Cheri and Baby Sam
When my son Sam was about 9 weeks old (-5 weeks adjusted as he was born 14 weeks premature) the chronic lung disease he suffered with had progressed to a point that doctors began serious interventions. He had been diagnosed with cytomegalovirus (CMV), a common virus that can be fatal to immune compromised people like premature babies. His oxygen saturation was dropping below a safe level for a baby of his tiny size and age. His illness was spiraling out of control, and doctors told me the next step would be to chemically paralyze him.
It is a fairly common treatment in neonatal intensive care units to use an intravenous paralytic to keep infants completely immobilized so that they can heal, or to prevent them from fighting with medical equipment like ventilators. Sam was trying to breath against the vent, which was preventing the proper exchange of oxygen.
Physicians administered the drug, set his ventilator to the proper support, stopped his breastmilk feeding pump, and told me he would be sedated enough with another drug to stay asleep under the paralytic. They told me he needed to stay in the dark, with a closed isolette, and minimal stimulation. I had to stop reading to him, stop singing to him, and stop touching him other than the one time every six hours that I was allowed to change his diaper, lubricate his eyes (they were open all the time due to the paralytic), and switch his position a little.
I sat next to his dark box every day watching his numbers. He wasn't getting better. In fact, he was getting worse.
Sam's darkest days
After a week or so, his little body had retained about two pounds of fluid, which is a great amount for a little baby who is under four pounds to begin treatment. Sam's eyes had become swollen shut, his tongue swelled out of his mouth, and his head had ridges from not being able to move from side to side. Every blood vessel was visible through his pale body, and tears would stream from his eyes, down his face, whenever nurses would stick rigid suction catheters up his nose to remove the mucous he wasn't able to swallow due to the paralytic.
He spiraled downward to a point where doctors told me they had tried everything, and it wasn't going to work. On the last day of the paralytic I stood there, helpless, as they used a bag to breath for my baby boy. They switched his ventilator to a machine that shook his swollen, limp little body all over the place. They poked at him, assaulted him, and eventually threw their arms up and said they would try it all over again later.
I began sobbing. I could barely form words. It had to stop. I shouted, “Leave him alone! Just stop... It's not fair. Please just leave him alone.” I told the nurse to stop the flow of the paralytic and the doctor commented that, “We usually take them off the paralytic before 'unplugging' them anyway...” He had doomed my baby to death.
I pushed everyone out of the room. And I opened Sam's isolette. I rested my hand on his pale and puffy little belly, and started reading Horton Hears a Who over and over and over again. I sang to him. I stroked his legs. I pumped a tiny bit of breastmilk and swabbed his lips and the inside of his cheeks with it every few hours.
After about thirty minutes of our time together, his terribly low oxygen levels started to rise. By night fall his numbers were higher than they had been in over a week. As the paralytic wore off he began to show signs of life. He wrinkled his forehead like he was angry. It was the first time he had been able to move in days and he was not happy about it.
He began sucking on his vent tube and was soon able to open his eyes. His fingers and toes followed with wiggles, and eventually he regained all movement. Over the next few days my mom and I massaged his legs with lavender lotion, continued to swab his lips and mouth with breastmilk, and I read and sang to him until my voice was hoarse. I kept my hands on him every single second I could, and talked to him even while he slept.
Sam snuggling on his Momma in his wrap
Sam made a complete and total turn around. It was October when I started this care for my baby, and about a week before Christmas he was taken off the vent completely and able to breath on his own - finally!
Every specialist and doctor and nurse who had worked with Sam during his NICU stay would come in and tell me his progress and well being was because of my care and my dedication to him. I didn't need to hear this to know it was true, but it was nice to know that they recognized the efforts that saved Sam's life.
Sam's Daddy wears him in his Sleepy Wrap
Today, Sam shows no signs of an oxygen deprived baby. He's finally home after 205 days in the hospital, and even though he has some physical delays and small medical set backs, there is nothing he can't grow out of with time and love and gentle mothering.
It is fact that if I hadn't stepped in and taken over his care in the NICU the way that I did, my little Sam would have died. They call him a miracle baby. But to me it's simple, natural "medicine" - a mother's love and touch is the first treatment any infant needs to be well.
Happy Sam today!
Kangaroo Mother Care Notes
The process of holding a baby on one's chest, skin-to-skin, is referred to as Kangaroo Mother Care. However, it is a practice that all mammals participate in naturally (watch a cat with her new kittens or dog with her newborn puppies). Kangaroo Mother Care benefits all human babies as well, and especially NICU babies, in several ways.
*KMC babies stabilize faster with skin-to-skin care than in an incubator (very few newborns stabilize well within an incubator during the first fragile hours of life).
*KMC babies have stable oxygen rates and breathing thanks to the steady regulation of mother's respiration.
*A KMC baby's heart rate is stable (mother's heartbeat regulates baby's heartbeat).
*A baby's temperature is most stable on his mother - in skin-to-skin care mother's chest automatically warms to warm a cold baby, while her core temperature drops if baby is too warm and needs to be cooled.
*Sleeping within an arm's reach of baby (as long as a parent does not smoke) also regulates all of his physiological needs in the same way ~ they are kept steady thanks to Mom's warm, even-paced body. We lose far fewer babies to prematurity, irregularity of breathing or heartbeat after birth, and SIDS all with the natural help of skin-to-skin holding, or Kangaroo Care.
Read more about the skin-to-skin benefits for all babies (full term and premature) at KangarooMotherCare.com.
Related Books on KMC:
The Premature Baby Book
The Vital Touch
Related Articles on KMC:
Kangaroo Mother Care
Kangaroo Mother Care Saves 2lb Premature Twin, Baby Jamie
Mother's Skin-to-Skin Goodbye Saves 20oz Baby
Exclusive Human Milk Diet Benefits NICU Preterm Babies
Cheri Lee is mom to two children, Baby Sam, and her 14 year old daughter. Sam was born at 25 weeks, 6 days gestation, weighing 2lbs, 5oz. He was classified as a "micro preemie," with chronic lung disease, retinopothy of prematurity stage 2-3, CMV, reflux, multiple pneumonias, and patent ductus arteriosis. Lee says she "can say for sure that DrMomma.org has helped Sam and I in so many ways! Between the information and support at peaceful parenting - it all came just in time!" Lee also heard of mother-to-mother milk sharing at peaceful parenting, which has come in helpful after her many months of pumping for Sam. Today, he is growing healthy and strong thanks to donor milk from mothers at Human Milk 4 Human Babies. You can read more of Sam's story at Sam I Am on Facebook.
way to go, mama, way to go.ReplyDelete
what a beautiful inspiring story.ReplyDelete
Policies and protocols protect doctors not babies! Kudos to this mom and thanks to peaceful parenting for your part in helping her find the strength and knowledge needed.ReplyDelete
ALWAYS trust a Mother's instinct :)ReplyDelete
As a neonatal nurse, I have seen firsthand the power of a parent's love to heal their babies!ReplyDelete
This is such a beautiful story about the miracle of skin to skin. I've seen just how unbelievably helpful skin to skin can be for a premature baby, and I still don't understand why so many parents aren't encouraged to do it, and are told that their babies need to be untouched or infrequently handled or they will become exhausted. Just the opposite is true!ReplyDelete
With our prem, the nurses told me i couldn't touch her... she was my baby! I took her out of her humidicrib and slipped her inside my top, she was so content, the nurses were mad at first (pfft) but it didn't hurt her, she had minimal tubing for interference so i couldn't see why it would harm her!ReplyDelete
I was not allowed to touch or hold my 6 week prem baby boy for about a week and that was the reason I was given. That it would make him too tired and he wouldn't grow and thrive... I really regret listening to them now and feel like I missed out on a very special time with him that I'll never get back.ReplyDelete
Good for you Mum! I had the same experience of not being able to touch or hold my baby til I finally had a melt down with the doctor and he went to the nurses himself and set them straight. Then I held my baby night and day, he grew and thrived. Babies need their mum.ReplyDelete
This is amazing! It definitely proves that a mothers love and touch is so very much needed versus medical intervention. So happy to hear he is doing well!ReplyDelete
Beautiful story and baby boy!!!ReplyDelete
This is a very inspiring story, the world should hear this!!! theres nothing better for a baby then moms touch. Premies should be tucked inside a snuggie for hours at a time to be close to mom. Congrats Sam and family. Your truly a great story to prove you can go against the odds and win!!! PP is awsome also :) Thanks to PP and Dr. Momma.org for helping so many mommas out there.ReplyDelete
What a beautiful story! I'm so thankful she grabbed onto her instincts! I'm no doctor, but I would assume THE BEST treatment for preemie babies is to replicate the womb as closely as possible, so wouldn't that be being as close to mom as much as possible, hearing her voice, her breathing, her heart beating, her belly gurgles, her blood flowing through her veins, feeling mommy's warmth, injesting her nutrition....ReplyDelete
Good for you! I wish I had had the strength as a FTM to be so bold and take control. It may not have saved my daughter, but perhaps would have given her some measure of comfort. I don't understand why they had the book about Kangaroo Care in the NICU for parents to read, then wouldn't let me do it.ReplyDelete
Awww, this made me cry. Precious little guy. Amazing Mama.ReplyDelete
What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing this.ReplyDelete
Cheri, I wanted to cry while I read this! I am so happy the NICU chapter is over!! Love ya girl! Kiss that lil miracle for me! <3<3<3<3ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing your amazing story and I am ecstatic that you followed your maternal instinct and saved your son. May he only go from strength to strength. It really brought tears to my eyes, I had two children in NICU for immature lungs and another complication with one of them, and I can really relate. Modern medicine is life saving in many ways - but also lacking in many others. Sometimes doctors and nurses are trained to look at things so mechanically that they lose the plot a little, especially when pronouncing death sentences.ReplyDelete
Wow, I couldn't stop my tears from flowing as I read your story. Way to go, Mom! A baby, any child, NEEDS the loving touch of his mommy and daddy to grow healthy. That's what a healthy home is. One that shows love to it's members above all. Oh, thank you Jesus for touching this babies' little life, and helping mommy to know just what little Sam needed to live. He is an awesome God. Thanks for sharing this awesome story.ReplyDelete
I just can't help but think that they need to start with the assumption that the baby is going to have constant contact from a loved one and THEN come up with their treatment, not come up with a treatment that will require no one touch or otherwise stimulate them. That stimulation is the primary and most important medicine/nourishment. You are brave and wonderful to have instinctively known and given just what Sam needed.ReplyDelete
I'm in tears reading your story...thank you so much for sharing! I can't imagine being in your shoes - you are so awesome for following your instincts. Hugs to you mama..ReplyDelete
Thanks for sharing this. Your story and the pictures of Sam almost made me want to cry. Medical technology and all its machines has caused us to lose touch with ourselves. The human touch, the connection between mother and child, is so powerful. Good for you for stepping in and fighting for your son.ReplyDelete
I am an old Friend of Monica's and I followed your stories about Sam all the way through. I am so happy to see the progress that he has made. Now you can finally enjoy him and his wonderful qualities.. Way to go.. your story has brought tears of sadness to me and now tears of joy that he is home!!ReplyDelete
I love your story! I have no doubt that holding him against you all those hours helped to regulate his breathing and healed him.ReplyDelete
I cant begin to tell you how much this touched me. My son was also born at 25 weeks 6 days, weighing 2 lbs 1 oz.ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing this!
I just read this at work and am hiding in my office with tears streaming down my face. I can't imagine watching my baby go through that. This is proof that a mother's love, touch and instinct are the most important and life saving things in the world for a baby. Thank you for sharing.ReplyDelete
This is very touching because the baby at any age needs to be secure. In 67 years I have never revealed what I know about the stage in life that is considered impossible to know. I do not know exactly when my memory began but it was not erased at 2 as most children are.ReplyDelete
I remember great turmoil and suddenly my eyes were scalded with bright light. My eyes were scalded again and blurred but it cleared and the pain stopped I understand that some eye disinfectant was routinely used. My first fear was an extreme fear as I tried to breathe but could not. Breath came. Suddenly my whole body was in intense painful ache. I was circumcised at birth and that surgery definitely is in an area of pain nerves.
If I, just one person, remember these things then all babies must experience them and be effected by them even if no memory persists.
Coddle your babies, touch them, talk and sing to them. They will be affected even if they do not remember.
Thankyou for sharing a beautiful story. Just shows what love can do.ReplyDelete
I am super speechless after reading this story. A mother's love and touch can really cure everything. If only I had the chance to read this blog last year my best friend would have the possibility also that her child will be alive. Your situation also is the same as with her. And the worst thing is that she didn't see her baby until the baby was dead.
How wonderful! Just goes to show what can happen when the power of a mother's instinct overcomes all the odds. This is beauty personified. Best wishes, JulieanneReplyDelete
in the 30's my grandfather was born at 7 months gestation, and sent home to die. his momma kepy im alive and he is te father of 4, grandfather of 8 and great grandfather to 13. way to go momma!ReplyDelete
Just another experience that shows medicine isn't always the answer. Sure we need it many times. But love is so much more powerful. Wonderful momma to do what her instincts told her. Sam is beautiful!ReplyDelete
Babies need their mamas. Your instinct saved your baby and the doctors and nurses 'expertise' couldn't ever replace that. GOOD FOR YOU!!! Yay!!!!!!!ReplyDelete
LOVE this! My 3rd child was put into NICU after he inhaled fluid after birth. They kept poking and proding him and wouldn't let me see. Finally, I told the nurse that I was going to rip out my catheter and walk down to the NICU if they didn't let me see him immediately (I gave birth around 11am, didn't see him until 4pm for 10 minutes and not again until 3am). They agreed. I IMMEDIATELY pulled my gown down and placed him on me..skin to skin. The nurses didnt' want me to nurse him...I didn't listen. He was rooting and I indulged. Within 2 hours, everything had gone to normal and wires, tubes, etc were being taken off. We went home less than 24 hours later! He'll be 1 in a couple of weeks. So glad you listened to your momma gut!!!!ReplyDelete
Thank you so much for sharing that. All the best for you, beautiful mum, your strong wee boy and your loving family. There is nothing we can't do with love! Thank you!!!!!!ReplyDelete
I was horrified to read about the effects of the paralytic and sedative. It sounded more like abuse than treatment to me, especially when he was being shaken!ReplyDelete
I'm so glad you listened to your instincts and poured all your love into your baby. You saved him for sure!
Another micromom here. We rooed when he went down hill too.. he was 5 weeks old. He survived the night when they didn't think he would make the hour. The next time I held him he was 11 weeks old. He is now 15 months old, at home and growing. :DReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing. This is absolutely beautiful. Mum's have strength that we don't know until it's needed.ReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing this ! I too was a premature baby. I was 14 Weeks early myself. Please keep updates coming !ReplyDelete
thank you this wonderful story. my son was very sick and in the nicu and all my instincts told me to hold and cuddle and breastfeed him i rarely left him and held him constantly he left the hospital in 5 days for an infection that should have kept him there for a couple weeks. my baby is now 4 and the sweetest little man.ReplyDelete