My husband and I were expecting our first baby, and everything was going well – until I reached 24 weeks. That Shabbos I felt a dull ache, so we debated whether to call the doctor. We decided to wait until Shabbos ended. When we called, the doctor told us to come to the hospital. On the way there, I kept trying to reassure myself. I asked Hashem to please let my baby be OK.
At the hospital, the monitor showed that the baby was fine, but I was already having contractions. I was admitted and given a strong drug with side effects, requiring me to undergo a blood test every three hours. The medicine made me feel nauseous, dizzy, and boiling hot.
The doctor administered a dose of steroids to help develop the baby’s lungs; in case of an early delivery, this would increase the baby’s chances of survival. Later, I would appreciate the hashgacha pratis that I was given the steroids at that stage. A social worker at the hospital informed us of all the possible dire things that could happen with a premature baby. We were relieved when she left the room.
After 48 hours, I was discharged on bedrest. Although we were newly married, we decided to move into my parents’ house.
Tehilla’s Mother’s Story
I was so grateful that the baby was OK. After the scare at 24 weeks, we were all hopeful that things would be back on track for Tehilla and the baby. I kept davening and visualizing a healthy baby.
Two weeks later, Tehilla knocked on my bedroom door in the middle of the night. She was experiencing painful, regular contractions, and she and Yehuda were heading to the hospital. The doctor had hoped Tehilla would get to week 32 at least, and this was only the 26th week.
Tehilla was admitted to the hospital again. She was hooked up to the awful medicine that made her feel sick. The doctor also gave her another dose of steroids to help develop the baby’s lungs. Her husband stayed there with her and slept in a chair.
I brought food for them. I wished I could bring a miracle. As I left her room, I glanced longingly towards the nursery section with those lucky mothers and new babies.
I kept davening. The contractions slowed. Tehilla wanted to leave, but her doctor advised staying a few days. That was the best advice, because five days later my son-in-law called me in a panic.
“Tehilla is in so much pain and no one is doing anything to help her.” He was talking so fast. “Tell them to give her some pain relief,” I suggested.
I calculated on my fingers. She was now up to week 27. Yehuda hung up, but he sounded very upset. I wished I could help, but I had no idea what to do. So, I turned to my Tehillim.
The next morning as I was driving to work, my son-in-law called. He sounded calmer. “It looks like the baby is going to come this morning. I’ll call you later.” I davened. Hashem had His plan. The baby was coming into the world now.
Yehuda hung up before I could ask anything else. There was no way I could work with this news, so I headed to the hospital instead.
On the way, Yehuda called again. “Mazal tov! It’s a girl!”
I thanked Hashem and drove faster. When I arrived, Tehilla was in a recovery room with Yehuda. The baby was in a special nursery. Yehuda introduced me to my new granddaughter.
She was perfect. Teeny tiny, of course. She was a bit over two pounds. She looked like a photo of the baby inside the womb. But here she was! She was a miracle.
Our granddaughter had to be fed intravenously, because babies at this stage aren’t developed enough yet to suck, swallow, and breathe at the same time. It was amazing that she had cried at birth. This doesn’t usually happen with such a premature baby. Babies this small usually need supplemental oxygen, but thankfully, she didn’t need it. Now, with a tube in her throat, she couldn’t cry at all. Her eyes were closed, and her skin was a wrinkly reddish-purple, but still she was gorgeous.
Our new granddaughter stayed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The walls were painted with cute colorful pictures of animals and flowers. Inside the nursery, there were many babies and monitors and busy nurses and beeping sounds. The nurses said they wished all 27-week-old babies would do as well as our new granddaughter.
Newborn babies can be admitted to the NICU for many reasons. Sometimes a baby has fluid in her lungs or needs extra support for a few days. Some full-term babies need extra care or evaluation. The NICU is the place for any baby not completely healthy at birth.
Our granddaughter had a tube for feeding and wires for monitoring her heart. The monitors measure how much oxygen the baby receives and sound an alarm when the reading is not safe. It looked uncomfortable having all those wires. Luckily, she wouldn’t remember any of this.
Dr. Robert Koppel, a neonatologist for 25 years at Northwell Hospital, notes that there are major advances in treatment for preemies now, including surfactant to help those don’t make enough of this soapy liquid for their lungs. He said that this treatment has drastically improved survival for premature babies.
Today there are also many types of ventilators to assist breathing, and a new cooling treatment for babies who experienced a challenging delivery and did not get enough oxygen to the brain. The treatment cools the baby for 72 hours after birth. This improves long-term neurological development.
The nurses helped our granddaughter progress from tube feeding to a bottle. They introduced oral feeding by first painting her mouth with colostrum. As she became more proficient at sucking, they gradually increased the amount of milk in the bottle. The NICU added fortifiers to her mother’s milk as premature babies need this extra nutrition in the beginning. Eventually, my daughter would try nursing the baby. She had to wait until the baby was ready, since nursing takes more energy for the baby.
Dr. Koppel notes, “The most dangerous time is birth. Doctors do their best. We don’t know why some babies are born early. The fact is that when anything goes right it is a miracle.”
We saw Yad Hashem so clearly with our new baby granddaughter. Tehilla brought the baby home after three months, the week before her due date. She now weighs 17 pounds and has a smile that is pure sunshine. When we look at this beautiful baby we see a gift from Hashem, built upon our tefillos.