The Devino Family
It sounds so easy to do: just stay pregnant. Every minute and every single hour that I could stay pregnant gave my daughter a better chance of thriving after birth. My life changed forever in January 2016, when my water broke unexpectedly when I was 27 weeks and four days pregnant. Initially I thought I was experiencing urinary incontinence, but as I continued to leak amniotic fluid my husband and I called the OBGYN who directed us to Labor & Delivery.
At the hospital, the staff conducted tests to determine if I was leaking amniotic fluid. I was diagnosed with PPROM (Preterm Premature Rupture of Membranes), which affects about 150,000 women in the US every year. It is the leading cause of premature birth and can result in serious and life-threatening complications for both mom and baby. I was immediately given a steroid shot to help develop my baby's lungs followed by a magnesium drip to prevent brain bleeds in premature babies. I was informed that the local hospital was unable to care for us, and would not resuscitate my baby at 27 weeks. Since I wasn’t dilated or contracting, we made the choice to transfer to another hospital with a higher-level Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or NICU.
After arriving at the second hospital, I endured hours of testing and ultrasounds. I was stable and transferred to a Maternal Special Care Unit, a step-down intensive care unit for pregnant women. The plan was to stay in the hospital until I went into labor. I was at risk for infection, placental abruption, and cord prolapse. If I managed to stay pregnant, I would be delivered at 34 weeks. Until then, every single hour counted; every minute meant a better chance to have a positive outcome.
The next few weeks were filled with constant fetal monitoring, IVs, and ultrasounds. We met with the NICU staff to discuss what might happen. My husband stayed by my side for the entire duration. We fell in to a comfortable routine of monitoring, watching, and waiting. We had a few visitors, but it was difficult to hear people call our hospital stay a “vacation”, even though they were joking. Fighting for your life while hoping to save the life of your unborn child is not a vacation.
At 29 weeks and one day, I went into labor. I awoke with contractions that were getting stronger by the minute. My nurses monitored the baby and gave fluids to stop the contractions, but it wasn’t working. After a few more intense contractions, I was moved to Labor & Delivery. I consented to a C-section, and was given oxygen and morphine. When the next round of doctors came by, things quickly reached crisis level. After a quick evaluation, the doctor said my daughter's umbilical cord had prolapsed and that my placenta was abrupting. I screamed for my husband, but there wasn’t enough time for him to reach me. I was rushed to the OR and delivered under general anesthesia.
Staring at my daughter in her isolette in the NICU just hours after birth was surreal. I was delirious from pain medication and I didn’t comprehend the magnitude of the situation. I watched her tiny chest rise up and down while I sat by her side in a wheelchair. She came so early that we had not yet chosen a name. We decided on Julia Grace, which means “youthful” and “of God”.
I held my daughter for the first time two whole days after she was born. A nurse positioned me next to the isolette while my husband assisted with the wires and tubes attached to our little girl. She was so fragile to me, but she was strong. I watched my husband’s eyes fill with tears as he sat in our little space next her isolette. I sobbed; I was so sorry that I couldn’t keep her safe. I felt her skin against my chest and feel her tiny body moving with each breath. It’s a moment I will never forget.
I spent hours learning how to pump and my husband would transport my milk to the NICU. All I could do was pump and pray. The next 50 days were filled with learning a whole new language: grams, ML's, CPAP, sodium, TPN, et cetera. We experienced so many “firsts” in the NICU: Julia’s first bath, her first bottle, and many other milestones. Those were the most emotional days of our lives. We happily brought Julia home after 50 days in the NICU on Easter Sunday.
My daughter is 3 years old, healthy and achieving her milestones. It is surreal to me that such a happy and vibrant little girl has endured most than more people will in their entire lives. It was incredibly hard to leave her under the care of someone else for 50 days. But throughout that journey we met many amazing people who became our extended family.