It was mid September and our Malena Lola was doing great.

SootherShe now weighed 3.25 kilos (7.17 lbs) and was still thriving with breastfeeding and bottle feeding. We were working our way to breastfeeding on demand only.

She was no longer on a ventilator but on external CPAP with heated humidity, which was a wonderful improvement. This meant her tiny-mighty lungs were getting stronger and we were one one step closer to going home.

Yes, home.

I was finally starting allow myself to think about having our little girl home. I had tried not to think about that too much before because I knew we were a long way from getting there. But now, seeing her improve and grow so well, I started to feel that it was possible that my baby girl would come home for Christmas.

That was my goal. I felt it was realistic because it allowed time for her to get to where she needed to be to come home, and it gave Brad and I time to prepare everything on our end.

Of course when I even mentioned the thought of my baby girl coming home to the doctors, they were all extremely serious and told me that having her home for Christmas was a long shot at best, practically impossible.

By then I had already learned that my expectations always exceeded the doctors expectations. 

I was determined to do all I could do to get my baby girl home by Christmas.

Soother 2In the meantime, my goal was to get her just breastfeeding on demand and off the CPAP. 

Once baby girl was off the heated CPAP, we would be able to get her onto a portable machine for home instead of the hospital heated CPAP which was attached to the wall. Once baby girl was free form the hospital walls, literally, there would be no reason for her to stay at the hospital. And I fully believed she was capable of achieving that.

It would take a bit of pushing the doctors and RTs (Respiratory Technicians) to sprint her off her current machines.

It would be a process, but I was sure she could do it.

I remember thinking about winter coming and that meant that RSV and flu season would start, and every sick child would be in that hospital. I did not want to keep my baby girl around RSV, flu, pneumonia, bronchitis…etc.

I had no doubt that baby girl would be safer at home.

I started by asking the doctors questions and learning what the criteria was for baby girl to come home. It was nearly impossible to get any straight answers. It was almost as if they wanted to keep in the hospital as long as possible. They did not believe baby girl would be ready to go home in December.

I disagreed.

I realized this wasn’t going to be easy so I contacted the Social Worker and our Home Care Case Worker.

I began learning all about what Brad and I needed to do as parents to be ready for our baby girl to come home.

In the meantime, I kept breastfeeding my baby girl and pushing to reduce the bottles more and more so that we could get to the point where she was breastfeeding only. The nurses weighed her daily and she was consistently gaining weight, so we were on the right track.

She was even outgrowing her preemie clothes! It was time to get baby girl newborn sized clothes. That was a wonderful milestone. I was really excited to buy her clothes. I hadn’t been able to really do that until now, so I decided to go shopping for my baby girl.

I remember it was Sunday morning on September 19th, I woke up very early as usual and called the hospital first thing to check on baby girl. She was doing fantastic and was still sleeping. I told her nurse that I would be in shortly.

When I got to the hospital, baby girl was awake and playing. I spent a couple of hours with her, she was happy and smiling as usual. My sister Melisa arrived and spent some time with us. Auntie Melisa had brought baby girl a dress from her trip to Jamaica and we put it on her.

It was so much fun to see her in a dress! Her first dress!

We played and I breastfed baby girl. Then she fell asleep. My sister and I were waiting for her nap time to pop over to the mall.

I let the nurse know that I would be stepping our for an hour or two at the most, as I would be going to the nearby mall to get some new clothes for baby girl. I left her changed, fed and asleep in her crib.

After 30 minutes at the mall I got a phone call. I saw the number and I immediately knew it was the hospital. My heart started racing.

They hospital never called unless something was wrong.

I answered and a lady introduced herself as the Director of the PICU. I started feeling my heart pounding and the fear rushing through my body. I cut her off immediately and asked her if my baby girl was OK. She said yes, but there had been an accident.

I cut her off again and I ask her if my baby girl was breathing OK.

She said yes but she had accidentally slid off her chair and her trach came off.

At this point I start hyperventilating. I try to not yell, but I am too nervous. I remember asking what happened really loud and my sister  asking me what was wrong. I could hardly think at that point.

I was so scared. I told my sister we had to go to the hospital right away.

I told the lady on the phone that I was on my way and hung up.

Luckily we were not far so in just a few minutes we arrived at the hospital. I ran to the PICU and straight into my baby girl’s room. She was sleeping.

An RT (Respiratory Technician) was with her and a nurse. I asked them how she was doing. They assured me that she was alright. I asked them what happened and then the Director of the PICU came to see me and explained the incident.

I was shaking.

Apparently baby girl woke up and her nurse decided to put her in her chair on the crib, but forgot to strap her in.

Yes, she forgot to strap her in. I know…unbelievable.

And then left baby girl there and an RT walked by and saw baby girl in a very awkward position, with the bottom half of her little body on the crib while her head rested on the bottom of her chair.

She had obviously moved and slid off the chair and onto the crib. The problem was that the tubes from her trach were attached to the wall and not mobile, so her trach had been pulled out and her sats were low. She was struggling to breathe.

The RT immediately reacted and put her trach back in and made sure she was breathing well again.

As I was listening to the details of the incident I tried to stay calm, but I could feel the anger in my body…

I was so scared that she would have lacked oxygen…

The PICU Director assured me that it was only a matter of seconds and that there were no negative consequences for my baby girl. She apologized to me repeatedly and said that we could have a meeting later to discuss it further and decide on what we wanted to do about the nurse.

I did not care to discuss anything further at that moment. I didn’t want to see that nurse right now. I was too mad.

I just wanted to hold my baby girl.

A part of me knew this was an accident BUT IT should never have happened.

How could the nurse forget to strap her in?
What if the RT hadn’t seen my baby girl at that moment?

I couldn’t help have horrible thoughts pouring into my mind. It had taken me months to feel somewhat comfortable leaving my baby girl in the hospital without feeling extremely scared and guilty. And now this…

The one day I decided to go out for an hour or two this horrible incident happened…I felt guilty again.

I shouldn’t have gone, I should have been there.
If I had been there this would not have happened.
Why did I leave?

I cried. The thought of losing my baby girl was unthinkable.

I was angry. But most of all I felt tired.

I was tired of having my baby girl in the hospital.
I was tired of strangers looking after my baby girl.
I was tired of the doctors always being against moving forward and setting limits on my baby girl.

I knew at that moment that I had to get my baby girl home. She was past the stage where she needed to be at the hospital. She would be safer at home. It was time.

Then baby girl opened her eyes and gave me a smile. We both knew.

It was time to fight a new battle. It was time to fight to bring her home.

I told her how much I loved her and how sorry I was that she had to go through such a scary moment.

I picked her up and held her tight.

Holding my baby girl after such a scary moment filled me with hope and strength again. I was so grateful that she was well.

All my fears and guilt disappeared. All I felt was love, hope and determination.

I was going to have her home by Christmas and no doctor or hospital staff was going to stop me.

I then gave explicit instruction and also made signs in her room that my baby girl was not to be placed anywhere other than her crib unless I was present.

I also requested that the nurse responsible for the incident never care for my baby girl again.

My momma warrior armor was back on.

Life in the NICU begins

Malena Lola’s sign on her pod at the NICU.

After lying for an hour in the post op area I was able to go see my baby girl, Malena Lola. It felt like the longest hour ever.

I still couldn’t move so I had to be taken on a wheel chair me on the post op bed. One of the nurses helped him open the doors through the hospital corridors. We started making our way over to the NICU – Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.


I had heard the doctors and the nurses say this word many times in the last few hours. It was a new word for me. I had never really thought about the NICU before. I had never really thought about preemie babies either.

As I was being rolled down the hospital halls, I wondered what the NICU would be like. My body was still feeling numb from the epidural but my mind was clear and anxious. I needed to see my baby girl.

I remember arriving at the NICU entrance and seeing signs everywhere.
Signs indicating we had to wash our hands for 2 minutes.
Signs indicating we had to put on a gown before entering.
Signs indicating you were not allowed into the NICU if you had any symptoms of illness.

It was all very daunting.

There was a big sink with several taps, and a special soap and scrubbing brushes.
I couldn’t reach the sink as I was laying on the post op bed still, so I sanitized my hands. I remember using a lot of it sanitizer. I was scared of bringing any germs to my baby girl.

I could feel the anxiety and desire building up. I was so excited to see her.

What would she look like?
Would she look like a normal baby?
Would she have any neurological problems?

I had no idea what to expect. I remember we used to lovingly and jokingly call her our little alien after we saw her in the first ultrasound.

Would she look like in the ultrasound, like a cute little alien?
Would I be able to hold her?

There was a big reception desk where they told us she was in isolette 36. I later learned that isolette is another term for incubator.

The receptionist buzzed the door open. So many thoughts rushing through my mind as I entered the NICU.

I was surprised to see how big it was. There was a long hall to both sides and many areas called pods, each with 4 incubators with babies in them. Nurses and doctors walking around. Other parents by the incubators. I kept looking around trying to find incubator 36. That is all I wanted. My baby girl.

I could see a sign that said 36. My heart started racing.

Brad rolled my bed right next to her incubator so I could see her. The incubator had a special cover, as they were keeping baby girl in the dark. I remember the cover had little giraffes on it. Brad lifted the covers and I saw her.

At that moment, I completely forgot about my c-section stitches, about being in the NICU, about her being born way too early. I forgot about everything that had just happened. All of my being was in awe of my baby girl.

She was absolutely perfect. I was amazed at her perfect little hands. Perfect little feet. And she had so much hair! Dark hair. Like me.

Malena Lola is all set up in her new home outside mommy’s belly – the incubator.

 I felt so much love. More love than I ever knew possible.

I could feel the emotion bubbling up inside, but I was determined not to cry. I remember I only wanted to share love, positivity and hope. It wasn’t an intellectual decision. It was just natural instinct. I had the certainty that she could feel everything I felt.

I told her how beautiful she was. How grateful I was that she was in my life. How proud I was of her strength and desire to live. I told her how much I loved her. I told her mommy was here. I told her everything was going to be alright.

When I look back at that moment, I am surprised at how calm I was.

I was not so shocked at how tiny she was. I was not so freaked out by how skinny she was by the many tubes, IVs or cables attached to her. I was only focused on loving her and making sure she felt safe. Making sure she felt our positive energy. Our belief in her.

I can touch my little angel’s perfect little feet for the first time.

When I look these pictures now, a year and a half later, I always cry. Now I can let myself feel the emotion. I can see just how fragile and tiny she was.

Tiny but mighty, as I used to call her.

I asked the nurse if I could touch her. I had to put my hands through special side openings on the incubator and held my hands over her. I wanted to touch her so much but I was afraid. I was told I shouldn’t caress her skin but pat it instead, as it is very sensitive and a caress would feel like being stroked while sunburned.

I kept my hands floating close to her. She was the size of the palm of my hand. I gently held her hand. I could feel her energy. I was overwhelmed with love.

Holding her hand for the first time.

It was hard to contain the desire to hold her in my arms, to kiss her, to cuddle her. But I knew that she needed to be in the incubator. That was now her “warm belly”.

As I looked at my baby girl, I started thinking about breastfeeding. I could see she was receiving intravenous nutrients and lipids. She also had a feeding tube through her nose that went straight into her tummy.

I asked the nurse if she would be able to drink my breast milk and she said yes. That made me feel very happy. But I also started wondering about my body after such a premature birth.

Would I have any milk for her?
Would my body know to make milk even if she was so early?

I knew I had to start pumping immediately.

I made it my mission to have milk for my baby girl. As soon as I went back to my room, I asked for a pump and started pumping every 3 hours, day and night.

I think the fact that I felt I was doing something to help nurture my baby girl, even though she was no longer in my womb, made me relieve some of the anguish of not being able to hold her and be with her all the time.

As I lay in my room, I couldn’t help feel sad that I couldn’t breast feed her.

That was another image I had to let go off. I forced myself not to think about that and to keep focusing on the pumping.

Every 3 hours I would pump a few drops of colostrum and slowly make my way to the NICU to drop it off. I wanted to do this myself. I didn’t want the nurses taking it. I wanted to feel I was doing something for her. It made me feel good. It gave me comfort.

There was a fridge inside the NICU and many tray’s with each baby’s name on it. I would carry my little bit of colostrum and leave it in Malena Lola’s tray, and then I would go see her.

I felt a sense of purpose and pride doing this. I felt I was following my natural instinct.

I did this without exception every 3 hours, day and night. I had instructed the nurses to wake me up every 3 hours to pump. Looking back, I don’t know how I managed to do this with a recent c-section. But I did. I can only say that at the time it felt like there was a force inside me It was bigger than me. It energized me. It guided me. It kept me connected to my baby girl. It made me feel useful. It helped me stay positive. It dissipated the fear and the guilt.

It made it less painful to have to leave my baby girl in the NICU and go back to my room when all I really wanted to do was hold her close to me.

But having to leave her in the NICU was always hard. Really hard.

That first night was tough to get through.

I remember watching her sleep in her isolette.
I wanted to crawl in there and cuddle her.

Malena Lola cozy and safe in her isolette.

 I asked her nurse when I would be able to hold her and she said in a couple of days if she remained stable, we would start kangaroo care – which is skin to skin contact.

The thought of being able to hold my baby girl in my arms felt amazing. I couldn’t wait to start kangaroo care!

Sweet dreams my tiny mighty warrior.

Mommy would dream of kangaroos that night.