Updated: Jan 31, 2021
The day was finally here! We were scheduled to bring Laila home from the hospital. I had been looking forward to this time since I gave birth. Laila had gained the prerequisite goal of 5 lbs. She was able to breathe, suck, and swallow on her own while feeding. She could maintain her body temperature without assistance. And most importantly, she could breathe on her own. The neonatologist had given her approval after all of Laila’s final evaluations came back within normal limits.
My husband and I were excited to start our life as a family of three in our own home. Before we left, we said our goodbyes to the staff. It was bittersweet because we had grown close to them as they took care of our little one. The amazing nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, and resident social worker were all there to see us off. We promised to return for future visits and to keep the staff informed of Laila’s progress. There were tears and hugs as we exited the unit with anticipation of our next chapter.
Because Laila was born prematurely, she was given a home monitor to measure her heart rate and breathing. The machine would alert us when Laila’s heart rate dropped too low (bradycardia) or her breathing stopped (apnea). We had also had an extensive CPR class to ensure that we would be able to deliver life-saving care if needed. We felt prepared, but also nervous that our hospital safety net was gone. New parents are never completely ready for all the challenges associated with bringing home a newborn, especially when the infant is a preemie.
After a few nights with Laila at home with us, I grew accustomed to waking up in the middle of the night for feedings. The monitor would go off at any time during the day and night, alerting us to check on Laila. One night shortly after she came home, the monitor signaled that her heart and breathing rate were too low. I noticed that Laila wasn’t breathing so I immediately called for my husband who was nearby. He tapped her on her back and she started to breathe again right away. We were too afraid to go to sleep so we both took turns staying up with her while she was sleeping. I mentioned the episode to one of the many specialists we were scheduled to see that week. Apparently, this condition called Apnea of Prematurity is fairly common in premature infants. I was instructed to let them know if it happened again. Thankfully, that was our only occurrence.
We were so busy visiting specialists during those first months. There was the pulmonologist, who monitored Laila’s lung development and administered a series of injections to decrease the risk of RSV, a pediatric virus that can be life-threatening for premature babies. With my insistence, we also saw a pediatric gastroenterologist because of the frequent feedings where Laila seemed to be choking. We were given formula to thicken up her food and prevent these scary episodes. We also saw a physical therapist around eight or nine months old because of Laila’s noticeable head tilt, which was diagnosed as torticollis related to the position of the many tubes she was connected to while in the NICU. Of course, we were also regularly seeing the pediatrician for weigh-ins and vaccinations.
Despite the many visits, I still felt as if I had gotten off easy. I was so blessed that all of the health concerns we were dealing with were minor and manageable. I thought about all the other babies and parents who weren’t faring as well. Once again, I was reminded of God’s faithfulness during this time.