“I got ‘laid off’ because I was ‘distracted’ after my daughter’s birth”: Maurice Reeves’s Story

MauriceReeves

It's been almost thirteen years but the memories are always fresh.  They're right under the surface and a sound or a smell can bring them rushing back.  There I am sitting in the cramped operating room rubbing my wife's cheek as the doctors are trying to save our daughter's life.  I'm watching them cut her open and reach into her, pulling out this tiny fragile pink infant two months early, and then the room is absolutely still, everyone waiting to see if she'll cry.  

I remember the long endless days sitting in the NICU, wanting to squeeze her but afraid to touch her sensitive skin and hurt her.  I remember the smell of the soap as we stood in the scrub room washing our hands and arms up to the elbows in scalding hot water so we could sit with our daughter.  I remember sitting there listening to each rhythmic beep of the heart monitor, and saying a silent prayer between each one: "and another, come on sweetie.”  

I remember standing in my boss's office as I got "laid off" because I was "distracted" after her birth.  They needed "focus and commitment.”  

I remember walking with my wife down the long hospital hallways when she was finally discharged, but our little girl was still in the NICU and we had to leave her behind.  We tried so hard to keep on a brave face as we went to the car, but once it was just us sitting in the parking garage alone we bawled for thirty minutes.  

“I still get flashbacks”: Karl’s Story

My wife and I also have a preemie. She was born at 25 weeks, 1 lb 15 oz. My wife had no risk factors and they couldn't figure out why it happened. We also had our share of transfusion, respiratory distress, cardiac arrests, PDA ligations. She had a rough go of it in the NICU, a heart surgery that didnt go well followed by cardiac arrest. 

Then, around her second birthday, she got terrible pneumonia that her little lungs had a hard time with. She spent another month in the ICU.

Unfortunately people can be pretty cruel. When she was still in the NICU an acquaintance tried to market our daughter as an example of why abortion should be illegal. Aside from the fact that this person knew our political leanings are pro-choice, it was very disheartening to have our little girl clinging to life and being pulled into someones political discussions. 

I try to take those things out and replace them with how grateful and blessed I feel to have my little girl. She'll be three in April and everyday I think about being able to hug her and see her laughing. My experience was not on the public scale yours was but I thought Id share it anyway for what its worth. I still get the flashbacks,  and things like panic attacks when we have to go in for routine check ups. 

But three years in, its starting to get a little better. You make new memories to that help move the other ones a little further back. 

“You can’t measure what my son has given back”: Laura’s Story

LauraColon

In the spring of 2008, I found out I was pregnant with my third child. Everything was boringly normal until the night of Nov. 19, 2008, when I was 34 weeks and 6 days pregnant. That evening, I experienced PPROM (pre-term, premature rupture of the membranes). My labor was induced and six pound, 8 ounce PuddinPie was born early in the next morning, Nov. 20, at 35 weeks. He was a large baby but had trouble breathing. Before breakfast, the NICU team from our local Level III hospital arrived, intubated him, gave him surfactant and transferred him to their hospital. Ten hours after having my baby, I walked out of the hospital with empty arms.

For the next nine days, I was thrust into an unfamiliar world, one where I could only watch my baby breath on a machine and eat via a tube down his nose. Although he was large for his gestational age, the neonatologists reminded us that he was still sick and “immature.” He was baptized at two days old and allowed to go home at nine days. We struggled even at home: he had a hard time gaining weight, so we were often at the doctor for weight checks. My husband worked long hours and I had two other children stuck inside since we couldn’t go anywhere due to RSV season.

I was wholly unequipped to be a parent to a preemie and, later, a special needs child. Everything we thought we knew about parenting had to be modified for this child who looked full-term and healthy but wasn’t. At the time, PuddinPie was the only preemie in our family and while they tried to understand my fears for his future, they were often dismissed because he was “only a little premature” and stayed “only a few days.” It wasn’t until he was two that we had, in writing, confirmation that there are long-lasting problems due to his early birth:  a severe motor planning disorder. He began intensive speech therapy with a skilled SLP. Shortly before he was three, he started preschool with our local Early Childhood Special Education team.