MomsGetReal is proud to share the story of Guest Contributor Wanda Morrissey as we bring attention to Preemie Awareness Month. Please join us in supporting the efforts of the March of Dimes by volunteering or making a donation.

Having Jeffrey close to home meant I could spend all day, every day at the hospital. I would get up in the morning, go to the hospital, come home to make supper and then Kent I would go back in the evening. We were still trying to breastfeed but it was getting very frustrating for both Jeffrey and I. The nurses in Newmarket would put him on a full breast (they couldn’t understand why the lactation nurse had wanted to put him on an empty breast) but he still didn’t get it. He was using me as a pacifier. One day I’d had enough and told the nurses to switch him to bottles. They wanted me to continue trying but I was done. We switched to bottles and never looked back. (I continued to pump and bottle feed him breast milk until my supply dried up that summer).

Our time in the Newmarket hospital was going well. Jeffrey’s oxygen levels were stable; he was feeding well and getting bigger every day. The apnea spells were happening less and less. It would soon be time to think about taking Jeffrey home. At the end of April the pediatrician gave the okay for Jeffrey to go home. When I went to the hospital the next day I took Jeffrey’s car seat with me. One of the requirements to going home was passing a ‘car seat test’.  He would be put in his car seat for two hours and if he made it through the two hours without any apnea spells or drops in his oxygen levels, then he could go home. The test would be administered after Kent and I had gone home for the day so that he wouldn’t be distracted by us.  We found out the next day that he had passed the test (I knew he would) so that meant it was my turn. It was policy to have the mothers spend a night at the hospital before taking baby home. The nurses would wake me during the night to have me feed and tend to Jeffrey, just as if we were at home. April 25th was set as his take home date. The 25th had been my due date as well. I’m not superstitious but I took it as a good sign. I went to the hospital on the 24th equipped with my overnight bag. I was so excited and nervous. I’d watched other mothers come in with their overnight bags and I’d wanted to be them. I’d said goodbye to other parents as they left in the morning with their little ones. Finally, it was my turn.

The night was uneventful. I got up when the nurses called, fed and changed Jeffrey and would go back to bed. I got up around 7:30 the next morning. I was about to burst from excitement. I wanted to get in a quick shower before Jeffrey’s next feed at 8:00am. As I got into the shower I heard a page for the doctor to go to the NICU – STAT. I didn’t think anything of it, after 3 months in the hospital I was used to hearing pages like that. I walked into the NICU and saw the doctors and nurses crowded around a baby at the back of the room.  I wondered what was wrong with the baby and felt grateful that I was taking Jeffrey home. Then one of the nurses spotted me and said something to the doctor.  “Mrs. Morrissey, stay there I need to talk to you,” said the doctor and my heart sank. Something was wrong again. The tears came as the doctor talked. Jeffrey was sick again. His monitor alarm had gone off and when the nurse checked on him he was struggling to breathe. They’d had a hard time getting him stabilized and had an even harder time getting an IV started. They ended up putting the IV in the top of his head. If he got worse or if the IV failed then he would be sent to Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. They were running tests because they had no idea what was wrong with him. I was devastated. I wasn’t supposed to be sitting in the NICU sobbing. It should have been a happy day. I had to call Kent; he thought he was coming to pick us up. I had to tell him the bad news. That was the only time I dreaded calling my husband.

Jeffrey was back on low flow oxygen. He had an IV in his head that looked painful and uncomfortable. He had to wear a little hat over it to keep him from pulling it out. He’d tried several times and had hurt himself. But, true to form, he reacted well to the medicine (turned out he had a urinary tract infection) and was more like his old self the next day. A few days later he was off the oxygen again and it was another couple of days before the IV came out. Now we had to wait for the doctor to say he could go home.

On Tuesday May 6, 2008 we brought Jeffrey home for good. He weighed 7 lb 3 oz. It was the happiest day of our lives. After all that we’d been through, it felt good to walk out of that hospital with a baby in our arms.

Almost three years later you’d never know that Jeffrey had such a rough start in life. He’s smart, curious and full of energy. Weighting in at 35 lbs and standing 3 feet tall, he’s come a long way from the fragile little baby that I saw in the incubator that first night. Every day Kent and I count our blessings that Jeffrey has done so well. We are one of the lucky families, not all preemies survive unscathed, and it’s something for which we’ll be eternally grateful.  Jeffrey is our little miracle man.