxton Hicks contraction, and to not worry about it. But then, they just kept coming and they kept getting stronger and stronger. To make matters a little more complicated, my husband had just had surgery that day, and wasn't able to drive anywhere. So, my mother took me to the hospital. I was so scared.
I got there and sure enough, I wasn't imagining things. I was having contractions every three minutes and was three centimeters dilated. At first, I got excited because I didn't realize the dangers of having a baby at 34.5 weeks. I thought I would be having my baby sometime that night.
Then, much to my surprise, a nurse came in with a syringe full of Terbutaline. I got three shots of Terbutaline, and my contractions stopped. At first I was a little disappointed, until the nurse explained to me what might happen to my baby if he was born that night. So, I relaxed and decided that waiting until 36 weeks was for the best. I stayed in the hospital for 3 days and then was sent home on strict bed rest and medication to keep my contractions from starting up again.
I was told I was allowed to take my last dose of medicine on Sunday, November 23. I woke up that morning and took my last pill. Since I was no longer on medication or bed rest, I hurried around the house, doing laundry and getting things ready for my new baby. That evening as I was walking through the grocery store, I felt that first tell tale tightening of my belly. I instinctively put my hand over my belly and my mother looked at me as I did it and asked, "Did you have a contraction?" I just smiled. We finished our shopping and went home. I didn't want to rush to the hospital for nothing, so we decided to wait for a while and see what happened.
I did all they say to do. I played cards with my family, I took a warm shower and shaved my legs. Then, once we realized that my contractions were there to stay, we headed for the hospital. When I got there, they decided since I was in very early labor and it was very late at night, I needed to sleep. I was given a shot of Demerol, which I was told would stop any Braxton Hicks contractions, but couldn't stop labor contractions. I slept all through the night, and my contractions kept on going.
My doctor came in at about 8:00 a.m. and decided that my water should be broken to help speed things along, since it was my first labor and was going to take a while. Once my water broke, things got moving! I immediately went into active labor. My mother stood by me the entire time. Every time I asked her to tell the nurse I wanted an epidural, she would remind me that I said not to let me do it. She rubbed my back, smoothed my hair, and she wiped the tears from my face as I cried in pain. But she never once let me give in and get an epidural.
When I went into transition, my blood pressure went way up. I honestly don't remember how high it got, but I do remember the nurse having a very worried look. She made me lay on my left side as she checked my cervix. Unfortunately for her, I had a contraction right at that moment, and my reflexes got the better of me, and I kicked the poor woman. But, fortunately for me she declared I was complete and ready to go!
She finally let me push, and oh, how glorious pushing felt! I was finally able to do something to release the pressure I was feeling. Once I started pushing, it didn't take long. My doctor came in and I pushed 4 times and out came my beautiful little boy, Justin Ray at 1:58 p.m., November 24th. He had a full head of jet-black hair, just like my grandfather, Raymond, his namesake. We noticed he even had my grandfather's single dimple in the left cheek. It was perfect. Until the nurse took him from me. She said that Justin was having trouble filling his lungs when he breathed, so he was going to the nursery to be put on oxygen. I was so upset, I hadn't even been able to hold him for 10 minutes, let alone breastfeed him.
They moved me over to the postpartum rooms. It was there that I received a phone call from the nursery telling me that Justin was still unable to breath on his own, and was going to have to be transferred to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit aka the NICU. I was devastated. He was 36 weeks, which was generally a safe time to deliver a pre-term baby. The head NICU nurse also told me that less than 50% of all 36-week babies had to go to the NICU, and unfortunately, my son happened to be one of them. They brought him by to see me in my room before they took him upstairs. He was in an oxygen hood and was only allowed out for less than 2 minutes for me to hold.
I didn't see Justin again until midnight that night. And what I saw made me fall back into a rocking chair. He had a c-pap across his face attached to oxygen, he had an IV in his little arm, he had an oxygen sensor on his toe, and 4 leads on his chest to measure his heart rate and breathing. What had they done to my little boy? He didn't look preemie enough to need all of this equipment. He was a 7 pound, 19 3/4 inch baby! But he was preemie enough to need it. I didn't get to hold Justin again until he was three days old, which was Thanksgiving Day. It was the perfect moment, and I was truly thankful.
The next day was even better. The huge C-pap tubing came off and a thin nasal canula went on for his oxygen, thus, making it possible for me to breastfeed him. He was four days old, and I finally got to nurse my baby instead of be attached to a breast pump. I still cry remembering seeing his little head nuzzled up to my breast for the very first time. Things were going great. Then, when he was about 6 days old, the veins in his arms and legs were all shot and couldn't take anymore IV's. So, where does a nurse go hunting for a vein on my baby? His beautiful head of jet-black hair. They shaved off a section of hair on the side of his head that was about the size of a silver dollar, and put the IV in there. It was so awkward trying to maneuver around that IV site and the tubing when I was trying to switch sides while nursing. After two days, the doctors decided he was getting plenty of fluids nursing and no longer need the IV, so it came out! That was a wonderful day.
The next day, he came off the oxygen completely, and I was finally able to take Justin to the private nursing lounges. It was the first time I had been alone with him. I stayed in that room for two hours, just holding him and rocking him. They kept him two days longer to make sure he wouldn't relapse and need oxygen. He didn't have any relapses so when he was 12 days old, his NICU stay was over and I got to bring him home.
Justin is now almost 4 years old and is the light of my life. You could never tell that he was a preemie, or that he spent the first 12 days of his life in the NICU. The only problem he has had growing up is asthma and he is prone to pneumonia in the winter. He has only been hospitalized once since he was a newborn, and it was for pneumonia when he was 2 years old. He is doing great and last winter made it through his first winter without getting pneumonia and we are hoping for a repeat this year! His dark hair is gone and he is now a beautiful blond-headed blue-eyed heart breaker.