Claire Charlotte Caflisch was born June 1, 2019 via emergency C-Section to parents Wade and Genna Caflisch. Claire is a Micro-preemie, born at just 24 weeks 5 days and weighing 1 lb. 15 ounces. My daughter Genna had a condition known as placental abruption. This means the placenta was coming away from the wall of the uterus. This can cause infant and maternal death if the baby is not delivered. Baby Claire was then transferred to the NICU at Marshfield Hospital, which is about a 50-minute drive from Genna and Wade’s home. After 121 long days sweet Claire is finally home with Mom, Dad, and older siblings Audrey and Bennett.
That is the short story. Although, when a micro-preemie comes into the world, there is no short story. Claire experienced many of the complications associated with extreme prematurity including: respiratory distress syndrome, apnea, anemia, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, intraventricular hemorrhage, patent ductus arteriosus, jaundice, and infections. As a result of the intraventricular hemorrhage, she ultimately developed hydrocephalus. This condition required a brain surgery where a reservoir was placed in order for cerebrospinal fluid to be drawn off of her brain. Claire also needed the help of ventilators, blood transfusions, surfactant therapy, many medications, x-rays, ultra sounds, bili lights, and many other medical interventions including surgery. Even upon discharge, Claire still needs an immense amount of care, as she is at risk for many conditions. She needs special care at home including oxygen therapy and very close monitoring.
Genna and myself (Grandma Molly) are Registered Nurses. We considered ourselves fortunate that we possessed a better understanding than most with what was going on “medically” with our sweet Claire. The harsh reality of the NICU is traumatizing despite the knowledge you may or may not have. Genna’s expectations of holding and nursing Claire for the first time was replaced with a quick glimpse and touch prior to her being whisked away by the NICU transport team. Genna and Wade’s fear and sadness were felt heavily in the hospital room as they tentatively reached for a quick touch of Claire’s hand through the incubator door. Genna stayed at the local hospital to recover from her C-section with her husband Wade. They could be promised only frequent updates and that everything possible would be done to save Claire. I was able to follow the ambulance to the NICU and be there until Genna was well enough to be discharged from the hospital on June 3rd. Genna and Wade were fortunate to have extended family who helped at home during these critical first few days including an “Aunt Dawn,” and “Great-Grandma O’Neill” who cared for Claire’s’ siblings Audrey and Bennett until a plan could be put into place to keep the home fires burning.
Genna and Wade faced constant worry, difficult decisions, stress, and exhaustion. Genna was by Claire’s side daily. She had to stand by helplessly as Claire’s little face would grimace as she was put through the necessary medical treatments and monitoring. She was not able to act upon her Mother’s instinct of cuddling and comforting her newborn. Then there were the physical and logistical challenges of having an infant in the NICU. Genna and Wade had to travel almost an hour each way to see Claire. They had to juggle childcare for Claire’s siblings. Genna had to return to work in order to save some weeks of her FMLA to be at home with Claire upon her eventual discharge. Wade picked up overtime at work to keep the family afloat financially, all while trying to be there for Genna and the children. I could see Genna’s distress as she missed her older children, but at the same time wanted to be at the NICU with Claire. The need for a NICU stay adds an extreme emotional impact to the already complex emotions surrounding birth and motherhood. As Grandma, the struggle is not only worry for your grandchild in the NICU, but the worry you feel for your child as she struggled with worry, sadness, stress, and exhaustion as a NICU Mom. As Genna’s Mom I was also proud of her strength she exhibited while experiencing the battles of being a NICU Mom.
We are thankful to God, the wonderful doctors and nurses, and medical advances. After 121 NICU days our beautiful Claire is now home with Mom, Dad, Audrey, and Bennett. She still requires some special cares and monitoring, but is doing well now and expected to do well in the future. It’s always special to hold and cuddle a baby, but there’s something very special when you are finally able to cuddle as you please! I recently watched my daughter feeding Claire in “her” rocking chair and in “her” living room. I wish I had the right words to explain the joy this Grandma had in her heart at that moment. Maybe only a Grandma could understand…….God bless you Claire. Grandma loves you!!!