When she was born, my baby had to fight against an enemy created by my body.
IUGR: four letters that always mean the worst. According to my obstetrician, my baby girl was "a bit small," but in my heart I knew there was a problem. If I had followed this doctor's advice, my baby would have been in heaven before she even had the chance to be born.
She suffered from severe intrauterine growth restriction. At 1.25 pounds, her lungs were atrophied, and her life was under threat. My arteries were not functioning properly, and my baby girl was deprived of nutrients necessary for her growth. Unbeknownst to us, this tiny human being was fighting for her life inside me.
Fortunately, upon my insistence, I had an ultrasound, which confirmed my worries: my baby was greatly affected by IUGR. It was a matter of days before the worst happened. Monitoring the child showed what was going on in silence: my baby's heart was like a yo-yo on the verge of breaking, its rhythm going up and down dangerously. Something had to be done quickly. On September 5, 2006, the head of the department came to visit me at about 4:00 p.m. He was very straightforward: "Madam, you will not be able to bring the pregnancy to term. Your baby is suffering and if it stays inside, its life will be in danger. The hospital has the necessary equipment to help very premature babies, so don't worry, we will do our best."
Five hours later, after another catastrophic ultrasound and monitoring, which confirmed that it was "a matter of hours," they made all the arrangements for an emergency C-section. I was alone, because my husband was not allowed to enter the operating room.
My legs were shaking. Sensing my despair, the nurse kept gently caressing my hand. And then, I heard your first cry, my baby. Your first cry astonished the entire medical personnel, considering your diagnosis of hyaline membrane disease.
An excellent Apgar score, an amazing muscle tone, considering your premature birth (at six months), and your weight (1.25 pounds): the first information communicated to your father seemed encouraging.
However, the sword of Damocles was still hanging over your head, ready to deal a death-blow. Inside the incubator, you seemed to be short of breath; the scope showed fatigue; and your small heart was once again threatened. Right there, in front of us, your heart stopped, for a few seconds. Your father and I started screaming and the doctors made us quickly get out of the resuscitation room. Without missing a second, they did everything to try to save your life.
You were provided with shots of adrenaline and blood transfusions, and you fought courageously, like all very premature babies do.
Surrounded by our love, you regained your natural skin color and your strength. When you weighed about two pounds, you were taken to the Neonatal Unit, after having spent a month in the resuscitation room of the hospital.
Now, you are 8. Your lungs are still fragile, but you have always been a fighter, like all the children who have to fight to survive.
We thanked all the childcare workers and the doctors the best we could. But today, this blog post is dedicated to them as well as to all the parents of premature babies. I have campaigned for awareness of intrauterine growth restriction, so that other mothers do not have to see their babies dead in utero due to malnutrition.
Very premature birth leaves scars for life. The tears in my eyes while I write this are proof that even after eight years, the pain is still there.
I hope that my testimony, as well as Alana Romain's, which I found painfully real, can bring some comfort to all mothers-to-be who believe that their babies' futures are compromised. I also hope that my blog is read by the medical staff of Pellegrin Hospital, because I would like everybody who fought for my daughter's life to be aware that my husband and I will never forget their generosity and professionalism.
I would also like to thank my husband and all fathers who are there for us, because without them we would be crushed. In my heart, I felt guilty for the premature birth of my daughter, and without the support of my partner, I would have been destroyed by that guilt. I salute the courage of husbands, fathers and life partners who, in spite of the pain they also feel, show their altruism through the support they provide. Eight years later, my husband is still unable to watch TV reports about premature births. But during that incredibly difficult time, he thought only of my daughter and me, catalyzing our recovery with his unshakable optimism.
Eight years ago, my daughter Élina came into this world. She had been condemned to death before even being born. I would just like her to know how proud her mother is of all the progress she has made, and of her strength of character, which helped her deal with the impossible and survive her premature birth against all odds.
This post was originally published on HuffPost France and was translated into English.