World Prematurity Day: Our Preemie Story



November 17th is World Prematurity Day and if I didn’t have a preemie in my life it would just be another day, but I do, so I am going to share her story.

Shortly after I had my first child I became pregnant with what was going to be Emma. My pregnancy was uneventful. I was tired from being a first time mom, had anxiety but otherwise all was going according to plan.

My children were supposed to be born days apart and that was OK with me. I am a strong believer in having children close in age and although it was a bit of a surprise we were happy with the news that our family was going to grow again so quickly.

When my son was 10 months old we decided to take him to the Toronto Zoo and spend the day there. We spent 5 hours going up and down small hills, looking at animals and enjoying ourselves. I felt fine and when we went to sleep that night little did we know what the next day would bring.

I remember waking up in the middle of the night to get a snack and taking my prenatal vitamin because I had forgotten to the day before. This was something that did not seem like a big deal at the time but in the morning it helped with what was going on.

I woke up and my side of the bed was wet. I don’t remember feeling a huge gush or anything, just figured I must have peed the bed. I got up to go to the washroom and as I was standing I kept having trickles of liquid come down my legs. I came back to our bedroom and told my husband what was happening and only with his encouragement did I go to the hospital to get checked out. At this point I had no idea what was going on.

I grabbed my health card, cell phone and money for a taxi and took the 2 minute drive to the hospital thinking I would be in and out within a few hours and able to make lunch for our family. Little did I know that withing 20 minutes of arriving they would be telling me my water broke and I would be admitted for who knows how long until the baby was delivered. I was 32 weeks pregnant, 5 weeks away from the safe zone of full term (37 weeks).

I remember calling my husband and telling him through tears what happened. I had no answers to his questions as I had not even processed what was happening myself. We were both crying and I told him I would call him when I knew more.

I was waiting to be admitted when I decided to run away from the hospital and go home and get some more things and make sure all was well with hubby and my son. I remember walking into our apartment and they were both crying and reality kind of kicked in. I quickly gathered my essentials and got ready to go back to the hospital to be admitted before I was found out to be MIA.

One week I stayed in the hospital before I was induced because of a fever (infection?). That one week gave the doctors time to pump me full of steroids so that the Emma’s lungs would form at a faster rate, and that one week gave me time to process what was going to happen.

I was induced at 8 PM and this was after being up for almost 48 hours with pain. After I got my epidural, my husband and I finally fell asleep in the delivery room, him beside me on a lounge chair.

At a little after 5 AM we were awoken by the sounds of alarms going off and the Labour and Delivery room was in chaos. There was nurses and doctors everywhere and everyone was scrambling. I remember asking what was going on and all I could hear was “baby is in distress”. She is not even born yet but already my child is in distress *heart breaks*

One of the nurses was in between my legs and she said she was just going to check the baby and the moment she looked I could see panic in her eyes. All she kept saying is ” don’t move, don’t push-your baby is out” and screaming for the doctor to hurry. I couldn’t have moved if my life depended on it at that point I was so numb from the epidural but to hear that is traumatizing.

The doctor came and got Emma while the rest of the room was scrambling to get the incubator ready and warm and the NICU team was trying to get in place in case something bad happened. There was no prep time, within a couple minutes of alarms Emma was born, big for a preemie, but with some trouble breathing.

So there is no holding your baby when they are born premature. They basically take her away to be checked and then because there was an issue she was whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I kept asking if she is okay and trying to decode all of the medical jargon that was being thrown around but I was lost. Within minutes she was gone and my hubby was following her down the hall to make sure all is ok.

It took a bit but he came back with some information. She was fine except for the breathing and it wasn’t that severe (she ended up going off the oxygen mask a few hours later). But at 33 weeks she could not eat on her own, they don’t know how to breath and eat at the same time so she had a feeding tube. Emma was born 4 lbs 11 oz which is large for her gestational age of 33 weeks. I think if full term she would have easily been a large baby like her older brother who was born 9 lbs 6 oz.


Emma was a fighter from the moment she was born, and while in the NICU she grew and flourished. She got jaundice (yellow skin) and had a light in her incubator to help her out. She was ready to go home 10 days after she was born but I noticed something during one of my visits that would push back discharge another week and a half.

She kept pulling out all of her wires and tubes and on one of her wrists there was a large bump. I called the nurse over and she was playing around with the mass when pus started to ooze out of it. She had developed an infection and would have to stay. *le cry*

There are a few things I learned with my preemie experience:

  1. Unlike most births, you don’t pack up you and baby and leave the hospital on day 2 together. You leave alone with the promise to be back in a few hours to visit and bring milk.
  2. My relationship with Emma was seriously damaged because I didn’t get that bonding time with her at the very beginning. It took years for me to truly connect with her. This is honest and although it may sound horrible, I never knew how important it was to have skin-to-skin until I didn’t have it.
  3. I am so thankful that I had a hospital grade Medela breast pump so that I could give Emma breast milk when she needed it most. It was with the help of the NICU nurses and Social Worker that wrote letters to my insurance company that I was able to get one and I truly believe that it made a world of a difference. Especially when we later realized Emma was lactose intolerant and couldn’t stomach normal formula.
  4. Preemies are delicate. They can be taking many steps forward when one little setback will take them back to step one. Patience is a virtue.
  5. Emma was cross-eyed…for a while (months?). She was odd to look at and thankfully she grew out of this when her eyes developed more.
  6. She was also very fuzzy. That baby hair that is supposed to shed by the time you deliver your full term baby was still covering mine when she was born and I was really worried that my husband’s Iranian genes really screwed her over.
  7. Having other children that had to be cared for while having a preemie in the NICU takes loads of multitasking. He was not always allowed to visit and when he was there we had to make sure he was on his best behavior as not to disturb the other families.
  8. You are tired from all of these visits and your mind is scattered. I got in an accident driving to see my Emma a few days before she was released and that is never fun.
  9. Every time that Emma met a milestone or when we could finally get her out of her preemie clothes into size 0-3 months was a cause for celebration. She was a miracle and would continue to amaze us to this day.
  10. You will love that little preemie so much, they will make your heart expand in so many ways that you could not even imagine, and they will fight. They will fight to be heard, they will fight to grow, and they will thrive.
    At 1 Emma was the size of most 1 year olds

    At 1 Emma was the size of most 1 year olds

I now know many preemies, and they all hold something in common. They are all doing great. No matter what the circumstances were at birth and how grim the picture looked then, now they are all meeting the same milestones that others their ages are (In my opinion and from what I see). Love my preemie!


At 5, she is my heart!

Aneta Alaei
Aneta Alaei

Aneta is a Toronto-based mom of four that loves a good meal, great company, and learning something new. In her free time, you can find her trying to keep yet another plant alive.

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  1. November 18, 2014 / 2:01 am

    Oh wow you went through it with this little one but like you said she is a fighter and looks healthy and happy.

  2. November 18, 2014 / 4:11 am

    My daughter was a preemie, born at 34 weeks weighing 4lbs 10oz. However I was fortunate enough to take her home the next day, as she passed all her test.

  3. November 18, 2014 / 3:05 pm

    emma is so darling, what a beautiful story!

  4. Victoria Ess
    November 9, 2015 / 9:34 pm

    What a lovely story and thank you for sharing it. Emma is a beautiful little girl!