SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — At only 24 weeks along, new mother Lauren Taylor found herself in the delivery room sooner than she thought just days after moving to South Dakota.

In the United States roughly one in ten babies are born prematurely.

“I had been bleeding for a few days, and I was a little concerned about it so right before we moved, I did go to the doctor, and they ended up not doing a cervical check and so they weren’t too concerned. I just sent me home. And we actually moved that day. We drove all the way from Georgia to Sioux Falls,” said Taylor, who moved to Sioux Falls in August.

Just five days later, baby Leo was born.

“There weren’t really any signs besides, I started bleeding and cramping. It was very interesting in the sense that I feel like it was a quote-unquote normal birth but just really, really early,” said Taylor.

Leo has been in the hospital since he was born. At birth he weighed 1.1lbs and has already needed multiple surgeries.

“Thankfully, here we have pediatric surgeons available that were able to address it and treat that condition very early. But since he was so tiny, they couldn’t do the full procedure all at once. And so he will need a procedure again when he’s older and larger to complete the reconnection of his intestines,” said Lauritz Meyer, neonatologist at Sanford Children’s.

Meyer has been a Neonatologist at Sanford for nine years. He became interested in this field after his own daughter was born prematurely.

“I just liked the ability to help families and take care of little sick babies and help them get better,” said Meyer. “So that’s kind of how I fell into this job.”

He says it’s not uncommon for premature babies to have complications.

“What all babies need to do to be able to go home — they need to maintain their body temperature well without a warmer bed. And so when babies are super tiny and only a pound, two pounds, they will get cold very quickly if we don’t have our giraffe isolettes for them,” said Meyer.

For baby Leo, he needs to meet certain criteria before he’s ready to go home.

“Usually the feeding part is what takes the longest. And once they get that figured out, and they have all the other criteria met, they’re able to go home,” said Meyer.

Taylor has been at the hospital every day since Leo was born and says having a baby prematurely has it challenges.

“It’s really hard to go through that and go through postpartum. I think postpartum in itself is already a lot. Then going home and not having your baby, and having so many surgeries and just so many things going on. It can definitely be a lot,” said Taylor.

Taylor enjoys art and says that’s been one outlet through the difficult days.

“Sanford has been very, very accommodating and supportive. I did not expect that at all either. They have so many different things — like I do the Sanford arts program,” said Taylor. “So someone comes in and paints with me in those different art related things just to get my mind off of everything that’s going on.”

Having other moms in similar situations to talk with is also helping.

“It was nice to have a group of people that can relate to you and you can confide in and will actually understand what you’re going through. So that was very huge for me. I think that might have been the biggest thing that helped the most was connecting with other moms,” said Taylor.

Now weighing over 5lbs, Leo is making progress to eventually go home.

“Sometimes he doesn’t have me and doesn’t understand why he doesn’t. So I think being able to show him that I do want to be with you all the time, and I can be with you all the time, will be what I’m mostly excited for,” said Taylor.

Taylor says although having a baby born prematurely can be stressful, making sure you’re taking care of yourself is important.

“Your baby is in really good care, and they’re not going to suffer if you go and take care of yourself. If anything, it’ll benefit them even more,” said Taylor.

Roughly 800 babies are admitted to the Sanford NICU every year.
Leo just recently hit 37 weeks and is continuing to work toward being able to feed on his own.