Preemie mom Ashley Durance had an unexpected start to motherhood when at just 23 weeks pregnant she developed severe HELLP syndrome and had to deliver her daughter, Hazel.
Born four months premature and weighing just under one pound, Hazel’s NICU stay lasted six months and included over two months on a ventilator, over three months on CPAP allowing her to breathe on her own while providing some support, and then another four months on low flow oxygen at home.
Ashley blogs from home in Chilliwack, British Columbia Canada about being a preemie mom and life with little Hazel at Confessions of a NICU Mom and will publish a book about their NICU experience with the same name later this year. Watch for an online store to be added to her website very soon, too.
Get to know Ashley and learn why she has earned a Preemie Moms Merit Badge for learning home health care when Hazel was sent home on oxygen.
What were the circumstances surrounding Hazel’s premature birth?
I had two years of unexplained infertility and two back-to-back miscarriages before I got pregnant with Hazel. It was a healthy pregnancy until the day she was born when I started to have some symptoms that led me to believe I may be in preterm labor.
In fact, it was rapidly onset HELLP syndrome. From the moment I became unwell to the moment Hazel was delivered it was 12 hours. I was in liver failure and kidney failure, my blood pressure was 220/180. My platelets were only 17 so my blood wasn’t clotting and the placenta could no longer provide to the baby. The only treatment was delivery.
Do you remember what it was like to see Hazel for the first time?
She was one day old when I first saw her. My husband had shown me a photo around 2 a.m. when I woke up from the anaesthesia but when I saw her for the first time I thought “where is the rest of her.” She was so tiny. She weighed 14 oz. and was 21 cm long.
When did you get to hold Hazel for the first time?
Hazel was one month and two days old the first time I held her. It felt like she was where she belonged.
What got you through the tough times?
A positive attitude and remembering that these were still her days as a newborn and one day I would miss some of those moments.
What kinds of things did you do to feel more like a “regular” mom to Hazel?
She couldn’t wear any clothes until she was two and a half months old so I brought in muslin swaddles for her to use as bed sheets in her isolette. I read her so many stories. I gave her breast milk on a cotton swab and let her suck on that.
How was it relating to friends and family during your NICU stay?
Very difficult. We lost touch with most of our friends from that time. Our family was pretty good about it all though.
Was there anything anyone did for you that helped make the NICU stay easier?
I had to stay in the hospital for two weeks in liver and kidney failure so help during that time was very appreciated. My sisters cleaned our house before I came home from the hospital and friends watched our pooch for us during those two weeks. During Hazel’s extended NICU stay, friends and family made us home-cooked meals and stocked our freezer, gave us gas cards and wrote heartfelt letters. My sister also created a GoFundMe page for us to help with gas and parking, etc.
How is Hazel today?
Wonderful! Very healthy but still tiny at 16 pounds. She is growing well and catching up to her milestones. For the most part she is where she should be developmentally and she is a healthy baby now!
When she came home she still needed oxygen and we spent five months with that at home until Hazel no longer needed it.
What would you tell a mom who has a preemie baby in NICU right now?
This isn’t ideal, and we never wish this on our baby but still, try to cherish the little moments because before you know it they’ll be older and you’ll be wishing for their newborn days back.
I always say preemie moms deserve a merit badge. What merit badges do you think you have earned?
A merit badge for learning and operating home oxygen.
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