Mighty Mom: Ann
Mighty Bee: Olivia
What were your very first thoughts when you found out you were pregnant with Olivia?
We were very excited when we found out we were expecting Olivia. We had a nine month old son, William and we had had a miscarriage three months earlier so we were very nervous as well. We didn’t tell our family at first.
Did the time pass slowly or quickly throughout the pregnancy?
Time went by quickly. When I was about three months pregnant I got very sick and was on bed rest for a week, we thought I would lose the baby. After I recovered I was always afraid I would lose the baby.
Were you aware before giving birth that Olivia would be spending time in the NICU?
We had no idea and never expected to be the NICU. According to our doctor everything was progressing normally and Olivia was healthy.
Can you describe the moment Olivia was born?
I woke up around 4:00 that morning ( two months before her due date) my back was hurting and I noticed a little spotting. My husband and I thought we would just drop off his daughter at school and go get checked out by my doctor. Before he got back from the school I knew this was more than just a normal back ache. By the time we left for the hospital I was in active labor and trying not to push. My husband was driving 90 mph and yelling at me not to “mess up his new Car”. Our 18 month old son was in his car seat laughing at me because I was slapping my husband on his arm and yelling “drive faster”. It was almost an hour drive to the hospital and we got there at 9:00. I was sitting in the ER screaming “the baby’s coming”, my husband was parking the car and transferring our son and his car seat over to his dad. I got upstairs, the nurse was checking me when my water broke under pressure (the nurse and I both got drenched). When my husband came in the nurse had one hand holding the baby’s head and was calling the doctor with the other hand. The doctor rushes in, walks into his gown and catches the baby at 9:13. Olivia was born 13 minutes after I arrived at the hospital. I heard them say she was not breathing properly and the nurse took her away. The doctor came in and said they wanted to transfer her to a NICU. A couple of hours later they let me see her for about 15 minutes before she was airlifted out. I had to stay for 12 hours before I could be released. She left around noon and I finally got to leave after 9:00 that night. She was born so quickly and early that we had not decided on a name yet, so after she was flown out we finally had time to take in what was happening. We still could not decide on a name. We had three choices we were still talking over. We ended up putting the names in a cup and drew her name. Leaving the hospital that night without her was the hardest part.
Describe your first days in the NICU.
We had never been to Levine’s hospital before and had no idea what we were doing. We got there that morning, got all the paperwork done, washed and gowned up, walked into the NICU put our hands on the incubator and started crying. She looked so tiny and was hooked up to all kinds of tubes, wires and monitors. When I finally got to hold her the nurse came and told us we would have to leave because a new baby was coming in and they needed to close the NICU until they got the new baby stabilized. That was the way it was every day. We never knew how long we would get to stay in the NICU with her, some days we spent more time in the waiting room than we did with Olivia. That was the most stressful part about her being in the NICU. It felt like we were always rushing to get there and in to see her only to not be able to do anything for her but hold her and sometimes we could not even do that for very long.
Considering the holiday season is here, can you describe your first Thanksgiving and Christmas with Olivia?
Our first Thanksgiving and Christmas with Olivia was also our first holidays after we moved into my grandparent’s old house. We live next door to my parents and it was exciting to have the family together. It snowed on Christmas night for the first time in my life, which made it even more special. Watching Olivia and her older brother playing with their new toys will always be special. Olivia came home on a heart/lung monitor which made daily life harder, but we were just thankful to have everyone together in one place.
Did you spend any holidays in the NICU?
Olivia was born the Thursday before Mother’s Day and was discharged from the NICU on Father’s Day. She was our Mother’s day and Father’s Day present. We got the diagnosis of her Cerebral Palsy the following Christmas.
Did you have any fears or anxieties regarding germs for the first few years with Olivia being medically fragile?
No we treated her just like our son. We went out to eat, to church and even to Wal-Mart. Having other children in the house we knew she would need to develop a strong immune system. She has always been very healthy, just a few colds and normal kid illnesses when she started school at three years old.
What was the most challenging time during your NICU experience?
Because we had an 18 month old son at home when Olivia was born we tried very hard to keep a normal schedule for him. My husband and I had both worked up to the day before she was born so he was used to seeing us both leave for work. My husband’s father was our babysitter, we would leave about our usual time, drive an hour to Levine’s, spend all day with Olivia and return home and try to have a normal life. We would clean house, cook and play with our son, all while trying to explain to him through pictures that he had a new little sister. During this time my husband’s daughter who also lived with us graduated from high school. We also started remodeling my grandparent’s house, selling our house and preparing to move. My husband was still working in Columbia 2 days a week and working from home (the hospital) the rest of week. He would take a laptop into the NICU and work while I held Olivia. I breastfeed all my children but Olivia was never strong enough to latch on so I had to pump every 4 hours for her. Two months after Olivia was born we had sold our house, finished remodeling , moved and unpacked and set up the new house, returned to our full time jobs and sent our oldest to college. I look back and wonder how we did it all.
Did you have any rewarding moments from living in the NICU?
We watched so many babies and families come in and out of the NICU in a few days, we were happy for and jealous of them. We also saw several babies and their families that had been there for almost a year or longer. We were told from the very first moment we got there that there was no set timeframe for how long she would be there. It could be short or a very long stay. It was comforting to us to see how the nurses went out of their way to make the families and babies feel comfortable, especially how the nurses took extra care of the babies after their family left.
What is your most precious memory from the time she was born to the time she turned a year old?
Olivia was born 13 minutes after I got to the hospital; I never got to hold her that first day. She was airlifted from Lancaster to Levine’s NICU within a couple of hours of being born. I got to sit beside her and hold her hand for just a few minutes before they flew out with her. That was my first time even seeing her.
If you had to do it all over again, would there be anything you would do differently?
I would insist the doctors do an MRI of her brain while she was in the NICU. She was admitted to the NICU because of breathing problems, they constantly checked her heart and lungs but no one ever suggested checking her brain. It took us nearly 8 months and 7 different doctors before we got confirmation of her Cerebral Palsy. It took several more months to get her started in therapy and for us to find out about TEFRA. I often wonder would it have made a difference if we had known earlier.
What are you looking forward to most about this upcoming holiday season?
Spending time with my all four of my children. Olivia has an older brother, William age 7, and two younger brothers, Samuel age 2 and Andrew 5 months old.
Do you have any suggestions for fellow NICU families following in your footsteps this holiday season?
Enjoy every moment with you child, it’s the memories we have of being with family that we cherish not the decorations, food or presents. Celebrate each day.
Tell us about Mighty Olivia today.
Today Olivia is 5 years old and is in regular kindergarten with resource. She has a full time aide at school and she loves every minute of school. Her only limitation is mobility; she cannot walk, sit up or eat without assistance. She loves cartoons, reading books and playing. She plays soccer and has recently joined the 4-H horse club. She rode her first horse this past summer. All the teachers at school tell me how much they love her because she is always laughing and smiling. Her brothers love to play with her but they know she is the boss. She tells us every day that she wants to be a doctor and a mother; she loves to hold her new baby brother.
How has Bee Mighty impacted your journey with Olivia?
Our insurance would not cover an activity chair for Olivia to have at home, so when I applied through Bee Mighty we were thrilled when we were awarded the chair. Olivia is over 3 feet tall and she cannot sit up, so she had a hard time interacting with her brothers and the therapist with a lot of simple activities. Now that we have the activity chair she can sit up straight while working on her computer, while doing her homework and also sit at the play table with her brothers. She no longer has to sit in someone’s lap or just lay in the floor. Her brothers also take turns pushing her through the house, and they love the high/low feature.