Before I became pregnant, I lived a fairly healthy lifestyle. I knew that when I was sick more than what an over the counter remedy could cure, I would go to the doctor. I was also fortunate enough to get the weird things that would require a doctor visit or hospital stay (ugh), but I would never ask a friend prior to going. I just knew that if I felt that bad, waiting for a response from a friend would not get me better as fast as a visit to the doctor would.
Fast forward to pregnancy, I still maintained that lifestyle and frame of mind. When I became pregnant, like many others, I signed up for the What to Expect app so I could track my babies growth and have those great fruit size comparisons each week. You are also able to sign up for a forum where you can ask questions during your pregnancy. I would read the topics daily because I did find some tips helpful like how to train yourself to sleep on your side when you are a back sleeper. What bothered me consistently, however, were the posts about medical issues that could be life threatening to you or your unborn baby. Instead of calling their doctor or going to the hospital if they had fevers, spotting, and cramping, women were actually taking it to the forum and waiting for an answer before they would act. A lot of these moms were first timers who didn’t know themselves so I found this all so strange that people would go to the forum first because there were no trained medical professionals in this forum unless they too were expecting in April of 2018. Unfortunately, many of those same moms would come back and say they were leaving the forum due to a miscarriage or that there was something wrong with their unborn child. I was left to wonder what would have happened if they just got medical attention right away instead of waiting for an answer from other soon-to-be moms on a forum. Listen to your body.
Like a couple of other mothers that posted, I was rear ended while driving one day. Even though I felt fine and the accident was minor, I knew I was responsible for my daughter’s life as well. I called my doctor immediately instead of taking it to the forum like the other moms did, and even though my OB said I probably had nothing to worry about, I still insisted on an ultrasound. Listen to your body, trust yourself. That phrase played in my head when I made my decision. I had to trust myself to make the best decision for my daughter as well as myself at that point because I knew if I did not see for myself that she was ok, I would stress for the remainder of my pregnancy, which is not healthy.
Fast forward to 28 hours before my daughter was born. I felt terrible, but I thought it was just gas and constipation pains. I was pregnant; these were common ailments that I have already been suffering through from time to time. I treated it as such and could not sleep at all that night. I went to work the next morning feeling miserable, taught the first two blocks, but knew I could not push it any longer. Listen to your body, trust yourself. I went to the office, got coverage for the rest of the day, and went home. Once there I made lunch, ate it, and threw it up. This was the first sign I knew something was really not right. At that point a colleague that had a baby recently sent me a text asking how my pregnancy was going. I said great other than what I am going through now. She said to remember to listen to your body. This simple sentence stayed in the back of my mind for the rest of the day. Around 10pm that night, I had spotting so I knew something was definitely wrong so I had my husband take me to the hospital. We were in a triage room of labor and delivery by 11pm. They had me on a monitor and the baby looked great. I told them my symptoms and we had a treatment plan for those symptoms, but the resident doctor listened to her gut at that point and asked if she could check me. Not having been to Lamaze classes yet and not knowing what the signs of labor were, I consented to her checking me because in my mind there was no way I could ever be in labor at this point. To my surprise, I was already 3-4cm dilated. Next thing I knew, by 12am I was in a delivery room and hooked up to medications that were supposed to stop labor. I am a science teacher, if that is the job of those medications, it was going to work. It didn’t work. Labor was fast and it was not stopping. I got the epidural soon after finding out I was 5cm dilated at 12:30am. It took about 15 minutes to kick in and they checked me again at that point to find I was 8cm dilated so they broke my water. Dr. Michelle came from the NICU to tell us what to expect. She barely started talking to us when my blood pressure tanked which affected the baby. We went from two medical professionals in the room to about 30 in what seemed like two seconds and it was go time. Next thing I knew they were telling me to push. Three pushes and 10 minutes later I heard my daughter cry for the first time. Poppy was born at 1:55am 11weeks and 3days too soon. I remember hearing the doctors say that if I had waited any longer to come in, the baby would have died. If I had not listened to my body and trusted myself, my daughter would have died.
That thought haunts me a little bit to this day. If I had waited for a response from a forum, it would have been too late. If I said wait until the morning, it would have been too late. I am so happy I listened to my body and that I trusted myself. Trusting yourself carries you through your time in the NICU. Your baby sees several doctors, nurses, NPs, and therapists. Sometimes, these specialists will have differing opinions on things that you might not think is right or contradicts someone else that has already cared for your child. This is why it is so important to write things down daily and to trust yourself. If something does not seem right with your baby’s care, speak up and ask. Your baby cannot talk so you have to do it for them. I remember the first day Poppy “spit up.” I put that in quotations because it came out of her nose and not her mouth. I had never seen that before so I got help. She had to be suctioned after that, so if I had let it go and just wiped her off myself, she could have had a Brady and as a NICU parent you know how scary those can be. Now in saying this, I am not saying you will know more than a doctor because Poppy had the best care in the world in Hillcrest’s NICU, but trusting yourself and advocating for your baby helped in times where the professionals weren’t sure how much to up her food intake if they weren’t the last ones to increase it, or the last time her oxygen percentage was decreased, or when a test was administered when I was waiting for results that were not there.
This philosophy will carry on with you after your days in the NICU are over. The first doctor we saw at the NICU follow up clinic was not one that Poppy had regularly. We had already been to the pediatrician twice for weight checks and she was doing great. The pediatrician said it was ok to go off the fortifier at her due date since she was not on that much of it anyways (2 tsp per 300ml). When we went to the clinic, the NP agreed with that plan, but the doctor said she had to be on it until she was at least 6 months old corrected. I found this to be strange since it was so different from what the pediatrician had said. I also knew I would be wasting a ton of money since the fortifier was not cheap and it was only good for 30 days once you open it and we were using so little. I am not one to speak out against a doctor, but I trusted myself enough to question his thought process on this. He was still stuck on the timeframe when I questioned his plan, but said I could go down to one bottle of the fortifier a day. One full bottle? I am glad I asked him about this because I let him know that Poppy has never taken a full bottle of fortifier, just fortifier added to breastmilk and explained the dosage she was getting at home was the same as in the NICU. At that point, he agreed with the pediatrician regarding the amount of fortifier and how long she should be on it. If I had not said anything, she would still be on the fortifier today. Your baby will have so many doctor and therapist appointments once you leave the NICU. It is so important to write all of the information given by each doctor and therapist down and to do a little bit of research since you are your baby’s advocate. No one will know your baby like you do so you will have to trust yourself when you get into these situations.
I am still a member of that forum. I do question why most days, but it is neat to compare the milestones Poppy has already reached versus where she should be based on her corrected age. I do, however, still see parents waiting to act based on what the forum tells them to do. Again, no trained medical personnel are in there unless they had a baby at the same time. If you take the time to ask a forum, you obviously know that something is not right. Trust yourself enough to know that something is off and call the pediatrician or if it is really bad, just go to the ER. This, in the end, can save your baby’s life if it is something serious enough. If I had not listened to my body and trusted myself I would be writing a very different blog today and I would not be a mommy to an amazing little girl.
In honor of NICU awareness month I have included a collage of Poppy with some of the amazing people that cared for her when she was in the NICU. Thank you to the doctors, nurses, NPs, therapists, and staff at the Hillcrest NICU because without you, Poppy and our family would not be where we are today!