My name is Shanda Smallwood, and I am a proud mother of a former 24-weeker. It gives me great joy to share a little of our story.
On November 7, 2014, I called my doctor and informed her that something wasn’t feeling right, as every 10 to 15 minutes, I was getting a throbbing feeling underneath my stomach. After asking me a few questions, she asked me to come into the office as soon as possible.
When I reached the doctor’s office, I was examined and was told that I was in pre-term labor. Immediately, I went into a panic.
How could this be? I was nowhere near my given due date. As a matter of fact, it was only two days from me turning 6 months. I was in disbelief. My husband rushed me to the hospital immediately. Luckily, the hospital was only 15 minutes from the doctor’s office. I remember crying all the way there, and I called my mother and my sister because I was scared out of my mind.
Arriving at the Hospital
When we arrived, there was a nurse standing by the front desk with a wheelchair, waiting to take me to be seen by a doctor. Everything was running through my head.
I kept thinking, ‘These doctors don’t know me, or anything about my pregnancy.’ Most of all, I was thinking of how my baby was not ready to be here. He still had to grow…
Once I got into the room, I was seen by a few nurses, and finally a familiar face, Dr. Byrd. It was a relief to have a doctor from my doctor’s office – someone who knew something about me and my pregnancy. I was told they were going to do everything possible to try to stop my labor.
After about an hour or two, I was told that I measured a little bigger than I would have at the gestational weeks that I was. Since I was right on the line of turning 24 weeks, it was determined that I would receive steroids to try to develop the lungs of my baby, as there was no guarantee that the labor could be stopped. During this process, I received an amniocentesis as well, to test the amniotic fluids.
My labor did subside for a little while, and I was advised that I would be moved to the labor and delivery department where I would probably remain for the rest of my pregnancy. The plan was to keep me there until at least 32 weeks, to allow my baby to develop a little more.
At that moment, I was willing to do anything and everything to save my baby.
Determining the Cause of My Pre-Term Labor
On the November 8, 2014, I receive my next steroid shot and found out what had caused my preterm labor. Early in my pregnancy, I developed a urinary tract infection (UTI), which was treated. However, some of the bacteria had escaped into my uterus, which triggered my pre-term labor. I was given antibiotics to treat the bacteria for me and my baby.
At that time, my labor seemed to have stopped, and my baby and I were getting treatment for the bacteria. I felt there was hope.
Unexpected Labor & Delivery
On November 9, 2014, the day seemed to be going ok. I was able to get a little sleep, and I even had a few visitors. Then, out of nowhere, I was back in labor.
My labor only lasted about 20 minutes, and at 10:12 pm, I gave birth to my baby, Peyton. He was 1 & 1/2 pounds and 19 inches long and was born at 24 weeks and 1 day. Dr. Bernstein (from my doctor’s office) delivered him. I was happy, yet scared out of my mind as Peyton was rushed away. I lay there praying to God for a miracle.
Time in the NICU
After delivering Peyton, we were informed that he was full of infection from being in my infected amniotic fluid, on top of being on a ventilator, and on top of fighting for his life as he was 4 months early. We were also told, that the next 24 to 48 hours would be crucial as Peyton’s lungs were premature, had tons of scar tissue and a grade 2 bleeding on his brain.
I was wheeled down to the NICU and was scared to death. I was afraid to see Peyton, but I needed to see him.
Because of how sick Peyton was, he had a room to himself. The nurse who guided us in told us not to be afraid and to be prepared because our baby was hooked up to monitors, an IV, and several other things.
When my husband pushed me into the room, I just went numb. I heard all types of beeping, the vibration from the ventilator and to top it off, the baby isolate was covered with a blanket.
When they pulled the blanket back, I saw this little tiny baby boy, with see-through skin, moving his little arms and legs. I almost passed out. I was not ready. I ran from the NICU into my room on the labor and deliver floor where I cried.
We spent five months in the WakeMed NICU. To say it was a roller coaster ride, is an understatement. It seems, when one thing went right, two more things would go wrong. It was always something. But through it all, we made it. As of today, my Peyton is 3 years old. He’s running around and into everything.
The Wake Med NICU Staff
The Wake med NICU staff is the best. If it were not for our baby’s care team, I am sure we would have lost our minds. They educated us on what to do and what not to do.
They made us feel that we were part of our baby’s care team. They kept us in the loop and showed us that they cared for our child, just like he was one of their own.
We were told on countless occasions, that we had to be our baby’s advocate, and that we were. By the time we left the WakeMed NICU, the nurses, doctors, psychologists and therapists felt like family. I would like to name my baby’s care team because, to this day, they are considered to be angels in our eyesight:
- Dr. Bastik
- Dr. P.
- Dr. Young
- Dr. Kicklighter
- Dr. Board
Their faces are tattooed on our brains and in our hearts.
Whether it’s your first or fifth pregnancy, no one can predict what a pregnancy will be like.
Having a baby born early isn’t your fault. It doesn’t make you a bad person. The bottom line is, once they arrive, it’s our duty to make sure they will feel all the love we have to give and then some. Yes, we will have our bad days; but the good days will always outweigh the bad. We won’t be perfect, but our angels will be in our eyes.
Stay encouraged and positive. All will work out in due time. It’s not a race of when and where a milestone is met; it’s just a curve ball that life threw your way.
So be proud, be brave, and most of all – never ever give up on your angels. After all, they say the hardest battles are given to the strongest soldiers; and you must be one heck of a general to handle a preemie!!
Preemie Strong; Preemie Proud!!
About the Smallwood Family
Shanda and her husband, Michael, are proud parents to Peyton Michael Smallwood. Michael works as a therapist while Shanda is a victim witness legal assistant. In their spare time, Shanda and Michael like to travel and play golf.
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