185 days in the NICU: Beckham's story



My son Beckham was born at 24 weeks gestation weighing 1 lb. 8 oz. and a mere 12 inches long. After the grueling process of egg donation and surrogacy, we were utterly speechless when Beckham came into this world so early.

We had absolutely no idea what to expect. He was quickly transported to Texas Children’s level IV neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where he was placed in an incubator and covered in tubes. He was unable to breathe on his own, maintain his body temperature and so much more. I had never seen a baby so small. My husband’s wedding ring fit all the way up Beckham's arm and his head was just the size of a kiwi.

For his health, he needed to be treated as though he was still in the womb. This meant minimal touch times (just nurse checks and diaper changes etc.), noise and keeping a cover over the incubator so it remained dark. It was already impossible not to keep an eye on him every day with everything going on but not holding my baby was heartbreaking. I didn’t even get to hold him at the moment of his birth.

We’d heard about Kangaroo Care from the doctors and nurses and we’d seen signs around the unit. Our nurses and doctors highly recommended, when we were permitted, doing skin-to-skin as much as possible. It was all about anything I could do to help my son thrive. After a few days, the nurses mentioned we may be able to plan my first hold in a few days and it would require a team of several people to help lift, move machines and hold tubes, but we could do it. Less than 24 hours later, Beckham started declining. His belly was distended and discolored. Talks of surgery began as doctors debated his fragile state. That evening he crashed. He was given everything imaginable to sustain life and we were told he would not survive. I have never felt what I felt that night. My husband and I have never felt so broken, stressed or cried so hard in our lives.

Miraculously, he survived that night and it wasn’t until his surgery a few days later that a bowel perforation was discovered that was not seen on his scans. Beckham’s bowel had perforated, blocked itself back up and a few days later, re-perforated as the surgical team was setting up for surgery. Experiencing this kind of stress and the pain of watching your son from a distance while unable to comfort him the way a mother wants to comfort her baby by holding and hugging him, is beyond words.

After Beckham began to recover from his procedure and was regaining strength, the nurses surprised me one afternoon by saying I could hold him that day. He was 2 weeks old.  Four people plus my husband were needed to bring this one and a half pound baby to me and place him in my arms. I immediately was bawling and overjoyed at the same time. To hold my son for the first time after the most stressful two weeks of my life is indescribable. I could finally sit and sing to him, feel his heartbeat, hear his squeaks and start the mother-son bonding process I had been dreaming of for two years since we started the process of getting pregnant. Finally, I felt like I could say “this is my son” and could tell him “hi baby, I’m your mommy”.  It was my first truly happy moment in the NICU.  Every time my husband Josh and I held him skin to skin, his stats improved.

Beckham turned one on January 19, 2017and now weighs 16 pounds! He spent 185 days in the NICU and overcame more than I thought a baby could handle. Along with the bowel perforation with the resection surgery and ileostomy he experienced bilateral grade 3 brain bleed, pulmonary hypertension, bronchopulmonary displaysia (BPD), surgically fixed patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) , ventricular septal defect (VSD), blood clot, staph infection, enterococcus infection, hernia surgery, retinopathy of prematurity(ROP) twice, numerous blood transfusions and platelet transfusions and more. He is such a fighter and so resilient and somehow still wakes up every morning with a smile on his sweet face! He still is on some support and has a few surgeries to go, but all things considered, he is beating the odds in every way! I attribute his ability to thrive and overcome what he has partly to the Kangaroo Care and skin- to-skin sessions we had together. #TEAMBECKHAM

Below is a poem I wrote for the doctors, nurses and staff that took care of Beckham during his stay.

I'm just a mother not big and not small An ordinary mother and that is all I have a child my sweet baby boy Who has never been just an ordinary boy

He came to this world 1 pound and some ounces His parents unsure if they could announce His early arrival of 24 weeks At 12 inches long we weren't ready to meet

To the NICU is where we were quickly sent Overwhelmed by this new place our time would be spent You were covered in tubes and kept in a case On meds and support, what on earth was this place?

Noisy and dark we were filled with fear All the while we could not hold you near So overcome by percentages and numbers Treatments and surgeries, survival rates stole our slumber

Through incubators, warmers, lights and lines One day we were told you would run out of time We cried so hard and couldn't stay strong So you showed everyone that you could hold on

When one thing was fixed another would break From your bowels to infection, lungs and your brain Your heart and your liver what more could wrong You never gave up you always stayed strong

You had countless transfusions, PICS and scans The blood tests sometimes just got out of hand The numbers we tracked and monitors watched Was all forgotten once in my arms you were caught

But there's more to this boy than his numbers and stats His procedures and therapies, appointments and chats It's not how he started that makes him so grand But what he accomplished and who held his hand.

It's the doctors and nurses, therapists and techs Who have given their all to save our sweet Becks Who studied and fought, collaborated and lead And stopped at nothing to get this boy fed

It's not just our preemie who suffered and fought But also his team who we care for a lot It's more than the meds and treatment plans given It's the comfort and guidance the things that were hidden

The things that you know others won't see Only the families you treat and have to let be We come and we go and you send us away You jokingly tell us to never come back your way

But we never forget the 185 days Where we were all a family with this boy to raise To help him to grow and fight and to live So that he may go home and love we can give

We appreciate all you have sacrificed And a quick goodbye just doesn't suffice You will always be family this we know And I hope you continue to watch Beckham grow

It is because of you that he is here In our hearts, you, we hold so very dear We love you so much and it was so hard to go You have given our family this time to grow

Sure it’s been hard he has the scars to prove it His machines and that g tube how we want to remove it! He loves to set his alarms off every night And yank on his tubes to give us a fright

Now he is one he smiles and he laughs He grabs and he cries and he bites his giraffe He sits and he stands and even rolls over He screams and he bangs until mommy comes over

He may still have quite a long way to go And the whole way we know we'll be kept on our toes He will never be ordinary this we all know And before we all know it he'll be on the go

I have no doubt he will continue to amaze We will ooo we will ahhh at all of his ways As he shows us what it truly means to overcome This life he fought for he surely has won

So I say happy birthday to my un ordinary boy Who has given us worry overcome by joy What a miracle he is to be here in this world He has made this "just mom" an un ordinary girl