Gabe's descent to Earth By Alison Print
Birth Stories - Premature Birth Stories
Wednesday, 14 January 2009 09:45
I became pregnant unexpectedly at the tender age of 20. I was in college full-time and working full-time. The father and I were close friends who had recently decided to up the stakes in our relationship. He was 18 and still in high school. The baby was conceived on the evening of our first date, February 14th 1996. We did not use birth control but were nonetheless shocked when I found out I was expecting. Noone knew we were a couple, not even our parents. Needless to say, all parties involved were quite taken aback.

The pregnancy itself was uneventful in the beginning. The social atmosphere, however, was horrendous. My stepmother (my mom died when I was five) had a very hard time reconciling the fact that I, the only levelheaded one in the family, had done something this terrible. What would the family and neighbors think? She and I did not get along well to begin with but when she started referring to my boyfriend as "the sperm donor," I decided it was time to write her off. We took care of everything ourselves and didn't ask for help from anybody.

It was a very stressful time for all involved. Adding to this was the fact that I was not showing any outward signs of pregnancy. I could feel the baby kick regularly (that's all he did!) but I was not gaining weight and my uterus was not expanding normally. My ob at the time kept reassuring me everything was ok, that I was carrying small. She was wrong. At my seven month appointment, she measured the height of my fundus and a funny look came across her face. She ordered me to have an ultrasound the next day. The results came back that my baby was very small for his estimated gestational age. I also found out I was having a boy.

She transferred my care to a team of high-risk doctors. They diagnosed my baby with IUGR and also called him small for gestational age. I was sent home and put on bed rest with testing twice a week (BPP, NST). The amniotic fluid levels were dropping steadily and they informed me I would have a c-section when the levels got too low. They didn't think the baby was big enough or strong enough to survive a vaginal delivery. They never could determine exactly what went wrong with the pregnancy. I was told only that the uterus and placenta did fine until about the 4th month but after that they stopped functioning properly.

I had the c-section two weeks after I was diagnosed with IUGR. For some reason, I remember feeling like everything was going to be alright. I guess I didn't fully understand the seriousness of a small, premature baby. Kevin, my boyfriend, was very scared and didn't stop shaking until the day after our son was born. On October 4th 1996 (the due date was Nov 21), my son was born by emergency c-section. He came out screaming which was a good sign. His Apgar was 7 or 8 I believe. He weighed in at 2 lbs 14 oz, 15 inches long. We named him Gabriel Thomas because he truly was our angel.

Gabe amazed the doctors with his strength and overall good health. He never had to be on a ventilator; he didn't have to have any surgery; overall, he just had to learn to regulate his body temperature and learn how to suck. He didn't grow very fast, though. He was doing so well otherwise that we were allowed to take him home just one month after his birth at the tender weight of 3 lbs, 13 oz. This is very unusual but the doctors couldn't see him staying in the hospital just to gain weight. We were not at all nervous about taking care of a teeny tiny baby - we had no experience with anything else; it seemed normal to us.

Gabriel is a happy, healthy, and funny 2 1/2 year old. He is still very small, weighing only 22 lbs and a height of about 32 inches, but he is perfect. His only problem is a tendency to contract lung illnesses. He has been hospitalized once with acute bronchiolitis (from his grandparents smoking heavily with him living in the house with his father and I). Other than that, he is as normal as any full-term child. It is funny seeing him with his 8 month old brother Nathan. Nathan is about 27 inches long and weighs 18-19 lbs. His birth was as normal as you can get. Even though they are two years apart, the look like they are only a year apart (if that). So there is the story of our angel Gabriel's descent from heaven to earth.