In 2003 at the age of 23 years old, after a four year tumultuous relationship, I found myself unwed and pregnant with my first child. I had always been a “rule follower” and quite honestly was pretty embarrassed by my circumstances. I was at the infancy of my new career as a sale associate in a local upscale jewelry store. How was I going to explain my situation to my friends, family and budding “upscale” clientele?
My pregnancy progressed typically. I was due in March of 2004. I excitedly went to each doctor’s appointment and truly loved watching my baby grow inside of me. December of 2003 was a super busy holiday season at work. I worked 10-12 hour days, 6 days a week … in high heels. Other than swollen feet by the end of the day and being tired, I felt great! In January when I went in for a routine check-up my doctor expressed concerns about the baby being smaller than average for me be 31 weeks along. She sent me to get a 3-d ultrasound to get more accurate measurements. That specialist agreed and used the term “intrauterine growth retardation” now called “intrauterine growth restriction,” which basically means that the baby is not growing in the womb at the expected rate. Easy to google now; however, back then not so easy to figure out all of the details of what to expect. Without having that knowledge and just imagining what that meant, I clearly remember feeling the fear of my baby’s future and was there something that I had done during my pregnancy to have caused these issues. I was immediately put on bed rest. My next check-up was one week later. It was at that visit that my doctor insisted on me having an emergency C-section. She informed me that my baby had more of a chance of survival outside of the womb that continuing with my pregnancy.
Eight weeks before my actual due date, my sweet 2lbs 9oz baby girl Brooklynne was born. She was immediately whisked off to the NICU. It was several hours before I was able to see her. Even at that point, I wasn’t allowed to hold her. She was hooked up to so many tubes and wires. She was in an incubator. I had never seen a baby so tiny in my life. I was so scared for her!
The staff in the NICU were amazing. They explained step-by-step, day-by-day all of the details of what was going on. I was told to expect her to be in the NICU until when her actual due date was … 8 weeks away! You would think that it was the hardest thing ever to leave her there while I went home less than a week after having her, but honest to goodness, I knew in my heart that she was in the safest place for her to be. I felt like it gave me the time that I needed to digest what had just happened as well as the time to prepare to get her home.
There were many ups and down in the NICU. First of all was getting her to breathe without the use of oxygen. She had jaundice and had to be put under special lighting to get her counts where they needed to be. She was fed my breast milk from a little syringe. Eventually she would learn how to take it from a bottle, but that was a double-edge sword because they didn’t want her to waste too many calories by sucking the bottle. They wanted her to be at least 5 lbs to be released. Finally after 6 weeks in the NICU, I was required to spend the night with her so that the nurses could teach me everything that I would need to know to take care of her at home. The day that I took her home was one of the happiest and scariest days of my life! She still required monitoring and medications, but each day she grew a little bigger and got a little stronger.
Brooklynne is now 15 years old and turning into a beautiful young woman. She’s still pretty tiny, but I’m not sure that is necessarily because she was a preemie. She has struggled with ADHD over the years. That may or may not be a lasting effect of prematurity. She’s as “typical” of a teenage girl as they come.
When I look back, I cringe at the idea that I was “embarrassed” for being an unwed, pregnant young women. The situation was not ideal at the time; however, from those circumstances a miracle was born and our lives were perfectly positioned to put us exactly where we are today.
Candice was raised as a city girl in Metairie, LA and converted over to country girl soon after marrying the love of her life, Vinny. She’s been married for 13 years now. Candice has a 15 year old daughter Brooklynne and a 9 year old son Little Vinny. She’s been a sales associate at Aucoin Hart Jewelers for 18 years. Her favorite thing to do is travel the world and make lasting memories with her family.