November: Prematurity Awareness Month
According to March of Dimes, 15 million babies worldwide are born prematurely each year. 1 million of those babies will die. 380,000 of those babies born prematurely are born in the United States. March of Dimes also reported that babies who survive an early birth often face serious and lifelong health problems.
Premature birth hits home because my daughter is a preemie...a micro preemie to be exact. I am reminded every day I look at her. McKenzie was born at 25 weeks and 5 days gestation. Super early right?! I was absolutely terrified. A routine checkup turned into an emergency hospital stay until I had her.
I felt fine honestly but I wasn't. I was immediately admitted and diagnosed with severe preeclampsia. I received the first steroid shot on that Tuesday and was told to prepare to have the baby. First they would need to send me to a hospital that had a level IV NICU. So I was transferred to Medical City Dallas. Once there, I was pumped full of medicine to try and control the blood pressure as well as keep me from having a seizure.
A NICU doctor came to see me to talk about the severity of what was going on with us and I was terrified. They only gave McKenzie a 30% chance of living. He told me, "We want to keep her cooking as long as we can but I don't see you making it a week." I asked for honesty and he gave it to me. 5 days later, I developed HELLP syndrome, my liver and kidneys starting shutting down and I was rushed into surgery with both of our lives hanging in the balance
But GOD! By his grace, McKenzie was born weighing 1 pound and 4 ounces...a micro preemie and I survived. I was in bad shape and didn't get to see her until the day after she was born. She was beautiful, tiny and all the tubes and wires scared me. It's hard to look at your baby like that. I couldn't hold her and it was encouraged not to rub her because her central nervous system wasn't fully developed.
30 days later I was finally able to hold McKenzie. Our 4.5 month NICU stay was full of ups and down and I was scared every day. Will this be the last day? The NICU changes you. As a woman of faith, I was shaken to my core. You're not supposed to question God but I did. Why me? Why her? What did I do wrong? Questions I still don't have answers to.
McKenzie had jaundice for a while, suffered from retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) in her left eye, was intubated a lot longer than we wanted which resulted in her oral aversion (why she has a feeding tube), chronic lung disease (why she has breathing treatments) as well as developmental delays (which are expected for preemies).
You're on constant alert in the hospital and it doesn't change once you come home. After our NICU stay, she finally came home on Oct. 2, 2015! I didn't expect her to come on oxygen, a pulse oximeter that she was hooked up to at night, GERD and 7 different medications...but she did. Breathing treatments every 4 hours and she never cued when she was hungry so I had to wake her up every 3 hours to eat. No matter how much work had to be done for her, I was glad to have her home.
Some preemies have a lifelong struggle while others only last a little while. I have no idea where we will end up between the two. It's scary to not know when she will no longer need a feeding tube or if she will catch up in EVERY aspect developmentally or how long she will have GERD or how long she will need breathing treatments. There's a lot I don't know. I do know that with the help of the Lord, we can face anything that comes.
McKenzie and I volunteer with the March of Dimes in Dallas to help others like us and to support the research into the causes of prematurity. I encourage each and every one of you to get involved by volunteering, raising money, donating and putting teams together for their walks.