From Infertility to Family:
Lillian's Journey to Motherhood and her baby who refused to give up.
After nearly five years of trying to get pregnant, Lillian Ramirez became a mother in November 2022.
“Everybody just told me I needed to lose weight,” said Lillian.
She tried diets and exercise. Sure, she thought, that couldn’t hurt. She’d tried just about everything else. But the difference occurred when she found a fertility doctor. She went through three different rounds of treatment. One ended in miscarriage. Another didn’t result in pregnancy at all. But the third time? “Third time is the charm!” Lillian said.
Then, she got COVID.
“It was really bad. I thought I was gonna die, honestly,” admitted Lillian.
Then, at just nine weeks of pregnancy, she began to bleed.
She went to the Emergency Room, but everything checked out OK. The baby was OK and so was she. Doctors sent Lillian home and told her to remain on bed rest for the remainder of the pregnancy.
At 20 weeks, at a regular checkup, her blood pressure measured high. “I felt fine,” she remembers. “I felt totally fine.” Staff triple-checked the reading because they didn’t believe the numbers. But they confirmed the results: 163/94. She was admitted to the hospital immediately. “My blood pressure continued to skyrocket while I was taking high blood pressure medication,” Lillian said. If that continued, doctors told her the baby would need to be delivered early. “I was devastated. I started to cry. I started to panic. I just thought to myself, you know, there's a lot more cooking for her to do,” she said. It was November and her baby’s due date was not until February 21.
At 28 weeks, Lillian was readmitted to the hospital for high blood pressure. She remembers shortly after that when the baby’s heart rate began to plummet, and nurses rushed into the room. They knew exactly what to do, Lillian says, stabilizing Lucia’s heart rate.
The doctors told her again that if the baby’s heart rate continued to drop, she would soon need to be delivered. “I’m freaking out. I don’t want my baby to die,” Lillian said.
It happened again. Doctors recommended transporting her and the baby to CHRISTUS Children’s, but there wasn’t time. Doctors rushed her into the operating room and Lucia Marie was born at 7:24 p.m. She arrived in this world kicking and screaming and, most importantly, breathing on her own despite being born at just 28 weeks. “That was totally great,” she said. Lucia Marie weighed 2 pounds, 2 ounces.
Still, Lucia Marie was so tiny, she needed intervention that only a Level IV NICU like that at CHRISTUS Children’s could offer. Lillian only was able to see Lucia Marie for a moment before she was whisked away. She had to wait two days before she could be discharged so she could see Lucia Marie again. “I was devastated. I couldn’t be with my baby,” Lillian said.
When she finally arrived at CHRISTUS Children’s, it was a relief. Lucia Marie was in an isolette, sleeping and most importantly, breathing on her own. “Watching our daughter have her struggles and not being able to do anything about it was really hard on us. We were living 12 hours at a time, but our faith kept us strong,” Lillian lamented.
They had their share of challenges while in the NICU. Doctors heard a murmur and discovered a hole in Lucia Marie’s heart. It didn’t close on its own, so she had to be treated with Tylenol for five days to help her little body fix itself. Lucia Marie also struggled with a type of heart arrhythmia called bradycardia, a slowing of the heart which reduces blood flow and oxygen to lungs and other tissues. They treated this with caffeine and time and she was able to outgrow it.
She had trouble feeding and would not tolerate milk due to reflux. In turn, this caused her to remain underweight. Some of these conditions, combined to create other issues: the bradycardia when combined with reflux would trigger silent aspiration. This became worse when they started bottle feeding, so doctors had to start drip feeding Lillian’s breast milk into Lucia so she could handle it. This helped her begin to put on weight. On top of all this, she had low blood sugar from day one. Medication would help and this corrected as well once feedings were more regular.
“We’ve heard stories of people that have gone through similar situations, but never expected to experience it ourselves. It already felt like an uphill battle just trying to start a family and then when this happened it nearly crushed us. The daily fear of the unknown was honestly the hardest thing for us to accept,” said Lillian.
In all, Lucia Marie was in the NICU for 115 days. Lillian and her husband were able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House which kept them close to Lucia Marie and made it easier for them to see her every day instead of commuting home or to a hotel.
Lillian is forever grateful to the doctors and care teams at CHRISTUS. “No matter the situation they just go, go, go. It was truly amazing to see these doctors do what they do. And do it so gracefully. My mind was blown,” said Lillian. Lucia Marie’s doctors included Dr. Sowmya Mohan, Dr. Cody Henderson, and Dr. Maria Pierce, who Lillian says specifically was instrumental in Lucia Marie doing so well. “She was truly amazing,” said Lillian.
When she was finally discharged, Lillian says, it was such a special day. “Oh, my God. It was tears of joy that day,” Lillian said. “I couldn’t believe this little two-pounder was ready to come home!” Since the moment she came home, Lucia has been thriving. She’s now grown to over ten pounds. Lillian has such great hopes and dreams for her daughter. “I hope one day she can become a NICU nurse, maybe, to give back. To show others: Despite being such a preemie you can accomplish anything you want to do or be,” Lillian said. “Sometimes you might just need a little help in the beginning.”
For more information about the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at CHRISTUS Children’s Hospital, please visit this website: NICU | Highly-Specialized Neonatal Care | CHRISTUS Health