Olivia LaRochelle, or Livi, as her parents call her, didn’t sleep in her own cradle until she was almost 4 months old. The day Ashley and Eric LaRochelle brought their tiny daughter home, she wasn’t even supposed to have been born yet. It was Feb. 4, 2013. She was due Feb. 10.
Livi, whose birth was chronicled in the January issue of Maine Women, came into the world at Maine Medical Center Oct. 16, 2012. Her mother went into labor at 23 weeks. The LaRochelles, who live in Wakefield, N.H., had been through the same scenario twice before with two sets of twins, and had lost all four babies. Doctors don’t know why Ashley goes into premature labor and had done everything possible to prevent it from happening again.
Three times after she was born, they were sure Livi wouldn’t survive, but she pulled through.
At birth, she was 101?2 inches long and weighed 1 pound, 1 ounce. When she was proclaimed fit to go home, she was 5 pounds, 3 ounces. At a doctor’s appointment the end of March, Livi tipped the scales at 9 pounds, 3 ounces and was 20 inches long.
“Compare her weight to her height,” says Ashley LaRochelle, “and she’s actually kind of chubby, which is something I never would have expected.”
When they finally brought her home, it was exhaustion, not apprehension, that LaRochelle says she felt. She had slept beside Livi in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Maine Medical Center, with her husband joining them when he wasn’t working, since the day she was born.
“Because I had been with her in the hospital and stayed overnight for so long, I knew the routine inside and out,” says LaRochelle. “I know her so well. I know all of her cues. I think I was more nervous that I was so tired I wouldn’t hear her or I wouldn’t wake up. Once I learned that I’ll wake up for anything, I was more comfortable.”
The first night home, “She just looked around like any newborn. She’s been sleeping in a cradle in our bedroom. She has a lovely crib set up in the nursery, but Mommy’s not quite ready to put her in it yet.”
Livi recently discovered herself in the mirror, and yes, she is a bit of a diva.
“She likes to smile at the baby in the mirror,” says her mother, “and she talks to her. We haven’t heard her laugh yet, that’s what we’re waiting for most. I can’t wait to hear her giggle.”
They do get to hear her talk, especially when she’s eating. She wasn’t too thrilled with the cereal she was recently served for the first time, but is getting used to it, and she finally became strong enough to breastfeed, which is a huge milestone.
In the hospital, except for the times she had surgery or there were complications, such as infections, she was able to get a little bit of breast milk through her feeding tube. She later graduated to a bottle, but only in the past few weeks has she been able to breastfeed directly. For the duration, LaRochelle pumped and stored her breast milk, and amassed quite a surplus.
“We ended up having to buy a deep freezer because we had so much milk,” she said. “We had milk in our freezer, my parents’ freezer and my grandmother’s freezer, and we ended up donating a bunch of it to the Mothers’ Milk Bank of New England.”
Another recent milestone is that LaRochelle, who is an occupational therapist, went back to work part time. Her mother, who lives nearby, is taking more than good care of her granddaughter.
“It was definitely very hard to leave her,” said LaRochelle, “but it was exciting to see everybody and share pictures and story and brag a little bit.”
Ashley, 25, and Eric, 26, are still overwhelmed by the outpouring of love they have received.
“The love for Livi that’s in this world is beyond what I can even imagine,” says LaRochelle. “So many people have told me that they shared her story, and there are people praying for her across the country. It’s amazing. We’re happy and healthy and we’re so grateful for all the prayers and well wishes and so glad that she has brought so much joy to the world.