After what seemed like a normal pregnancy, Lindsay Maglione felt stomach cramping at 27 weeks gestation and called her doctor. Those pains turned out to be contractions.
She spent four days in the hospital where doctors tried to stop her premature birth. However, little Jack had another plan. Lindsay delivered him naturally with no time for an epidural. He weighed just 2 pounds, 15 ounces.
Jack spent 93 days in the NICU battling a chronic lung disease and had difficulty feeding. Thankfully, he was able to go home right after his due date.
Lindsay knows how difficult NICU life can be. Her advice to other preemie moms: “I would tell a mom in the NICU to take time for herself and practice self-care. I really wore myself down while Jack was in the NICU and I’m so lucky that I didn’t get sick during that time. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your baby.”
Read Lindsay’s inspiring preemie mom story:
What were the circumstances surrounding Jack’s early birth?
I was having a healthy pregnancy when I went into labor at 27 weeks. We still do not know the cause. I felt great throughout my pregnancy, so when I started having stomach cramps all of a sudden, I began to worry and called the doctor. I figured it was probably nothing but I decided to have the doctor check it out just to be on the safe side.
I was shocked when the doctor told me that I was having contractions and was already 1 cm. dilated. I was then taken in an ambulance to a nearby hospital that had a NICU. I was given magnesium sulfate to slow the contractions and steroid shots to help develop Jack’s lungs. The doctors were able to slow the contractions for four days but then they came back much stronger than ever and there was no stopping Jack’s premature birth.
I delivered Jack naturally because everything happened so fast that I was unable to get an epidural. Jack was 2 pounds and 15 ounces which was a good size for a 27-weeker. The first night in the hospital before I delivered Jack, a NICU nurse came to talk to my husband and I about premature babies and what to expect if I did indeed deliver at 27 weeks. She said there was a good chance that Jack wouldn’t cry when he was born, but he came out screaming and he has been a fighter ever since.
Do you remember what it was like to see Jack for the first time?
I was able to see Jack about 30 minutes after delivery for just a few minutes. He was then taken to the NICU, but I was able to go back and see him later that afternoon. It was scary to see him for the first time because he was so tiny and appeared so fragile. In the NICU, he was placed on CPAP to help him breathe, but he was so small that the mask took up most of his little face.
Do you remember what it was like to hold Jack for the first time?
It was a week before I held Jack. He was so small that I was afraid to hold him but his nurse encouraged me and let me know that kangaroo care actually had a lot of health benefits for the baby. I was so glad that I put my fears aside and held him because kangaroo care was the bonding experience that we both needed.
What got you through the tough times?
My family, friends, coworkers, and members of my church were amazing during this time. We always had casseroles for dinner which helped a lot because we spent many late nights at the hospital. My mom visited Jack a lot while I was at work and that made me feel better that there was someone to cuddle him when I couldn’t be there. My husband was really strong during this time and supported me by encouraging me to keep pumping so that Jack could benefit from having my breast milk. My boss was really great during this time too, and let me leave early when I needed to be with Jack.
What kinds of things did you do to feel more like a “regular” mom to Jack?
I changed his diaper, picked out his clothes, and took his temperature. Once he was in an open crib, I decorated the wall with family pictures so that we could always be with him. I also read to him a lot especially in the beginning when I couldn’t always hold him.
My mom as well as my work threw me baby showers while Jack was in the NICU. I worried that it would feel strange to have a shower when I was no longer pregnant, but it was a nice way to celebrate Jack and it made me feel really supported.
How was it relating to your family during your NICU stay?
It was difficult relating to friends and family during the NICU stay. Everyone was really supportive, but it is a hard experience to relate to if you haven’t been through it yourself. I don’t think a lot of people realize that premature babies have weakened immune systems so once we got home from the hospital, we had to be really careful that Jack did not get sick because that could have resulted in another hospital stay. We basically had to isolate ourselves throughout the winter because it was a particularly bad flu and RSV season.
On top of being a preemie, Jack also has chronic lung disease so even catching just a cold could have had serious consequences for his health. It was hard to tell people to delay visiting Jack after we had already spent 3 months in the hospital, but I had to do what was best for him and advocate for my child.
Was there anything anyone did for you that helped make the NICU stay easier?
People from our church brought us casseroles and that was a big help because we spent a lot of time at the hospital and couldn’t always get to the store. I also appreciated friends sending cards and text messages just to let us know that they were thinking of us during this time.
Were you working at the time of his birth?
Yes, I was working as a speech-pathologist for the school district at the time. Jack arrived the week before school started.
Did you go back to work while Jack was in the NICU?
Yes, I went back to work the week after having Jack because I wanted to save my maternity leave for when he came home from the hospital.
How did you balance work with having Jack in the NICU?
It was crazy. Trying to work while having a baby in the NICU was exhausting, but we needed my medical insurance, so I had to work. The principal at my school was great and tried to support me while I was shuffling between work and the hospital.
I also had to be very careful because I worked around small children who were constantly sick. There was a flu outbreak at school so I did take a few days off from visiting Jack in the NICU which was so hard, but I couldn’t risk having him exposed to any illness.
I was somehow pumping every three hours, too, which made work a challenge. But I’m glad that I was able to continue to pump while Jack was in the NICU.
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Hold old is Jack today? How is his health?
He’s great! He is 15-months-old and is babbling, crawling, and is an overall happy baby. He continues to meet his milestones closer to his adjusted age, but I am very proud of his progress. He receives weekly occupational and physical therapy which has helped a great deal.
Feeding is still a bit of a struggle and it has been a slow transition to solid food but he is making progress in that area as well. I was a big advocate for early intervention before this experience, but I am now more supportive of it than ever because I see the influence it has had on Jack.
His health is great too! We are still careful with him because we do not want him to get sick. We are getting out more in our community now that he is older, but we still try to avoid crowds and people who are sick.
What would you tell a mom who has a preemie baby in NICU right now?
I would tell a mom in the NICU to take time for herself and practice self-care. I really wore myself down while Jack was in the NICU and I’m so lucky that I didn’t get sick during that time. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your baby.
If my husband were answering this question, he would say do not google anything. I definitely caused extra stress by googling things in the hospital and imagining the worst possible outcomes. Now that Jack is 1 and in good health, I feel like I wasted a lot of time worrying when I should have just been enjoying my baby.
I always say preemie moms deserve a merit badge. What merit badges do you think you have earned?
I would say that I deserve a badge for advocating for my baby. When I was not working, I would attend rounds and ask lots of questions to the medical staff and therapists. I tried to keep track of his events, feeding, and oxygen levels so that I would know if there was ever a change in Jack’s progress. As a mom, you know your baby better than anyone, so if you feel like there is a problem, do not be afraid to speak up to the nurses and the doctors.