I have other friends and acquaintances that have had their babies early. Some of them were born with problems. Some of them unfortunately did not survive.
I have survivors guilt. The interesting part is that is it not MY survival that makes me feel guilty. It is my baby girl, Alex's survival that I sometimes feel guilty about.
I know that sounds terrible, and I am not saying I wish she had NOT survived, nothing of the sort! What I am guilty over is the fact that Alex is one of the lucky ones.
Alex was born at 28 weeks gestation exactly. I had severe pre-eclampsia. I was dumping so much protien they doctors has to run special tests on my urine, as their little test strips did not read a high enough number to accurately read me. I was in the hospital a week prior, getting daily injections of meds to keep my blood pressure down and stop me from going into seizures while they pumped me full of fluid. I was putting NO urine out. My kidneys were failing. I was dying. I had such terrible fluid retention that I was literally the size of an extra person. My face was unrecognizable. I was not lucid. My brain was not processing information correctly the second day in the hospital. Luckily it was the first day, the day of admission, that my doctor told me if they did not take my baby out that neither of us would survive it. Due to the issues I had with all three of my pregnancies, she highly recommended that I get my tubes tied. She said the chances of mine and the future baby's survival were very slim. My body could no longer take it. I agreed. I signed the papers on a Monday, and I declined very rapidly. After many shots of steroids to develop Alex's lungs, Friday, October the 15th, 2004, they took Alex from me by c-section. We were unsure going into surgery if she would survive, or if I would survive. I was in severe danger, and due to Alex being so early, the doctor could not tell me for sure if Alex would survive or not. It was a terrifying time.
A couple of hours later, Alex was born, and I hazily remember asking why she was not crying, and having the tiniest human face I have ever seen hover in front of my blurry eyes, so I could give her a kiss before they whisked her away. After they tied my tubes and I woke up some time later in recovery, they wheeled me into the NICU to really see her for the first time. She was so tiny. Jack's wedding ring fit over her foot onto her tiny ankle. They only let me stay for a minute before they took her to put her into an incubator and me to get cleaned up and moved to a regular room. I feared the worst, because it was some time before I was able to see her again, many hours later. She was on oxygen and a feeding tube, and I wanted to cry. Then the doctor came over and told me she was stunned, but Alex was perfect. Her lungs were perfect, they were simply keeping her on oxygen overnight as a precaution, and the feeding tube was because there was no way she could nurse. Each of my boobs were bigger than her entire body.
The next day, she came off the oxygen, never to be put back on it. She kept the feeding tube in for 4 days, and they transitioned her to a preemie bottle with milk I pumped. She was so strong ( for a baby her size ) they put a Ty Beanie Baby, a black panther, on her back to keep her still, because she kept trying to scoot out of the incubator.
She was...and is...a fighter.
She stayed in the hospital one month and one day. As soon as she hit 5 pounds and maintained it for a couple of days, she came home on November 16th. Other than a sluggish bowel, which meant she got constipated very easily, there was not a single thing wrong with her. There has not been a single thing wrong with her since. She has only been sick 3 or 4 times with a cold in almost EIGHT YEARS. She was not developmentally delayed. She crawled, talked, walked, all ahead of schedule. Earlier than my two almost full term children. Nothing has slowed her down since the day she came into this world.
She is a survivor.
She is one of the lucky ones. A much more rare one. Most preemies have a host of health problems, mental problems, developmental problems at the very least. Alex had none of those. So it makes it very hard to talk to some of my friends who have gone or are going through having preemie babies...because they were not always so lucky. Some lost their babies. Some have physical issues. Some have other problems. They are all amazing and wonderful children, but I always fear they might look at Alex, or me, with resentment because Alex is healthy and always has been.
Because she is one of the lucky ones.
I hope and pray that my friends who are trying to hang on to their babies are able to keep them long enough to do so, and if not, then I hope they come out of the birthing process unscathed. But if not, I hope and pray for them to have the strength, patience, and support to handle whatever comes their way. Every baby is precious, no matter if they are perfectly healthy or if they have special needs. "Special" Needs means just that...that baby is so very special.
Next Monday is Alex's 8th birthday, and while I am thankful every day that she is with me, I always say an extra thank you to the Universe on her birthday, for giving me such a special little girl to love.
Next month is Premature Baby Awareness Month. I hope that we can one day find out how to keep babies in the womb as long as they need to be, but until then, I hope we can all show love and support to these kids, and the amazing parents and caregivers to these special children.
I got lucky, Alex is healthy, but all of the kids, healthy or not, are survivors, and fighters, and I am proud that my baby girl is one of those precious children.