Every November when World Prematurity Day rolls around I can’t help but reflect on our prematurity story. Ours is a great story, a story of God’s provision, healing, and guiding hand, but it’s certainly not the storybook pregnancy and delivery every girl dreams of having.
Let’s go back to 2006, the year our lives were turned upside down by the sweetest gift from God. It was springtime and our son was due in early August We were so excited! My husband and I had been married four years by that time and we were ready to expand our family.
Everything was going smoothly and I can honestly say the pregnancy was fairly easy, with the exception of some serious morning sickness. That all changed on a Thursday morning in May and we never saw it coming.
Our Prematurity Story: The Morning I’ll Never Forget
I was 28 weeks pregnant and woke up to get ready for work and the appointment scheduled with my obstetrician first thing that morning. I planned to go to my appointment, then head to work, and carry on like normal.
I started feeling a little discomfort the night before the appointment. Although that discomfort would come and go, I was told to expect it because our little man was breech.
We were told that he would probably shift from that position before the eighth month, to expect pressure in new places, and that there could be sporadic pain involved in his shifting. It was easy to dismiss my discomfort because it all lined up with these things.
I was grateful to have an appointment already scheduled that morning because I knew I would be able to touch base with my doctor in person and let him know about the discomfort. I never made it to that 8:30 appointment.
I’ll spare you the not-so pleasant parts, but I realized something was wrong around 6:45 AM, tried to stay calm, and woke my husband James to tell him we needed to talk to the doctor earlier than planned.
I still had no idea I was in labor at this point because I had this idea of what contractions would feel like, yet the pain wasn’t nearly as intense as I expected. Looking back, I think that’s what caused me to miss the fact that I was in labor.
James couldn’t reach anyone so we decided to show up early hoping the doctor would see me before my appointment. I went to rest on the sofa for a moment while James dressed. That’s when my water broke. I changed my clothes and we left immediately after that.
Within 5 minutes and after two major contractions, I gave birth to our son 12 weeks early while we were on the way to the hospital. The 911 operator sent an ambulance to help us get through rush-hour traffic since we were 30 minutes away from our hospital.
James turned on the heat in the car and removed his shirt so we could wrap our son. Then we thumped his feet to keep him crying and waited for the paramedics to arrive.
I look back at that day and can see God’s fingerprints all over it. When I was upset, my husband was calm. When he was upset, I was calm. God gave us both the strength and peace we needed.
Speaking of God’s fingerprints, the first volunteer paramedic who arrived that morning was a neonatal assistant from the local children’s hospital. She just dropped her girls off at school and returned home to retrieve a forgotten assignment for one of her girls when our call came in.
We couldn’t have asked for a more knowledgeable first responder. She knew exactly what to do with our preemie. She was our angel and there’s no doubt that God used a forgotten notebook to get her to us that morning.
The ambulance arrived and contacted our hospital; our hospital was full and we ended up in a different hospital than planned. That redirection was also directly from God. Our son was now heading to the the best NICU in the state where world-class doctors and nurses would watch him around the clock.
Our Prematurity Story: Life in the NICU
At 57 days, our son’s NICU stay was lengthy enough. Even so, we were very blessed with a big “28 weeker.” He was 3 pounds, 2 ounces and had only the expected challenges any preemie would have.
We visited every day, eager to hear of any weight gains and physical hurdles he had jumped. We learned to feed him through tubing and change diapers while keeping wires in tact. We talked to him about our days, held hands through the incubator openings, and savored the 10 minutes a day he was allowed out of the incubator.
Our Faithful God
I look back at those days and am so grateful that 24 year old Emily knew she could trust God through it all. I remember the amazing peace I had and it came from God alone. It was that Philippians 4:7 kind of peace:
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
That peace from the Holy Spirit sustained James and me through a time that could’ve easily been our worst days. It didn’t make sense, but we always knew that he was going to be okay. We also didn’t know how long our NICU journey would last or any difficulties that could come from our son’s prematurity, but we knew that God, our Sustainer, would carry us through it.
It wasn’t how I expected our birth story to go and the timing seemed all off, but I also knew enough to trust that God was in it.
Everything changed for us when he was born in the car at 28 weeks and, while it doesn’t always feel like it was that long ago, I can’t help but look back at how far he’s come. He may have started small, but he’s the most big-hearted and empathetic person I’ve ever known.
Twelve years have passed and I don’t see the tubes and wires when he walks into the room. I don’t think about those NICU days when he’s working on math at the table or unloading the dishwasher. I can’t stay in those moments because my baby isn’t a baby these days. Instead, he’s a big-hearted kiddo who wants to change the world by chasing his dreams.
We did have one more bout with preterm delivery, but thankfully our next prematurity story wasn’t nearly as exciting.
Because of my first premature delivery and a miscarriage that happened a few years later, my next pregnancy was high risk and I had maternal fetal medicine specialists watching me closely.
My oldest child may have been born in the car 12 weeks early, but I carried my youngest to 36 weeks and actually delivered her in a hospital room surrounded by a group of nurses.
Although she was a month early, our daughter was able to come home right away. Her only complication was minor and easily treatable. Other than being under bili lights for a few days after coming home with us, everything was completely normal with her.
Every prematurity story is different; that was certainly true for my sweet kiddos. Even so, the Author of their stories, Father God, is the same Author of yours.
You’re not alone if you’re walking through a NICU journey today. Know that you and your baby are loved so fiercely and that our God will carry you through it all.