The Clark Family
It is a humbling, mind-bending experience to face the unexpected journey of prematurity. In our family’s case premature birth actually stemmed from a maternal health crisis in which preterm delivery of our baby was necessary to save my life. This added a layer of responsibility and guilt to the already overwhelming emotional load.
Our second pregnancy was much more challenging than the first, and on my 39th birthday, at 31+ weeks pregnant we received a call confirming Pre-eclampsia. My doctors gave me an antepartum injection of steroids to help develop the baby’s lungs in case of preterm labor. I returned to our OB’s office the next day for a second injection and my doctor told me that my blood work concerned her, and she admitted us to WakeMed for observation.
We went from admitted for observation to preparing for delivery in less than one hour, following another round of “bad news” blood work. In these moments, waves of panic and helplessness rocked through me, desperately crashing as I reached for some say in what was happening within my body. What our baby needed, and what I had just realized I would not be able to give him, was more time.
Brian was quiet and scared. The doctors explained that I was in serious danger of seizure, stroke, or even death, but I did not feel sick and I could only focus on our baby. Brian, however, worried for the wellbeing and safety of both his unborn child and his wife.
Our baby boy was born by emergency C-section the morning of February 10, 2017 at 32 weeks gestational age. I did not see him before his doctors whisked him away for assessment, and then to the NICU. We can’t name him until his Mommy meets him, Brian would say to the nurses when they asked his name. Eighteen hours after delivery, doctors wheeled me into the NICU and I reached through the hand hole of the clear, protective incubator to touch him for the first time. In this special moment, monitors beeped all around us and wires and tubes seemed to come from everywhere. The next day, when our NICU nurse first laid his little body on my chest, it felt like having a piece of me put back in place. We named him Ellis Maclean Clark and rejoiced at his strength.
Our family spent a month in the NICU at WakeMed, watching our boy fight, learn, and grow. Time became focused and relative. We measured success in milliliters and ounces. We depended on the care and love of Ellis’s doctors and nurses and the patience and kindness of the entire NICU staff.
Our Road to March of Dimes
Our family remains forever grateful for our incredible outcome. Ellis is happy and healthy, but the trauma of a maternal health crisis necessitating preterm birth and the uncertainties and fears surrounding prematurity impacted our family indelibly.
A few weeks after Ellis came home, I noticed a March for Babies post on Facebook and signed our family up in an instant. This felt like something we could do to make an impact. We have made it a family mission to do what we can to support Healthy Mothers and Healthy Babies. This will be our 3rd year participating in the March for Babies and we are proud to be the Triangle March of Dimes Local Family Ambassadors for 2019 to share our family’s story and to bring awareness to the challenging and long-term impacts of prematurity and maternal health.