‘Premature’ or ‘preterm’ baby (Preemie) is one that is born before 37 weeks. No parents wish to have a preemie and we all dream of holding a healthy baby shortly after delivery. Here is a phase of my life; my life as a preemie parent.
I very much wish that I could have some magic words to soothe all the preemie parents during the most difficult moments but from my experience there are no words to do that. What I can do is to share with you my experience and some words of encouragement. Trust me, with time all the difficulties come to an end.
Start of My Life as a Preemie Parent:
On the 6th of January 2013 early morning, around 4.30 I found my water leaking. I thought everything was fine because I had gone for a routine check-up including ultrasound scan the previous evening. As per scan reports everything was fine with me and the EOD was 14 February.
I was taken to the hospital. Once examined it was determined I had Preterm Premature Rupture of Membranes (PPROM). The reason is still unclear to doctors. Thus baby of (B/o) Jayalekshmy was bought into this world on the same day around 8.43 pm via C-section. He was 34 weeks preterm with birth weight of 2.25 kg.
I think my baby came so early to wish his dad a happy birthday .The very next day (Jan 7) was my hubby’s birthday and he got a surprise gift in advance!
B/o Jayalekshmy spent the first 10 days in the neonatal special care unit. He dropped weight like most babies do. Each baby in SCU had a nurse looking after them 24/7. The nurses and staff were fantastic and so supportive. They informed us constantly on his progress.
My Life as a Preemie Parent – Struggles and Hardships:
Learning how to suck was a hard task for him. His little mouth would get tired so quickly. I thought this is never going to work but somehow he started to get the hang of it.
My life revolved around Rithvik’s feeding times. I was advised to feed him every two hours or if possible every one hour by his paediatrician. The problem with sucking is that he start wasting lots of energy and his weight dropped to 1.8 kg a little over the expected weight loss. So his paed advised me to start on EBM.
Expressing breast milk was another toughest task for me, but again I was doing all for my little one. The staff nurse trained me how to express milk and how to feed EBM using paaladai. Day 4 to day 6 he was put under photo therapy for jaundice. I sat and watched in tears whenever I saw his tiny hand pricked for collecting blood sample to check the level of bilirubin.
My hubby along with my mom sat with us in the hospital the whole ten days taking care of myself and Rithvik. The day for us finally came when Rithvik was ten days old weighing back again to 2.3 kg.
I kept thinking that he wasn’t ready to come home yet. It was me who was not ready, I was frightened that something might happen, but the neonatal nurses were very supportive, kind and helpful. Their soothing words gave me the confidence I needed in my role as a mother.
Coming Back Home after the NICU stay:
After coming home, for nearly three months I continued to struggle with expressing milk. I had to feed in a two hour cycle, giving medicines for him (he was given some calcium and vitamin drops by his paed), putting eye drops for his infected eye.
Most times I burst into tears. I experienced postnatal depression which I recovered completely with the help of my family. I am so thankful for my family for being so supportive, especially my husband; he is my all in all.
Rithvik is 19 months old active and healthy toddler now with a good weight of 10.9 kg and all his developmental milestones are on track. So these are some of the points I would like to give to all expectant parents and preemie parents based on my experience.
11 Handy Tips for Expectant Parents and Preemie Parents from My Experience:
1) Stay positive and don’t be sad at this stage but be prepared
This is how we spend too long in hospital. We knew it was going to be a tough journey for only first few months.
2) Ignore any pregnancy related stories that anyone tells you.
Every woman’s pregnancy is different and every baby is different.
3) Every two hours feed your baby.
4) Always remember your preemies immunity system is not fully developed. So please AVOID VISITORS completely for the first three months.
5) Don’t stress so much about the sleepless nights which will pass soon.
6) Listen to your instincts. It’s good when you shut out everyone else’s opinion and follow your heart.
7) Don’t get too upset if you are not able to breastfeed. Its not like mother-child bonding comes only by breast feeding.
8) Rock your baby to sleep, co-sleep, feed to sleep, cuddle them plenty and kiss them lot.
9) If possible try to be in touch with the neonatal nurse/s. I found them very helpful whenever I had doubts back home.
10) Regular follow-up visits with your baby’s pediatrician.
11) Finally, you’re not alone. Share stories with moms like you during your hospital stay. As you begin talking, you’ll find that these moms can understand you even better than others. They too will be happy knowing that they’re not the only ones feeling this way either.
This was my life as a preemie parent when I look back. Share with us your experience as a preemie parent if any.
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