Here’s where I learned about something I never expected: what life is like when you have a preemie. Our little guy showed up 7 weeks early. When a baby is born early, knowing it’s precise gestation is important to the docs. I knew when our little man was conceived, so I knew his precise gestation. When he was pulled out, and the time was announced as 12:05am, that put him officially as a 33 weeker; by five minutes. I was not going to let them call him a 32 weeker, when he had made it to that invisible line in the sand.
Because he needed breathing support, he needed to be flown to a big, university hospital. At 2 hrs. old, all the arrangements had been made, the little guy was intubated for the flight, and he was off on his first helicopter ride. The next 19 days were a blur of driving almost 2 hrs. to and fro this university hospital’s NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). Because it was in a big city, we tried to drive down after morning traffic and drive home before the evening rush. That only left us a few precious hours to be with that tiny bundle, covered with wires. Leaving him left me often in tears. All I wanted to do was hold him. At that point, I believe I was programmed to want nothing more than to hold him, feed him, watch him sleep, and love him. Instead, I had to leave every day, try to pump milk for him, and try to heal from the c-section. With being very heavy, losing sleep while trying to pump around the clock, and constantly on the go, my body was having a tough time healing.
We were lucky that our little man was born big: 5 lbs. 5 oz. He dropped to just under 5 lbs. when he was a day or two old, and then rebounded. Other than being born too soon, and needing to let his lungs mature, he was a healthy baby. He went through a few “normal” things, such as jaundice. His body had to learn how to regulate his body temperature, to accept food into his tummy, and to breathe without help. He did well. On December 9, after a car seat test (they watch his oxygen saturation for the length of his car ride home, while he’s strapped into his car seat), the doctors pronounced him ready to go home. He was 19 days old and 4 weeks before he would have reached full gestation.
Thus began the real learning curve. I was tired, in pain from my c-section (still), and learning this little bundle. I started out with an assignment; to record how much he ate, and when. After a few days, we went into his pediatrician’s office for his first check-up. It was good to finally be able to meet the man who helped our guy take his first breath. Other than weekly pediatric visits and my husband, I had very little support system to help me learn how to become a mother. And truly, my husband, even though he had a daughter 20+ years earlier, was learning too. Because we had only been where we lived for 2 years, I didn’t have any close girlfriends yet. I met one other gal my age who was about to have her second daughter, but she lived about a half hour away; and she was busy with her young family. My biggest support in gathering information, was found on the internet: online bulletin boards. The learning began in a big way.