My mother's preemie story

In honor of World Prematurity Day, the Northern Lights and Reflections blog is hosting several people's prematurity stories. I hope this helps anyone out there who wants to understand more about what happens when a baby is born "too soon".  

This is a preemie story from the 1970s.

We flew to New York to visit Abba’s family and then to Rochester. Sarah was just one year old and she took her first steps at Zevi and Dassie’s house. My sister was arriving from Israel for a six-month stay with our parents while her husband took a photography course at RIT. 

So, once we got to Rochester I stayed with Sarah, and Abba returned to Savannah to work. During the first week of January my father got the flu (London flu probably) and so did I. Being almost 7 months pregnant coughing was very painful. On Wednesday Dad took me to his doctor, who just said to rest and drink lots of fluids. On Thursday I was in such pain they took me back and the doctor gave me percodan. That night I slept at Aunt Mish and Uncle Meyer’s house because they wanted to keep me away from Lois’ kids and everyone. I have no recollection except of wandering the house because I couldn’t sleep. But that is all I remember once I started taking the percodan. The next day they took me to my sister-in-law’s OBGYN because the regular doctor had been afraid to x-ray my lungs because I was pregnant. So this doctor said he thought I had pneumonia and sent me for x-rays and said I should go home and he would call when he got the x-ray results if I needed to go to the hospital.
I must have gotten really sick Friday night because my brother took me to the hospital after candle lighting. Right after we left, apparently the doctor called to say I should go to the hospital. I was treated for pneumonia with antibiotics and thoracentesis

By the next Friday I was feeling a bit better and they moved me from intensive care to a private room. For a crazy moment I thought of disconnecting my nurse-call button for Shabbat. But I remembered a friend in Savannah who had done that and a psychiatric patient wandered into her room and attacked her. She fought him off and opened her C-section stitches. And because she had disconnected her button no one knew. So I left my button connected. Sometime after 8 pm I started getting cramps. I recall thinking that’s weird that now I have a new problem. But I never thought it was labor. I called the nurse who did figure it out and they called a resident gynecologist. I remember her as being tall and British. At some point I asked her if I should push and she said she didn’t think I’d have to because the baby was small. Within 45 minutes of the first pains, baby girl Silber was born. So tiny and so beautiful, with dark "spit curls" on her forehead. She was just 2lbs, 6oz. The doctor had called someone to bring heated blankets and she wrapped the baby and said "I’ll take her to the special unit (I don’t recall the term NICU ever being used) and I’ll come back for the placenta." She said special care would be taken because it was a non-sterile birth. But she added that her apgar was good and I shouldn’t worry. This had been my 29th week of pregnancy, although later the doctors insisted that it had more likely been the 28th week.

I don’t remember too much else from the next few days, because I developed a complication and had two connected surgical procedures three days later. For the next five days I was connected to a pump that sucked out fluid from around my heart. They called my problem a pericardial effusion. They told me that if the baby had not been born, they didn’t think they could have done the surgery. So baby picked a good time to come...

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