Jeanelle and LJ were over the moon after finding out they were expecting baby Nixon. But in the blink of an eye, they went from celebrating the beginning of a nine month journey to suddenly going into labour 16 weeks earlier than expected.
A routine 23 week ultrasound on the afternoon of December 16, 2015 showed alarming news. Baby Nixon was about to arrive. While he appeared to be a healthy baby growing at a steady pace, Jeanelle was kept in hospital so that doctors could monitor the situation.
“The doctors were unsure of when I was going to deliver, but they knew it was going to be early,” says Nixon’s mom Jeanelle. “I didn’t know what to expect because he was my first baby. I was getting contractions at 23 weeks and I was terrified.”
Doctors broke the news to the young Saskatoon parents that chances of survival are dangerously low for a baby born at 23 weeks. They were given two devastating options: either let him go, or deliver the baby immediately and give him a fighting chance at life, though it would be a steep uphill battle. Jeanelle and LJ opted to bring their baby into the world and have him fully resuscitated. Only three hours after the ultrasound, Nixon was determined to make his appearance and arrived measuring 11 1/2 inches long and weighing only one pound, eight ounces.
He was immediately rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where he was hooked up to machines that barely fit his tiny body. On the way out, he was wheeled up to Jeanelle’s bedside so that she could get a brief glimpse of her fragile yet bold little fighter. It was only a five second moment shared between mom and baby before he was whisked away. Jeanelle then watched her baby leave the room and could only hope that she would see him alive again. Three hours later, Jeanelle and Nixon were finally able to meet him for the first time. She remembers it as one of the most surreal and shocking moments of her life.
“It was scary,” Jeanelle remembers with tears. “I didn’t know what to think. At that time I didn’t know a baby that small could survive.”
For 12 weeks, Nixon was incubated and couldn’t breathe on his own. The first few weeks gave Jeanelle and LJ relief, however, as he was fighting for his life and seemed to do so effortlessly. Doctors called it the ‘honeymoon stage’, where everything flows smoothly and baby marks a positive progression. Each and every day he proved that he was a fighter, until the three month mark when Nixon suddenly developed complications. He developed an infection, swelled up with edema and went from two pounds to five pounds in liquid weight.
Jeanelle and LJ were once again given some devastating news. All medications that doctors were trying weren’t working, and there was only one option left. If the medication didn’t work, doctors were going to give Nixon three days before asking mom and dad if they wanted to disconnect his life support.
“It was something nobody should have to hear, but on the third day the medication finally kicked in full force and he had a complete turnaround. Things went back to normal and was smooth sailing from there,” explains Jeanelle. “He was growing after that but that was such a huge scare.”
Nixon continued on and was finally able to go home after four and a half months of fighting and after reaching milestones such as coming off the ventilators and onto nasal prongs. Bringing him home was the beginning of a brand new adventure for Jeanelle and LJ, and the days of loneliness without their baby nearby were finally over.
“When we brought him home, it was almost as if I had given birth to a brand new baby. I don’t think I slept for the first week because it terrified me to not have the medical staff around anymore. We were on our own,” says Jeanelle. “We were so dependent on the monitors and I was used to seeing his heart and breathing rate whenever, but we didn’t have that anymore. At the hospital it didn’t feel like we were full time parents, but after bringing him home it sunk in that it was our turn.”
As scary as it is to take care of a vulnerable baby like Nixon, Jeanelle and LJ have taken on the challenge and devote every minute to making sure he is on track. The family is now healthy, happy and thriving. Nixon has grown up into a 20 month old baby who loves to laugh, babble and is very active.
When asked about advice for other parents with a premature baby, Jeanelle points out the strength it takes to get through each day going forward, especially when the unexpected happens to you.
“Be there for your baby as much as you can,” says Jeanelle. “Take whatever support is available, whether it’s family, friends or people that you don’t even know who come up to you and are just there for you. It’s hard, but you just have to keep pushing through and keep having hope for your baby.”