Our Story

From Finding Out We Were Pregnant to Giving Birth to Our Baby Boy

I am Maraiah Dela Cruz and I started NICU Brave because as a mom who has had a baby in the NICU felt very alone and scared. I wanted to create a community of moms and dads who can come together, share stories and feel less alone, something I wish I had.

Our son was born 10 weeks prematurely at 30 weeks and 2 days gestation in May of 2020 due to an unknown reason. I am so very grateful that my son was born healthy and happy.

We found out that we were pregnant with our first baby on our one year wedding anniversary on November 12, 2019. We were on our anniversary trip and during our trip we visited the volcano national park. There was a rock that I overheard someone say that if you go under the rock you will get pregnant. He was joking but I thought, ‘why not?’ and I climbed into the rock and snapped a picture. A couple days later, I took a test and it was positive! I didn’t know how to tell my husband the great news because I am so bad at keeping secrets. I put together a box with a little poppy seed in it, a new parents book, and the pregnancy test that said “pregnant”. It was an amazing feeling of happiness but also shock. We were going to be parents! We were so excited! We told our parents a couple weeks later. We gave them a box with a pacifier and onesie in it that said “Baby Dela Cruz Due July 2020”. The next thing to do was to tell our best friends. They were all surprised and we were able to catch their reactions on video! We didn’t make the public announcement until Christmas.

On Christmas Day, we made the announcement to all our family and friends and we were so happy that we finally shared the news with everyone.

Then the scariest thing happened. On New Years Day, around 6 o’clock in the morning, I went to the bathroom as normal and all of a sudden, I felt something drop into the toilet. It was a large blood clot that was almost the size of a business card. I was hyperventilating. I was scared. I thought I was miscarrying. My whole world felt like it was coming to an end. Thank God that there is a hospital 2 blocks away and we rushed to the ER. They took us right away, got me into a trauma room and started examining me. I was only 10 weeks pregnant. It took an hour or two for the on call radiology specialist and ultrasound technician to come in and give me an ultrasound. The hospital near my home doesn’t specialize in labor and delivery so they aren’t set up for that. When the specialist came in, they wheeled me to the room to get an ultrasound done. They didn’t let me look at the screen but thank God my husband was there with me and watching the screen the entire time while holding my hand. His face showed it all. He was scared. He didn’t know how to express his emotions. He asked the specialist, “is that the baby?” And she just nodded, that’s all she could do. She said radiology had to be the ones to officially read all the scans. But that’s all I needed. That nod. I cried with relief. My husband put his head down and prayed and thanked God our baby was safe. We started off the New Year in a way I never imagined. But we are happy that we were healthy and safe.

Through out all of this, we didn’t even have our first ultrasound with out OB yet until a week later. And there was our little peanut, moving around happily. Our baby was measuring just right and we were so excited that we were finally able to see out little baby so big, well, the size of a lime. (11 weeks, 2 days).

Since we had done genetic testing and me and Justen had the Alpha Thalessemia trait we went to see a maternal fetal medicine. We had to get a consultation and they walked us through all our different options. The thalassemia trait is very fatal if the baby would inherit all four markers. I’m not going to explain it because it’ll be a whole other story but they basically said that if we continued on with the pregnancy and if our baby would inherit all 4 markers, they would need to get blood transfusions for life or something fatal could happen. But there is also a change that our baby wouldn’t inherit it. The other option would be to get a blood transfusion while our baby was still in utero but that would consist of constant flying from Hawaii to San Fransisco since it is a new technology that isn’t practiced here in Hawaii. And the last option was to terminate the pregnancy and that wasn’t going to be an option to us. We trusted God and we had faith that our baby will be safe and healthy. In order to determine whether or not our baby would have the trait I had two options. The options were to get a chorionic villus sampling (CVS) test done, which is done between 10 and 13 weeks or an amniocentesis done, which is done between 16 and 20 weeks. Each test would take 4 weeks to receive and because we wanted to get the results as soon as possible, we chose to do the CVS test which involved a 6 inch need that would go straight through my belly to the placenta to get cells and tissues to get tested for the gene. With this test we were also able to get the most accurate gender reading since they are reading the exact DNA of our baby and not just reading an ultrasound or getting my blood sample. We waited until Valentines Day to open the results of the gender.

In February 2020 for Valentines day weekend, we went on an early baby moon when I was about 17 weeks pregnant. It was so much fun. The day that we got there we got a phone call from our maternal fetal medicines office and they told us that our baby does not carry all 4 markers and that our baby was healthy. We were walking around Target at the time and I felt like I was going to cry like a baby. It was the best news to hear all week. I just wanna add that we went to the all you can eat seafood buffet at the hotel we stayed at when we first found out we were pregnant and it was amazing.

We had our gender reveal a couple weeks later in March for our family and everyone was so excited for us when we found out we are having a boy!

On April 10, 2020, at my maternal fetal medicine appointment, I went in for a checkup. When I mentioned that when I went to the ER a couple months prior, they said my placenta might be partially covering my cervix so my doctor checked and noticed that my cervix was thin. It was only 7mm when it should be more than 25mm. It was too late for me to get a cerclage at risk of accidentally puncturing the amniotic sac since I was already 24 weeks pregnant. So I had to be put on progesterone suppositories for the rest of my pregnancy. I was also put on bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy.

A couple weeks later when I was 27 weeks pregnant, I felt a lot of uncomfortable pressure in my lower abdomen and pelvic area. We decided that it was better to go to the hospital to get checked, so at around 8pm we went to labor and delivery. While I was in triage they examined me, put baby on the monitor and checked my cervix. They noticed that I was almost 3 centimeters and the doctors had decided it was best to admit us into labor and delivery and got our baby on the monitor again right away. After I got admitted, they gave me steroid shots twice, 24 hours apart to help baby’s lungs and brain to mature faster and other medications to slow down and stop me from going into labor to early. While I was in the hospital, a doctor came in and asked me how the pressure was feeling and if there was any pain when she pushed down on my pelvic bones and it was painful. She told me that it is likely that I have SPD – Symphysis pubis dysfunction so she gave me a band to wrap around my belly to help take the weight off my pelvic which was tough. I was in the hospital for 3 nights and got discharged because we were doing so much better. We were put on limited activity and bed rest so there wasn’t much that I could do.

My labor experience wasn’t what I thought it would be. I thought my water would break and that would be a sign that I’m having my baby. But it all started on Thursday, May 14, 2020 at about 7:45 am when I thought my water had broken. I was laying in bed and I honestly thought I had peed myself, so I stood up to rush to the bathroom but as I stood, there was gushing of clear fluid mixed with blood. I called my husband because I needed him to come home to take me to the hospital. I threw on a Depends adult diaper and waited. Luckily I already had my hospital bag packed so all I had to do was panic and relax and wait for my husband.

My husband rushed home and we were on the way to Kapiolani Women and Children’s Medical Center. Thank God that in no traffic we can get to the hospital in less than 15 minutes. When we got to the hospital Justen dropped me off at the entrance and I walked in to check in to labor and delivery. Unfortunately, we have to check in alone to get evaluated and the husbands have to wait downstairs. Once we get admitted into a room, we can have our husbands with us. And the only reason why is because of COVID-19. They were limiting the amount of people in the triage rooms before getting admitted into an actual suite.

As I was getting examined there were 3 doctors checking my cervix and they couldn’t figure out where the bleeding and blood clots were coming from or what was causing it because my water had not broken. In an instant, they got my IV hooked us and put me on a magnesium drip. It was the worst because I felt like my veins were burning and I was hot all the time. They also immediately gave me the first dose of the steroid shot to help our son’s lungs and brain mature. I got the second dose 24 hours later. They continued to check on me and my OB came in to tell us that we were going to stay in the hospital for the rest of my pregnancy. We didn’t know how long that was going to be, but my OB was hoping to get us to 34 weeks. That was another 5 weeks in the hospital and a possible 11 weeks if we were to get 40 weeks. But God and our baby boy had better plans for us and I gave birth 5 days later on May 19, 2020.

On May 18, 2020 around 11:00pm, we had just got off the phone with my in laws because they were checking in on me and seeing how I was doing. I started to feel some cramping pains so I called the nurse. She gave me some pain medication and I was waiting for it to work but it didn’t. They hooks us back onto the monitor and baby was happy. They didn’t see any contractions but continued to watch me. Around 1:00am, I started bleeding and the cramping got worse. They tried put me back on the magnesium to slow my contractions but that didn’t work either. Doctor after doctor kept coming in to check on me. Our nurse had other patients that she gave to the other nurses because she didn’t want to leave my side, she didn’t want to leave me alone just incase something happened. I was continuing to bleed and then the cramping started getting more painful and then another doctor checked my cervix. Fluid started gushing and she had thought my water broke. Another doctor said “did you rupture her water?” and she said “no”. My water was still in tact, but I was still gushing fluid and blood.

Around 4:30am, another doctor that has been checking on me everyday came in and checked my cervix, then she tells the nurse 8 centimeters, and other information, then she looks at me and says, “you’re in labor, friend!”. And in my head, I was thinking maybe I was in later for the past 5 hours and it wasn’t just cramping. The contractions started getting worse and closer together. They paged my OB. And the next couple hours after was such a blur. I just remember how there were so many doctors and nurses that flooded my room. At least 20 people were going in and out. We had the neonatal team in our room a bunch of nurses and doctors. My OB arrived and around that time, they started to give me the epidural. My husband had to step out of the room at the time and I leaned over onto my nurse in pain while they inserted the needle to give me the epidural.

My husband came back into the room. It was time to push but my water still hadn’t broken so my OB had to break it. I felt a gush and then it was now time to push. I could still feel that the epidural hadn’t completely worked yet, but I had to push. I remember seeing at least 7 people and my husband surrounding the front of my bed, while there were other teams of doctors and nurses ready with the incubator ready to take my son up to the NICU to get immediate care.

Within 3 big pushes in less that 5 minutes, my son was here. May 19, 2020 at 6:50am my little 3 lb. 12.9 oz. baby boy was born into the world.

My husband told me that there was a lot of blood, blood everywhere that covered more than half the room after our son made his arrival. The nurses were watching me really closely the entire time that I was admitted because I would bleed. I lost a lot of blood and I almost needed a blood transfusion. But we were happy that our son and I was safe and healthy.

Jusaiah’s Story

My sons NICU journey didn’t consist of much. He didn’t need extensive care or surgeries. Jusaiah was born 10 weeks early at 30 weeks and 2 days, he was breathing fine. He had to be put on the CPAP machine for a little while and had that PICC line in him. My little boy looked so fragile. Skin so thin. I felt so helpless. I felt like I had failed my son. My body had failed my son. My body was supposed to keep him safe. When they laid him on me right after I gave birth, I only held him for less than a minute. It was the best minute of my life, but when they took him away to go to the NICU, I felt so helpless, so sad and depressed. My body couldn’t move.