Every step you take in the Sport Chek Mother’s Day Run, Walk and Wheel is a step for baby Kaveer.
When Rippy found out she had diabetes, she was pregnant. The diagnosis was a surprise to her and her family. Due to her diagnosis, her doctor told her that she would have a high-risk pregnancy, but when her cervix started dilating at just 20 weeks, it was the second big surprise for Rippy during her short pregnancy.
The 20-week ultrasound is an important milestone that many parents look forward to, as it’s when they can officially find out the sex of the baby. At this stage, the baby is about as big as a bell pepper with still a ways to go in development of critical organs and lungs. For Rippy, 20 weeks looked very different as she was sent to the hospital to have a Rescue Cervical Cerclage (RCC) performed, where they stitched her cervix in an attempt to keep her from dilating further and give her tiny baby more time to develop. Rippy knew there were risks with the procedure to both her and her baby.
“That was really stressful,” recalled Rippy. “You don’t really know what’s going to happen at that point.”
Fortunately, the surgery went well, and from that point, it was hoping the baby would grow and develop long enough to make it full term. While Rippy wasn’t on complete bedrest, she had to take it easy with everything she was doing.
Then at 26 weeks, Rippy’s water broke.
“From movies and TV, you think that when your water breaks, your baby is going to come out right away,” Rippy said. “You can keep the baby in for weeks after your water breaks, which I didn’t know.”
Three days later, on January 25th, 2021, Rippy gave birth to her baby boy, Kaveer, at just 26 weeks and three days. It was quick labour, and teams of specialists quickly flooded the room as her baby boy was born at 10:14 am. Just as quickly, the team from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) rushed him into their care to ensure that he had the immediate and critical support he needed from his very first minutes.
“It was all just kind of a blur,” recalled Rippy.
Once she started to think about it, she realized how worried she was.
“It was scary. There are not many questions they can answer because they don’t know how your baby’s going to do.”
Rippy and her husband didn’t even tell their immediate family about the birth of their son from the stress they were dealing with and knew they would get constant phone calls asking questions. They weren’t emotionally ready for everything that came with having a NICU baby.
“It’s really sad because the birth of your child is supposed to be happy and everyone who surrounds you congratulates you,” recalled Rippy. “But in a case like this, you feel like these things are taken away from you. The joy of having a child is replaced by extreme stress and anxiety.”
There was good news early on as Rippy’s son was pretty active for being a preemie! He was kicking around, which was a great sign. He was tall but skinny, weighing only 1.9 lbs. While Kaveer was doing well, Rippy was having difficulty dealing with all her emotions.
“I felt like I failed my baby; I wasn’t able to keep him in for longer and I had a lot of guilt about it.”
While Rippy knows it wasn’t her fault in any way, it was hard not to feel that sense of guilt. She also felt sadness knowing she couldn’t hold her baby right after he was born – something every new mom dreams of.
Her son stayed in the NICU for four months and over 100 days – beginning his critical care at Foothills Medical Centre for half the time before being transferred to Rockyview General Hospital. Like many preemies, Rippy and her son stayed in the NICU to ensure the full development of his lungs as it took a while for them to mature. He would Desat often, meaning his oxygen levels would drop, and was on a special ventilator called a CPAP for a little over three months.
Rippy still remembers the first time she saw her baby boy in the incubator, and she cried from how hard it was seeing him like that.
“Hooked up to all those tubes and wires, it took me a long time to be okay with it all and get used to it.”
What helped Rippy was having her husband every step of the way with her. She emphasized how important it is to have a support system, and how thankful she was to have the love and support of her husband, as well as her parents.
“I can’t imagine how much harder it would be if you had to do it alone. My parents fed my husband and me most days for the four months our baby was in the NICU, just so we wouldn’t need to worry about what to feed ourselves.”
Finally, on May 28, 2021, after spending everyday feeling sad about leaving the hospital unable to bring her baby home with her, Rippy didn’t have to leave without him and she would bring her son home for the first time; a day that still feels quite new for her.
“It’s still pretty fresh. There are things that trigger me every now and then. You know how sometimes you just try to forget certain things?”
Now, Rippy’s son is doing great! His pediatrician has given him five stars for his healthy growth and development! There were no complications and he’s growing well, especially for a 26-week premature baby. He’s doing so well that they only want to see him now at the 18-month mark unless any issues arise before then.
However, Rippy knows this is not the end of their journey and she is forever grateful to the NICU team.
Over the holidays, Rippy encouraged her friends and family to donate to the Calgary Health Foundation’s Newborns Need campaign and support Foothills’ NICU. Rippy had a great experience in the NICU, and since her son was there for four months, she wanted to give back.
“The NICU is one of those things you don’t know about unless you go through it,” recalled Rippy.
Through this journey, Rippy realized that navigating through the NICU takes a lot of patience, strength and understanding, and the NICU staff truly help you understand and support you.
Rippy recalled how incredible the NICU nurses were, and the lasting impact they have on Rippy’s journey. She remembered two in particular: Sarah Ladd at Foothills and Lily at Rockyview. They are still in touch today and Rippy will forever be thankful for the amazing care their baby received.
“The NICU nurses are honestly angels put on this earth to help these little miracles to persevere and survive.”
The nurses made them feel comfortable. They taught them how to change their 1.9 lb baby’s diaper, properly check his temperature, and encouraged them to participate every step of the way, so Rippy and her husband were completely involved.
“It’s scary touching your child because they seem so fragile, but [the NICU staff] assure and encourage you, saying like it’s okay, they’re stronger than they look.”
Rippy laughed when recalling how her son would immediately cry when getting his diaper dirty.
“Even early on, it’s so weird; they’re conscious enough to know that they’re dirty and want to be changed.”
While the nurses were incredible and took great care of the babies, Rippy recalled still feeling a sense of sadness.
“There’s a part of you that feels a sadness because you want to take care of your baby and you want to do everything, but you can’t because they need that level of care from the nurses. And we’re not there all the time, which was also hard.”
That was another reason Rippy was happy to support the Newborns Need campaign, as she learned the campaign is building another floor where it will be possible for parents to stay with their babies.
One full year later from that very first car ride home with her son, Rippy is looking forward to participating in the 2022 Sport Chek Mother’s Day 5K/ 10K Run, Walk & Wheel, to support the NICUs and Newborns Need campaign! The campaign focuses on ensuring that the one in eight babies born requiring the services of a NICU in our community have access to the best technologies available, and has a research component to address Alberta’s higher than the average preterm birth rate.
Join us at the 2022 Sport Chek Mother’s Day Run, Walk and Wheel and register today! Click here to learn more about Calgary Health Foundation’s Newborns Need campaign. For the Harvey family, the NICUs are worth celebrating and supporting, thanks to the life-saving and life-altering care they provided Kaveer and so many other newborns.