After her son was born, Hannah Lowendick spent 23 hours in her hospital bed. She only caught a glimpse of her baby’s feet before he was rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit.
Grayson Lowendick was born at 32 weeks, weighing 3 pounds, 12 ounces.
Lowendick’s sister, Heather Baker, followed suit with her child just six weeks later.
After delivering her son, Hudson Baker, at 32 weeks, weighing 4 pounds, 7 ounces, she went a full 24 hours without seeing him. It was about three days until he was in her arms.
Because of their unique story and their now thriving 3- and 4-year-old boys, the Cleveland residents are the ambassador families for the area’s March of Dimes March for Babies on Saturday, April 21, starting at The Longstreet Clinic in Gainesville.
March for Babies
What: Fundraiser for March of Dimes
When: 9 a.m. Saturday, April 21
Where: 725 Jesse Jewell Parkway SE, GainesvilleMore info: www.marchforbabies.org
“They’re awesome women who are also awesome mothers,” said Debbie Childress, March of Dimes development manager. “But they’ve had a lot of experience with real hardship with the birth of both of their boys.”
The sisters and next-door neighbors both gave birth prematurely, but their stories are different.
Lowendick was put on bed rest after being diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and was in the hospital for nine days, not allowed to leave the room.
She wasn’t allowed to turn the lights on either. Many activities raised her blood pressure, which was dangerous for her and her baby.
She said she rested, did puzzles and tried to get ahead on work for her master’s program. But every time she opened her computer, her blood pressure would spike. So, as a media specialist at White County Ninth Grade Academy, naturally, she read.
She read books that gave her advice on taking care of a premature baby, and when she was done with those, she read young adult books.
After those nine, long days in the hospital room, doctors told her she was having the baby.
“He was pretty healthy and as good as he could be for a 32-weeker,” Lowendick said. “But he was in the back of the NICU, like the most intensive part, for five days until he could regulate his body temperature and just get going.”
They moved him to the front of the NICU after those five days and he continued to grow and learn how to simply be a baby. After 23 ½ days, Grayson Lowendick was able to go home on his mother’s birthday.
“That was the best birthday present ever,” Lowendick said.
Meanwhile, Baker was doing fine during her pregnancy. She wasn’t having any issues until her water broke unexpectedly.
She went to the hospital and doctors couldn’t stop it, so her son was born.
“For the first eight days, he was struggling really bad,” Baker said. “He was on a (continuous positive airway pressure) machine for the first eight days to help him breathe. He had to have surfactant pushed into his lungs to help his lungs develop a little bit more.”
Many premature babies are at risk for respiratory distress syndrome because their lungs haven’t fully developed. They don’t have the right amount of surfactant, a protein that keeps the lungs from collapsing.
That’s where March of Dimes comes in. It helped develop surfactant therapy, which has helped numerous premature babies over the years, and helped Hudson Baker while he was in the hospital.
After 32 days of trips to see her son in the hospital, Baker was able to take him home.
“We were happy,” Baker said. “But we were nervous at the same time just because he had had all these monitors on him until the second they discharged him. So whenever you get home, you don’t have the monitors to tell you if his heart rate is dropping or if he’s refluxing or if he’s choking. So it was kind of like we have to really, really be aware of what’s going on.”
But the sisters had each other, and that’s something Baker said she leaned on when her son was in the hospital and even after he got to come home.
“At least I knew there was light at the end of the tunnel,” Baker said. “Watching them having just gone through it, we knew we are capable of getting through it.”
And that’s something both Lowendick and Baker have done. They’ve made it through and raised sons who are doing well.
And now they’re the face of the March for Babies and will encourage mothers around them with their stories and with the ways March of Dimes helped and continues to help mothers like them.
“No new mom should have to leave their baby behind,” Lowendick said. “Nobody should have to experience that.”