‘He beat the odds.’: Mom rejoices after premature baby survives grueling 96-day NICU battle

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You are in active labor. There is nothing I can do to stop it. I can only slow it down. I will do everything I can to save your baby’s life at birth, but nothing is guaranteed.

February 2018, we got the surprise of a lifetime. I found out I was pregnant, which was a huge surprise to my boyfriend Carlos and I. I was on birth control, so apparently, I was the 1% out of the 99% to get pregnant while being on birth control.

I was nervous to tell my parents because I didn’t know how they would react. However, my parents were over-the-moon excited, and so were my boyfriend’s parents.

Husband and wife showing off ultrasound photos
Courtesy of Jessika Lozano

Once we found out our baby was a boy, we were thrilled. We wanted to tell the whole world. We had everything planned out, including who was going to be in the room with us when I gave birth.

I told him I wanted to do a 100% natural birth with no epidural. We planned what theme we wanted for the baby shower. Literally everything was planned. Never in a million years did I think just a short 6 months later, our life would change forever and we would receive an even bigger surprise.

Warning Signs

For the most part, I felt I had a normal pregnancy. This was my first, so I wasn’t too sure of the red flags. My doctor was never concerned about anything. Every time he would check on my little one, he would always tell me he was growing as he should. He had a strong heartbeat. My cervix was closed. My son was in a good position.

The only thing he was concerned about was that I was losing weight. He explained to me that it wasn’t unusual, but he just wanted to make sure I was eating and not skipping meals. I was definitely always eating, but I was just eating healthier.

As the weeks went on, I started to become very sleepy. I would only stay awake for maybe 9-10 hours a day. I also had extremely bad lower back pain and Carlos would massage my lower back every night. This went on for weeks, which turned into months.

I wasn’t too concerned about it because I figured it was a normal pregnancy thing. I never thought these were red flags.

‘This is normal. You’re fine. I’m sending you home,’ my Labor & Delivery doctor told me.

Husband kissing wife's pregnant belly
Courtesy of Jessika Lozano

First Hospital Visit

On Friday, June 29th I got to work and was at my desk. I remember I got the sudden urge to pee really badly. That was normal; I had to pee all the time! I went to the restroom and noticed this yellowish discharge. I texted my mom and Carlos right away and told them both about the discharge.

I was freaking out to the point where I couldn’t even remember if I felt my little one move within the last 24 hours. I wasn’t in any pain. Nothing hurt at all. Soon, I got to the hospital and was rushed up to Labor & Delivery. Not long after that, the on-call doctor came in.

He checked my son’s heart monitor, checked me. He told me I wasn’t dilated yet, that the discharge coming out of me was normal and I’m good to go home. He never took blood, never ran my urine for tests. He never even did an ultrasound to see my son. NOTHING.

Pregnant woman lying down in hospital gown
Courtesy of Jessika Lozano

After being sent home from the hospital, I was able to get rest for the most part. The next morning, I woke up to really bad stomach cramps. I thought maybe it was pelvic pressure. I went to my parent’s room.

‘I’m having bad cramps. It’s starting to hurt really bad,’ I told my mom.

By then, I had already texted Carlos the pain was getting worse. I walked back to my room, and my nephew walked in. All I remember was him staring at me, because I had started to cry. He babbled something and the pain came back so hard I fell to my knees, screaming.

My mom and dad came rushing to the room; my dad helped me get up and we took off to the hospital.

Ultrasound photo of baby boy
Courtesy of Jessika Lozano

Premature Birth

‘Your baby will not make it to 40 weeks.’

My OBGYN finally came into my room. I barely had enough strength to explain to him what was going on and the pain I was feeling. He explained to me the ‘cramps’ I was feeling were actually contractions. I remember thinking, ‘Contractions!?!? I’m only 25 weeks pregnant. Why am I having contractions?!’

He informed me he was going to give me medicine via IV and it was going to slow down the contractions. I was so nervous and scared that my pulse was sky high. ‘We’re going to do an ultrasound to see exactly what is going on,’ he said.

He then informed me my uterus was thinning and the water bag was trying to come out. He looked at me and said, ‘You will not leave this hospital until you give birth.’ He walked over to me, put his hand on top of mine and said, ‘I just want to let you know, you will have a premature baby. Your baby will not make it to 40 weeks.’

He continued, ‘It could be in a day, it could be in hours, or within the next week.’ He informed me he would be giving me a steroid shot to help my son’s lung development in the event he comes early.

‘Are you okay?,’ he asked.

‘I am for now, because you’re here,’ I remember telling him.

He just smiled, grabbed my hand, and said, ‘Our goal is for you to stay pregnant for the next 48 hours until the medicine takes full effect. Let’s just pray on that.’ I was lying there crying, but he assured me I would be okay.

‘I will do everything I can to take care of you and your son,’ he said.

Carlos walked over to my bed. He was just as emotional as me. He hugged me and gave me a kiss. I remember thinking how scared I was, and he was just as scared. After a few hours, I was finally stable. The medicine kicked in and my contractions weren’t so bad anymore.

After every hour that passed, I would tell myself, ‘47 more hours… 46 more hours… 45 more hours…’ I just kept praying every hour, begging God to keep him in.

My doctor sent for a doctor that specializes in premature babies to speak to Carlos and me. He informed us of the negative side effects of having a premature baby, along with the survival rate. We were praying HARD for our little one to stay in the for the 48 hours.

Emergency C-Section

I was finally starting to fall asleep when around 12:55 a.m. the nurse taking care of me entered. She told me they got the results from the tests they ran and the on-call OBGYN (a different doctor) wanted to come speak to me.

She informed me I had a very bad UTI. She proceeded to tell me, ‘I cannot let your baby go down your birth canal. He will become very sick if I do. Therefore, I need you to consent to a C-section.’ She turned around to grab the consent form, when all of a sudden, I felt some type of liquid literally explode out of me.

I looked at my nurse and said, ‘Umm, something just came out of me!’ My nurse lifted up my gown and yelled, ‘Her water broke!!!’ She and the doctor go running out of the room, and 4 other nurses come running in.

One nurse ran up to Carlos and gave him a gown to put on. They ran with me down the hall (like you see in movies). I was rolled into a super bright room and about 15 other nurses and doctors were in there. The only one who said anything to me was the anesthesiologist.

‘I’m going to stand by your side the whole time. I’ll make sure you’re okay,’ he told me.

I had my fingers crossed and prayed to God with my eyes closed tightly shut. I heard the doctor say, ‘Alright, I’m cutting open! Get ready to grab.’ I then heard the doctor say, ‘He’s out! Birth time 0117.’ However, I never heard my son cry like I always saw in movies.

I was so scared and thought my baby didn’t make it. Especially because Carlos never said anything to me either. I’m almost positive he even wasn’t sure if our son made it. ‘Are you okay?,’ the anesthesiologist asked me.

I just looked at him and asked, ‘Is my son alive?’ He smiled and said, ‘Yes mama, he is alive and he is beautiful.’

Premature baby boy in cream-colored hat
Courtesy of Jessika Lozano

He did indeed make it! He was born at 25 weeks, 4 days weighing 1 lb., 12oz. He was only 12.5 inches long. Carlos and I knew we had a long road ahead of us, but we were down to travel whatever road we needed to bring him home.

Mom embracing premature newborn son
Courtesy of Jessika Lozano
Dad gazing at premature newborn son
Courtesy of Jessika Lozano

Brain Bleed

July 4th was one of the worst days of our lives. We were informed our son had a brain bleed. It was an Intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) grade 3 and 4. The worst grade you can have is grade 4. We were told so many scary things, things I wouldn’t even want my worse enemy to hear about their child.

We were told he may be wheelchair-bond and he may never be able to walk, talk, or laugh. He may need respiratory support for the majority of his life. We were told there is no treatment, only surgery. However, even if surgery is required, there could still be long-term issues.

We went home and cried. We both cried so much that I didn’t even know one can cry so much. Eventually, we picked ourselves up because we wanted to send our son positive vibes. He was so strong and overcame so much through his NICU stay.

Doctor in blue rubber gloves holding up premature baby
Courtesy of Jessika Lozano

Carlos and I went home without him for a long 96 days. If someone would have told us another miracle/surprise would happen to us again, we wouldn’t believe them. There was no way we would believe anyone. We were living our days by the hour, because our whole world could have come crashing down from one hour to the next.

Newborn baby in black carseat
Courtesy of Jessika Lozano

Discharged From NICU

Our son put up the fight of a lifetime. Through his whole NICU stay, the brain bleed never left our mind. We thought about it often and would cry about it once in a while. We had to remind ourselves things could be worse; he could have not made it at all.

Two weeks after our son was discharged, we met with a neurologist to see exactly what was to be done about the brain bleed, and if surgery was required to help the blood pass. He ordered an MRI and we were scheduled to get the results a week after. It was the longest week of our lives. Our nerves were high.

When we got to the doctor’s office to get the results, we didn’t talk to each other much. We just calmly waited for the neurologist to come in. As soon as he entered, his vibe was amazing!

He walked in with such a happy demeanor that I looked over at Carlos and smiled. He said, ‘Mom, Dad, the MRI results are showing the blood is completely gone. No surgery required. I am discharging you.’

I remember I grabbed Carlos’ hand. I had a big smile on my face. The neurologist explained to us that our son may be delayed in some areas, but it was nothing major that physical therapy couldn’t help correct. At that moment, I knew our prayers were being heard this whole time.

He proved the statistics wrong.

He survived because the fire inside of him burned stronger than the fire around him. He survived because no matter what the doctors told Carlos and me, we were not going to give up on him! Although we may have questioned our faith so many times, especially on his bad days… we were not going to give up on him.

He is the strongest person I know. He is Liam Joel Castaneda. He is a warrior and HE BEAT THE ODDS!

Smiling infant wearing blue boxing gloves and shorts
Courtesy of Jessika Lozano

Today, he is babbling, crawling, climbing, and currently trying to learn how to walk. He is the strongest person I know. He is a fighter, he is a warrior. Not a day goes by that Carlos and I don’t feel so lucky and blessed.”

Mom and dad holding son dressed in traditional Mexican attire
Courtesy of Jessika Lozano
Infant wearing white sombrero and traditional Mexican suit
Courtesy of Jessika Lozano

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jessika Lozano of Orange County, California. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best videos.

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