Preemies can arrive unexpectedly after a full-term pregnancy. Meet Lani Derrik, busy blogger at Life Anchored who had her second child at 30 weeks.
Preemie after full-term baby
Lani Derrik was busy balancing her popular lifestyle blog, Life Anchored, with her work as a pediatric nurse and family life with her husband, a nurse practitioner, and two-year-old son, John, when at 30 weeks pregnant with daughter, Mary Catherine, she went into preterm labor.
The pregnancy was progressing well and Lani was healthy with the exception of nausea that was continuous. The baby was healthy and measuring appropriately. Then, suddenly, she was faced with a C-section and a daughter in NICU.
“A lot goes through your mind in those hours of preterm labor before delivery and I’m confident that the one thing most moms thinking is if they could have prevented this,” Lani said. “It’s easy to take all the blame of the circumstances on yourself even if it’s something so out of our control.
When did you get to go see Mary Catherine for the first time?
They showed Mary Catherine to me immediately after delivery in the operating room. She was breathing on her own and not in any distress so they took that moment to reassure me. Afterwards, I waited until my spinal from surgery had worn off and I was able to be taken by wheelchair to the NICU.
What was the most difficult part of having a baby born premature?
Uncertainty. My husband and I are both in the medical field. I’m a pediatric registered nurse and he is a family nurse practitioner. We knew all the scary things that happen with preemies but really didn’t have any personal experience with friends or family to know the final outcomes. The most I knew was from caring from them in the hospital.
What got you through the tough times?
Faith in God! I still tell my husband today that I have no idea why this was God’s plan for us but I am confident that He has an amazing purpose in it. I hope that one day He will reveal it to me.
Was there anything anyone did for you that helped make the NICU stay easier?
Hugs. The nurses in the NICU hugged me every day. They are amazing and honestly it was so nice to just lean in on someone.
What kinds of things did you do to feel more like a “regular” mom to Mary?
I remember spending HOURS shopping online for hats. Such a small thing but when they have IV lines and feeding tubes they aren’t able to wear clothing. Hats were okay. I had friends from across the country crochet and send us tiny hats. I shopped online and ordered the tiniest hats I could find. Even the preemie sizes were too small for a while.
How was it relating to friends and family during your NICU stay?
I have an amazing family and friends that you wouldn’t believe. In our time of adjustment we had families in our neighborhood that we’d never met bringing us meals and loving on us. I spent a lot of time online in an Austin-area preemie family Facebook group so I was able to build some friendships with other preemie moms.
My best friend’s daughter spent time in the NICU as a term baby and she was helpful to talk to about the experience as well. I sought a mom mentor through Hand to Hold and she was amazing at answering questions and checking on me.
How did you balance having a two-year-old at home and a preemie in NICU?
My amazing father-in-law came from Alaska for an extended visit. This allowed my husband to return to work and save family medical leave for when Mary came home. My father-in-law would spend the mornings with my older son so that I was able to visit the NICU. I tried to make special time for my son as well. Even if it was something as simple as going to the store just he and I.
How was having a preemie different than having a full-term baby?
This is actually a really hard question to answer. My full-term baby was also my first, so I was completely new to motherhood and all of its glory and challenges. He cluster fed and we had many sleepless nights. We started foods at four months on the dot because I was excited for him to experience it. Milestones were achieved right on time and he continues to reach and exceed these goals.
Mary, my preemie, was in the NICU for the first 45 days of her life. By the time she came home to us, she was past cluster feedings and all night parties. She is reaching some milestones according to her actual age and others according to her adjusted age. When she misses one based on her actual age I begin to worry. Then she shows me how tough she is and I forget that she has her own set of markers.
I feel like I have delayed some things like starting solids because I didn’t feel like she was ready, but also because I’m not ready for my last baby to move to that stage yet. We are taking a more baby-led weaning approach with her.
Life After NICU
How is Mary today?
Mary is a perfect, teething, thriving almost eight-month-old. She is rolling over and sitting up with some assistance. Her favorite foods are sweet potatoes and avocado. She loves when her big brother makes funny faces and sings to her when she wakes up in the morning.
What would you tell a mom who has a preemie baby in NICU right now?
You can do this! Motherhood is tough, there will be many challenges over the years ahead. This is one of those challenges. Take all the support that is offered to you. Don’t feel like a burden to anyone. People want to love on your family. Let them.
I always say preemie moms deserve a merit badge. What merit badges do you think you have earned?
I would say a merit badge for sticking with breastfeeding through all the challenges. I pumped for eight weeks every three hours around the clock. Mary is now exclusively breast fed with the exception of solids.