“Prematurity was a journey I never planned or expected to take. But because of this journey we witnessed a true miracle grow and thrive right before our eyes. It was the hardest yet most rewarding experience of my life.”
Gunner Christopher Orr – our miracle baby. Born May 24, 2019 at 31 weeks due to severe preeclampsia, weighing only 2lbs 3oz. Gunnar’s birth story is nothing like I had expected. Within two days of being admitted into the hospital, we were told our baby was going to be born by emergency c-section or else he (and I) were not going to survive.
Learn more about Gunner’s amazing NICU journey…
We were told that he was going to be small, weighing in as a 28- weeker because my body had “failed to give him the nutrients he needed in order to grow.” All I heard at that point was that my body had “failed him”. The amount of grief and fear I was feeling in that moment is still hard to put into words. No mother ever wants to hear that her body failed at keeping her baby safe. Once Gunnar was born they rushed him off to the NICU and my arms were left empty and my heart broken. All I wanted to do was hold my baby. They instantly put him on oxygen and worked hard in keeping our baby boy alive. It took 7 long days before I was able to hold Gunnar in my arms.
Once I felt his skin against mine, my heart began to feel whole again. Holding his tiny 2lb body and feeling how hard he was working to breath reminded me that I needed to be strong for him. If he was fighting to live, I was fighting too. My primary purpose is to keep him safe, be his biggest cheerleader and advocate and provide him with an abundance of love, no matter how scared I felt.
On Gunnar’s second day of life the doctors had removed his oxygen and he was breathing on his own. We were blown away! Little did we know that at the time we picked out his name that the definition meant “Warrior” and that is EXACTLY what Gunnar is; he is a true warrior. He beat the odds and fought his way through the 37 days he was in the NICU.
Some days he had setbacks and other days he hit milestones. Every day was so different and I found that the only thing consistent while being in the NICU was change. That was something I had to continually tell myself in order to get through most days. We were told that if Gunnar could successfully do bottle feedings and master the “suck, swallow, and breathe” then we were one step closer to being discharged and taking him home with us.
Around week four I asked the nurses if we could try bottle feedings. I was determined to get my baby out of there and my mama instinct told me that he was ready. At first the nurses wanted to wait but I insisted they try. So they did and what do ya know? His first bottle went amazing! He drank 20 ml’s without any D-sats or issues. I knew he could do it! And he did! Our warrior boy! That is when I learned that my “mama instincts” matter and that even though I am not a registered nurse or a doctor, I am his mother and THAT is one incredible super power!
On day 37 Gunnar was finally discharged and able to come home, weighing only 4lbs. He was small but he was mighty! I look back on our time in the NICU and I feel proud of my family. My husband and I walked through the scariest time of our life filled with a ton of faith and prayer. We not only showed up for Gunnar every single day, we showed up for each other. I was able to rely more on faith than on fear because I felt less alone. And I think Gunnar felt that from me every time I put his skin against mine. That is the most valuable advice I can give to my fellow preemie parents– hang on tight to your partner and battle the NICU together, as a team. And if you don’t have a partner, get connected with other mamas, friends, tribe of women who can relate and help carry you through one of the scariest times of your life. You don’t have to walk through this journey alone. And you shouldn’t have to. Lean in on the support around you as much as you can.
Although the birth of our son wasn’t anything like we had imagined I wouldn’t change it for the world. We learned so much about ourselves and about our son while in the NICU. We learned how to be patient parents and we were able to build a unique yet solid foundation for our family while watching Gunnar grow right before our eyes. We got to witness a true miracle and it was the hardest yet most rewarding experience of my life thus far.
Gunnar is an amazing boy that carries so much strength and resilience. I always tell my family and friends “Gunnar has Preemie Powers” and I truly believe that. He doesn’t even know how strong he is because being strong was his only option from day one. And because of that we now have this warrior boy who is going to continue to grow up and do remarkable things. I feel honored to be a part of the Preemie Parent Club and to be able to share our journey in hopes to help other parents going through similar feelings and fears with their preemie.