Note from Kayla: One of the biggest supporters I had as a NICU mom was my friend Kortney Tate. She was the only one I felt understood what I was feeling when Alex and Nathan were in the hospital. That’s because her daughter, Madelyn, was born at just 25 weeks gestation. I’ve asked her to share her inspirational story with my readers! I hope it moves you all like it moved me. All words hereafter are Kortney’s.
Do Mothers Ever Really Forget?
My Story of Labor, Delivery, and the NICU of My 25-Weeker, Madelyn
First, an introduction. Hi!! My name is Kortney. I have been married to my husband, Jerad, for 6 years. We have one beautiful 2-year-old daughter, Madelyn, who was born at 25 weeks (more on that later) and two dogs. I am a 7th grade social studies teacher in Alabama. I have known Kayla ever since she first started dating James. James and Jerad have been best friends since high school. She has been asking me to write this guest blog post for a while now, but I finally just got the time, energy, and motivation to do it (it’s summer, right, shouldn’t teachers have energy, lol, yeah right). So anyways, let’s get to it.
I have always heard that when I become a mother I would forget things. I would forget how uncomfortable pregnancy can be, I would forget about the horror that is labor, I would forget about the sleepless nights during the newborn stage, I would forget about the toddler tantrums (currently hoping this one is true), etc., etc. I mean, I guess I believed them, how else would the human race survive this long if mothers didn’t forget all of these things? One thing I did not expect to forget, though, is my daughter’s 114-day stay in the NICU.
I woke up on a Sunday (Valentine’s Day) in 2016 at 24 weeks and 3 days pregnant. I had an uncomfortable night and even went to sleep in the guest bed hoping the Temper-pedic mattress topper would help. I went to the bathroom and my heart froze. I had some blood, not a lot, but it was there, and I immediately knew something was not right. I called the on-call doctor who told me that I probably overdid it and to take some Tylenol and rest. Jerad and I tried to go to one of our favorite brunch spots to help take my mind off of it, but I was still in pain. My stomach hurt, my back hurt, and that small amount of blood would not stop nagging at me. I called the on-call doctor again and she told me to come on in to have it checked out.
As soon as I was wheeled up to labor and delivery, they put me in a room and the doctor (who ironically was one of my former student’s mom, thank goodness that child was an angel and reported on me favorable, lol) came in to check my cervix. She checked, smiled, and said, “You’re 3 centimeters dilated. I hope you left some good lesson plans because you won’t be going back to school until this baby is born.” I sat there in shock and began to cry. I was immediately given one of two steroid shots to help mature Madelyn’s lungs, started on magnesium, and given Indocin to help slow down the labor. I was in a fog for the next 12 hours while they had that magnesium maxed out. Jerad called our family and friends to let them know what was going on. Of course, both of our families were up there almost immediately. Bless my mother, she stayed with me almost constantly letting me cry to her. I was so scared.
We were in this holding pattern of medicine for four days. At one point we thought we had gotten labor to stop and I was even sent out to a postpartum room. That lasted long enough for me to take a shower before I started bleeding and was sent back to labor and delivery. I had not dilated further at that point. By Thursday, February 18th, my contractions were getting worse. The nurses checked me very gently to see if I had dilated further. This time I could tell something was different. The nurse looked at me and said, “I don’t feel your cervix, just a bulging sack.” I was so confused, “I’m sorry, where is my cervix?!” she simply replied, “You don’t have one.” I thought “Well that explains a lot!” Lol. They then asked if I wanted an epidural to which I said, “I didn’t plan on doing this without one!” The anesthesiologist came in and talked me down from the epidural because they didn’t want to rupture my water. All-natural, although not by choice. Not long after all of this, my water did break, I felt Madelyn bust her way through it like Mario does a coin block, and it was time to push. It took all of two pushes and three minutes for my 1 lb. 9 oz., 14 in. miracle to be born (yes, you read that right). She let out the faintest of cries while the AMAZING team of NICU doctors and nurses worked on her. They even put her on my chest for me to kiss.
I was in shock. But a different shock. I was no longer scared. I don’t know why but I have always known that Madelyn would be okay. She was taken back to the NICU, put on a ventilator, had two IV lines put in through her umbilical cord, and placed in an incubator to keep her moisturized. I was allowed to see her about an hour or so later. I could’ve skipped down the hall (one, because I was excited to see her, but also because I had just birthed a 1lb. 9 oz. baby and there wasn’t any pain). She was so tiny! I couldn’t believe it was my baby and the poor thing was bruised from being contracted on for four days. I was in love immediately.
During Madelyn’s 114 days in the NICU, she saw a whole host of specialists. She had a cranial ultrasound weekly to check for bleeding. She had a Grade II and a Grade III Intraventricular Hemorrhage (IVH). She was placed on seizure medicine for an abnormal EEG although she never had a seizure. She was taken off the ventilator in March and off oxygen completely in early May. She had to have eye surgery on May 26 for some Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) and now has to wear glasses because of it but it saved her vision, so I’m cool with the glasses (plus she looks super cute in them).
I was up there every single day. Multiple times per day. I never returned to work until the last week of school (the OB-GYN was right, I had left awesome sub plans but that was just my OCD planning way ahead of time). I got in the routine of waking up and being at the hospital for morning care at 7. That’s when they weighed her (an ever so important moment for a NICU parent), bathed her, and changed her. I wanted to do it all. Whenever they let me, I did it. Then I’d just sit and read to her for hours, play her music, talk to her, or just scroll through my phone. I knew what medicine she needed and at what time, I knew when she needed to be fed and how much, and I knew how to get her stubborn self to burp. I loved being able to care for her. I would stay until I needed to pump again, then I would pump, leave the fresh milk and go home for lunch. I would head back up around 3 and stay until Jerad got there after work. It became our new normal. I didn’t see anything weird or different about it.
Madelyn’s due date was June 2, 2016. She got to come home June 11, 2016 (it would’ve been sooner if not for the ROP surgery). Once again, I was in shock. I was getting to take this tiny soul home and have her with me 24/7! After four months of going to the hospital, I was finally getting to put it behind me. We still had lots of specialty appointments (endocrine, neurology, ENT) but she was coming home. Over the past two and a half years, Madelyn has been discharged from all specialty doctors, officially caught up to her peers in PT, OT, and speech, and is in the 75+ percentile for weight, height, and head size (99% for that one, lol, we even had special CTs because the neurologist was worried, just a “familial” large head) for her actual age.
Never did I dream that I would “forget” about all the hell we went through with her birth, NICU stay, and life after the NICU but I guess I have. Maybe enough to have another one… maybe…
– Kortney Tate