August 2021 – Preemie of the Month

Domenico Israel Martinez

“To our little boy who rocked our world before he was even born…Thank you for teaching me to be a better person, and an even better mom”.

So….our story starts on Sunday, January 27 2019. I was snuggling on the couch with my then 2 1/2 year old daughter and was 28 weeks pregnant with baby number 2. Both kiddos were IVF and pregnancies number 4 and 6 so we were over the moon blessed to have another little miracle added to our family. I got up to use the restroom, came back and felt a little gush of fluid. Since I am a scrub tech in labor and delivery I went back into the bathroom and triaged myself. Since there wasn’t any more subsequent fluid I chalked it up to me urinating on myself (which happened often) and went about my day. My day consisted of bridesmaids dress shopping for my cousin’s wedding to which I was Matron of Honor, a girls lunch, and back home to take a nap, eat a wonderful steak dinner, ice cream with my baby girl and getting everyone ready for the next day or work and daycare….until I started bleeding. Thinking that I just did too much that day, I told my husband, “I’ll be back. I’m just going to run in and get checked out…I’ll be right back.”

“Right back” turned into 5 weeks. It turns out I had broken my water at 28 weeks pregnant.

During the 5 weeks I was in the hospital, I only saw my daughter 2 or 3 times as it was flu season and children weren’t allowed in the hospital. I spent countless hours hooked up to fetal monitors, receiving IV fluids, antibiotics and being sent back and forth from antepartum to labor and delivery for bouts of bleeding. Then at 32 weeks and 6 days, on February 28th, I went into labor on my own and at 1:27pm my baby boy, Domenico Israel Martinez was born.

At 4 lbs. and 2 oz. Domenico was immediately whisked away to the NICU for interventions.

Over the next 12 hours I was called constantly to come down (I asked to be informed of absolutely everything) as he wasn’t able to keep his oxygen at a sufficient level and was on the edge of needing to be intubated. I finally went downstairs and asked to do skin-to-skin with my little man and we had a talk! After that he turned the corner and CPAP was absolutely enough.

Over the next 24 days, I was at the NICU twice a day once in the early morning and once at night after our daughter had gone to bed so I wasn’t leaving her, especially as I had to leave her for 5 weeks already. My husband was amazing as I would cry that I wanted our baby home. I felt guilty for being so upset while some babies are born at 25 weeks or are born with multiple problems that cause them to be in the NICU for months, or worse, some never come home. I should be able to emotionally handle our small but healthy feeder-grower!

When one of the nurses pulled me aside and told me it’s ok to think like a mom and not like a medical professional and that it was ok to be upset about our baby not being at home. It was ok to feel stressed out about what was going on in the NICU while I was trying to make up for lost time with my daughter. She told me that feeling all of those feelings and not allowing guilt to take over is the only way to survive the NICU life. And with those words, I cried again and told her how I didn’t even feel like his mom. This wonderful angel held me while I cried, while I reset my batteries and when I was ready she let me go take on the struggles of a NICU mom with a new sense of understanding and acceptance.

Finally the day came when we were told my little guy was coming home! The NICU team sang, “You’re a little NICU star” as we walked out and again I cried like a baby! He came home to his big sister who (eventually) loved on him as much as she possibly could. We navigated life as a family of 4 and settled into what would be a wild ride with our preemie. From NICU follow ups, to a hospital stay with RSV, to a surgery right before his 2nd birthday, our easy going boy has taught me how to sit back, ride the waves, and relax because it will all eventually be okay.

Now Domenico is a little over 2 years old and thriving! He is incredibly smart, and in the 75th percentile! Though speech therapy is something we have just started, he is growing perfectly. He has the biggest personality, loves annoying his big sister, and gives his mama and dada (he does say those words) all the snuggles we could ask for. We are so grateful for the wonderful nurses and doctors (whom I am lucky enough to call friends) that made sure my baby boy and I were safe and at the end, healthy. We can not thank them enough! My advice to other NICU moms is to allow yourselves to feel how you need to feel to cope. There isn’t a NICU informational manual on how to handle it, whatever it takes to cope….do it! One last thing, thank you to this community of NICU families who truly make you feel like you aren’t alone!