preemie nice 23 weeks Nikki Matt Thompson, The Nook

Dear Henry – A whirlwind preemie

The path to parenthood is not always simple or straightforward. For Nikki and Matt Thompson, years of struggling with infertility ended in February of 2016 with a positive pregnancy test following their first round of In Vitro Fertilization.

The first 23 weeks of pregnancy were blissful. No morning sickness, no cravings, the baby appeared to be healthy as was mom. Matt and Nikki were looking forward to meeting their child in October. On June 25, 2016, 23 weeks and 1 day gestation, everything changed.

“We were catering a wedding and I started having cramps. Every hour the cramps got stronger and more frequent, the pain became unbearable as the last of the desserts went out and when I went to the bathroom I was bleeding.” described Nikki.

Nikki and Matt raced to the emergency room, the pain intensifying. “I feared for my child…I was sure he was in distress,” she said.

Nikki had never felt anything like this before. As the staff took her back to a room, she worried that she was in labor at just 23 weeks gestation. Her fear was confirmed when a physician met with Nikki and Matt to share that the baby would arrive in the next 12 hours. The odds that this very much wanted child would survive were not in their favor.

Babies born at 23 weeks have a 10-35 percent survival rate. At TMC for Children our neonatal intensive care unit is a level 3 unit. It is equipped to care for babies born at less than 32 weeks gestation, as well as babies with critical illnesses.

Henry the whirlwind

Nikki and Matt were in a whirlwind, rushed from the emergency department to triage and then to labor and delivery. Two epidurals, a lumbar puncture, a surgery and a surgery reversal later and baby Henry arrived. At just 1 pound, 6 ounces Henry went straight to the NICU.

Henry had survived birth, but he wasn’t out of the woods.

For Matt and Nikki, all those imagined first days of new parenthood, nuzzling their new baby, hours spent in the rocking chair while they took in that new baby smell, first baths, first outfits, were put on an indefinite hold and replaced with a whole other set of first experiences  they could not have predicted.

“It was scary in the beginning. I had no idea what to expect. I missed out on the excitement of a delivery, instead I was drowning in fear.

I didn’t get to hold my baby for the first week, and even after that, his skin was so translucent and fragile I couldn’t caress and squeeze my baby. I couldn’t cover him in kisses for fear of overstimulation.

I was a mom in theory, but I wasn’t able to do the regular mom things.

Every day I wondered if Henry would thrive. Would he survive at all?”

Survive he did.

“Henry is a NICU all star. While he had some tough days and was in critical condition for a bit, he soared most of the time.”

At 7 weeks old, Henry was finally able to put on his first onesie. Nikki recalls another NICU mom, Amanda, sharing “There’s something about putting an outfit on them that really makes you feel like a mom.” And Nikki remembers that is indeed how she felt on her personal blog Live and Dine Well:

”It’s times like these, the milestones, the excitement in the little things, that remind us that we really are parents, and good ones too. This perfect little preemie white onesie will always be so special to me (He pooped all over it by the way).

A gift from Tara (NICU nurse), put on by Mary (NICU nurse) pooped on by Henry, while Matt held him…a memory that can never be taken away and that I’ll cherish forever.”

Henry today

After 108 days in the NICU Henry was discharged. Today Henry continues to thrive.

For Nikki, her beautiful child is nothing short of a miracle. “Thank God for the doctors and nurses at TMC NICU for saving my baby and giving my family life.”

Along with the dedication of Matt and Nikki, the will of Baby Henry, the passion of the NICU nurses and doctors, it is you, our Southern Arizona community, who make a difference for children like Henry.

When you support your local, non-profit, community hospital you help us serve children like Henry, from preemie diapers, to biliblankets and NICU aftercare. For more information on how you can help visit the TMC Foundation website.

You might like

For the full story and updates on Henry, check out Nikki’s blog, Live and Dine Well. 

This TMC  for Children blog post provides suggestions from parents who have experienced having a child in the NICU. 11 Tips from the Frontline – NICU parents share