Levi is our miracle baby. A gift from God, brought into this world in His perfect timing. It may have been difficult to understand the day that he was born, but as time has gone by I now know that God is using Levi already at this very young age to be a witness of His goodness, faithfulness, grace, and love. God knew the day we would all enter into this world and He knows the day when we will all go out, it is what we do in between that makes the difference into eternity. I pray that Levi will know this as he grows up and will understand the miracle that is his life. This is just the beginning of Levi’s story and he will be the one to continue it throughout his life.
On July 10, 2009 in the early morning hours of 4:30, Levi was pulled from the comfort of my womb to spend the next 5 weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit of the hospital. Even though his development was only at 31 weeks gestation, Levi’s lungs were fully developed, his heart had a strong beat, all his fingers and toes… everything seemed to be fine. My 3 lbs 2 oz, 16 inches long baby was healthy but tiny. No baby fat, he looked like a little man. Looking at him I imagined that this is what he will look like grown up, handsome with his daddy’s nose and widows peak.
Though Levi was in good shape for being born so early, there were things that he still needed help with. He could breathe on his own but needed a Bubble CPAP to promote his airflow. He was hooked to monitors to watch his heartbeat and oxygen levels. He had a feeding tube because he hadn’t learned yet how to suck, swallow, and breathe. He needed time to learn and to grow and we were willing to wait as we received the best hands on training from the remarkable nurses of the unit. Matt and I even joked at how “they just let new parents take babies home.” When Levi did come home 5 weeks later, we had full confidence in knowing that we would be able to take care of him well.
The first few days after Levi’s birth, Matt and I received visitors, gifts, and cards. Some of them where the normal “Congratulations on the New Baby” notes, a few of them were “With Sympathy” cards. Though I was in a lot of physical pain, wasn’t allowed to see Levi, and still in a bit of shock, I followed Matt’s lead in how we as a family were going to react over the events. We could view this as a tragedy or as a wonderfully remarkable event of our lives… our family was started, our first son was born. Matt began wearing every “Life is Good” shirt that he and my dad owned. We visited the NICU in good spirits, sang sweet lullabies to our baby, smiled at the other parents tucked into their corners of the nursery, chatted freely with the nurses. I believe this attitude of joy and peace was a gift from God, a blessing to see us through this storm in life, and reflected to our thriving son who was fighting to maintain his temperature and weight and to learn things that should have been coming naturally to him in the womb.
Though we were experiencing peace, this does not mean that the NICU experience was always peaceful. We had difficult decisions to face and realities of the complications that come along with a preemie. Levi’s had an IV for about half of his stay in the hospital. His little veins couldn’t maintain it for long and it was constantly being moved leaving bruises in its place. For awhile he even had to have it in his head. The doctor recommended putting in a PIC line. We agreed to the procedure though the process of putting it in scared me since Levi was so tiny. He had it in for about a day when an infection developed. It was due to a tiny amount of skin getting into the line. Immediately it came out and was personally a difficult day for us. As a preemie without baby fat, Levi spent most of his time in an isolette. We affectionately called it his condo and hung signs to cheer up his corner of the NICU. He struggled for many weeks to maintain his temperature and was always bundled up when we were allowed to hold him. The worst moment was early on when we received a call that Levi had two bouts of apnea. We were told that this is common with preemies and normally it just takes a little poke by the nurse and the baby starts breathing again. With Levi, they used the word “vigorously.” Away to the hospital we went to see our son. He was sleeping peacefully. They explained that he was ok and that they were giving him caffeine through his IV to take care of the problem. It would be something that he would outgrow and we shouldn’t be concerned. Let me just say that even though Levi left the hospital without the need for monitors, my dad bought us two Angel Care monitors to give us peace of mind. Levi has never had a problem again with apnea. Thank you Jesus!
On August 14, 2009 (4 weeks before his due date), Levi came home. He was just under 5 lbs and had been consistently taking his entire bottle without any issues for a few days, proving that he had learned how to suck, swallow, and breathe together. He had been maintaining a good temperature and had been in an open crib for over a week. It was time to go home. Though things were going well, we weren’t without our concerns. We were told to give him 2 to 3 years to catchup in development. He would consistently be behind by a few months and to use his adjusted age to monitor his development, as well as his height and weight. Immediately this proved true as the next couple months Levi remained a newborn. There wasn’t the satisfaction of him giving us smiles or even moving around very much. Just this completely dependent baby. Our other main concern was Levi’s iron levels. Not having been in the womb to get the proper amount from me, his iron was consistently low. Fortunately this can be an easy fix in giving him an iron supplement and feeding him iron enriched foods. Currently this is still a struggle but fortunately there isn’t an underlying condition as to why his body doesn’t want to absorb the iron.
Last week, we had Levi’s 18 month wellness appointment. He is currently 27 3/4 lbs (70% for an 18 month old) and 34 inches long (90% for an 18 month old). Before going to the appointment, we did an 18 month survey with him to track his development. In every category except for Fine Motor, Levi fell into the normal range and Fine Motor was only slightly below normal. His pediatrician wasn’t too concerned and said that we would give him a few more months and reevaluate at 22 months. Matt and I are thrilled that a year and a half later, our preemie has caught up! They stopped tracking his weight and height on the adjusted age scale at 5 months, and now his development has caught up as well. It seemed that each milestone, such as lifting his head, rolling over, crawling, walking… we were always waiting for it to occur, but I am realizing that it may not have to do with Levi’s lack of development rather his personality. With each thing, once he did it, he mastered it. That boy could crawl faster than I had ever seen another baby crawl. He loved playing with his trucks on the floor, so why walk. Now that he is walking, he just wants to run! I am amazed each day by Levi’s sweet spirit, outgoing personality, and strong will. He is doing it all in his timing, and I’m thankful that I had him in his baby stage for a bit longer than most get to experience, for time seems to be flying by.
Levi’s journey may have begun under difficult circumstances but his life is a joy to all who know him. We are thankful that he has a story of victory to share and grateful that God has allowed us to be his parents. Matt and I are looking forward to seeing God’s plan continue to unfold in Levi’s life and to see the plan God has for this new baby’s beginning.
“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11