by Amanda Clappes
On August 21, 2020 I went in to my OB for a normal 34 week prenatal visit. She was listening to my son’s heartbeat and started acting weird. She had the nurse come in and listen to see if she heard the same thing, whatever that was. All of a sudden she’s telling me that I’m going to go over to labor and delivery to have a fetal monitor go on because she was having trouble hearing my son’s heartbeat. Within 20 minutes they were telling me to get ready to have my son!
No one could tell me what was wrong, just that there was something weird with my son’s heartbeat and they hoped that introducing him into the world would help it correct itself. My husband was working (he’s an over the road truck driver) and was still over 3 hours away. Still, I called him and let him know what was going on. During the emergency c-section one of the nurses was amazing and took pictures of my son for me. After he was born, my pediatrician was in the operating room to check him over. He still had issues with his heartbeat, so they took him to the nursery to prep him to be transported to the NICU.
My delivery hospital was not equipped with a NICU, so he was going to be transported an hour away. I got to see my son when they held him up over the curtain, as they wheeled his nursery bed out of the delivery room, and in his NICU box to be transported to the NICU. That was Friday. My doctor released me early (Sunday) so I could go up to Paducah, KY to see my son. The first time I got to hold my baby, he was almost 3 days old. I was an emotional wreck, and when I wasn’t in the NICU with him (as I had 3 other children at home), I was online researching everything I could about preemie support and what I could do and what help was available for me driving to the NICU every day. There wasn’t a lot online.
I found Graham’s Foundation, and it was amazing the information available. I loved that they offered a care package for both in the NICU and out of it. I ordered one, and loved the car seat tag, the nursery card, and the information packets in it. I found out after my son was in NICU for a week that he had a blocked PAC and it usually resolved itself within 6 months. We had to go through multiple EKG vests that monitored his heart beat for 24 hours to verify it was getting better before we could be released. When the cardiologist was ready for him to be released, the NICU doctor had him stay because he wasn’t eating as much as he should have been. It was like I had all my hopes ripped away! Thankfully he started to eat more and we were home together by the time my son was 3 weeks old. I can’t imagine having my son any longer at the NICU, but I know people who have had their babies there for longer.
I wanted to give back to the NICU for all the care my son received and find a way to support other parents experiencing all that emotional pain and fear. I started working for Usborne Books & More, and realized that it was the perfect outlet for my need to support other parents. There is so much out there that supports the need to read to your babies (even in the NICU), so I decided to put together care packages that helped moms and dads feel supported and give them ways to bond with their baby even if they couldn’t hold them, or if they lived far away and couldn’t be there every day. I decided that a care package should include a book (bonding through reading), a sleeper, a blanket, a stuffed animal, a Graham’s Foundation care package, and any information I could share about local and national resources for preemie parents.
I also hope to include gas cards to help parents with the costs of driving to the NICU, but I’m running into some trouble getting ahold of the right people to have companies donate, and community donations are sparse. Hopefully I can complete my first donation May 1, 2021 and when people see the donations that have already been put together, it will inspire more people to donate items or money to the cause.