Meet Stephanie and baby Uriah
Thanks to the amazing contributions from our MMC Donor-Members, donations to our Pay It Forward program have allowed for Mother's Milk Cooperative to provide a personal supply of Co-op donor milk to baby Uriah! Here, Stephanie shares her story of delivering her tiny fighter and the impact the Pay It Forward program has made in their lives.
I was told when I was 18 and 25 I would never have children due to my ovaries being covered in cysts. Two different doctors wanted to remove them and told me I had no chance in getting pregnant. Fortunately I listened to my gut and held out hope for the future. I married my husband with full disclosure of the possibility of never having children.
My husband understood and never doubted that I wouldn't get pregnant. So in October 2013 when I found out I was pregnant with our first child, I immediately thought it was wrong and it was completely false. So what's a girl to do? Go to the nearest drug store and buy at least 6 different pregnancy tests. One after the next all read positive. I was in total shock.
Wow, could it be that what I wanted so bad all my life is finally happening? I am going to be a mom? I think my husband and I couldn't wipe our smiles off our faces. I don't think we could have been happier if we won the lottery.
Our first appointment came with a confirmation ultrasound. It seemed like my first appointment was scheduled for 5 years away. I barely had any morning sickness and felt great. Then around 10 weeks I started to bleed and thought I must have lost the baby. I called my doctors office and got an appointment the next day.
I could barely sleep and my husband was just as nervous as I was. We went in and she said she will check to see if there is a heartbeat. I grasped my husband's hand, so scared as I saw the fear in his eyes too. Then the sound I would never forget filled the room. It was so fast: 125 beats per minute of perfection. My husband and I were so thankful that we had this little miracle still growing.
My pregnancy continued to be normal and things were going great. I transferred to the midwives because I wanted to do a hospital water birth. Then, at about 15 weeks, the morning sickness started to kick in and it came with a vengeance, but I was the happiest person in the world. The fact that I was a Barf-Osaurus-Rex was secondary.
My husband and I had our names picked out for a daughter and a son. The whole pregnancy everyone thought I was having a girl including my husband and I. The day before the 20-week ultrasound to see the sex of the baby I had a dream. It was so real. I had a dream it was a male ultrasound technician and he was telling me it was a boy. I told my husband, which just confused us even more.
I have a feeling my son was letting me know ahead of time. As I was called for the ultrasound by a male technician. He was also the one who told us we were having a boy. So that was the first time we knew it was a boy for sure. Uriah was the name we picked out a few years before.
Uriah means God's shining light. He was also named after Urijah Fabor of the UFC, a fighter who, despite his size, was mighty and strong. Little did we know at this point the impact of our son’s name.
At 24 weeks I took the gestational diabetes test. I passed with flying colors and got the ok to attend the water birth class. I was so excited I wanted a water birth since the moment I found out I was pregnant. Knowing that the hospital that I was having the baby at offered the water birth it was perfect.
I had planned my water birth to have twinkling low lights and fresh flowers and a wonderful and calm birth. I wrote that out in my birth plan. I wanted no pain medication at all. My birth was going to be all natural and the only thing I wanted for pain was the calming water.
At 28 weeks 5 days I started to feel something was very wrong. I had a sharp pain right below my breast on the right hand side. It was so painful. I waited for it to pass and it never did. I called the midwife on call and she said to come in right away to see the doctors this time. So I arrived at the hospital and was examined by the doctors, and they said all it is was a case of bad heartburn.
Bad heartburn? No way, I have had heartburn and it’s not like this. They said they would do a 24-hour urine test just in case, and I was to stay the night to collect the urine samples.
I was released and given Prilosec and was told to rest for the day and follow up with my midwife soon. My appointment was only 2 days away. I went in with my husband and told her I don't think this is heartburn, something tells me something is wrong. So she scheduled blood tests and we were to await the 24-hour urine test results. I then went back to work.
At 5:00pm I got the phone call I never wanted. My midwife told me that my body is shutting down and I need to come to the hospital ASAP, and I would stay in the hospital until I delivered. Me and my co-workers cried and cried, and I waited until my husband got to my work to go to the hospital. I didn't know what was going on and I was numb and in shock. I was only 29 weeks. I tried my hardest to stay calm thinking about the baby.
I got to the hospital and got a room very quickly where they hooked me up to so many monitors. Before I knew it the room was filled with every doctor they had on staff. They explained to me that my liver and kidneys where shutting down, my blood pressure was dangerously high, and my platelet count was dangerously low. They went over the plan of giving me steroid shots 24 hours apart for the baby’s lungs when I deliver early. They wanted to place me on a magnesium drip to stop me from having a seizure or a stroke because that is where I was headed and it also offered protection for the baby.
It hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn't stop crying for hours and hours. The magnesium made me feel awful. I was hot and sweaty and lost most motion of my legs. I needed help going to the bathroom. I was a mess. I thought 6 hours ago my life was normal, I just knew that there was something wrong but not like this. My independence was taken away from me. I couldn't even walk 3 feet to the bathroom. I had tons of doctors watching over me and making sure I was ok.
The next day my husband and I went on a tour of the NICU Unit. We went into the micro preemie pod first, seeing the babies so tiny and hooked up to every machine possible made me go numb. The nurse who was doing the tour asked me if I wanted to see a baby close to the size mine would be if I delivered. My husband and I both agreed. Then they showed us a 31-week old baby.
I felt my heart stop at that very moment knowing that my baby would be this size and hooked up to all these machines. Our little Uriah, named after a UFC fighter, will have to fight his greatest fight.
I decided from that moment on I need to stay strong and keep this baby in as long as my body will handle it. I will save the tears for when he cannot feel my emotions and know that his mommy was terrified for her baby's life.
The next few days I was pumped full of magnesium sulfate each day I got worse and worse. I started having contractions which Uriah wasn't tolerating very well. He starting deceling at a rapid pace. My worst fear felt like it was coming closer and closer as my body's giving out. Test after test proved that I was getting near to giving birth. My placenta wasn't providing a good flow for the baby. He measured just 2 pounds 5 ounces on the ultrasound. He was very small for his gestational age.
On Easter my water broke. I thought I was going to hatch my little boy right then and there but I hung on until April 24. Uriah was born via C-section at 9:07pm. I knew my body was giving out that day because I literally felt as though I was dying and I know now that Uriah and I are quite the miracles.
I prayed during my C-section so hard to hear my son cry when they took him out. Everything that I had planned out for my birth didn't go the way I wanted. Even the epidural failed and they had to do a spinal. My husband and I were on pins and needles. Then we heard the first cry from Uriah. It was tiny and mighty and the biggest relief. I finally felt my body relaxing and told my husband to go with Uriah.
After about 2 hours recovering from surgery, I asked the nurse if I can pump to stimulate breast milk for my baby. She got me my pump and I pumped for about 30 minutes and nothing. Every 2 hours when they took my blood pressure I pumped. I had to stay in the hospital for 4 days, keeping an eye on my preeclampsia and C-section.
A few hours later the head nurse from the NICU came to see me. I was thinking at first it was the worst of news. She actually came in to see if I was interested in giving my baby donor milk as I try and increase my supply. I was shocked, but shocked in a good way. I didn't know that milk banks even existed. I quickly signed the forms so my baby could start getting breast milk while his mommy pumped away trying to give him nothing but the best.
On my last day at the hospital I got about 3 drops of colostrum and I literally ran down to the NICU to give it to them. People must have thought I was crazy getting so excited, but I thought Every Drop Counts.
After I was discharged from the hospital I continued to pump and pump every two hours. I wouldn't go through the night without pumping trying to build my supply. I met with several lactation consultants to help me. At this time I was pumping less than 1 ounce a day. I was told to take herbal supplements and lactation cookies.
My husband made the best lactation cookies and I was taking enough fenugreek to smell like a maple syrup factory. Still no increase in my supply. I went through about 7 lactation consultants at the hospital. I set up a meeting with every one of them. I was desperate, I couldn't understand what I was doing wrong. Everyone said I was doing everything right. I felt broken and depression started to take over. I felt horrible. First I couldn't carry my son to term and now I cannot produce breast milk? It shattered my heart. I felt like I couldn't even feed my own son the best thing for him.
I was so thankful for the donor milk, at least my son would be getting the best thing for him even if it wasn't from me. Still the nurses held out hope I would produce when I got home. Their thoughts were that the NICU was so stressful that my body couldn't relax to produce it. I was hoping and praying that they were right.
After 7 long weeks and 12-hour days at the NICU, our son passed the carseat test and was taking all feedings. I couldn't have been more proud to see my son unhooked from all the machines and to finally see his face as it truly was.
We were so happy and proud as we were getting out of the NICU unit and taking our son home finally. I guess this might be the same feeling as what it would be like to have given regular birth and leave with your healthy child. As we were leaving we didn't get our perfect exit as the fire alarm started to sound. My husband and I thought it was perfect anyways, because most importantly, we had our baby and we didn't have to dress him around his wires or hear the alarms.
It was wonderful having our baby at home. I tried for him to breastfeed but he was too used to the bottle and too preemie to still suck hard enough to get any milk. I never stopped pumping, in between taking care of him I was still pumping away. I was now getting 2 ounces every 3 days. I never gave up hope because hope is all I had.
It all came to an end when my son, after 2 weeks in the NICU, aspirated and turned blue right after a feeding. We rushed him to the ER and he stayed in the hospital for 3 days. I tried to continue my pumping in the hospital but nothing was coming out. I was feeling sick and the nurse took my blood pressure—it was 156/108. All the stress must have halted my supply.
Even when he was discharged for the second time I pumped day after day and nothing, not a drop, would come out. I was heartbroken, and returned my pump to the hospital.
I strongly believe in my heart that if it wasn't for the wonderful mothers who spent hours at the pump to pump for babies and families that they have never met before, my son wouldn't be where he is today. I know that breast milk made all the difference in his health and well-being.
I thank the mothers for all their time and effort, as I know it is one of the most time-consuming things to do. All the washing and cleaning takes time away from your little ones. With your love and generosity my son is alive and well. When I couldn't produce, it was a community of mothers who donate their milk which enabled me to feed my child. I will be eternally grateful for each and every one of you. My whole family thanks you. You are true earth angels and most of all—my heroes.