I'm damn lucky to raise this frustratingly developmentally on-target kid

Sasha started bleeding when she was 25 weeks pregnant. In a panic, she rushed to her OB/GYN's office. They were able to stop her labour, but she had to go on bedrest. This is her premature birth story.

Editor in Chief Sasha Emmons with her son, Julian. Photo: Sasha Emmons

One of the best days of my life was the day my son, Julian, was born. Of course the day your child enters the world is bound to be a key moment on your own personal highlight reel, but for me it was extra-poignant because it meant a happy ending to the worst time in my life. After a terrifying pregnancy and premature birth, my son was here, and he was going to be OK.

I had a normal pregnancy and delivery with my oldest child, Chloe. My second pregnancy was going along the same way until 25 weeks, when I started bleeding at work. I cried on the subway as I headed to my OB/GYN, too overcome with fear to care about stares.

My doctor confirmed I was dilated, effaced and in early labour. “But I’m going on a babymoon to Turks & Caicos tomorrow!” I sobbed. “Sweetie,” she said (when your OB/GYN calls you sweetie, it’s never good), “you’re not going anywhere until you have this baby.” She gave me a hug and sent me straight to the hospital.     A pregnant woman sitting on a bed    
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After I was admitted, the NICU team came in to brief me. I was too overwhelmed to absorb everything they were saying, but I was able to glean that, if born today, my son’s survival was not a given, and his chances of a serious health problem were very high.

Amid the medical-speak, the one detail I glommed on to was their warning that he probably wouldn’t cry at birth because his lungs wouldn’t be developed enough. After a C-section with my first, my arms strapped down and unable to hold my baby, I had been imagining a gauzy, smiling-through-tears meet-cute with my howling son, just like in the movies. The idea of silence horrified me.

They were able to stop my labour with meds and administered steroid shots to speed up Julian’s lung growth. They sent me home with progesterone treatments, then still experimental and prescribed off-label, but now the first drug approved by the FDA for the prevention of pre-term labour.

I spent the next two-and-a-half months on bedrest (and pins and needles), mostly at home. My mother-in-law moved into our tiny apartment to help, and I tried my best to parent then four-year-old Chloe from a supine position. I became horribly depressed, but I kept that baby in, despite a few false alarms.

My water broke at 33 weeks, and I stayed in the hospital on monitors until we reached the safe zone of 34 weeks. Julian was born on July 4, 2009, tiny but healthy. It was not like the movies (he was whisked away to the NICU immediately), but to my great relief, he cried—loudly.

For as much agitation as he gave me in the womb, Julian was low-maintenance once he came out. He was easy (as much as someone who poops himself several times a day can be) once we worked through a few feeding problems. As a toddler, he was easygoing and responsive to discipline. Clearly I had this parenting thing down.

Then he turned three. Maybe someone mixed up the terribleness of the twos with the threes? Four was not much better. Julian is a world-class cuddler, and breaks my heart with sweetness daily. But he’s just as likely to hurl himself on the floor over my inability to get him a snack five minutes before dinner, or pretend to shoot me with a hair dryer or carrot (it doesn’t matter—they’re all guns). I believe he might be after the Guinness World Record for most minutes spent stalling on getting dressed. Some days, I find my tolerance very low for his exuberant testing of limits.

But then I realize (usually when he’s sleeping angelically) how damn lucky I am to get a chance to raise this frustratingly developmentally on-target kid. I’m so thankful to deal with tantrums and whining when so many other families are dealing with situations much more challenging.

Happy fifth birthday, Jules. Mommy is grateful for you every day, and loves you even when you’re acting crazy.

Read more:
Preemie care now in the hands of parents
Inside the NICU: A case study in hope

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