MAHOMET – Considering that she'd had a trouble-free pregnancy for her first two trimesters, Lori Moore was surprised when she suddenly started feeling abdominal pains in the sixth month.
The next surprise for Lori and her husband, Shannon, of Mahomet: Their baby son, Will, arrived three months early – too tiny to leave the hospital and with severe breathing problems for the first two months of his life.
The Moores planned to have their first child – who was due this past September – in Columbus, Ind., where both sets of grandparents would be handy.
Instead, they wound up one of the many families served by the neonatal intensive care unit at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, where Will ended up spending three months after his birth before he was well enough to come home with his parents.
And big enough. At birth, he weighed 2 pounds, 5 ounces.
"He was a little guy," Lori Moore says.
Lori says she learned later that the urinary tract infection she'd been diagnosed with earlier in the week might have brought on her premature labor.
She remembers being scared, and how a nurse came in before the birth and told them just what to expect from a delivery at 26 weeks.
"They told us you can't hold the baby," Lori said. "You won't be able to hear the baby cry."
Immediately after the birth, Will was taken to neonatal intensive care. With underdeveloped lungs, he needed help breathing. He needed to be in an incubator. He wore a tiny mask over his eyes and a diaper no bigger than the palm of Lori's hand.
For the first five days, Lori and Shannon couldn't hold their son. They could only place their hands on him.
Then, "the very first time I held him, he quit breathing," Lori says, adding her son nearly died that day. After that, Will spent the next two months on and off a ventilator.
The Moores said the nurses helped them cope with the sudden setbacks that would follow Will's good days. The nurses eased their worries some when they couldn't be at the hospital.
Still, Lori says, she was full of anxiety, thinking, "What if something happens and I'm not here – but you'd be emotionally spent and need the break."
For Shannon, a casket salesman who has seen too many deceased infants, it was especially hard to be in the neonatal intensive care unit.
"I could only be in that room about 10 minutes at a time," he says. "Then I'd have to get out and walk around."
Especially frightening were the monitors connected to the babies that would sound alarms frequently, he says. And a few times, when a baby was in severe distress, all the other parents were cleared from the room.
Nobody ever told them what happened later, Shannon says, but "you'd come back in the next day and that baby was gone. You knew."
Lori has learned since Will's birth that she had some grieving to do, for the pregnancy and birth she thought she was going to have.
"It's not what you expect with your first pregnancy," she says.
These days, Will – though he must still wear an apnea monitor for a bit longer – is a smiley baby who tips the scale at nearly 11 pounds. He has steady weekend visits from grandparents, and Lori says he's probably getting way too many gifts for Christmas.
And the Moores say their worry level about him is down to about what any new parent has with a first baby at home.
"We just probably got a three-month jump on it," Shannon says.