A Blessing in Disguise
Julie's Story at the Family Birth Center
At 34 weeks into her pregnancy, Julie (Edwards) Farmer was preparing to ring in the 2018 New Year at home with her 11-year-old son Braeden. Instead, they made the 40-minute drive from Concrete, WA to Mount Vernon, where the Family Birth team was quick to respond and fully prepared for Julie’s unexpected and early delivery. Julie’s water had broken 6 weeks early.
“It was one of the first New Year's Eves that he (Braeden) was old enough to stay up until midnight, and we were going to do fireworks at midnight,” said Julie. She recalled telling Braeden “sorry, bud, we're going to the hospital.”
That evening, Julie and Braeden watched the fireworks light up the Mt. Vernon sky from her room in the Family Birth Center.
Though she had birth plan in place, Julie’s vision differed greatly from her current situation.
“It was difficult for me to change any vision of my birth plan,” she said. “I think all of us have a fear of the unknown, and the doctors were very upfront, not just what to expect, but what not to expect.”
The baby flipped in the night and was in a breech position making a caesarian delivery necessary.
“Everything was about to get real, and that's when the emotions hit me.”
The nurse who had been with her in her room remained by her side in the OR as the team prepared to give Julie the spinal block she’d been hoping to avoid.
“I started crying, heavily. She (the nurse) held me, she wasn't judgmental, she was very understanding and open; it was the support that I needed,” recalled Julie. “I felt her compassion and that's something I will always remember.”
Julie described her situation as a blessing in disguise, there was a knot in the umbilical cord which would have caused serious complications had she carried the baby to term.
On January 2nd 2018, Arabella was born, weighing 4 pounds 5 ounces. She recalled that many of the doctors and nurses working with Arabella referred to her as a “Rockstar.”
“Arabella honestly was amazing. She was six weeks early and didn't have most of the issues that preemies can face,” said Julie.
Through all of Julie’s unknowns, the doctors and care givers continued to communicate with her frequently and regularly; answering questions or keeping her updated and prepared.
“They were very clear and didn't hold back any information and they opened up the opportunity for me to ask any questions and address them,” Julie said.
The staff transitioned from shift to shift throughout Julie and Arabella’s extended stay, but the continuity of her care never changed.
“You could tell that they talked as a team. They were already on board. They knew what was happening. They had the treatment plan ready for the next day of care.”
The length of Arabella’s stay in the Special Care Nursery was another unknown, the team
prepared Julie with the possibility that it could be three to six weeks before Arabella would be ready to go home. Julie was scheduled to be discharged without Arabella.
However, Skagit Regional Health is one of the few hospitals to offer a Boarding Mother’s Program for those with babies in the Special Care Nursery allowing them to stay in an available room for up to an additional week.
“I was able to stay in my room and be close to her, the family birth center is so comfortable that it became my home away from home for that time,” said Julie.
Arabella remained in an isolette incubator and continued to make strong gains in her development, but one of the biggest challenges for any new born is feeding.
“The only time that she was allowed out [of the incubator] was for feedings, and so I made it a priority to try to be there for every feeding, every three hours, even through the night.
The team had feeding goals each day, premature babies wear out quickly or get tired and ultimately miss out on needed nutrition. With the number of caregivers working alongside Julie, she had collected a host of tips and tricks to coax little Arabella
“When certain milestones were reached or we avoided that feeding tube, the doctors were just as excited as the rest of us,” Julie recalled. “I mean, we really became a team. We had cohesion. It was amazing.”
As the additional week drew to a close, the Skagit Valley Hospital Foundation stepped in with another option to keep Julie close to Arabella.
The foundation supports families in Julie’s situation by providing access to discounted lodging at the Sunrise Inn which is located next to the hospital.
“It's hard, for any mom, to leave the hospital without their baby,” Julie said. “I was able to stay locally, have a place to be where I could still be at the hospital every feeding. It was a great resource, and very affordable,”
she continued, “It made it so that I was able to handle the situation.”
On day twelve, Sharon, the nurse who’d originally placed Arabella in the isolette incubator, took her out for the final time. Julie recalled the Sharon saying “I evicted her today. We're going to see how she does." Arabella, though petite,
lived up to her “Rockstar” identity and went home the next day.
“Looking back on pictures now, it really blows my mind just how tiny she really was,” said Julie. “She has caught back up on growth charts. She just recently went through a big growth spurt, and so she's right there, average. You wouldn't
even know that she was premature.”
While there continue to be unknowns. Julie and her care team are prepared for whatever may come next for Arabella.
“A premature birth is a scary scenario. If you have any situation where you know that your child may need extended care, the compassion and support of the staff makes it so that I would never doubt my decision. I am very thankful for the care I received at Skagit Valley Hospital.”