‘He asked, ‘What do those two lines mean? Is this real life?’ We were wildly unprepared for a baby. I’m only 23!’: Young mom discusses challenging pregnancy and NICU journey

More Stories like:

“You need to come to the hospital immediately! It sounds like your water broke!’ explained a labor and delivery nurse, after I had just finished describing to her my symptoms. I was overcome with panic and fear – tears almost instantly started rushing down my face as I hung up the phone and called my fiancé. Everything was a blur. I left him a voicemail because he was at work and could not answer my call. I was struck with more panic. This was September 3, 2019; two months and eleven days before my baby girl’s due date.

Photo credit: Asha Bailey Photography

March 13th – My fiancé and I had just arrived in Ohio to visit my best friend and spend the week with them before his football game on the weekend. I felt sluggish, nothing was sitting right with me, and I was waiting for Mother Nature’s monthly gift to arrive – I had my suspicions. That night, my best friend and I went to Walmart to buy pregnancy tests. When we got home, I told my fiancé I bought some and was going to take them. We were both nervous but confident I was not pregnant, just tired from the stress of work and preparing for this trip.

After three minutes, we went into the restroom to check. He asked, ‘What do those two lines mean?’ I stared at him blankly. He stared back confused. For some reason, all we could do was nervously laugh and cry and say, ‘Is this real life?’ We were scared and wildly unprepared for a baby. I thought to myself, ‘We are planning a wedding! I’m only 23! My parents will kill me! I’m done for!’ Amidst the worry about becoming parents, we still felt excited. We could not help but talk about life as parents, and dream about our baby, as we laid in bed that night.

I had what most would say was a perfect pregnancy – at least up until it was not perfect. My baby always checked out perfectly, I had no morning sickness, no food aversions, and I remained active and continued to exercise and weight lift. Many around me would say I was ‘absolutely glowing’. My skin and hair were the healthiest they had ever been in probably my entire life; I had no complaints (aside from the major back pains). I was truly loving and enjoying every minute of my pregnancy. I gained so much confidence and felt beautiful, strong, and blessed to have been given the gift of creating and growing a life. I felt great – everything was great!

September 2nd – 1:18 AM, I woke up to a strange leak. Almost instinctively, I thought to myself, ‘My water broke.’ ‘No, how could that be? I am only 30 weeks on the dot; she’s not due for another 10 weeks!’ Still, I emailed my doctor just to make sure. Monday, I worked a full 8-hour day – still slowly leaking fluid. It did not smell like urine and it was clear. It did not gush and sometimes it would stop leaking altogether, until I made any sudden movements. I bought panty liners that night, thinking it would go away. Tuesday, I worked another full 8-hour shift and missed a call from the doctor’s office, replying to the email I sent early Monday morning. By that time, I had been slowly leaking, what I know now, as amniotic fluid for two whole days.

After hanging up the phone, overwhelmed with confusion, fear, and panic; I put on my shoes, grabbed a stack of panty liners, fed my dog his dinner, and drove myself to the hospital to meet my parents, while still waiting for my fiancé to call me back. I had no idea where I was supposed to go, my labor and delivery tour was not scheduled until the middle of October. I was wandering around the hospital, being told to go to different locations – still leaking and growing more and more frustrated and anxious.

I finally found where I was supposed to be, my parents met me shortly after, and my fiancé finally called and said he was on his way. I saw a doctor on call and she confirmed my water had broken and I would not be leaving the hospital until I delivered my baby girl. All I came with was a stack of panty liners, my phone, and my keys; not knowing the next time I walked out of the hospital, I would have my whole world in my arms – or so I thought.

Courtesy of Ariana Collins

That night, I started what would become my hospital routine. I was put on bed rest; given antibiotics to keep the baby and I safe from infection and illness; hooked to an IV to keep replenishing what I was still losing; given prenatal, iron, and allergy pills; put on a liquid diet; hooked up to a contraction and baby heart monitor; and given two painful shots in my butt, to help build surfactant in the baby’s lungs, in the case she came earlier than we wanted. ‘We would like to keep her cooking until 34 weeks,’ said one of the doctors. ‘That is ideal, but we will settle for 32 weeks.’ I started to prepare myself to be stuck in bed in a hospital room for 4 weeks.

Every two hours, every day, I got my pills and my vitals checked. Every morning between 5:00 and 6:00 AM, I got my blood drawn. Every night, my fiancé would go take care of our dog, sleep at home, and come back in the afternoon. If I couldn’t get good sleep, I at least wanted him to be comfortable. There was no point in him being in the same discomfort as me. I was growing more and more miserable daily, but I had to be strong for my baby. I needed to keep her growing in my belly for as long as I could. I felt like a failure as a mother and I hadn’t even birthed her yet; but the doctors reassured me it was nothing I did wrong, just sometimes water breaks prematurely. I would come to find out I had PROM, or pre-labor rupture of membranes.

September 8th – 4 AM, the phlebotomist came in extra early that morning to draw my blood. Once they left, I felt an excruciating pain I had not felt the whole time I was hospitalized. I was 30 weeks and 5 days gestation. I got up to use the restroom, hoping it would resolve the pain, but the pain persisted. ‘This is it,’ I thought to myself. I texted my fiancé and then called him, because duh! Why would I text him when he’s asleep?! I rang in my nurse, who tried to convince me that I pulled a muscle. ‘NO! I am in way too much pain for this to be a pulled muscle! How could I pull a muscle when I’ve been on bed rest this entire time?!’ Thirty minutes went by, another on-call doctor came in and informed me I would be transferred to a L&D room. I was trying to bear the pain of labor contractions, while trying to keep my fiancé updated on my whereabouts and what I was doing while he was on his way over. He arrived.

Courtesy of Ariana Collins

At 9:58 AM, I gave birth to a baby girl, Nia Jade. She was 3 pounds 2.8 ounces and 15 and a half inches long. She was tiny, all skin, no fat. Then we started our NICU journey. They rushed her and everyone, including my fiancé, to the NICU. I was left all alone, waiting to be taken back to my room. I didn’t even get to see my baby, but only for a quick glance – holding her… yeah, not a chance. Her cry was so strong though. I only saw her through pictures my fiancé took. Four hours after I gave birth, I finally got to meet my daughter, touch her tiny hands, and see where I would be spending the next 27 days of her life.

Every day in the NICU was a roller coaster; we were fortunate enough that most of her days were positive. The only ‘issue’ she had was she was just too small. She ate like a champ, was feisty, her lungs were strong, she had a bit of jaundice, but she was gaining weight on track. It was painful to see my tiny baby, so small, but she was already so fiercely strong. The doctors and nurses loved her and always complimented how beautiful and sweet she was. She made me so proud and honored to be her mommy.

Her daddy and I visited her twice a day for 2-3 hours at a time. Holding her, doing kangaroo care, singing and talking to her as much as we could – we wanted to do whatever we could to help her grow! I cried every day at home, longing for my baby to be home with me; I felt jealousy seeing happy, new mothers wheeled out of the hospital with their perfectly chunky, full-term babies. ‘Why me? Why Nia? Why us?’

Courtesy of Ariana Collins

I suffered from Post Partum Depression. The stress and worry of the NICU life, the hospital bill, and being away from my daughter, trying to ‘lead a normal life’, was debilitating. I was not okay, but I tried to be; I had to be okay for her. She fought harder for her life in 27 days than most people do in 27 years. She came home on October 5th – one month and 12 days before her due date, at 4 pounds 8 ounces. I finally felt complete. No more monitors, no more needle pricks, no more noisy chimes and beeps and cries from other babies, no more doctors and nurses. It was just the three of us, how it always should have been.

My family, my fiancé, and I are all much stronger and appreciate life more because of her. We are all a closer family because of her. She taught us patience, faith, trust, and strength. We cherish every ounce of her being. She is so special to us and we still, and always will, praise her small accomplishments; because it took a lot for her to be where she is now. ‘Though she may be but little, she is fierce’– my daughter, Nia Jade, is a NICU graduate, but will always be my 30-week preemie baby. We can now look back on our journey and feel grateful to have been where we were, because of where we are now!”

Courtesy of Ariana Collins

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ariana Collins of Riverside, CA. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear about your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more powerful stories like this:

‘The ultrasound tech lubed my belly. ‘OMG. There are SO MANY!’ My heart dropped. ‘So many what?!’: Mom births triplets after battling infertility, ‘It’s hard, but in the end it’s all worth it!’

‘You must be so relieved. I bet you can’t wait to take her to Target.’ This medical hell would follow us home for years to come.’: Mother shares reality of daughter’s tracheostomy post NICU, ‘If I was going to do this, I’d become the best damn trach parent ever’

‘I was too scared to touch my own son. You gave us hope when we had none.’: NICU mom pens ‘ long overdue’ thank you letter to nurses who helped son survive

Do you know someone who could benefit from this story? Please SHARE on Facebook to let them know a community of support is available.

 Share  Tweet