Stetson was born July 6, 2007 at 31weeks gestation weighing in at 3 pounds 13 ounces and 16 inches long. He was delivered via emergency C-Section due from issues caused from pre-eclampsia. I had been admitted to Willow Creek Women’s Hospital on July 3, 2007 to be monitored. At this time my doctor decided that it was for the best to go ahead and inject me with 2 shots that would help Stetson’s lungs develop just in case he was born premature. I was then released on July 4, 2007, and placed on strict bed rest for the remaining of my pregnancy. On July 6th after not feeling well I decided that since it was Friday and the weekend was coming up that I would go on into the hospital to be checked before my doctor’s office closed. I had started experiencing pain on my right side so I wanted to get that checked. Once they were able to get blood work back my doctor made a visit to me to inform me that he was going to have to do an emergency cesarean section because my liver was in danger.
Stetson was delivered at Willow Creek Woman’s Hospital and about an hour later transferred to Springdale NICU. At this point he was placed on a CPAP machine which is used for infants that may have under developed lungs at birth. CPAP provides a continuous positive airway pressure; it is a treatment that uses mild air pressure to keep the airways open. I was able to hold Stetson for the first time when he was 5 days old. At this point our main concerns were for him were to gain weight, be able to hold his body temperature while in an open crib, and to start taking feedings by bottle. Everything was going pretty smoothly as far as his health there had been no setbacks, which as a NICU mommy I had learned pretty quick how things can change from minute to minute. As I would call it we were riding the NICU rollercoaster.
The doctors had told us to be prepared for him to have to stay until around his due date which was September 6th. At about 4 weeks old Stetson had a setback, he had developed fluid on his lungs which made the doctors scratch their heads. They diagnosed him with Chronic Lung Disease. Chronic lung disease is a condition in which damaged tissue in a newborn baby's lungs causes breathing and health problems. The lungs trap air or collapses, fill with fluid, and produce extra mucus. We were told that he would outgrow this diagnosis. Chronic Lung Disease is more common in preemies at a lower weight than where Stetson was at this point, so this is what had the Doctors confused. At this time all bottle feeds were stopped until he was able to get stronger and his lungs were clear from fluid. Stetson has always been a strong willed child even in those early weeks. When trying to wean him from oxygen (just a nose canal) the doctors were never fully able to wean him. On many occasions he was able to get down to just room air but once the security of it being off his face, his stats would start dropping. So back on oxygen he would go. At about 5 weeks we introduced the bottle again to him along with the help of speech therapy. The reason a speech therapist was needed for him was to ensure that he was sucking and swallowing properly. She would watch me feed him and show me some tricks to use with him. Stetson was what was considered a difficult eater. He got choked really easily, would stop breathing and had acid reflux. Once I found out what worked best for him we begin to move right along and were able to start bottle feeding regularly.
On August 24, 2007 at one day shy of a 7 week stay in the Springdale NICU we were able to finally bring our baby boy home, along with oxygen tanks and a heart monitor. He weighed in at a whopping 7lbs 10ozs. He was huge compared to the other babies there. But that was my Stetson, always doing things on his time and no one else’s.
As a mother you learn real quickly all the needs for your child from the importance of what they need from being able to keep milk down to just the little sounds they make while eating. To this day it makes me a bit nervous to feed a newborn because of flashbacks I get from Stetson getting choked so easily and he would stop breathing. But with him I was very calm never had any doubts that I was a great mother and caretaker for him. Eventually after several visits from a home health nurse and speech therapy we were able to wean him off the oxygen and as he grew stronger and his lungs developed we were able to be free from all the wires and tanks.
As a NICU mother there were so many emotions, it was such a rollercoaster and all you can do is go along for the ride. I was able to become close with another couple that had a son about 2 weeks younger than Stetson. This was such a blessing because we could relate to each other; we had something in common that made the shedding of many tears normal to each other. To this day I have contact with them and I always will. They also will never truly understand what they truly mean to me. During evening visits, I was not always able to be there and during those times they read Stetson bed time stories several times. What someone may consider a small gesture meant more to me than anything.
If you ever find yourself going through a situation like we as NICU parents have been through my best advice to you would be to lean on GOD- take all your problems and worries to him. It was also a huge support to be able to talk with someone who has been through it or going through it at the same time. And just know that there will be days that you will feel like you can’t take anymore, but tomorrow is a new day.
I want to say a Special Thank You for the Hummingbird Foundation. Thank you for caring about these special babies and their families. God Bless You!