A mother of micro-preemies shares her story
When they were born, her babies were no bigger than bottles of pop
As told by HealthPartners colleague Katie Kocherer:
Nineteen weeks pregnant in January 2008, I woke up not feeling well. Who would have thought my husband and I would find out that day we were having twins instead of just one baby?
As the weeks went on, the babies and I were healthy and on track. But at 26 weeks, my water broke. At least I thought it had. It just seemed too early.
Doctors confirmed I was indeed having contractions and sprang into action to hopefully slow down and stop them. A team of nurses immediately hooked me up to an IV and started giving me a muscle relaxer. And after four days, the contractions stopped.
However, because my water had broken, I needed to stay in the hospital on bed rest. My care team hoped that I would make it to 30 weeks, but one of my boys decided he didn’t want to wait. Gavin Andrew was born at 1 lb. 14 oz. at exactly 28 weeks. And his brother Grayson Donald was born 31 minutes later, weighing 2 lb. 7 oz. They were no bigger than a 20-ounce pop bottle.
A 3-month hospital stay
Nothing could have prepared me for this hospital stay. And I’m pretty sure that’s true for any mom who gives birth to a micro-preemie.
All the special and candid moments that you expected don’t happen. I had envisioned my mom and sister would be with me when I was delivering. Instead, I was with 25 hospital staff employees.
Like all mothers-to-be, I had dreamt of holding my babies since the day I learned I was pregnant. But I couldn’t do that when they arrived because there was a chance they wouldn’t be able to breathe on their own or that they may need CPR.
And as I watched my tiny, tiny babies develop outside of my body, it was not at all like the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book. They were so fragile.
At five days, I could finally hold my babies for the very first time. It was scary and magical all in one. And after nine years, I still remember the smells, the beeping and alarms, the IVs and tubes, and the nurses and doctors that were with us that day.
As the days and weeks went on, those hospital sights and sounds continued. Both boys needed central lines so that they could be given medicine and have blood drawn more easily. And Grayson experienced cardiac arrest. His body wasn’t processing the oxygen he was breathing in and he needed to have a heart surgery to fix that.
Thankfully, the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) that the boys were in gave us a ton of support and education through all of this. And a lot of the helpful materials we received came from March of Dimes. They give you information on what to expect while in the NICU, and how you and the NICU staff will be working together to care for your baby. And they provide tips on when to allow visitors and how to pass the time when you are visiting your baby. I can tell you first hand that every parent there has around a million unanswered questions, and getting all of this information is very comforting.
Finally going home
After 11 weeks, Gavin and Grayson were discharged from the hospital just one day apart. Grayson needed to continue oxygen support at home for four more months. So an oxygen tank also came home with us, as did a bill for their hospital stay – which as you can imagine, was very expensive.
For the first couple years, both boys had weaker lungs than typical toddlers. That made it harder for them to fight illnesses as simple as the common cold. So we didn’t go out a lot for a while.
But today, Gavin and Grayson are healthy 3rd graders and they don’t have any remaining effects of their prematurity. They are 9 years old and the best of friends. And my husband and I are incredibly blessed to be the parents of these once micro-preemies.
Before our boys turned one, my husband and I decided we needed to give back to the March of Dimes. The amazing care our boys received was possible in large part thanks to their research. And that’s been the case for countless other babies and children over the years, too.
We started a March for Babies walk team. And just about every one of our friends and family who had followed our story since my water broke joined us. Over the course of 5 years, we raised more than $40,000. And through our involvement, we made a multitude of new supportive friends who have also experienced prematurity. Although we may not have said it in the very first days of our journey, we can now say without hesitation how proud we are to be part of the strong and inspiring preemie community!
Our organization is committed to helping moms-to-be have full-term pregnancies and healthy babies. And like Katie, we are also a proud supporter of the March of Dimes and its research, education and care.
So please join us in supporting the cause and raising funds for premature babies! Grab your family and friends and walk alongside 12,000 other supporters at this year’s March for Babies on Saturday, April 29, at the Mall of America.
We will have a booth in the North Atrium by the JW Marriott. At our booth you will find:
- Pet therapy dogs
- A card-making station
We look forward to seeing you there!