I woke up with a start that fateful day at 5 am. I rushed to the bathroom because I was leaking. And when I saw that it was clear and water-like, I knew something was wrong. But little did I know it would be the beginning of a heart-wrenching journey for our family. It turned out I was leaking amniotic fluid, and I was only 30 weeks pregnant. We stayed in the hospital, and I bed-ridden, for the next five days to try to get the leaking to stop. But by my third ultrasound on the fifth day, I knew I was going to deliver my baby. I wept in guilt, thinking over and over that it was my fault. I was so scared, so afraid for my baby. He was only 30 weeks! He was two months short, and I know that every single day inside the womb was crucial for a developing baby. My husband and I prayed. Family, friends and our spiritual family stood in prayer with us, supporting us.
I delivered Juan Gabriel, or Gabbie for short, early afternoon on a Thursday. He weighed only 2.96 pounds, but he had a strong, little cry when he was gently pulled out my belly. He was a small, chinky-eyed baby angel. The next day, I forced myself to sit up to be able to visit him at the NICU. Seeing him so small and fragile inside the incubator really, truly broke my heart. I fought back tears as I wanted to sound strong for my little one as I spoke gently from the incubator window so he could hear my familiar voice telling him that I love him.
What was especially painful, and I would surmise that every mother of a preemie would be able to relate with me on this one, was that it felt like he was “stolen” away from me, being that a premature birth is always unexpected, and that the baby is always kept inside the incubator after delivery. I longed to hold him, sing to him, and hold him close but I couldn’t.
Gabbie stayed inside the NICU for about 40 days after delivery. Though small, he adjusted to his world outside the womb pretty well. He was off the breathing tubes by the first week, gaining weight steadily, and did not have any complications brought about by a premature birth. God was so faithful to us, and I felt His hand personally caring for my little one.
|Doing Kangaroo Care at NICU|
Even while pregnant, my husband and I were adamant on breastfeeding our baby. And when he was born prematurely, I was even more determined to give him nothing else. Since he wasn’t allowed to latch on to me (since he had to be put inside the incubator right away), I wasn’t sure I had milk (I’m sure other moms had this “doubt” too). But the day after I gave birth, I pumped and there was colostrum! Precious liquid gold for my premature baby. I remember that we didn’t have the resources nor the time yet to purchase a good, dependable breastpump at the time when our friend, and lactation consultant Abbie Venida-Yabut lent me a sturdy Philips Avent dual electric pump, and taught me the basics of breastfeeding. As for our very, very unexpected huge hospital bill both for baby and I, we sought the help of family. Gabbie’s hospital was also very considerate with the payment terms. God was intent on involving a lot of people in blessing us indeed and our hearts swelled in gratitude.
It’s been eight months since I gave birth to Gabbie, and seven since we took him out of the hospital. Gabbie has grown to be a happy, healthy, very spirited baby. He’s healthy and strong, and has contracted his first-ever case of colds and cough only recently, due to the rainy weather. He’s on his way to healing now. The first thing he does when he wakes is smile, and that’s pretty much what he does all day—smile at people. Now, at eight months (six months adjusted age), he’s beginning to sit up, crawl and he loves eating his solid food, and breastfeeding every two hours.
|Gabbie at 4 months (2 months adjusted age)|
I love sharing his story and seeing people's reactions when they find out that he’s a preemie. They simply couldn’t believe it. He looks, and is very healthy. Thanks to the breastmilk that has been provided generously for him. Though he’ll always be considered a “preemie”, he’s simply just ‘my precious baby’ to me.
Now, when I carry him and nurse him to sleep, I can’t help but remember the nights I spent missing him and dreaming of doing exactly this. As I see him gazing lovingly at me and smiling at me, I can’t help but feel incredibly thankful to be given such a wonderful gift. Everyday has been made even more beautiful by my little mister sunshine!
|Gabbie at 7 months (5 months adjusted age)|
Juan – God is gracious
Gabriel – God is my might