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- Story Listed as: True Life For Adults
- Theme: Survival stories / Success stories
- Subject: Life Experience
- Published: 01/09/2020
Will He Survive? - A Mother's StoryF, from Pell city AL, United States
The year is 1980. I married young, in 12th grade, with aspirations to use my strong 3.8 GPA to enroll in a local university and fast track to a career in the accounting industry.
At age sixteen, I had a cyst rupture and my right ovary collapsed, resulting in emergency surgery. There was little communication between the general physical and myself. My mother was the one who met with the physician and had the scoop on what, if anything, I could expect to change in the future regarding my health.
A few months after surgery, I became very sick and was then seen by an OB/GYN. Among several things in my medical history, I had PID (pelvic inflammatory disease) and damage to my reproductive parts due to being raped as a child. My physician said I most likely would not be able to have children.
Fast forward two years and I was married. A few weeks before the marriage, I met with my OB/GYN to discuss birth control. I gave it a try for about a month but the prescription made my symptoms worse and my physician suggested I quit taking the pills. Not only were they not helping me, his thoughts were I had a 'one in a million chance' of getting pregnant. That was in January.
In March, the extreme nausea started. A checkup would confirm I was two weeks pregnant. The pregnancy was troubled with excessive nausea, weight loss, then around July those symptoms eased yet I would faint easily and generally didn't feel well. I had graduated from high school and knew my college plans were on hold. I was working full-time and rarely missed a day at work. In early August, a few seconds into intercourse, I started hemorrhaging. I was hospitalized for a few days, then released with orders to stay in bed the remainder of the pregnancy.
Now come the regrets. For the remainder of August, I stayed in bed. We were building a house and a few days away from moving from our tiny garage apartment to the house. We lived in a furnished apartment and would move into the house with our personal belongings and yard sale furniture, hand-me-down items and a nursery set my mother had kept.
On a fateful day in September, the 16th day, I decided to drive to a nearby mall about twenty-five minutes from home to purchase curtains for the house. On the drive I started to feel very sick. I was cold and clammy. I would start to black out and pulled the car over several times. These were the days before cell phones and I had to either make my destination or turn around and make it back home. I arrived at the mall and went in a major department store where I planned to purchase curtains. I felt so ill I laid down on the floor in the women's bathroom. Drank some water. Decided I had to get back to our apartment and get some rest and that I should have stayed in bed!
It was a tedious drive back home and one where angels had to be taking the wheel because I was pulling over frequently due to the whole world going black in front of me. Finally, I made it back to my hometown. We were expecting our paychecks in the mail. The post office was on the way to the apartment. I would make one final stop there. I stepped out of the vehicle to get our mail and my water broke in one giant swoosh!
I drove to our apartment and my husband had just arrived in from his early shift. The time would be about 2:45 pm on September 16th. After requesting my husband contact my mother, she joined us for the trip to the hospital, about 35 minutes away. What my mother knew that I didn't was this baby would have to be delivered soon. Once your water breaks, labor can't be stopped for more than a few hours.
I arrived at the ER, I was so small I was wearing blue jeans and the admissions staff asked why I was there. then when I told them I was in labor, she walked around her desk to take a look at me. I was taken to labor and delivery. About 5:00 pm my physician walked in. His office was just next door in the professional building. I was hooked up to an IV and monitors. He told me I would receive medications to slow the labor and a sedative. In my naive 18 year old mind, I thought I would go home the next day and stay on bed rest a few more weeks.
The morning of September 17th, I woke up as the medications wore off and labor started in full force. A team from pediatrics readied for a premature birth. My physician came by to discuss what I should expect with the labor followed by a very tiny preemie who would, at best, be in NICU for weeks to come. I was young and fearless. At 4:17 pm my tiny baby boy arrived. I saw him for a half of a second before the pediatric team took him to NICU. He weighed three pounds, twelve ounces. Over the next few weeks I would spend eight days in the hospital treated for an infection and heavy postpartum bleeding. Meanwhile, I would see my little boy as often as the staff would let me. Our little boy lost weight for a few weeks, dropping down to three pounds, six ounces before he started slowly to gain weight. He was too weak to nurse. We rented a commercial grade breast pump that I would use over the next several months to get the breast milk the baby needed. In spite of my health issues, I produced a generous, life-saving amount of breast milk.
After I was released from the hospital, I returned to work just three days later. We needed the income. We traveled to the hospital daily to see our son for the allowed two hour time frame. In the early weeks, we couldn't hold him outside of the incubator. My breast milk was fed to him through a feeding tube. By three weeks, he was gaining strength. He had issues with jaundice and respiratory issues. I would look around NICU at the 'drug babies', those born to Mother's who were on drugs during their pregnancies. In the weeks our son was in NICU, we saw many little ones not make it. Every day we were thankful our son had made it another day. At four and a half weeks, we reached a milestone. Our son was moved from an incubator! This meant he was able to hold in his body heat as long as he was in a warm room and had his head covered and was dressed. A step closer to going home. From there, he had to have good vitals and, most of all, gain weight until he reached four pounds, eight ounces, the magic number when he would be released to go home.
The day finally came. Homecoming! I was equally scared and excited. It was the beginning of some very hard days and long nights. Our son was far too small to be in a daycare setting. I was able to fulfill some of my bookkeeping jobs from home and worked evenings after my husband came in to watch the baby to hold my job and help with our much needed income. We were in quite a financial bind with all the extra medical bills.
Preemies don't sleep well. They can only take a small amount of milk at a time as their little tummies will hold an ounce or two. A few weeks after we brought our son home, he became very sick. The pediatrician said he had whooping cough and scolded me for not getting the first round of vaccinations for our son on time. I was feeling a heavy dose of Mom guilt over all aspects of the preemie birth and now this, too. I had no idea our son would be on a standard schedule for vaccinations when he was not yet at what would have been his due date. A few weeks later, he recovered.
For the upcoming months, through about the first six months, our son had common childhood illnesses. Colds, digestive issues not necessarily related to being a preemie. In motor skills and activity levels, he was progressing at a good pace.
At sixteen months, he caught a virus and, by this time, I was six months pregnant with our second child. Our son's virus seemed as if it would never end. He was having a hard time pulling through the fever, chills and nausea. A few weeks later, the pediatrician determined our son had a kidney infection at his young age. After much testing, this infection was due to an abnormality in the abdomen and we were told he would grow out of it. Although he was a active little boy, he had a long ways to go developmentally.
At age two, while at daycare, four of our son's front teeth broke off. He wasn't in an accident. After seeing a pediatric dentist he explained to us preemies have a birth ring around their baby teeth. It is a soft spot on the baby teeth where nutrition from the womb stops and before the baby starts getting proper nutrition after birth. Off we went to Children's Hospital for a procedure to have our son's teeth capped.
As our son became a sibling to a little sister, although she was three weeks early, she was able to come home from the hospital with me. I had postpartum infections again and was in the hospital eight days again. Also, during this time, although I was only twenty, I had a tubal litigation to ensure my baby making years were over.
Several years passed. Our son and daughter developed their own language and talked together in what some would describe as 'twin talk' when it was just the two of them. As a working Mom, the children were first at home with a private sitter, then in daycare by ages one and three. I knew my little boy was a sensitive, shy little boy. His sister was talkative and outgoing. As one of four siblings myself, and a shy kid, I didn't detect anything 'abnormal' in our son's behavior.
When the school years arrived, our son's scholastic ability was okay yet his second grade teacher said he was too immature for the class and suggested we hold him back a year. My husband wouldn't hear of it. In third grade, our son's teacher conducted a routine eye exam for the students and sent a note home suggesting we have our son's eyes examined. Sure enough, he had a condition called lazy eye and his vision was much worse than we could have ever imagined! We are not sure how he managed any scholastic work before he was fitted with the prescription glasses he would need forevermore. After our son had eyeglasses, his average grades of B's went to all A's. The teacher's would mention how easily he would cry and how he didn't fit in. As naive parents, we looked only at the report card to determine whether or not he was thriving in school. We were so wrong.
In seventh grade, his math and science teacher suggested we have our son evaluated by a child psychologist. His IQ was tested and his intellectual ability showed a genius level IQ. The flip side was a social disconnect. A specific diagnosis would come years later. Junior high and high school years, our son was at the top of his class. He won the science fair and would graduate salutatorian and made great ACT scores generating a round of invitations to colleges. While all of these great scholastic accomplishments were occurring, our son was experiencing a troubling emotional time.
He had developed insomnia. As a child, he never slept 'normally'. As a teenager, he would sleep a few hours then wake up and study the rest of the night. As I write this at 3:15 am, I understand the rounds of insomnia which I've dealt with since childhood. I didn't see our son's insomnia as a 'risk factor'. Then he started losing weight. A skinny kid for years, when our son turned thirteen and puberty set in, he gained weight to the point of being overweight. Now the extra pounds were gone and he looked skeletal. He turned down his favorite foods and retreated to his room.
In the upcoming days, just weeks before graduation, he was asked by a girl in his class to attend prom with him. Our son was working part-time (self-taught) setting up LAN's for small companies (local area networks) and he used his savings to buy his prom date a dress, rent a limo, pay for her to get her hair and nails done and he rented himself a tux. The night of prom, he returned home not more than thirty minutes after he had left for prom. We tried to get him to talk to us but the teenager 'just leave me alone' reaction was all we got from him.
The next day, a classmate who had befriended our son, came to my office and explained our son was set up by this girl who invited him on a date. She had friends at her home when our son arrived to mock his stupidity at believing SHE would really go out on a date with HIM.
The next day, the same classmate came by my office in a rushed hurry and said he was afraid our son might attempt suicide as soon as he got home from school due to events related to the failed prom date incident. I rushed home. Our son's classmate had arrived just ahead of me. We found my son with both wrist cuts and discovered he had also drank anti-freeze. He was rushed to the hospital where he stayed overnight to have his stomach pumped, his wrists stitched up and to have a psych consult. He was released into the care of a counselor for a recommended number of counseling sessions.
Within a few weeks, he would be in a car accident. It was two days before graduation and he was going over his commencement speech at school. He was very nervous about speaking in front of an audience, and had not been sleeping well. On the drive from school to home, he fell asleep and totaled his car. He required a few stitches but was otherwise miraculously okay.
Graduation day came and our son made it through his speech and the ceremonies. He had decided on the University he would attend and, by all accounts, he was ready to move on with his life so far as his parents could tell.
His first year at University, there on an academic scholarship, he had ceased going to class. We were advised he needed to take a year off from academics and be treated for depression.
In the following year, our son was diagnosed with Asperger's, a unique form of autism. Although Asperger's can occur in anyone, there is a significantly higher percentage of premature babies who will develop this condition.
Although our son did finish his college degree and is a chemical engineer, he has been unable to hold a job. After the prom incident, he developed such a distrust of people, he is by definition agoraphobic, where he stays isolated and has difficulty coping with leaving home.
At the advice of our son's psychologist, we moved him into independent living, in his own apartment, where he would have to buy his groceries, pay routine bills, etc. Our son chose to live near the campus of the University he attended and he resides there today. He has written a book related to chemical engineering and receives a small stipend of royalties from it. He has made a few dollars as a beta tester working from home. Otherwise, we provide his financial support and I pray for and worry over his future.
Regrets are many. I wish we would have had the wisdom to see our son's mental needs when he was younger. Perhaps he would have benefited from a different school environment or child psychologist or both. Perhaps if he had not lost his confidence when he was tricked and humiliated by a brutal girl, he would not have dropped out of society in the way he has. Perhaps if I had stayed in bed until the due date of his birth, he would have arrived at nine months and been a healthy, normal kid with no issues at all. We'll never know.
He has a brilliant mind. The man whose name is on the chemical engineering building at the University said our son is the most brilliant person he's ever met. What a shame he doesn't have the confidence to share his intellect with the world.
For a parent of a preemie, I know healthcare has changed a tremendous amount in the last almost forty years. Spend as much time as you can bonding by touching. Have the little one vaccinated as soon as the pediatrician tells you to. Have the little one's eyes checked before they begin school. Sooner if you can. Listen to feedback from teachers. Watch for how your child interacts with their peers. Not every preemie will have Asperger's. The ones who do, and the many who aren't preemies but also have this condition, can benefit greatly and lead normal lives with therapy where they learn coping skills to teach them how to deal with the rest of the world. A world of people they see as abnormal interfering in their normal space on this universe.
Our son's name has been withheld to protect his privacy. The events in this writing are true and based on my own experiences and those of our son.