Seven years ago today, our sweet Gloria Rose entered into our lives. She was seven weeks premature and spent the first 12 days in the NICU.
Can I just tell you, that ever since that time, every time I hear expectant mothers wish their baby would come early, I cringe. People say, "Gloria was 7 weeks early and she's ok." Oh, if they only knew! We were blessed to have had some warning of her imminent arrival. A week and a half before she actually came into this world, I ended up in the hospital with contractions and other complications. For four days I lay in a hospital bed and was given shots of steroids to make sure our little one could breath if she came ahead of schedule. When I came home, it was to be nothing but bed-rest...with 5 little ones wondering why I couldn't do things for them or take them upstairs and put them to bed. But, I thank God for the extra 10 days for Gloria to grow inside of me. I thank Him for the advances in medicine that allowed us those necessary (and painful!) shots of steroids.
When Gloria was born, she was 4 lbs., 13 oz....not bad for a preemie! She was crying and pink. But, because she was 7 weeks early, there was very little fat under her baby skin. Due to an infection we both had, she was automatically slated to be in the NICU for 10 days until her antibiotic was finished. While I tried not to set my heart on it, I was crushed when, on that 10th day, she could not go home with me. Due to the lack of fat, Gloria could not keep her body temperature up and gain weight at the same time. She could do one or the other. Therefore, if her weight was up, her temperature was down and vice versa. Finally, on the 12th day, the doctors decided that since it was August and it was in the mid-80s outside, they could attempt to release her.
I left with strict instructions to keep her warm, check her temperature, check her weight, and not to let her around people for a few months. MONTHS! We brought Baby Gloria home. Her 5 siblings were not able to hold her for 6 weeks. While the outside temperature read 83, we swaddled her up and turned the heater in the nursery to 80 degrees. We had to take the job of keeping warm away from her so she could concentrate on gaining weight and fat. Once she did that (after a week or two), she could then maintain her body temperature.
The following is an excerpt from a blog post I wrote a year or so ago:
On August 2, 2005 I sat in the NICU next to the bassinet of my 2-day old baby girl. She arrived exactly 7 weeks early. She was tiny and not quite ready for this world. She was hooked up to a... monitor for 12 days. It would beep and set off alarms. I spent many a long day in her little area....holding her, watching her, praying for her. I'll never forget the first time she really bonded with me. I had been released from the hospital on August 4. I had intended to arrive at the hospital the next morning around 6:00, but, as it was the first night of decent sleep in over a week, I slept in a bit. When I arrived around 8:00 a.m., the nurses had just finished a 2-hour long ordeal of putting an IV into my tiny daughter. She was screaming as hard as a premie baby could scream. She was so upset. Had I come early, there would have been nothing I could have done....but have my heart broken as I'd helplessly stand by waiting for the trauma to end. Instead, the Lord spared me that and had me walk in just in time for the nurse to hand me my baby. As soon as Gloria was cradled in my arms, she began to calm down and nestled in for comfort. She knew I was her mommy - the one who loved her and would comfort her.
Yes, things turned out well...but not without a price. Expectant moms, the last stage of pregnancy is hard and wearisome. But, be grateful for it and know that with each day, your unborn baby is becoming stronger in order to face the physical challenges of this world. Rejoice that you'll be able to take your full-term baby home with you and not leave him/her behind in the care of strangers. Rejoice that you will not have to look in the faces of other parents who have made the NICU their home for months. Rejoice that you will not have to see tiny babies left with little or no visits from the ones responsible for bringing them into this world. Rejoice in every day of your healthy pregnancy.
However, if the Lord chooses to bring your baby early or your baby has health challenges requiring you to walk that road, rejoice in the grace and strength He will give you each day.
With all of that said, I am so very grateful that the tiny baby we brought home has grown into a healthy, happy, sweet ray of sunshine in our family. Gloria loves to give hugs and love and desires to receive those things. We give as much of it as we have to our precious gift from God.