Updated: Jun 28
Ace was born at 23 weeks and five days old.
Michelle, Ace’s mom, was sent to labor and delivery after experiencing an upset stomach and losing her mucus plug. Once in triage, her cervix was checked and it was confirmed that she was in active labor.
“Once I got checked in and all the monitors were hooked onto me, the medical staff confirmed that I was having contractions and was already four centimeters dilated. They told me that I'm not leaving the hospital unless the contractions stop or the baby comes out. They said it could be a few hours or it could be a day... it'll all depend on the baby. But the longer I can keep him in, the better his chances of survival. My husband and I were extremely shocked and scared. We couldn't believe that our baby was about to come so soon. We didn't know if he would survive. I basically just started my second trimester! After about four hours of processing and waiting, the contractions started to hurt more and I was ten centimeters dilated. My son was breached and I had to do an emergency c-section. Thankfully, the surgery went well and our baby boy came out crying and was immediately brought to the NICU.”
Because Ace was born so prematurely, Michelle and her husband could not hold their son for a while.
“I was not able to hold Ace initially. He had to go straight to the NICU and receive respiratory support. I was also still a little woozy from the anesthesia from my emergency c-section. However, after a few hours, my husband and I were able to see him through his incubator in the NICU. I was actually scared to be near him or touch him because I thought I was bad luck... But also, at this age, they shouldn't be touched at all because their nervous system is very sensitive. So I just gazed at him from afar.”
The NICU staff told Michelle that Ace would need to stay in the NICU until his original due date, which ended up being 116 days. Michelle shared how it felt to have her son in the NICU for so long.
“The first month was incredibly overwhelming and felt like being in survival mode. I was recovering from my c-section, undergoing baby blues for the first two weeks, and needed to pump every two-three hours to feed Ace. On top of that, I was still processing what just happened and that this was our reality.
“There were a lot of medical terms that the doctors and nurses would say to us and everything just flew over my head. But after about a month, I was able to process everything and accept this as our story. The medical terms and the trajectory that Ace was going in started to click.
The next few months felt like they flew by, especially since Ace was making great progress. We couldn't have done this without our family and friends praying for us and encouraging us along the way. It felt less lonely and very empowering knowing that we had such a huge community rooting for our family. We were also told to take things one day at a time because it is extremely overwhelming if we think about the future, especially with so much unknown."
Taking things day by day helped a lot.
After four long months in the NICU, Ace is home with his loving family and doing well.
“It feels surreal that he is home with us. We are enjoying (and extremely exhausted) from the newborn stage. He has a lot of follow up appointments with different specialists and will probably need this for the first two years of life... so I feel like his journey is still going. But, the hardest, scary parts are over. He overcame them so well, so we will see how the rest of his story goes. But again, we're enjoying all the newborn snuggles and no longer needing to drive to the hospital every day to see him.”
While Ace doesn’t have any significant medical challenges, he does need some extra support and additional pediatric appointments.
“The only thing is he needs a little oxygen support while he feeds because his lungs still need some help. We were told there will be developmental delays and he is automatically considered for early intervention to help with that. He did have an intraventricular hemorrhage (brain bleed in premature babies), which puts him at risk for cerebral palsy, but we won't really know until the age of two. So far, he's been able to feed well, sleep well, breathe well, and we're celebrating and embracing these moments... taking it one day at a time.”
Skin-to-skin contact, also known as kangaroo care, was a vital part of Michelle’s and Ace’s time together while he was in the NICU.
“We did kangaroo care (skin-to-skin) EVERY single day for at least an hour when we were given the 'OK.' The first time holding him was very special and scary since he was still very tiny, on respiratory support, and seemed very fragile. But over time, we gained confidence, especially since we saw that his breathing improved significantly when we held him."
We do think that the daily kangaroo care helped his early development significantly.
Bonsie is honored to have played a small part in Ace’s NICU stay.
“He did wear Bonsies in the NICU! The nurses loved them because they were very easy to change him and navigate all the wires.”
Follow along with Michelle and Ace’s inspiring NICU story on Michelle’s Instagram page: @michonce.