Stories of Hope
Carrie and Zach were preparing for the excitement of their first baby when the unexpected happened and they found themselves a part of a world they did not know existed. Read on as Carrie shares their NICU journey and how they found hope.
I remember in such complete detail that it has become part of my DNA. I can’t remember most of yesterday, but I do remember almost every minute of June 22, 2013 and the 109 days that followed.
Today, Ben is 17 months old. It’s stunning to me in many ways, but particularly when I realize how deeply engraved those NICU days and nights are in my brain. I’m certain I’ll never forget a single moment of them, or the many people who have helped us on our journey, and for that we are forever grateful.
My pregnancy started off great, but after a few weeks I developed a bleed my doctor could only describe as, a bleed in my uterine wall. She informed us it was nothing to be greatly concerned with because it would seal itself and no harm would come to the baby or myself. As a new mother, I was obviously overcome with millions of scary thoughts. We decided to hold off on telling anyone except our immediate family until we were at least 16 weeks along.
The time came for us to find out the sex of our baby. It was a Tuesday morning and Zach and I were so excited to finally know what we were having. Our mothers were there along with Zach’s grandmother. We went into the room, just the two of us. We were thrilled to learn we were having a boy! Our mothers and Zach’s grandmother came in shortly after, to see the sonogram. We didn’t share the sex of the baby yet because we were having a gender reveal that following Saturday.
That night after such an exciting day, we went home and discussed all of the names we had picked out. Of course, we couldn’t decide on one, but we had all the time in the world for that. The following day we both went to work. I teach 6th grade math in a local school. That day was awards day and was pretty uneventful. After school I went to the grocery, went by and picked up bracelets we had made to give to our moms and Zach’s grandmother on the day of the gender reveal and headed home.
As I was putting the groceries away in the refrigerator, a huge gush of water soaked my feet. My heart seemed to stop and I quickly grabbed my phone to call my OBGYN. It was 5:00pm and I was at home alone, sitting in the bathroom frantic and terrified. She informed me to go straight to the ER. Zach was at the YMCA working out and there was no way for him to get to me fast enough, so we decided I would drive myself to the ER and meet him there. I quickly jumped into the car and headed to River Oaks. My heart was breaking into a million pieces as I drove, I feared the worst. Was I losing my baby? I was only 20 weeks along and I knew our son was very underdeveloped. I remained in the hospital for three days. The plan was to send me home on bed rest until I made it to 24 weeks at which point I would be admitted to the hospital for the duration of my pregnancy, however long that may be.
This is when Keira and Zoe Rose Memorial Foundation came to my rescue. My cousin knew Keira and gave her my contact information. She quickly contacted me, reassuring me that no matter what happened, they would be there to support us in any way. Shortly after our first conversation, Keira connected me with a local mom, Misti that underwent similar issues in her pregnancy. Being able to talk with someone who understood the many emotions I was feeling was invaluable. Of course my family was there to support me and love us, but none of them had been in this situation before. Misti was able to give me the encouragement I needed so desperately. Through this connecting with Misti and Keira, The Zoe Rose Memorial Foundation rescued me from my own frightened thoughts and helped me endure some of the most terrifying days on our NICU journey. Without the daily calls, texts, hospital visits and prayers I could not have made it through those three long weeks on bed rest at home.
When I reached 23 weeks into my pregnancy, I was admitted for hospital bedrest, where I remained for one more week. Daily checks on my fluid levels continued to show only a minimal amount of fluid around the baby. There was little movement from him, except when the nurse did the sonogram and once or twice a day I would get a kick, which helped my heart know he was okay.
At 24 weeks and one day into my pregnancy, I began to have terrible back pain, but nothing was showing on the monitor. We soon realized I was having contractions and Ben was going to make his arrival very soon. Born at 24 weeks and 1 day gestation, 1pound 12 ounces he spent nearly four months in the hospital. Each minute was a miracle—each day an eternity.
I remember being in the NICU and being utterly unable to imagine a “normal”, happy, healthy life for our tiny baby. Would he really grow to be as big as all the other full term babies my friends and family had? It seemed nearly impossible at the time. I could hardly imagine Ben growing enough to ever be discharged, that light at the end of the tunnel seemed so far away. That’s when the Zoe Rose Memorial Foundation made life just a little bit easier. Keira visited us in the NICU provided many resources about being a NICU parent, booklets, and even a book for us to read to our Ben. Knowing that she, like many others before her had been through the NICU and found that light at the end of the tunnel helped us to know that we were not alone. We knew that no matter what challenges may come our way with Ben, there was a community of parents ready to walk alongside us.
By any definition of the word, Ben is a true miracle. Most people are never lucky enough to experience one miracle in their lives. I’ve had more than my fair share, and Ben and the other babies we saw in the NICU are just that, miracles.
We will never be able to understand why or how this happened, but possibly it’s just a way to bring more attention to the good works done by the nurses, doctors and Zoe Rose Memorial Foundation that care so greatly for preemies and their families.
Prematurity awareness is a part of who I am now. Ironically, it’s really not a part of who Ben is. When I tell his story to someone who has just met him, it’s hard for some to grasp, he is just so normal. The pictures help bring his journey to light, but unless you knew him then, you can’t fully comprehend how far he has come. Even though he has put the trauma behind him, there are still little reminders that sneak up once in awhile related to his early birth, but nothing about his birth or his life has been less than miraculous.
Lots of love to Keira, the founder of Zoe Rose Foundation for her continuous love, support
and being a shoulder to cry on, talk to, and words of encouragement during our time leading
to and in the NICU. To Misti, who always knew just what to say and still today checks in on Ben.
Also, to the amazing nurses at River Oaks Hospital, who were Ben’s moms when I couldn’t be,
they will forever etched into our hearts as a part of our family.
Help us TODAY so we can support the families who need us NOW and TOMORROW.