What it’s like to give birth to a one-pound baby

Hannah Brinson’s daughter was born more than 13 weeks premature
Hannah Brinson's daughter
Photograph by Hannah Brinson

Our first daughter, LilyAnna, was delivered prematurely at 24 weeks. There was a problem with the umbilical cord; the flow of oxygen and nutrients wasn’t strong enough, and eventually the flow reversed. At that point there’s a high chance of stillbirth, so it’s safer for the baby to be on the outside than on the inside. Afterward LilyAnna developed a lot of complications. She died not long after birth.

When I got pregnant the second time, the same cord flow problem happened again, though it was further into the pregnancy. I was hospitalized on December 23 when I was about 24 weeks along. My doctors gave me two rounds of steroids to help the baby’s lungs develop.

Then in mid-January, a scan showed that the cord flow had reversed. I’d also developed preeclampsia, which was just another reason to deliver. Paisley was 26 weeks and five days. We knew it would be a rough road, but my fetal-maternal doctor kept telling me, “Try not to compare with the first pregnancy, because this is very different.”

I had a C-section, which is what I’d had when I delivered LilyAnna. When a baby is that small, there’s a chance they won’t make it through childbirth. The one thing I prayed the hardest for was to hear her cry. I just thought, If I hear her make some sort of sound, it means she’ll be okay. When Paisley came out, I heard a noise. I kept asking, “Is that her?” That’s when it really sunk in that this time might be different. But at the same time, I was still scared to death.

I think I was down at the NICU within three hours of the surgery, which is sort of unheard of after a C-section. She was one pound, four ounces. You almost can’t believe it’s possible for a person to be that small.

We stayed at the Ronald McDonald house right next to the hospital, and I was with Paisley for a minimum of 14 hours a day, every day. I held her. I changed her diapers. I pumped. I lived there, basically. Between the NICU stay and my hospitalized bed rest, I didn’t see my own house for four months.

Paisley came home on day 101. I was holding her, and they insisted on pushing me in a wheelchair. It didn’t seem real that we were taking her home until they wheeled us out the doors. Today she’s two and running all over the place. Looking back, if I knew the outcome and all the worry were taken away, I wouldn’t mind going back and just sitting and holding her all day. —As told to Jennifer Rainey Marquez

This article originally appeared in our July 2016 issue.