When I was 14 weeks pregnant, I was diagnosed with cancer. The news was extremely hard to process, as we were unsure what this meant for my health and whether or not I would be able to carry the baby full term. A team of doctors, including oncologists and high-risk obstetricians affiliated with Maine Medical Partners, came together and discussed possible plans for treatment. Frequent check-ups, tests, and ultrasounds helped this powerful team of doctors to determine that 32 weeks would be the ideal time to deliver our little girl and to perform a radical hysterectomy in order to remove the cancer in its entirety.
In order to best prepare us for what lay ahead, Maternal Fetal Medicine put us in touch with the neonatologists at Maine Medical Center when we hit 25 weeks of pregnancy. Dr. Frehm met us at the entrance of the hospital and brought us to the NICU, introducing us to each part of the hospital and allowing us the opportunity to become familiar with our soon-to-be surroundings. We were given a tour of the NICU and introduced to the staff who would help care for our daughter. This allowed us to become knowledgeable about the rooms and equipment, and gave us time to sit down with Dr. Frehm to more fully understand the process and world we were about to enter. A few weeks before our daughter’s delivery, we were given another opportunity to visit the NICU. This time with the March of Dimes by our side. Janelle Bainter gave us another tour and showed us a video introducing life with a premature child. All of these steps helped to remove some of the fear of delivering a premature child from our heart and minds and prepared us for what came next.
Thanks to the stability of the cancer, surgery was pushed out an extra week, and Maggie was born at 33 weeks and 3 days gestation, weighing a whopping 5 lbs 2 oz. I was able to hold her in my arms for a few moments before my surgery began and she was whisked away to the NICU with her dad by her side. That day was a blessing. The cancer was removed, and we welcomed our little girl into the world.
Maggie spent seven days in the NICU and another 13 days in the Continuing Care Nursery. During this time the majority of her care was focused on helping her learn how to breathe, maintaining her own body temperature, and learning how to eat. Due to my own complications post surgery, the majority of Maggie’s time in the NICU remains a blur for me. However, what has stayed with me, and always will, is the amazing care our daughter received. When I felt at my lowest—for not being able to be present in the hospital—the staff reassured me that my main priority at this time was to take care of myself and allow my body to fully recover, so that when I was healed, I could care for Maggie. And on May 15, 2016, Maggie was able to come home—without the assistance of medical interventions.
Thanks to our incredible medical team, I am cancer free and Maggie is now a kind, active, and fiercely independent 2.5-year-old toddler. She loves climbing, jumping, singing, dancing, and tackling new challenges. Our time in the NICU will always be a part of our story and we acknowledge that our story could have ended very differently. We are forever grateful to our team for their superb care and for helping us reach our happy outcome.
Story written by Maggie’s mom, Sarah.