The Campbell Family’s NICU Journey

Early Bird Foundation, Inc. had the absolute joy of meeting Adrian and Steven  several months back at a support group at one of our local hospitals! It was just shortly after the birth of their triplets and hearing their beautiful story and seeing the pure strength and the love that was radiating from them both after such a long journey was inspiring. Through the hardships, they were faithful in waiting and trusting and, as you’ll read below, giving God all the glory! Below is the Campbell’s story written by Adrian:

Our journey to parenthood was not an easy one, but every trial we went through was worth it for the blessing we received in the end. My husband Steven and I struggled with fertility issues for almost 4 years before finally seeing those two beautiful pink lines. We thought we had our life all planned out, but just like he always does, God reminded us that we are not in control of our destiny, he is the one who holds tomorrow.

In 2014, we decided we were ready to bring a baby into our world and thought it would come easy. But the months slowly went by and turned into years. After 4 years, 2 surgeries (one for both of us), one round of Clomid, and most importantly many prayers, I fell pregnant in July 2017! Our prayers were answered! God also worked out a miracle in Steven’s work schedule after being onnight shift for 7 years, literally the day after we got the positive test, he got a call from work saying he was being moved to dayshift within a couple weeks. Everything was coming together for our family. God’s timing is always perfect.

Our first OB appointment came sooner than we expected because of some bleeding and cramping I experienced at around 5 weeks along. We were terrified that we could be losing our baby. We were the last appointment of the day and the ultrasound tech told us what we should expect to see with a healthy pregnancy, and then warned us what we could see; or not see if something were wrong considering the symptoms I was having. As she moved the probe across my belly, I noticed there was more than one “blob” on the screen and thought it could mean there were two babies. The nurse asked if we were ready, and asked Steven if he was sitting down. She said “okay here’s baby number one” and took a pause. We thought by that point it had to be twins. “And here‘s baby number two”. Steven just smiled and said “I knew it” until she moved a little further and said “Surprise! Here’s baby number three!” Our jaws dropped and we were both in shock. We were overwhelmed but still excited for the news. Not only were we finally going to be parents, but parents to triplets! We got to listen to their little heartbeats and even though they were only 5 weeks along, they were so strong. It was such a relief to hear her say that the bleeding and cramping was normal for most multiple pregnancies. They referred me to a high risk OB who would be able to monitor the babies closely and deliver them when the time came.

Overall I had a pretty healthy pregnancy considering I was carrying three humans. I was so sick the first three months, and had a couple complications that could cause the babies to come sooner than expected. Our original goal of making it to 35 weeks seemed to be shortened more as the pregnancy went on. Our goal eventually became weekly once we made it past 28 weeks (which was our safe zone) On the morning of January 29 (I was 29 wks 5d) I woke up around 4am with contractions, and didn’t realize at the time, but my water was slowly breaking.Thankfully, I had an appointment already scheduled for that morning with my OB. During the ultrasound I could tell something was wrong by the look on her face and I knew we wouldn’t be leaving the hospital that day. Baby A was very low and only had a thin lining of fluid around him. They took me upstairs to Labor and Delivery for monitoring and steroid shotsto help the development of their lungs, the next day they moved me to another side of the building and said that would be our home until I delivered.

The next morning I woke up with strong contractions. Steven got the nurse to come in and then the doctor came and said it was time. My contractions got worse as they were prepping me for surgery, and I was already almost completely dilated by the time they started. I was lying on the table in anticipation, when they said “here comes baby number one”, but I didn’t hear him cry and asked “why isn’t he crying?” and a few seconds later I heard a sound I will never forget. On February 2, 2018 at 7:00am my little 2lb 14oz Clayton Abner let out the most perfect little cry. They brought him to meet us and I think that was the first time that I felt super emotional even throughout my pregnancy. He was bruised and his poor head was a little banged up from being low for so long but he was here, and he was perfect. One minute later at 7:01am I heard my son Weston’s cry for the first time. It amazed me how many nurses were there to help with them; they each had 2 to 3 wonderful nurses at their side when they were born. It was an amazing moment when I met him for the first time. He was a beautiful 3lb 6oz baby boy. It took another couple minutes for them to get to Caroline since she was so far up and also transversal across the top of my belly. But we heard her sweet little cry at 7:03am, she was 3lbs 3oz, and so beautiful. Our family was complete.

My memory is a little fuzzy of the rest of that day. I know I was really sore from surgery and tired from the pain medication. I remember being irritable and overwhelmed with visitors coming in and out of the room, all I wanted to do was rest and I couldn’t seem to get any at first. I remember feeling a little jealous that they were able to go back and visit the babies and I couldn’t. They were getting to spend time with them before I could, but I think my hormones were just out of whack. Steven was amazing though, he was so great throughout everything. He realized howexhausted I was and asked everyone to go out to the lobby so I could rest. He took family members back to meet them one at a time. I fell in love with him a little more that day because he became a dad, and he made sure I was taken care of. I finally got to be wheeled down to the NICU later on that night. They had their own corner and were lined up along the back wall in incubators and hooked up to a bunch of monitors. It was hard to even see them because of the CPAP mask covering their faces. They looked like little aliens to me, but still cute. Their hands and feet were so big compared to their bodies, they were so tiny. The nurses were very helpful and explained what they were doing every time we came in to visit them. We did have a couple misunderstandings with the night nurses at first because they initially did not tell us what a “care time” was or what times they were, and may have thought we already knew. In the NICU there are special times when the babies are cared for called care times. So we would come at random times when they would be sleeping, and they didn’t want us to touch, or even talk to them. It broke our hearts that we couldn’t hold them for a few days, but we knew it was for the best for their health.

Ours were on an every 2 hour schedule at first, so they would feed them through a feeding tube every 2 hrs. They only ate a few ML’s at first. They allowed us a stay of 5 days in my postpartum room for recovery, so we visited at almost every care time. We live almost an hour and a half away from the hospital so instead of driving back and forth all the time we were able to get a room about 15 minutes away at a local Ronald McDonald house. We were so thankful to them for taking us in at our time of need! We met many people with babies in the NICU as well and it was good to have people around us who were going through the same thing we were. The nurses stressed to me that I needed to get as much rest as I could while the babies were in the hospital before we took them home. At first I felt guilty for not being there for every care time, because I felt like since I was their mother I needed to be there for them. But the nurses ended up convincing me that I would not be considered a bad mom for getting restthat was much needed. Being a parent of a child in the NICU is stressful enough. I would go visit them at the 12:00 feeding, andstay until the nurses had their shift change at 7pm. Even though we were mostly just sitting around with them, it was still exhausting by the time I got back.

I think our NICU experience was a little different than most because we had the expectation very early on that the babies would have to go to intensive care when they were born. We had time to research and for the most part knew what to expect. I can only imagine the stress it would be for a parent whose child was unexpectedly taken to the NICU after birth without their hearts being prepared for it.

For the most part, they all met goals around the same time. It was amazing to me how they would change from day to day. It was always a great surprise when they met a goal and we would walk in and something was different. One time we walked in and they had their CPAP masks off, or had their feeding tubes out, the best day was when they handed us Caroline’s first bottle, and she drank the whole thing the first try. Even in the first few days at care times we were able to change their diapers and take their temperatures. It was so nice to be able to actually do something for them. The nurses taught us how to feed them from a bottle. Who knew you’d have to be taught how to feed a preemie? It was a big step toward coming home when they got the hang of taking theirbottle.

After a month in the hospital the only hurdle we had to overcome to go home was keeping body temperature up and we were so close. They were all moved to an open crib and had most of their wires off. The pediatrician cleared us to go home on March 7, at 31 days old. We were so relieved and excited for the new adventure waiting for us at home. It was a little nerve racking taking them home since we wouldn’t have the monitors there to let us know they were breathing. They got a tour of the house and we laid them down in one of the cribs together all bundled up in their sleepers and hats. We stuck with the original feeding schedule they established in the NICU for 12 weeks and then began stretching the feedings out after that. A lot of times we would have to wake them up to feed them to make sure they were on schedule and of course getting enough food.

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Life since we brought them home has been the busiest but most blessed time of our lives, if you can imagine. They are now 5 months old all weighing a little over 12 pounds now and doing well. We are forever grateful to God for trusting us to be their parents. We get asked all the time how we do it. God gives us the strength we need to make the best of every day with them, and they are worth it all. Sometimes I have to stop and think about how incredible it is that three babies were in my womb at once, how amazing is that?

They are our beautiful miracle babies sent from heaven!

A big thank you to Adrian and Steven for allowing EBF to share their story! It is often through stories just like this of overcoming great obstacles that we are able to witness God’s modern miracles! Join us in continued prayers for this family as they continue to thrive and grow into the beautiful purposes for which God created and sustained them!

The Wytiaz Family’s NICU Journey

Erin found her way to EBF after she made the decision to visit our monthly peer led support group for NICU families. We are so glad she did! It is extra special to us when we are able to meet a momma (or daddy!) who is right in the middle of their NICU journey. We love having the opportunity to pray for sweet babies like Skylar and watch them overcome amazing obstacles. It’s also so rewarding to be able to walk through some of the tough emotions of the NICU stay with parents who may not have anyone else who understands. A big thank you to Erin Wytiaz and her beautiful family for sharing this special time with us and telling the raw story of her NICU experience even while she’s still in the middle of it! Read her story below:

For about a week before my delivery, I was feeling a bit off. I started to feel like I was living in a fog. That’s the best way I can describe it. My husband and I had just been out to eat with some friends when I started to feel a little “strange”. I was having a slight pain in my right side. Later that night, when the pain wouldn’t go away, I decided to go to the ER for what I thought was gallbladder issues. When I got to the ER, they sent me to labor and delivery because I was 29 weeks and 6 days pregnant. 

When I got to labor and delivery, everything started happening so quickly. My blood pressure was 185/104, and they told me that they needed to start an IV as quickly as possible to prevent me from having a seizure or stroke. At this point, my vision was blurry, I had a splitting headache that wouldn’t go away, and I was having chest pains. They couldn’t get my blood pressure down with just medication, so they started me on a magnesium drip. If you have never experienced a mag drip, you DO NOT want to! My body felt like it was on fire, and I could no longer stand by myself. I asked my husband to help me to the bathroom. When I started back towards the bed, my left leg went numb, and he had to catch me before I hit the floor. Before I knew it, I was getting a steroid shot in my thigh to help my daughter’s lungs develop. The doctor came in and told me that I was showing signs of preeclampsia but that he could not diagnose me until a few more tests were ran. He also told me that the high risk doctor would be in to see me in the morning to do an ultrasound.

The high risk doctor arrived bright and early. He told me that my daughter scored 8/8 on her ultrasound but that she was measuring in less than the 10th percentile. She had stopped growing because my placenta wasn’t working correctly. In turn, my body responded the only way it knew how. It raised my blood pressure to allow my daughter more nutrients since my placenta could not do it. Then, the high risk doctor confirmed that I had preeclampsia. At this point, I was 30 weeks pregnant. He said that he would like for me to make it to 32 weeks, but he did not foresee that happening. They gave me a second steroid shot for her lungs. 

On the third day (30 weeks 1 day pregnant), they still could not keep my blood pressure down. The doctors decided that it was safer for my daughter, and myself, for me to go ahead and deliver. I had an emergency c-section that night. Skylar was born on April 10th, 2018 at 10:02 pm. She weighed 2lbs 1oz and was 13 3/4 inches long. 

She has been in the NICU for 4 weeks now, and she is doing great! The first week of her stay was very difficult. I had just had my first child, and she was not allowed to come home with me (and still is not). I knew that I was a mom, but I did not feel like one. I could not hold my baby unless a nurse told me that I could. She had so many tubes and wires that I could not really see much of her face, much less kiss it. I wondered if she even knew who I was when she heard my voice or felt my touch. 

I remember the first time I left the hospital. I broke down. It hit me like a ton of bricks when I realized that I was farther away from her than I had ever been since conception. I did not know how to handle those emotions. I was scared and sad, but I was mostly angry. I was angry at my body for disappointing myself, my husband, and our daughter. I was angry at the nurses who would not let me hold my daughter. It took a lot of praying for me to let go of that anger. 

When Skylar first got to the NICU, she was on the CPAP at 21% (which is just room air with some pressure behind it…no extra oxygen). She also had to be under the bilirubin lights because of jaundice, she had a feeding tube in her mouth, and she had an IV. After being here for a few weeks, Skylar was taken off of the CPAP and switched to a high flow nasal cannula. (The difference is the CPAP forces air, and the cannula is just a steady flow of air without the pressure.)

Now that Skylar is growing and getting stronger, I get to do a lot more to make me feel like an actual mom. She was able to start breastfeeding after being here for 3 weeks, and she just tried her first bottle today! She is no longer on the high flow nasal cannula (as of last night), and I can finally see her beautiful face. I do not think anything can take away the emptiness I feel when I still have to go home without her. I know that the doctors and nurses are keeping her here for her own well-being, but it is still so hard to feel like a “part-time” mom. I want to wake up in the middle of the night because my daughter is crying and wants to be fed, not because she’s not there. I just want to feel normal. 

In the NICU, each week is harder and easier at the same time. I see my daughter progressing, but I get more and more anxious for her to come home. Some of her doctors will tell me that she should be home within two weeks while others tell me that she will still be here “for a long time”. Some days I want to scream, and other days I want to cry. With God’s guidance, I know it will get easier. I trust that Skylar will be home when she is ready.

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I am so thankful for the Early Bird Foundation. Without them, I would not have known that it is okay to feel what I am feeling and that it is okay to need to cry. Being a NICU mommy is not ideal for anyone. You can never truly prepare yourself for it. It is an emotional rollercoaster that you feel like no one else has ever been on. Thanks to these ladies, I see that I am not alone in these feelings. They understand what it is like to not want to hear “everything will be okay” anymore. They understand what it is like to be in the same room as your child but still feel miles apart because you have yet to feel that true bonding moment. In this group, you can talk, laugh, cry, and pray together, and I will feel forever blessed for meeting these wonderful women.

As always, please join us in praying for the Wytiaz family as they continue their NICU journey! ay strength, peace and perseverance over Erin and Bryan and that sweet Skylar will continue to thrive and progress and that her NICU stay will come to an end quickly so she can get home with her family!

The Case Family’s NICU Journey

Traci found her way to Early Bird Foundation through our Craft Night event that allows us to provide some of our local hospitals with unique handmade bassinet name cards for each NICU baby as a treasured keepsake for our families. Fresh out of her NICU journey with two precious baby girls, Traci was looking to help give to others experiencing the journey she had just found her way through and, in turn, Early Bird Foundation got to know another amazing NICU momma and her story of overcoming the hardships of life in the NICU! We are so thankful for the families we are meeting and how God is leading them to us in the most beautiful ways!

Below Traci shares her story with us:

September 28, 2017 will forever hold a special place in my heart. It is more than just the day my two beautiful little girls were born. It was the start of a journey that has forever changed my heart, faith and life. For two long years my husband and I had been trying to conceive. I knew prior to us getting married that we would have a hard time so we started trying a little early. I had many medical issues prior and I knew being older that my window of conceiving naturally was closing. After multiple fertility treatments, on a Sunday morning and on our first wedding anniversary, I found out I was going to become a mom! I was excited and scared at the same time. What if I miscarry? What if something is wrong with my baby? How would I deal with it and would it be my fault? All of that, at the time, did not matter because I was going to be the best mother. At my first ultrasound I found out I was having twins. Holy moly, what did I get myself into?! NO tears, NO happiness, just WOW. My pregnancy went on without problems until July 20, 2017. “Traci you’re having two girls and, I’m sorry, Baby A has Down Syndrome. You have a few options.” I had no words for the doctor, just tears. Did I mention it was my husband’s birthday? We chose to take a DNA test and for two long weeks we had decisions to make that would affect our entire lives. After many prayers and sleepless nights, the test came back negative for Down Syndrome! On August 12, 2017, someone decided to rear end me. No big deal, however, this started a month long process of weekly trips to the ER for back pain that was out of control. Each trip I was sent home stating “your fine, you’re having twins, it’s to be expected”.

On September 26, 2017, I was admitted to Saint Joseph East. The doctor was unable to find Baby B’s heartbeat and both girls had stopped practice breathing. Multiple attempts were made to stimulate them, however, all failed. The next few hours and into the next few days started to blend together. On September 28, 2017, at 4:11pm and 4:12pm, I brought two beautiful 3lb. 3oz baby girls (they looked like an alien and a monkey) into this world. There were few cries from them from a distance and I was told to look and then they were rushed off to the NICU. I didn’t get to even kiss them. And so my NICU journey began. Two days later I was able to lift my girls up in the incubator. One week later I was able to hold and take care of them. No one will ever understand the life of NICU parents.

The NICU journey is now 4.5 months gone however I remember each and every single day like it was my last. I am now able to say that I am a mother because for 39 long days I just felt like I was visiting a few kids. The tears never stop but they are few and far between. I will forever remember all the tubes and will ALWAYS jump each time I hear a heart rate monitor alarm. Just because it has been 4.5 months since we left the NICU does not mean I am healed. I have now found the Early Bird Foundation Inc. and with this group of wonderful women I am able to share my stories right down to the details I never thought I would share. I am now able to know that I am not the only one who experienced trauma. The EBF has brought me peace. I can now live my life and in the process help others who have to go through this journey. To anyone reading that is currently going through the journey, you are not alone! We NICU parent survivors and children are here for you.

The ladies of Early Bird Foundation are so thankful that Traci found in us a safe place to share her story and her struggles and to begin healing from the traumatic experience that life in the NICU can be! Please lift her and her beautiful family up in prayer as they continue to move through life AFTER NICU and heal from the grief of the unexpected and experiences missed!

The Cooper Family’s NICU Journey

Greg and Sara-Beth Cooper have a beautiful story of trusting in God in spite of the odds put up against them and their sweet boys. Early Bird Foundation is thankful to have had the opportunity to know them and to have been able to watch their journey unfold and provide support where we can! We ask you to pray for this sweet family as they continue on their NICU journey and, ultimately, take their boys home and get to experience life after the NICU!

Below is their story, written in their own words:

July 25, 2017 we found out we were expecting. On August 28, 2017 we found out we were expecting TWO sweet babies. We were over the moon when we found out it was twins. We had struggled with infertility for over a year and felt like this was an answer to our prayers. All of our hopes and dreams came crashing down on October 4, 2017. While I was at work Grant’s (Baby B) water broke. I was 13 weeks and 5 days. The doctor immediately placed me on strict bed rest and told me that the chances of survival was essentially zero for Grant and slim for Leo (Baby A). We were devastated. I started going to weekly fluid checks on the babies and was referred to a high risk doctor at Central Baptist. Our first high risk appointment did not go very well. Grant still had nearly no fluid. The doctor told us that without this fluid his lungs would not develop and he would die while in the womb or immediately after birth. Because of this he told us we had the option to terminate the pregnancy completely because under medical terms it was considered an incomplete miscarriage. We went home feeling defeated. We knew the only way we could get through all this was to leave it in God’s hands. With our next fluid check things started to turn around. His fluid was normal without any medical explanation. Every subsequent fluid check went well for the next 4 weeks. At 19 weeks his water re-broke. Once again we were devastated because we had been told that this re-rupture would cause early labor and a poor outcome for not only Grant, but Leo also. At my 24 week appointment with Central Baptist Dr. Barton decided I needed to be admitted to UK for the remainder of the pregnancy. Once I got to the hospital, doctors began to tell us that if Grant survived birth he would have many problems and would probably require a trach and he would be on a ventilator. Our goal was for me to make it to 34 weeks and then they were going to induce. On January 24, 2018, the boys decided they were ready to make their appearance. I was 29 weeks and 5 days. The doctors had prepared us for the outcome at this stage in the pregnancy. They told us Grant would fair poorly due to low fluid the majority of the pregnancy and Leo would fair much better. Grant got off to a rough start his first couple days of life; however, God has worked many miracles with our boys and we are overjoyed at the progress both boys have made. There is no question that these boys have proven that God answers prayers. Both are completely healthy, normal babies for their gestational age. We can not thank God enough for answering our prayers.

Our boys have been in the NICU a little over a month now. For the majority of the pregnancy we knew we would spend some time in the NICU but we didn’t know how much. And we can definitely say that nothing prepares you to be a NICU parent. It takes a special person to be a NICU parent and God felt like we could handle that responsibility. Leaving your babies every night in the care of someone else has been the hardest thing about this journey. But we have been blessed with wonderful nurses, doctors, friends, and family to help us through. The journey has been hard but it’s has been worth every trial so far. We have truly been blessed throughout this entire journey!

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Thank you Cooper Family for sharing your story with us! May God continue to bless your family each day and we look forward to seeing your “coming home” picture!

The Bridgeman Family’s NICU Journey

It’s time for our December NICU Family of the Month! We are so thankful to have met Candice prior to the birth of her twin girls while she was on bedrest at Central Baptist! Early Bird Foundation is dedicated to praying for this family as they walk this long NICU journey! We stand in faith that God has a beautiful plan for Miyah and Micah and we are grateful to be able to watch it unfold!

Candice Bridgeman has given us permission to share her story with you:

At 10 weeks we found out that we were having mono/mono twins. This is a rare type of pregnancy that occurs in 1 in 10,000 of twins. It can be prone to complications as both babies share the same amniotic sac and same placenta. I was assigned a team of high-risk doctors who did extensive ultrasounds to look for cord entanglement and twin to twin transfusion. At 24 weeks, I️ was admitted to Central Baptist Hospital to go under monitoring three times a day to make sure the babies weren’t experiencing any of the above mentioned complications. The plan was to get me to 32 weeks where I️ would deliver via c-section. Unfortunately, during a monitoring session, one of my twins’ heart rate increased and her blood pressure decreased due to their umbilical cords being tied in a tight knot. Thank the good Lord the doctor was in the room when all of this happened. Within 5 minutes I️ was in the operating room being prepped for an emergency c-section. My girls were delivered at 25 weeks and 4 days. Micah Ann was 1 pound 11 ounces & 11.5 inches long. Miyah Arlene was 1 pound 7 ounces & 11.5 inches long.

They were stabilized and transferred to University of Kentucky Hospital. My husband and I️ live 2 hours south of Lexington so I️ have moved here to be with the girls until they are released from the hospital. My husband and 21 month old son come to be with us on the weekends. The twins are now 11 days old and fighting for their lives. They have both had ups and downs in this short time, but we are believing for a miracle. Please join us in praying for our precious girls!

Please join us in praying for Miyah and Micah as they continue to fight hard to grow and thrive! And for their parents as they deal with the many trials that go hand in hand with a long NICU stay!