Nice to meet you!
Welcome to the Project Preemie parent blogs! If you’ve found yourself here, it’s most likely because you are walking the long, and heroic journey that is parenting a preemie/NICU baby.
My name is Rochelle. In May of 2016, a bomb went off and changed my world in an instant.
The weather was beautiful the morning of the 18th. I had taken off work for the day to attend an extra ultrasound appointment that was recommended by the Cleveland Clinic. The Zika outbreak had began only a couple of months prior, and very little was known at the time. Pregnant women were cautioned against traveling outside of the country, and there was also new concern about pregnant women contracting the virus from their partners who had been abroad. Since my husband Kevin had recently spent time in Brazil (where the virus originated), my doctor suggested the ultrasound. We thought nothing of it. We had a whole afternoon planned for after the appointment which included a quiet lunch together, and shopping for nursery decor for the empty room across the hall from ours.
A small handful of hours after that appointment, my son was born.
It was a swift emergency C-section. Noah was 32 weeks gestation, and weighed only 2 lbs. The first moment I laid eyes on him, was through the small plexiglass porthole of his isolette. Although there were no signs of Zika, It was determined that Noah had not grown since 26 weeks gestation, as the result of severe Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR). If it had not been for that random ultrasound, we never would have known and would likely have lost Noah within another 24 hours at most. There will never be an answer or explanation as to why this happened. However, there will also never be one as to how he survived for so long- and of the two mysteries, that is the one I encourage myself to focus on.
As the result of the growth restriction, Noah lost a significant portion of his bowels. Specifically, his small intestine. A day after birth, he was transferred to Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital where he would spend 97 days, undergo a total of 4 operations, multiple blood transfusions, and other various tests/procedures necessary to save his life. Today, with the exception of minor and manageable GI related issues, he is a healthy, thriving, and curious little toddler who runs circles around me. He is a fierce warrior, and I’m proud to be his mama.
At the time of Noah’s birth, I was working full time as a licensed mental health counselor. Upon entering the NICU, it became immediately apparent to me, that I needed emotional support if I was going to survive the experience. I was heartbroken to find that none existed within the hospital, or within the community. Since that time, much in my life has changed. I left my career, to embrace motherhood full-time. I’ve spent the majority of my free time volunteering within the NICU community. I’m the creator and facilitator of the very first NICU parent peer support group in Cleveland (you can find the group’s information on Project Preemie’s parent section). I’m also honored to volunteer as a NICU Parent Mentor through Hand to Hold, as well as a member of the Neonatology Partnership Council at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital where my focus is on new training and project initiatives to better support NICU parents moving forward.
Making meaning of what our family endured by giving back, has been both powerful and healing. I’m grateful to Project Preemie, to be able to share my heart here with all of you.
Wherever you are in the journey, it is my sincere wish that this becomes a place you find hope, encouragement, and information. May this be a blazing beacon to the realization that you are anything but alone. There is a thriving, loving, and safe community of fellow warrior parents ready to greet you. XO