Thanks to my mom, I was able to access the internet while I was in the hospital. I had to have internet on my phone and plug it into my laptop and since this was over 5 years ago, it wasn't as easy or as inexpensive as it is today. I spent a lot of time on the internet. I went on a few message boards, searched and researched everything I could think of, was active on a website of women who were going through the same thing in regards to pPROM and I spent a lot of time on the March of Dimes website. It was such a wealth of knowledge.
I researched and researched prematurity, what it would be like to have a baby born before their due date. I learned as much as I could about different NICU procedures and medications. I searched for answers and success stories. I became active on their share.org side and was able to communicate with other families that were facing prematurity or that had been down that road before.
I knew then that I wanted to be a part of the positive things this organization was doing not only for the community but for babies. For mothers and fathers and siblings. For the future of our children. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted more research, more answers and more support.
It stared with a band. It was created shortly after his death on the March of Dimes website. It was something little that we could do to make a difference. It was something that could be done instead of flowers. It was something we could do. With Matthew's band, $380 was raised by family and friends.
In 2008, we started walking with March for Babies. This year, we were beyond honored to be asked to be the ambassador family for our local walk. Yesterday, February 27th was not only my sister's birthday, or Charlotte's 10 week birthday, but it was also the kick off luncheon. And I was asked to speak. My mom and other sister joined Dusty and I and the girls. My sister recorded it on her phone to share.
I haven't listened to it or watched it. It wasn't my finest time. Charlotte pooped all over me moments before I went on stage, I have either a cold or allergies which left me feeling groggy. While I don't like to take notes with me to speak, I felt like if I didn't I would have a deer in the headlights moment and ended up relying on them far more than I'd like. But, I shared his story. I shared our story. We shared his memory.
In case the audio isn't the greatest, below the video is my "speech" in written form.
And as always, check out our team page here: Matthew's Team
Hello. My name is Denise Miller and I’m proud to be a wife and mother of 4.
In 2004, we welcomed our first baby. A little girl we named Kaitlyn Reagan. I can clearly remember the last weeks of a healthy pregnancy and being so ready for her to be born. As I approached her due date, I tried every old wives tale you could think of to start labor. 3 days after we thought she should have arrived, she was born, screaming and healthy! Today she is 8 and thriving.
When Kaitlyn was nearly 2 ½ years old, we found out that we were expecting again. After having such a healthy and easy pregnancy, I expected nothing but the same. In early spring, I was 3 months pregnant when we found out we would be welcoming a little boy at the end of September. We decided to name him Matthew Jackson. We had regular doctor’s appointments and regular ultrasounds to watch Matthew grow. Aside from his umbilical cord only having two vessels as opposed to the normal three, he was growing like crazy.
A normal pregnancy is 40 weeks long. Babies born before 37 weeks are considered premature and usually need help learning to breath, to eat and to stay warm before they can go home to their family. Babies born before 24 weeks are usually too small for doctors to even try to save and to help grow.
During the first week of June, I was 23 weeks pregnant, nearly 4 months before my due date and my water broke in the middle of the night. At the time, most of my experiences with water breaking had to do with what I saw in movies or television shows. A woman with a very round belly has her water break in a busy store, hails a taxi, goes to the hospital and has a big, healthy baby.
In most pregnancies, once your water breaks your baby is born within 3 days. Nearly all are born within 12 days. Unborn babies need to be surrounded by amniotic fluid to grow, for their lungs to develop, to protect them from infection and to allow them to become big healthy babies. Matthew weighed just over a pound when my water broke. His lungs were not developed; he had so much growing still to do. If he was born, it would be unlikely he would survive. If we decided to try and stop labor to continue the pregnancy, there was a great chance that Matthew or I would develop a life threatening infection. We decided to try to stay pregnant as long as possible and give our son more time to grow.
I was checked into the hospital for what would be a 10 week hospital stay. For 10 weeks, our families took turns helping take care of our 2 year old, I had my temperature taken every 4 hours, I wasn’t allowed out of bed, I had injections to help his lungs develop faster and we had regular ultrasounds to see how Matthew was growing. Because there wasn’t much fluid surrounding Matthew, there were no promises that he would live through birth.
On August 6th, Matthew decided he was ready to be born. His due date was still nearly 2 months away, but he must have wanted to be born before our wedding anniversary the following day . At 4:20 in the morning, Matthew was born crying. He weighed in at 4 lbs and 14 oz, 18 inches long with a head full of dark brown hair. He was absolutely beautiful.
Matthew spent the next 26 days in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the hospital. He went from having a machine breath for him to slowly learning to breathe on his own. He received medication to help his lungs develop. He received another medication to help the small hole in his heart heal. In those 26 days he went from being fed through a tube to learning how to use a bottle. He even learned how to keep his body warm without the help of a heated little bed. At the end of 26 days, at just under 6 lbs, Matthew got to come home to a very excited big sister and the loving arms of his mommy and daddy. Instead of spending his days in a hospital, he had a vintage fire truck nursery waiting for him.
Once Matthew came home, we had to keep him away from germs to keep him healthy. We managed to do so and still let him experience the park, pumpkin patch and meet a lot of his extended family. He loved the song Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and would tolerate his older sister sharing her books and pillows with him.
With Halloween fast approaching, their costumes were all picked out and hanging in their closets. Kaitlyn was going to be snow white and Matthew was going to be prince charming.
On October 12th, I took Matthew to have his pictures taken for the very first time. He was not a fan of the camera, but in the end it was worth it.
On October 15th, Matthew was 2 and a half months old. He didn’t wake up for his 2:30 am feeding. He had stopped breathing. Despite his daddy performing CPR and the emergency care given by the EMTs and Emergency Room team, Matthew passed away to SIDS.
Once my water broke, we were told repeatedly that Matthew’s outlook was poor. He likely would not live more than a few hours. Because of the advances in medicine and research done in pregnancies and premature infants, Matthew lived with us for 70 days. For ten weeks, he was cuddled, sung too, nursed, had his diaper changed, experienced the sunshine and cool fall breeze. He saw pumpkins, train tracks, trees and falling leaves. He forever will be a part of our family.
Matthew’s main risk factor for SIDS was being born too early. Babies born too early are more likely to die from SIDS, suffer from sleep apnea, have problems with their heart and eyes, have a higher risk of infection and suffer from developmental delays for the rest of their lives.
Since Matthew’s death 5 years ago, we experienced 3 miscarriages before welcoming his little sister into the world. Thanks in part to the research done by the March of Dimes, we were able to work with our doctors to help Samantha be born full term and healthy in November of 2009. This past December, we were blessed to welcome another full term and healthy baby girl, Charlotte, into our family. Today, his baby sister is 70 days old.
The Mission of the March of Dimes is to give every baby a healthy start. In April of 2008, my family and I started walking with March for Babies. We’ve continued to walk every year since. This April, we will walk for the 6th year in a row. Together, we can help more babies have healthy starts and fewer families go through the pain of prematurity and infant loss.