I had always thought that miracles were moving, heart-warming tales that you saw on Oprah or read in Reader's Digest. I wasn't really cynical, but miracles happened to other people. I never in my wildest dreams thought that something remarkable and miraculous would happen to me. That was before I became pregnant with my son Ian.
After 6 years of futile trying to have a baby, 5 miscarriages and 6 failed in-vitros, my husband and I were beginning the adoption process. We were in the middle of a cycle and my doctor did not hold out much hope. In fact, they only put one egg back. Miraculously, I got pregnant!
The pregnancy stuck through the scary early weeks and we thought we were home free. Then at 15 weeks, my water broke. There was no explanation, no apparent infection. Obviously, this is incredibly early. The statistics for this pregnancy were dismal: a less than 2% chance of survival. If the pregnancy could hold on to viability (24 weeks — 9 weeks away from my water breaking), the chances of a baby surviving, even if it was at full term, were very low. Without amniotic fluid the baby's lung tissue could not develop.
I spent the next 13 weeks in bed in the hospital. It was a very anxious and difficult time because no one could predict what would happen and there was no treatment for my type of pregnancy problem. We did everything we could, including moving to a hospital in Delaware where there was a doctor doing heroic and experimental procedures to help women with PROM regain some amniotic fluid. Unfortunately, the procedures didn't "work" for me, but the days and weeks passed and the baby was still alive.
Ian was born suddenly at 28 weeks and 2 1/2 pounds. An infection had begun and the pregnancy wouldn't hold any longer. Unfortunately, both he and I were septic from the infection. However, he was alive and breathing — albeit with a lot of help — but he was breathing!
Being in the NICU is a tumultuous roller-coaster and it is scary. We were extremely grateful to be there, but it was still difficult. Like most preemies, Ian had good days and bad days, and a lot of close brushes with death. The night he was born, he developed a really dangerous pulmonary bleed and needed to be put on an oscillating ventilator (the strongest available at the time). Two weeks later he almost died from an e-coli pneumonia which landed him back on the oscillating ventilator for another week. He spent about 5 weeks on a respirator and then on C-Pap. Finally he was weaned off to a nasal cannula and remained on oxygen, monitors and diuretics once we took him home and for his first year of life.
And, like many preemies, Ian struggled with other issues besides breathing. He had terrible reflux and trouble swallowing. We had to feed him formula thickened with cereal from a spoon for quite a long time — which he would then throw up. His leg was twisted from being cramped in-utero and he had to wear a brace for most of a year and do physical therapy. Like most preemies, he needed occupational therapy and speech therapy as he grew older — and still does them now at 7 years old. But, all along, he was a happy, vibrant kid and is now a healthy seven year old boy who most people would never guess had a rough start in life!
Having a preemie has been trying in ways I had never experienced before — new levels of fear, guilt, frustration and resentment. Those are all normal reactions to the difficult experience that is parenting a premature baby. It required more patience and faith than I thought I was capable of. But, baby step by baby step my preemie, and others, grew into kids that are so incredible. Not only are they normal, healthy kids but they possess an inner strength and determination that comes from surviving a difficult struggle. In retrospect, having a tiny miracle was miraculous not only because of the incredible resilience these children demonstrate, but also because of the gift it gave to our family. We live life differently — more thoughtfully and more aware of our blessing — now that we know that miracles can happen to us.
And, by the way, the miracles didn't stop there. We went on to have two more children — both of whom had normal, healthy, full term pregnancies — and now are expecting a fourth. I guess that is the way