Evelyn Faith | NICU Journey
This is the story about my beautiful niece’s birth. It was written by her amazing and strong mother, Maria!
On January 24th I went to my OB/Gyn for a routine Glucose Tolerance Screening. I was happy and feeling at ease reaching the 3rd trimester of pregnancy. Just like every other appointment, the first thing the nurse did is take my blood pressure. A puzzled expression grew on her face and she set up to take it again. She paused for a second, and then explained that she was going to have another nurse double check it. A second nurse came over and took my blood pressure and sure enough, it was extremely elevated (180/110). My doctor promptly came and advised me to go to Labor and Delivery at the hospital for more testing.
The thought of having to leave my doctor to head to the hospital had me a little nervous and I debated calling my husband, TJ, on the walk to the car. I decided it’d be better to just head to the hospital and let him know after I arrive. After parking the car and as soon as I walked in the door I was swarmed by nurses, doctors and other hospital staff. While they walked me to triage one nurse was removing my clothes while another was trying to get my pulse and blood pressure. From the way the staff at my earlier visit handled the situation, I did not expect any of this. Not to mention I am all alone, thousands of miles away from family and have not had a chance to even think much less let TJ know what’s going on.
It had been nearing the two-hour mark and I still had not been able to let anyone know my situation. A nurse came back and delivered the news, I had a severe case of pre-eclampsia. For those of you who don’t know, pre-eclampsia is a condition that is potentially life threatening to both the mother and baby, which luckily I didn’t know this at the time. At last, I was able to call TJ and he rushed to the hospital. Once he arrived we were admitted into a labor and delivery room, which is where mothers who are within hours of delivery are placed. Here I was put on complete bedrest and several medications started. In preparation for an early delivery, two rounds of steroid injections were administered to help the baby’s lungs develop more quickly. A very high dose of Magnesium via IV to reduce the risk of me having seizures and to help prevent the baby from having brain hemorrhages. Finally, blood pressure medication to attempt to keep my kidneys from damaging. We were warned, the baby is coming and soon.
The next morning, I was met by the Neonatologist who performed an ultrasound to gather his own information on the baby’s condition. The baby’s movement was good, heart rate was good, anatomy was good. However, the baby was much smaller than expected for being 28 weeks. Upon further investigation, he concluded that there was not enough blood flowing through the umbilical cord to give the baby the nutrients that are needed for growth. He explained that we should prepare for delivery to happen within a week.
On January 26th, Tj and I woke up to neonatologist and eight other hospital staff members coming into the room. After monitoring overnight, they concluded it was no longer safe for baby to be inside, it was time to deliver. An urgent C-section was ordered and we were wheeled into the OR. At 9:53 am our beautiful baby girl entered the world! A few seconds later we got to hear our baby girl cry for the first time! That cry was the best sound in the world, we had become a mommy and daddy. Evelyn Faith Palosaari weighed in at 1 lb. 12.5 oz and was 13 inches long. She was a fighter!
The NICU team immediately took her up to the NICU to evaluate her condition and start her care. Once I had the okay to leave recovery, the nurse wheeled me up to the NICU to meet my baby for the first time. There she was tucked into an isolette with cords hanging off of her body and a CPAP mask and hat covering the majority of her face and head. I reached my hand into the isolette to touch her and my hand covered her entire little body. She was so tiny and fragile, but so mighty at the same time. She was absolutely beautiful.
The first few days of life is what the NICU staff like to call the honeymoon period. Babies are very strong and determined, but being born prematurely can take its toll. This was certainly the case for Evelyn. She suffered a Pulmonary Hemorrhage which is an uncommon thing to happen. Due to her injured lungs she needed to be intubated so a machine could breath for her and give her lungs time to heal. It was a waiting game. After 5 long days, the doctors concluded that her lungs seemed to have healed enough and that it was time to see if she could thrive with CPAP again. And she did! But her NICU journey wasn’t smooth sailing from there. Many describe the NICU as a roller coaster ride, a very scary roller coaster ride. It is one step forward, two steps back and you have no choice but to just roll with it.
Evelyn had many mountains to climb before she would be well enough to come home with us. She needed to be able to breath without the help of CPAP and oxygen, she needed to gain weight so that her body could regulate its temperature, she needed to be able to regulate and maintain her blood sugar, and learn how to eat on her own and continue to gain weight.
The only thing we could do to “help” as parents is be at the hospital with Evelyn as much as possible and be involved in her care plan. The hospital became our second home and we spent as much time with Evelyn as possible. My absolute favorite memory of the NICU (if you can even have a favorite memory from a scary, stressful time), is doing Kangaroo care with Evy. Kangaroo care is when you hold your baby directly against your chest, skin to skin. The staff always encouraged Kangaroo care because it is so beneficial for both mom and baby . It can reduce stress, regulate blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, and respiratory stability, promote weight gain and development, and help baby to get better sleep. Every day after Evy’s care time I would change into my wrap shirt and get comfortable on the recliner. The nurse would position Evelyn onto my chest and I would wrap her against me. Then Evelyn’s cords would get taped to the chair so they wouldn’t pull. The nurse would then put Evy’s feed going and let us have some time alone. I would sit in that chair in the same position for hours every day loving every minute of cuddling with her. I knew Evy would be relaxed and get good sleep, and it made me feel like a “normal” mom being able to hold her. It was always the highlight of my day!
She was doing well on CPAP and her lungs were showing signs of healing and developing. The doctors started to wean the pressure and oxygen of the CPAP little by little, but sometimes it was too much for her and they’d have to increase it for a while and try again. With the help of fortification in her milk and a nasogastric feeding tube, Evelyn was steadily gaining weight. She was growing and working hard to meet milestones. With months of ups and downs, she made her way from CPAP to a low flow cannula to room air. After nearly 5 months of give and take, heartbreak and breakthroughs, Evelyn got to come home!
Evelyn has been through more testing, procedures, and needle pokes then many people will see in their lifetime. She has fought and overcome Intrauterine Growth Restriction, a Pulmonary Hemorrhage, Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia, Hypoglycemia, Retinopathy of Prematurity, and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. She is still climbing her mountains and you would never know it. She is the happiest and most determined little girl. She is quick to smile, has the most expressive blue eyes, and is very calculated with her actions. She loves being social and is always so curious. She brings so much joy to our lives. Evelyn is certainly our little miracle.