Elijah Zinn was born on January 15, 2013 at 9:03am. He was born 99 days before his due date and he weighed 13 oz, or in NICU lingo, 380 grams.
Yes, you read that right. 13 ounces. Less than a pound. Have you ever seen such a tiny human baby? It’s heartbreaking.
On January 10th, we had a follow-up appointment with a Perinatologist to check up on our baby and his lack of growth. A month before, it had shown that he was a couple weeks smaller than he should be (meaning that he was measuring smaller than a normal baby at his gestational age). After the happiness that one is overcome with from seeing their baby moving around on the ultrasound screen, the doctor came in with the grim news that he was even smaller this time. The rest of that appointment is a blur, through the sadness and fear and tears, I hardly remember much of it. Words were thrown around: Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR), placental insufficiency, fetal stress, neonatologist…death.
Hearing the words, “you need to be prepared for your baby to possibly not make it”, are the worst possible things to ever hear. Ever.
I drove in tears to my husband’s work (of course, it had to be the only appointment he didn’t go to with me). We sat in the parking lot going over what just happened. We held hands, we cried. God, there was so much crying.
The next day, we met with a Neonatologist, the one who would soon be watching over our baby after his birth. He explained our situation, drew us pictures, explained what would happen in the delivery room, gave us startling statistics. If I remember correctly, he gave him a 5% chance of surviving if he was born. Later, he would tell us that one of the other doctors told him that he was too optimistic. He told us he was “cautiously optimistic”. That would become our mantra of sorts.
I was to start twice weekly appointments to keep an eye on his growth, make sure he wasn’t stressed, make sure situations weren’t getting worse.
The first of those appointments, on January 14, the ultrasound showed that the diastolic flow through the umbilical cord (blood flow between placenta and baby) was slowing down. It would most likely soon stop. Then he would die.
We were given the most horrible, gut-wrenching decision to make. Do we let nature take its course and allow our baby to die, requiring me to deliver him stillborn, or do we give him a fighting chance and deliver him, knowing that the stress of being outside the womb would be to much for his tiny, fragile body? How on earth could someone ever make that decision? Why would the universe ever allow that to happen? How could God do this?
I couldn’t let it happen. I couldn’t allow to just sit back and wait for the moment that the baby would die. I couldn’t bear the thought of delivering a dead baby.
My beautiful baby.
So, we made the hard decision of delivering him. Knowing all the risks, the classical c-section that would require any future pregnancies to be delivered by c-section, if he survived, the risks of such an early, premature birth carry for a child, the possible death of the baby.
So, on January 15, he was born. He was quickly carried away by the NICU staff. He was intubated. He was poked, prodded and stabilized. As I lied on the operating table, he was wheeled by, pausing for a moment for me to look at him. He was so tiny, his hat covering his whole face.
My baby was born and instantly rushed away from me.
No sweet moment of the doctor exclaiming “It’s a boy!”.
No instant bonding by him being placed on my chest.
Just the thought that I hope I can see him alive one more time.
My beautiful baby.
Fast forward: today, he is 4 months old and weighs 4 pounds 2 ounces. He is still in the NICU and is taking small steps forward. I think he already knows the story of the tortoise and the hare…slow and steady wins the race. I have never been so proud of anyone as I am of him and I look forward for the day the we can bring him home.