In honour of National Prematurity Awareness Month, California mom of three Rana Turk

shares her micro preemie experience with the goal to spread hope and positivity.

When I got my pregnant with my third baby, it was a complete surprise to my husband and me. With two healthy full-term babies, a girl and a boy, we felt our family was complete. As shocking as it was though, we were also very happy and excited to expand our family. 

The pregnancy was very difficult from the beginning. I had extreme nausea and threw up violently every day. Even though, at my 20-week ultrasound, everything looked great: the baby was healthy, and I was feeling ok with the exception of the vomiting and nausea. I mentioned it to the nurse, but she wasn’t alarmed. 
About a week later, at 21 weeks, my left foot and leg started swelling up and for the next few weeks I kept getting more and more swollen, out of breath, throwing up and extremely tired. I assumed it was due to my age and it being my third pregnancy. Funny enough though, prior to getting pregnant I was at my healthiest doing CrossFit 4-5 times a week and eating very healthy. 

Finally, when I couldn’t take it anymore and I was swelling up like a balloon I called my doctor and he said to come in right away. When I saw the look on his face, I knew something was seriously wrong. I was admitted to the hospital the same day when I was only 24 weeks and 6 days pregnant.

When I got to the hospital, they told me that I had all the signs for early onset severe preeclampsia. Their goal was to lower my blood pressure and put me on bed rest, hoping to get me to 28 weeks, because the baby’s chance of survival jumps to 90% at that point. 

I was completely shocked, I couldn’t help but think it was my fault: I was too stressed, I shouldn't have worked out while pregnant. The next few days in the hospital were so scary. I was terrified of losing my baby, of the unknown, I was crying all the time and stressing even though they told me not to stress. It felt like a nightmare. 

Four days later, after trying so hard to get my blood pressure down, they decided to take my baby out to save both of our lives. My baby was only 25 weeks and 3 days. The only thing I remember is a nurse whispering into my ear that girls usually do better than boys. That was the first sign of hope and I clung to it, literally for dear life. It’s in times like these you realize having hope is crucial to getting through it. 

Amelia was placed in the NICU immediately. I couldn’t bring myself to see her. I kept looking online and social media for stories of hope and healthy micro preemies. Finally, on the third day I went to see Amelia. She was so tiny—tinier than anything I could have imagined—and hooked onto so many different machines. That was an extremely difficult moment. But when I put my hand in the incubator, she literally reached out and held my finger. She hadn’t done that for anyone else. It was in that moment that I realized that she is here, and we are going to fight and survive and get out of here.
I did 2 things at the time: 1. I wrote a letter to her telling her how proud I am of her; and 2. I wrote down affirmations that she was able to get through this. For the next 120 days, the people in the NICU become like our family. I was very fortunate to have nurses who cared for and loved Amelia like their own, especially her primary nurse, who still comes to visit us pretty often. If it wasn’t for the staff, I would have never gotten through those 120 days. I really felt supported, loved and safe.
The doctors were amazing too and kept emphasizing how it was not my fault that this happened. That was so important to hear, because a mother’s guilt can be very strong. I joined a mindfulness class in the NICU every Friday morning and the lady who ran the class was the mom of a healthy 12-year old boy, who was also born at 25 weeks and 3 days. Meeting her and other moms in similar situations gave me so much hope and helped me cope.
The biggest challenge being in the NICU is not knowing what to expect. Riding through the ups and downs. Everyday can be so different and you sort of feel like you take two steps forward and one step back for a while. One day Amelia would be doing fantastic and her oxygen levels were turned down low and other days she would be having a hard day or a hard time breathing.

On December 15, 2018 we were finally able to bring our little baby girl home. She was born at 2 pounds and when we left the hospital, she was 8 pounds. Since being home, Amelia has flourished and is hitting and even surpassing all her milestones. She is healthy, happy, eating everything, standing on her own and starting to walk. Today she is 14 months actual age and 11 months adjusted.

Leaving the safety of the NICU can be very scary—even though I was an experienced mom and confident, it was a different experience with Amelia. The primary nurse always said to me throughout our stay: “She is just like your other kids, treat her that way.” That helped me so much in our transition from NICU to home life. The first week I was definitely on edge, but then I realized she would be fine. I had to trust that they would have never discharged her if they were not 100% confident she would do amazing at home. 

Rana’s advice from a mom who’s been there:

  1. Don’t ever blame yourself. Unfortunately, life does not always go as we expect and for whatever reason, your little warrior was meant to come early. There was nothing you could have done differently.
  2. Take care of yourself while your baby is in the NICU. I know this seems impossible, but you need to do something to fill your tank, maybe get a massage for one hour or go for lunch with a friend. I was with my baby all day every day in the beginning that I felt I was neglecting my other kids. So, at some point I needed to focus some of my time on them as well as on myself even if it just meant enjoying a Starbucks alone.
  3. Trust the process and read stories of HOPE. That is literally what kept me going. Some of the nurses even connected me to previous moms from the NICU who had once been in my shoes and their babies were doing amazing today.
  4. Even on the hardest days when you think you simply cannot do this anymore, please be positive. Trust and have faith that your baby will come home to you one day. Never give up.
  5. Talk to other moms in the NICU. Sharing your experience with someone who is going through the same exact thing makes you feel less alone and gives you support. One of my very good friends today is someone I met in the NICU and her babies were born at the same gestation as my little girl. 

    Nobody ever expects to have a preemie baby, but I can honestly say today it has changed me and my outlook forever. I appreciate every second with all my kids and value them and my time with them so much more. You realize how precious life is and that seriously, as long as you and your loved ones are healthy and happy that is all that really matters. Sweating the small stuff is not worth it in the grand scheme of things! 
November 08, 2019 — James DiMiele