This year will mark the 10 year anniversary of the worst birthday I have ever experienced. See, I was born on August 17th and just 4 days earlier I had given birth to my 3rd baby girl. I had eagerly waited her arrival as all mom’s do. I was so calm about my birth because this was my 3rd baby in 4 years so I considered myself pretty experienced in this category. But then the curve ball… What is Mike Tyson’s famous quote? Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.
From the moment I could feel her kicks, I knew Catalina was going to be a force to be reckoned with. She did not stop moving and she was strong. You could tell, even in my belly, that this kid had spunk. I had always wanted 3 kids but I had decided that if I wasn’t pregnant by the end of the year (2006) that I would stop at 2. I was sleep deprived and tired, and wanted them all together so I didn’t have to start the process again because I didn’t think I could. So, as a sign to how dramatic my baby would be, I found out on December 31st that I was indeed pregnant.
Cata was due in early September but because my two previous pregnancies had been C-Sections, she would have to be too, and my C-Section was scheduled for my 38th week. I worked throughout my pregnancy and had a very eventful, active and stressful week on the 34th week of my pregnancy. So it is no wonder that on the Friday of that week, I started with contractions. They were stopped and I was ordered on bedrest but on Sunday they started again and I was told that the baby had to come out or my Uterus, that was already dangerously thin, could rupture and endanger the baby.
So on Monday morning, August 13th, 2007 my Cata was born at just 35 weeks. As they pulled her out I lifted my head from the table and urgently asked how big she was. I heard she was 5 pounds 10 ounces and it sounded great. My baby was good! I was so naive. A few minutes after meeting her without telling me a word to alarm me since they were closing me up, they whisked my baby away and I would not see her again for another 24 hours.
The minute I went to recover I desperately asked to see her and how she was only to find out that she had problems with her breathing and they would not be bringing her to me but rather to the NICU. My head was swimming. Between the meds and the shock I didn’t know what it meant. I was determined to see her and kept trying to get up only to get dizzy and start to pass out. I couldn’t even sit up yet.
I had never thought I would have a premature baby. Even as I was prepping for my C-section it never really crossed my mind. I also never thought that a baby that size would have issues. I knew full term babies that were 5 pounds. With Cata in NICU I walked into a whole new world. My baby could not digest her milk. I pumped religiously, and my newborn had a feeding tub in her nose and and IV in her foot but as soon as they would feed her the milk you would see it back out of the tube all clotted and turned. The nurses explained to me that her lungs weren’t working and that the body would focus on the organs that were essential, and digestion was not essential. At least, not as essential as the heart, the lungs and the brain. She lost weight fast.
She lost more than a pound and a half which may not seem like much but when you are only 5 pounds 10 ounces it is a ton. My beautiful baby looked like an alien. Her ears were pointed and her face was skeletal. She was also still and lethargic. This was not the baby that kicked and moved in my belly. She was so still. On August 16th I was discharged from the hospital and I was besides my self. How could I leave my baby? I am her mother, how can I leave her alone in a hospital? I was a veteran mom, how is it possible that I could not take care of her? How could I get in that car and drive away from her at a her time of need?
I didn’t want to see anyone, I didn’t want to answer phone calls, I didn’t want to explain over and over what happened to Cata. I wanted to be in a bubble with my babies.
I had a four year old and a two year old at home that I also had to care for but I went to the hospital which was a couple of miles away every few hours to nurse and feed Catalina. On August 17th, my 32nd birthday, I was in no mood to celebrate. Cata was my birthday gift that year, and she was all I wanted. She stayed in NICU for 2 weeks. Her lungs developed and she put on just enough weight to make putting her in a car seat and taking her home safe. See, you have to do car seat test to make sure they are getting the oxygen when you put them in the car seat. We tried and tried and she finally passed!
Cata thus far looks like she will be the tallest of my girls. She is everything she was in my belly. Dramatic, active and spunky. She is my tomboy, the lover of sports and she doesn’t stop until her head hits that pillow. She does have a bit of asthma that appears when she has a cold but other than that I was blessed that she didn’t suffer complications from her premature birth. I will forever be grateful for the nurses that cared for her and for us during that process. I only wish I had been better prepared and known more about the possibility and risks of a premature birth so I was not so blind sided.
Now when asked to donate to March of Dimes (www.marchofdimes.org) it isn’t about some unnamed baby I am helping, it is about my baby and possibly my baby’s baby and helping all of those other families that have to go through what I went through or even worse. Considering that one in every 10 babies born in the United States is born prematurely, my Catalina was definitely not alone in her struggle. And knowing that in the U.S., prematurity is the number one killer of babies, and that those born even a few weeks early have higher rates of illness and hospitalization compared to full-term newborns, I am even more grateful of my Cata’s outcome.
I am eternally grateful to March of dimes and foundations such as the Anthem Foundation (www.anthem.foundation), that has donated 4.3 million to the March of Dimes and created support programs across the country that help prevent premature birth and improve mom and baby health.