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Life With a Two Pound Baby Born at 29 Weeks

By Heather Turgeon |

Premature baby and pre-eclampsia

The story of a mom and her tiny baby

Today, Jessica Valenti shares the story of what she calls her “new normal” — life after giving birth to her daughter Layla after just 29 weeks of pregnancy. Layla weighed 2 pounds, 2 ounces.

Valenti had an otherwise normal pregnancy until, at a routine check up, she was found to have dangerously high blood pressure. Even after being immediately hospitalized, she and her husband were skeptical that there was a real problem, because as she says, she didn’t feel sick. But two days later, pre-eclamptic symptoms and HELLP syndrome set in and she became seriously ill. Doctors gave her magnesium sulfate for her blood pressure and pitocin to induce labor. After two hours, her liver was failing and she was rushed for an emergency c-section.

Eight weeks later, her daughter is still in the NICU and life for her family is not the same. Nor does she think it should be.

Layla now weighs four pounds and is doing well, according to Valenti. But she makes a wise point about going through a traumatic experience — you’re not the same on the other side. And that’s okay. We should hear more about this, because I think when people have a near-death or injury experience, we expect that as soon as health is back — everyone made it out in one piece — life goes back as it was.

After a trauma, when the dust settles, I think it’s as if your brain knows things are okay, but your body (your emotions) take some time to catch up — they’re still in fight or flight mode.

But Valenti isn’t trying to carry on as usual, she’s still mourning the loss of how she expected her pregnancy and birth to go. And trying to live her new normal.

I also want to share something amazing about the field of obstetrics: at the turn of the 20th century, 100 out of every 1,000 babies in the U.S. died before the age of one. That’s 1 in 10. And at that time, 6 to 9 moms per 1,000 died in childbirth in this country. The pace of advancement around mom-baby care is breathtaking. And I’m so glad for Jessica and her baby.

More from Heather Turgeon

The Huffington Post Launches a “Divorce” Section

Breastfeeding Mom Forced to Quit Her Job

In Vitro Fertilization in the News: Nobel Prize and a New Breakthrough

ADHD is Genetic? Not so Fast.

Genetically Modified Salmon: Why I’m Not Afraid of the “Frankenfish”

Stop Telling Me to Co Sleep

Why Kids with Language Delays are More Aggressive

Top 10 Pediatric Myths

Too Many Moms Still Die in Childbirth: Report

Your Baby is About to Get Chubbier: Pediatricians Are Switching Growth Charts.

Doctors Misdiagnosed in all Cases of Infant Death From Whooping Cough

Too Much Pregnancy Weight Sets Up Babies for Obesity

Antipsychotic Medications for Toddlers?

C-Section Twice as Likely When Doctors Induce Labor.

Why I Abandoned the “Readiness” Approach to Potty Training.

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About Heather Turgeon


Heather Turgeon

Heather Turgeon is currently writing the book The Happy Sleeper (Penguin, 2014). She's a therapist-turned-writer who authors the Science of Kids column for Babble. A northeasterner at heart, Heather lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two little ones. Read bio and latest posts → Read Heather's latest posts →

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6 thoughts on “Life With a Two Pound Baby Born at 29 Weeks

  1. Laura says:

    My youngest sister was born almost four months early due to placental abruption. She weighed 1lb 12 oz. Mom was in the hospital for several weeks and nearly died from blood loss. Two people from our church donated blood for her (she’s a rare type) and saved her life. My little sister in now 20-years-old and a sophomore in college. She’s also partially deaf from the drug cocktail that helped open her lungs.
    I was only six, but I have very vivid memories of that time: my mom in the hospital, my sister in the back room of the NICU in an incubator, and my grandparents caring for me and other sister. It changed our family profoundly. You never go back to normal after something like that. And I don’t think you should.

  2. wohm says:

    about the state of obstetrics: too bad the U.S. has one of the highest fetal mortality rates in the developed world.

  3. Black Sheep says:

    I have 29 weeker twins who are now 3. The NICU experience is traumatizing. There was a study on NICU PTSD released recently.

  4. Karry says:

    I gave birth to a 29 weeker in August because of preeclampsia. I had to fight the receptionist to let me talk to a nurse and then fight the nurse to let me come in for a quick check at 27 weeks. Within a week I was put in the hospital twice for observation. In one week my protein numbers went from 396 to 7,200, they were well over 8,000 when we delivered. My blood pressure was uncontrolable with meds and I had to be put on blood thinners too. I was lucky though, all my labs were normal and I didn’t have any thing besides swelling, high blood pressure and protein. My son was 3 lb 1oz when born and only had a 5 week stay in the NICU, but we were prepared for a couple of months. The entire week I was in the hospital before he was born, there were social workers, chaplains, and neonatologists in my room preparing us for what was going to and what could happen.

  5. [...] giving birth to a two-pound baby at 29 weeks, and suffering from preeclampsia, Jessica Valenti has a “new normal.” Her terrifying near-death experiences for herself [...]

  6. michelle says:

    Thank you for this story, you rarely hear about what a mother truly goes through when they have a premature child. My son was born 9wks early, weighing 2lbs, 11oz and even though I knew I may have an early deliverty due to health issues, it was still devestating to me when I delivered. I felt very depressed about the loss of the rest of my pregnancy and all I ever got from friends and family is “be grateful you have a healthy son” and “your lucky, you didn’t have to go through the last trimester”. I was and am grateful, but do feel sad that I was not able to give my son those final months of growth and protection that he needed.

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