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Hoping to avoid this very scenario, Missie had been bed-ridden in the hospital for a month. But Noah — that’s what they decided to name their son on the way to the hospital after a conversation about the possibility of their son dying — had severe intrauterine growth restriction, which meant that his rate of growth was less than three percent than other babies the same gestational age.
The doctors had been monitoring his growth for weeks as it plummeted from 10 percent to five percent and then three percent. And that night, they decided that it would be better for Noah to do his growing outside the womb than inside.
Check out Noah’s photos.
Terrified, nervous and excited, the Racine couple knew Noah’s chances of being born were good, but they didn’t know what problems he could be born with that might be too much for his body to endure. The doctors said that if they heard a gurgling sound coming from Noah during the C-section, that would mean his lungs were developed enough to take in air.
At 6:40 a.m., the waited to hear the sound.
“Would he have brain problems or lung problems? We didn’t know, and I was really toughing this out until I had the epidural and I started to freak out,” Missie said. “We were waiting… and when he finally came we listened for the gurgle and he let out these big, beautiful, air-filled cries.
“His lungs were fine and he was crying on his own.”
But Noah was still very much in trouble, and Missie only saw him for a second before he was whisked away in an isolette.
Concerned that Noah’s lungs were still not developed enough for him to breath on his own, doctors put Noah on a ventilator for oxygen. At one pound 10 ounces, he weighed less than a jar of peanut butter. His skin was transparent and wrinkled. His fingers and toes had not fully formed. His head was no bigger than a plum. And his whole body fit into the palm of Missie’s hand.
After the C-section, Missie was in pain and still feeling the effect of the medication she was given during the surgery. It would be hours before she could see Noah, but she recalls she and Greg thinking that he looked like a little wrinkled old man, like the character in the movie Benjamin Button.
“His nervous system became overloaded if he was touched, so we were just staring at him through a half-inch of plexiglass. It defies logic that something that little and that fragile should be alive,” Missie said.
Over the last few weeks, the nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit started calling Noah, “the spunky one,” and the doctors called him “their little fighter” since he often would breath over the ventilator and would fight his diaper changes. He also started doing the unexpected like tracking movements with his eyes and turning his head, which showed how his muscle strength had increased.
Noah’s skin color also went from transparent to pink, his fingers and toes continued to develop, and where there were once just dots on his chest there are now nipples. He also weighs in at two pounds 10 ounces.
“He has so much willpower, and it’s amazing how well he’s doing,” Missie said. “The books tell you one way of how Noah is supposed to be, then there’s the way Noah is… it’s a miracle.”
But there has been a price to pay for that miracle. Both Greg and Missie have good health insurance, and there are still deductibles to pay. They didn’t anticipate the cost of having to travel up to Milwaukee for the past month, and they still have at least another month before Noah can go home.
They also have a two-year-old at home so Missie and Greg have been taking turns with taking care of Gracie.
“We have to pick between one or the other… so every day I have to leave my kid, and I think what if he needs me, what if he cries. And on the other hand, we still need to take care of Grace as well so it’s a balancing act,” she said.
Still, there’s not enough money coming in and while the two have good jobs, it’s been tough to make ends meet.
But Missie and Greg see this as their new normal: two children who are alive and that’s a blessing, especially when they hold Noah and he smiles or when Grace tells Missie out of the blue, “I just love you mom, you are my best friend.”