Although Jessica Wisdom had two full-term, healthy pregnancies, her third didn’t follow any of the normal rules. She ended up meeting her preemie son, Theodore, six weeks earlier than expected.
At 33 weeks, Theodore was measuring several weeks smaller than he should have been. Jessica’s health was also deteriorating. With climbing blood pressure and uric acid levels, doctors diagnosed her with preeclampsia and admitted her for an emergency C-section.
“The sweet nurse said ‘I have good news and bad news. The good news is you get to meet your baby sooner than you thought. The bad news is we are starting a magnesium drip.’ I broke into tears immediately. I knew I wasn’t leaving.”
Read more about Jessica’s preemie mom story:
What was it like being told you’d had to deliver Theodore six weeks early?
I was afraid and not ready – this wasn’t the plan!
I had gone to my doctor for a routine check in. He did an ultrasound and we talked about coming back the following day and possibly being admitted until delivery because we couldn’t keep my blood pressure at a safe level even with medication. My doctor sent me over to the hospital to be monitored and to decide what our next steps would be.
I got checked in and hooked up to a monitor and my husband and kids left to eat some lunch. A while later two nurses walked in holding bags of fluids, a gown and IV supplies. I knew in that moment I wasn’t leaving.
They told me I had preeclampsia and was going into kidney failure. They were also concerned that my amniotic fluid was low, and the baby was no longer growing. I spent the night on magnesium and received two steroid shots. Theodore was delivered early the next morning via C-section.
Your health still wasn’t good after you delivered Theodore. What happened?
Not long after getting to recovery, my vitals started to tank, and I was losing consciousness. I don’t remember much of that time but from what I have been told there was a lot of debate about what was wrong.
Eventually, they did a hemoglobin test which told them I was bleeding somewhere. I was taken back into surgery to repair the bleeding. By this time, I had lost half of my blood volume. I was taken The ICU after surgery and when they were moving me to my bed my incision came open and I lost a ton of blood. They were able to stop the bleeding, but I received five units of blood over the next day.
Do you remember seeing Theodore for the first time?
After the C-section, I only got a quick look at him before he was whisked away to the special care nursery. I was so scared. I initially had a little trouble accepting that he was my baby.
What was it like holding him for the first time?
I was terrified at first but once he was nestled on my chest everything changed. I loved him fiercely and wanted to protect him with everything in me.
You had an 11-year-old and 7-year-old at home. How did you balance your head and heart being in two places?
Every morning we would drop off the big kids with whoever was watching them that day and my husband would drop me off at the hospital. I tried to be there for as many care times as I could so that I could change his diaper, touch him and hold him when possible.
He’d pick me up after work then we’d picked up the big kids and have dinner together. My husband would go back to the hospital for the night time care times.
How was it relating to friends and family during your NICU stay?
I didn’t feel like they could relate to me or what we were going through. I went through a time when I didn’t want to talk to or see people, it just felt like too much work.
What got you through the tough times as a preemie mom?
I can remember my husband commenting on hard it was to see other parents pushing their babies to their hospital room. Not having him in the room was hard but leaving the hospital without him was almost unbearable. Looking forward to the day he would come home got me through.
Was there anything anyone did for you that helped make the NICU stay easier?
So many things! I had a great group of people who took turns watching my big kids during the day, so I could stay with Theodore.
We had meals provided for us for the entire NICU stay so we didn’t have to cook or worry about groceries. We also had some gas cards gifted to us which was so nice because we were making multiple trips a day to the hospital and back home.
How is Theodore doing today?
He overcame some eating and digestion problems. He also got a bacterial infection during his stay extending his time in the NICU. Even with setbacks, he was ultimately released on his due date. He’s now 20 months old, has a few delays but overall he’s doing great!
In the weeks after leaving the NICU, we had many doctor visits due to Theodore’s high liver enzymes and bilirubin levels. We were sent to see the only pediatric liver specialist in Oklahoma about an hour and half away from us. After our first visit with him, we were very frightened by some of the possibilities. Theodore and I spent 36 hours at the children’s hospital were he went through many test and received a blood transfusion. A month later, we went back to see his liver doctor and finally got a diagnosis. Theodore has Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, a genetic liver disorder that will require care through his life. We were told for the time being we just watch and get regular check ups.
What would you tell a mom who has a preemie baby in NICU right now?
Give yourself grace. This is hard.
I always say preemie moms deserve a merit badge. What merit badges do you think you have earned?
A merit badge for juggling two worlds – home life and NICU life!
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