I was thrilled to find out I would be expecting my first child, especially since I was in my early 30s. However, it was not a picture perfect pregnancy. I was nauseous from the beginning. By the 2nd trimester, I had high blood pressure and was put on blood pressure medicine. I ended up on bed rest with 5 weeks left in my pregnancy. Throughout the nine months, I had numerous doctors’ visits to be monitored and sent to the hospital to listen to Reid’s heartbeat. The doctors never mentioned that Reid was in danger though. They never made me worry that I was in danger either. Due to my blood pressure, my doctor scheduled me for a c-section for week 38 but that ended up not being God’s plan for us.
On the night of July 25, I began having severe pain in my side (liver area) and my blood pressure was 200 over 120 (stroke level). I told Trey to take me to Huntsville Hospital. When we got checked in, the doctor on call was hoping to get my blood pressure down and I could be induced the next morning. The next thing I knew they rushed me to the operating room for an emergency c-section. I remember music playing and the nurses were talkative. I was calm but confused because I knew I needed help from the pain, but I could not believe Reid was about to be born!
Reid was born at 1:16am on July 26, 2011. Reid was not crying. The doctor put Reid up next to my face to let me quickly feel him. Reid was pale and limp. His breathing was shallow and barely there. Trey and the doctor rushed out. No one said a word to me and I was confused. I no longer heard laughter, or talking or music. It was an eerie feeling, but I could not form questions to ask. I was in shock.
A team of nurses surrounded me and wheeled my hospital bed to the NICU to see my baby. He was surrounded by NICU nurses. I touched his hand and then I was taken to recovery. It would be 48 hours before I saw my baby again. I continued to struggle due to preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome. Thankfully, my husband was able to hold Reid, bond with him, and give me updates. Finally, the nurses took me in a wheelchair to see him and hold him for the first time! He was perfect!
Reid had breathing episodes during his NICU stay. He was over 5 pounds but needed to learn to suck, swallow and breathe all at once. They called his episodes turning “dusky” and if he had one of these episodes the countdown to come home would start over for an additional 5 days. As a NICU parent, you have to go through the same routine every visit: check the vitals, unhook the machines, record their temperature, and then finally get to hold your baby. Trey and I gave him his first bath at a baby bathing station in the NICU right next to other NICU families. Visiting my baby from my wheelchair became my routine for the first week. The day I was discharged and left my 6 day old at the hospital and went home without my baby in my arms was devastating.
The second week of his life was a similar schedule. Only this time I had family and friends that graciously drove me to visit him during his NICU visiting hours, because I was released to go home but could not drive. Reid continued to have a couple more dusky episodes but by day 14 he was supposed to come home. On what was supposed to be his last night in the NICU, Reid was running a low fever. Mommy instincts kicked in and I had this overwhelming feeling that he was not coming home the next day. The nurse reassured me that everything was ok, so I gave him my love and yet again left one more time empty handed.
The worst missed phone call ever came in the middle of the night on August 8 when I got up to make bottles, and the NICU nurse said call us immediately. They said, “Mrs. Jennings we need you and your husband to come in as soon as you can. Reid has a 102 fever and a red rash all over his body. He is very sick.” Two doctors met us at the NICU door. One hugged me with a tear in her eye and told me we almost lost your son during the night. Dr. Dworsky met my husband and told him to sign papers for a spinal tap. They were concerned it was bacterial meningitis. This was a gut wrenching heartache. We were stunned.
We walked back to intensive to see Reid’s hands and feet drawn in and an IV attached to the top of his head. We reassured him that his mommy and daddy were there and then we had to go make phone calls. We sat on the curb of the hospital, called family and cried. We felt helpless and lost and did not want to leave the hospital.
I took Trey by the hand and we went to the hospital chapel and prayed for our baby! We prayed for God to give him the strength to fight through this sickness!
Our family came for support and provided us with a hotel room near Huntsville Hospital. We received so much love, support, gift cards and most importantly prayers for our baby! We spent the next 48 hours praying that the test would come back negative. For 48 hours we were told that no news is good news, and the longer it took the results to come back the better news it was for Reid. Visiting hours were even more restricted and I could not hold my baby for a few days once again. I sat by his bed crying and telling him I was sorry that I hadn’t protected him, but that we had lots of people praying. I continued to hope and pray God would protect him. Once the 48 hours cleared, we counted each hour as a blessing of good news. They decided it must have been something viral. On day 21 we were finally able to bring our baby home on August 15. God answered our prayers!
My miracle baby is now a healthy 6 year old in Kindergarten. He is full of life and personality. I am thankful God made him a fighter! I am looking forward to watching the life God has planned for this NICU baby of mine!
NICU experiences are lonely and scary. When Amanda asked me about Bundles of Hope, I did not hesitate to say yes because this is my opportunity to pay it forward. Bundles of Hope gift cards and warm meals at the NICU waiting area help these families feel like they have the support system that we were so blessed to have. It gives them a few moments of relief from their reality. I was surrounded by family and friends from the day I was put on bed rest to the day we brought him home. I thank God for that support system for lifting Trey and me up and praying for our son! Some people do not have that support and Bundles of Hope is our way to give back.
To get your tee benefitting The Bundles of Hope Fund, visit our online shop here. All "Carry Each Other's Burdens" tees, "My God is Mighty" tees, and the "Beautiful and Beloved" tees will benefit this precious cause. Last day to purchase from this pre-sale is Sunday, April 29!