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Scarlett's First Birthday

It’s amazing to me that one year ago today I gave birth to my first child, my baby girl, Scarlett Patrica Bray. People try to prepare you for what it’s like to become a parent, but there’s nothing that can get your prepared for the joy and love that comes with becoming a parent (or the sleep deprivation, but that’s not the point!)

As much as this past year has been truly amazing (because it really really has been) reflecting on what I went through one year ago shows me that no matter how difficult or scary a situation may be, you will do whatever you can for the health, safety, and well-being of your child. Here’s a bit of my story of bringing this beautiful baby girl into this world.

At around 26 weeks into my pregnancy, I developed gestational hypertension: high blood pressure brought on by pregnancy. It didn’t come as a complete surprise considering my mother developed the same disease when she was pregnant with me almost 28 years ago. Even though I knew this was a possibility for my own pregnancy, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little scared. We monitored my blood pressure closely but at my doctor’s appointment 3 days after my baby shower, I was admitted to Labor and Delivery at Hartford Hospital. My gestation hypertension had officially developed into preeclampsia, a dangerous disease that affects both mom and baby.

Growing up, I had heard many stories about what my mother went through when she gave birth to me at 30 weeks gestation, where I was delivered via c section and weighed a mere 3lbs 2oz. Now here I was, literally going through everything she had described. Actions were quick and after seeing how high my blood pressure was, the doctors decided that I was not going to be going home until I had my baby. Panic definitely set in. I wasn’t ready to be a mom….I hadn’t even changed a diaper yet! But ready or not, Scarlett was on her way to the world.

That next morning, after being induced and receiving my epidural the doctors realized that the baby’s heartrate was dropping after each contraction. With an hour of no improvement, they decided that Scarlett needed to come out immediately. Before I knew it, I was laying in the operating room having a cesarean.

Now I will spare you all the details of my difficult recovery. The important part is that my daughter was born, on April 5, 2016 at 11:20am weighing 3lbs and 11 oz (a whopping 7 oz more than I was at birth.)  Although she had been delivered successfully, I knew we still had a long road ahead of us. Now we had to focus on getting her well and getting her home.

The doctors told me she was doing well; Scarlett was breathing on her own. The tubes that were in her nose were just providing assistance. I was told I could touch her so I hesitantly opened the little door on the side of the incubator and carefully reached my hand in. Part of me was so afraid to touch her. She looked so small and fragile. I gently put my finger near her and almost instantly she wrapped her tiny hand around it. I fell in love immediately.

Our journey in the NICU was an emotional rollercoaster. Every day we saw the incredible progress Scarlett was making. Day by day she was eating more and before we knew it the feeding tubes were removed. Once she started taking feedings by mouth, slowly but surely she gained weight and both Dave and I would cheer for her accomplishments.

Though we had many great moments, it was also a time of great stress. Her monitor would go off multiple times a day and our hearts would skip a beat never knowing if something was wrong or if the sensor was just loose. I even broke down one day and blamed it on hormones. But the doctors and nurses were incredibly supportive, letting me know that both Scarlett and I were doing the best we possibly could.

Every day that we were in the NICU, and we were in there EVERY DAY (sometimes even twice a day) the doctors and nurses who cared for Scarlett were also caring for us. They were teaching us not only about her development, but it was as if they teaching us how to be first time parents. We were taught techniques on different positions for feedings and burping, how to take her temperature, how to give her a bath, and yes, I finally learned out to change a diaper. As her release day approached, the education continued. We learned about SIDS prevention, infant CPR, and car seat safety.

Finally, a day at the end of April came where we were told that Scarlett would be able to come home in 2 days! She was WAY ahead of her due date so Dave and I scrambled to get the house ready. While doing so we received a call from one of the doctors who told us that Scarlett had stopped breathing and the nurses had to intervene. Although this was common, the hospital was obligated to keep her for at least another week. Dave and I were incredibly disappointed but we figured that it was better for something like that to happen in the NICU, where she was safely being monitored by professionals than at home with us. We wanted Scarlett to come home when she was absolutely ready.

Before we knew it, a week had come and gone and on May 2 Scarlett came home. Looking back now, we can’t believe how far she has come. How far we have all come. The memories of my premature labor and delivery are a mixture of a dream and a nightmare. But when we see our gorgeous baby girl smile and hear laugh, we know that it was all worth the stress and fear.

It’s amazing to me now that Scarlett is growing so quickly and is such a light of pure joy. She has forever changed my life for the better. I love you Scarlett, more than anything in the whole world.

Check out the images below from her photo shoot celebrating her first birthday and the party we through her last weekend as well as a couple of when she was first born. Also, if you would like, you can click here to donate to The March of Dimes to support NICUs and the care of premature babies like Scarlett.

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