Preemie clothes

After scares and hardships, bringing baby Michael home

Halfway through their first date, Dave realized he had left a burning candle in his apartment. But he stayed put; the conversation was going too well for him to retire early. In the end, it was Lizzy who abruptly apologized from the South Philly Tap Room.

What she didn’t tell Dave until later was that she had to rush home to inject herself with fertility drugs; she had just begun the process of retrieving and freezing her eggs.

“I am a person who does a lot of research and thinks a lot,” she says. “I wasn’t sure I wanted kids, but I didn’t want the decision taken away from me. I wanted more time.

Shortly before, she had decided to take a break from the whole Bumble scene. She had just bought a house; the egg freezing process was long and emotional. Dave was going to be his last date.

“He was kind and cute and smart, but the most important thing was that I felt so comfortable right from the start,” she says. And when she finally entrusted him with the egg freezing process – in the end it failed and Lizzy was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome – her response was perfect: “I really like you, I want kids, and we’re gonna figure it out dating.”

Dave moved into Lizzy’s house in August 2019, about a year after they met. In December of that year, Lizzy made a comment about “if we get married”.

Dave replied, “It’s not if; it is when, and you want to go buy some rings? Lizzy felt a surge of nervousness. “It’s forever, and how do you know that?” But I loved our life together. I liked it. I think marriage is… just close your eyes and jump.

They planned a wedding for July 2020: a traditional ceremony and reception for 150 people in Akron, Ohio, where Lizzy’s family lived. The pandemic shattered that idea; instead, they herded 14 people, including a rabbi and a photographer, into an Airbnb on the Potomac in Stafford, Virginia.

“I did my own makeup; my sister did my hair. We have done everything outside to keep people socially distanced. We had contactless delivery for dinner. My mom made the cake,” Lizzy says. She was wearing a dress she had bought off the rack; Dave was sporting a suit he had borrowed from a neighbor.

All day, Lizzy worried about the soles of Dave’s shoes – that they were too flimsy and that when he stepped on the glass, a closing ritual of Jewish marriages, the shards might pierce his skin.

Right after the ceremony, he said, “Lizzy, my foot is bleeding! Then he started laughing. The photographer captured their expressions: his shocked relief, his mischievous delight.

Lizzy was mindful of her fertility clock and aware, due to the PCOS diagnosis, that conception might take some time. She got pregnant quickly, but during an 11-week ultrasound, she learned that the fetus had stopped growing.

Eight days later, they flew to Seattle – a belated honeymoon after having canceled three previous trips – and traveled the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco. Shortly after, the two were visiting Dave’s family in Hilton Head, South Carolina. After a day of wild weather, they walked on the beach and saw a double rainbow arching over the ocean.

That night, Lizzy woke up at 2 a.m., slipped into the bathroom, and watched a test stick blush bright pink. She went back to bed and woke Dave: “I’m pregnant.

It was a difficult pregnancy: intense nausea, a few miscarriages, diagnosis of placenta previa. Then Lizzy’s waters broke – at 31 weeks and six days. At the Pennsylvania Hospital, the doctors’ goal was to keep the baby in utero for as long as possible; for eight days, Lizzy roamed the halls and listened to podcasts, waves of anxiety alternating with boredom.

One evening, she started having contractions; at 1 a.m. the pain was so fierce that she cried out. A doctor checked: You are fully dilated. She called Dave at 1:22 a.m. At 1:39 a.m., he rushed into the labor and delivery room. There was blood, a medical team with sober expressions; he feared the baby was dead.

Then he heard two heartbeats: his wife’s and a second rapid pulse. Their son was born at 1:45 a.m. “I was in shock,” Lizzy recalled. “I didn’t even know I was in labor until 15 or 20 minutes before. They said it would go straight to NICU, but they handed it to me for a few minutes.

Michael remained in the NICU for 27 days, part of that time on oxygen support. “It was a very long time,” says Dave. “We went back and forth every day, sometimes twice, to see him, feed him and get to know him.”

Neighbors started a meal train for the couple; friends dropped off gifts and clothes. Their employers – Lizzy teaches at Widener University and Dave is a professor at Temple – were accommodating. NICU nurses offered both practical skills and reassuring mantras: “He’s harder than you think. Don’t stare at the monitors; look at him. He’s not sick; He is in advance.

The ordeal, Lizzy says, “made our relationship even stronger. We saw each other cry. We had each other.

Finally, Michael was ready to go home. A nurse disconnected the monitors; he cried when the tapes came off. The couple had befriended other parents whose babies were not as healthy, who would stay in the NICU for much longer.

“You feel like there should be a graduation,” Lizzy says. Instead, there was the bleat of a monitor. She looked up in reflex, then realized: Michael was no longer attached. The alarm wasn’t for her baby.

“We got on the elevator. There were two security guards. [Michael] had been in the world for 27 days and had never left this building. We put him in the car and started crying.