Saturday, January 23, 2010

One Year Old, a Preemie Birthday

Last week, we celebrated Lexie's first birthday. She didn't really pick up on it, of course, but it was another milestone we weren't sure we'd ever achieve when I went into preterm labor at 22 weeks.

We kept it all low key. I didn't want to make a big deal out of the day, because it's not the same for preemie parents. I don't think back to the day of her birth as a day of joy and expectation. I didn't have the Hallmark "honey, it's time" moment where the very-pregnant mom-to-be picks up her already-packed overnight bag and waddles out to the car for a quick ride to the hospital and a normal birth experience. I don't have memories of smiles in the delivery room and I didn't have my baby placed on my chest right after she was born. I didn't bring my baby home a few days later to a perfectly finished nursery.

Instead, I waited in terror to hear whether my baby cried, waited prostrate and desperate for a report from the doctor on how she looked, knowing she wasn't ready to make it on her own after only 30 weeks inside me. I was so relieved when I heard Lexie cry after she was pried out of me (she was stuck behind my pelvic bone due to my unicornuate uterus). She was blue -- a giant bruise from the unusually violent c-section delivery covered three-quarters of her head and half her torso, which is why I won't be posting those pictures here. A few moments after she was born, I heard a nurse say "CLEAR!" and I panicked as I lay there paralyzed by spinal anesthesia. The first thing I thought of was the heart paddles. But everything was fine; it turned out that they were referring to her mouth and nose being clear of fluid.

She did require extensive medical intervention. Her Apgars were lousy -- she started at 4 and moved up to 6. I'd had two steroid shots to boost her lung function at 23.5 weeks, but the effect had worn off by 30 weeks. I got another shot that morning, but it wouldn't have taken full effect that quickly. I believe she had surfactant pumped directly into her lungs once she was put on oxygen. I wasn't allowed to hold her for days. She was so tiny and jaundiced and limp lying there in her isolette. She cried like crazy under the jaundice lights for more than a week. All in all, it's not an experience that lends itself to celebration.

Below, tiny Lexie a year ago today, at age one week.

For her birthday last week, my mom brought Lexie a balloon and we put a cupcake in front of her. She isn't able to eat anything solid -- anything with chunks makes her throw up -- but she messed around with the cupcake. She played with a couple of new toys, and we called it a day.

I'm so thankful to have her here and I'm thankful she is doing well. Next year maybe we'll throw a big party. But for now that's not something I can handle. Not just yet.


Saffy said...

Happy birthday sweetie.

And M, I'm with you on the memories of the birth - friends who've been *lucky* enough to have preemies (I guess they're lucky in that they happy and healthy today) tell me that those memories of delivery and the complications that go with it do fade with time.

For now - she's one gorgeous little lady. You've done well - clearly good genes :)

Bluebird said...

OhMyGosh is her hair *red*?!! She's absolutely beautiful, regardless. The mixed emotions of the day make sense to me, and I'm just thankful that you and she are both here to experience them together. Happy birthday little Lex :)

Mijke said...

Happy birthday, little girl! You've come a long way, and you'll go so much further, still!

I remember those mixed feelings very well. Our twins had their second birthday in december, and this time I WAS ready for a big celebration. The mixed feelings haven't gone completely, but there have been so many more wonderful moments that all the not-so-wonderful have faded a bit... Just give it time...

dcpeg said...

Lexie just keeps getting cuter and cuter! I love her auburn hair -- like mother, like daughter?

The pic of her and the bunny is absolutely precious! Many thanks for sharing this very special day! It's such a joy to watch her grow!!

caramama said...

Happy Birthday, Lexie! You are such a fighter! I'm sure you will make it far in the world with that attitude.

I'm sorry that the birth story is so filled with mixed emotions. I know you aren't alone in that. Of course, it's not the birth that makes us mothers, it's the child. And you are a great mom!

areyoukiddingme said...

Happy Birthday Lexie! The scary start just means that every birthday will get better and better.

Adorable girl!

K77 said...

Happy birthday Lexie.

tireegal68 said...

She is beautiful. It must have been a hard year for all of you; I hope things get better and better for you all:)

Brenna said...

I hadn't really considered the ways in which a first birthday might differ for preemie families. Wow, what a poignant post M. I'm more in awe of your strength and of the miracle of Lexie each time I read about her birth. Sending you all lots of love!

MzMannerz said...

She's beautiful. Happy Birthday, Lexie.