Our son was born nearly 3 1/2 months early, weighing less than 2 lbs. We didn’t even make it to the third trimester. We almost lost him several times starting at 12 weeks into the pregnancy. By 17 weeks it was likely he would not make it. As we clung on until 25 weeks, my only job was to stay in bed to keep him alive. That’s easier than it sounds when you already have 2 young children and a full time job. When a full placenta abruption came, both of our lives were in danger. Jacob was born completely unresponsive, but was resuscitated and began pushing back tiny breaths by the time he reached the NICU. I received a massive blood transfusion and excellent care. On our day of distress, our prayers were answered; God protected Jacob.
Our NICU journey lasted 91 days. Jacob grew extremely well, but required ongoing respiratory support for his underdeveloped lungs. He had an amazing first 2 weeks, then a prolonged pneumonia, so serious that we couldn’t even hold him for 4 weeks. I watched his heart stop more times than I could count. Sometimes it could be jolted back to a steady beat with a quick foot rub. Other times it involved a full NICU team and all their equipment. During all those days of distress, God protected Jacob.
Throughout our NICU journey, we secretly hoped and prayed Jacob would come home for Christmas. We were afraid to ask or say it out loud. When he came home a week before Christmas, he was attached to an oxygen tank and the familiar beeps and wires of the NICU, but we didn’t care, at least he was home. It was the happiest day of our lives and we still celebrate “Homecoming Day” in our family every year. We rejoiced because God protected Jacob.
The following months and years brought us joy as Jacob overcame his traumatic birth, but also isolation and sacrifice. Every milestone he achieved was extra special considering they were harder fought. But over time, all the extra doctors appointments, unexpected hospitalizations, surgeries, evaluations, therapies, and constant worry changed us as parents. It became difficult to have relationships or even conversations with other parents because their everyday joys and struggles were vastly different than ours. Our other two children unknowingly had to give up much of their normal childhood, but they were fiercely protective of Jacob and learned early on what matters most. During all those days of distress, God protected Jacob. And he protected our family as well.
As Jacob transitioned from early intervention to preschool programs and therapies, we kept waiting and working to help Jacob to catch up. We thought everything would be better when he reached this milestone or that. People often said he was caught up or almost caught up. But we learned there is no magical age or future state. Extremely premature babies called micro preemies usually have lifelong effects of being born way too early. Jacob is now 8 years old. If you were to meet him for the first time, you might not believe his history. He reads well above grade level and tested in the 97th percentile in standardized math this year. He is a talented competitive swimmer. He is a good friend and is full of contagious joy. But Jacob has had years of speech, occupational and vision therapy that continues even now. The first few months of every school year is always difficult for Jacob to adjust and for his new teachers to figure out how to work with him. No stage or year of his life has been “normal.” But in all those seasons of distress, God protects Jacob.
Jacob is often called a miracle baby. He has overcome so much and constantly amazes us. He is a miracle, but we don’t want his story to be that he was born extremely early and he is ok, so therefore your preemie or your friend’s preemie will be ok too. That’s not a true representation of our experience, and that type of story did not give us real comfort in our early days in the NICU. Our story is that Jacob struggled immensely. We all did. But we also have immense gratitude, blessings and joy. Jacob’s struggles are not over and his miracle is still in progress.
We often remember Jacobs past trials to pray with him about his current worries. The God who faithfully protected Jacob all those days he was in distress will certainly be with him when he faces the next challenge. Likewise, we pray God’s protection for our friends and family and anyone who hears Jacob’s story. “May the Lord answer you when you are in distress. May the name of the God of Jacob protect you,” Psalm 20:1
Hello and Welcome to Share. Thank you so much for sharing Jacob's story with us. He sounds like an awesome little boy! I think you made a great point about the struggles of all preemies and how no two of them are alike. While many preemies can go on, like Jacob, to accomplish amazing things, it isn't without work and sacrifice on everyone's parts. Sending you tons of strength as your journey continues.
Love and Hugs
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