Bringing Home a Premature Baby

My daughter was born in the very beginning of April. It was a sunny day, and I remember that it was warmer than usual. It wasn’t warmer than I expected her birthday to be, however, because she was supposed to be born in May. Little did I know it when I started my pregnancy journey, but I was going to be a mommy to a preemie. When you think of premature babies, you think of sickly moms, people who know that they’re having problems all along during their gestation, that sort of thing. I had no clue. On April 5, 2005 I got swollen. Super swollen, not just big fat end-of-pregnancy swollen. Deciding that this was probably not normal, I ended up in Labor and Delivery at 35 weeks to get checked out. I really didn’t think that anything was horribly wrong – I felt fine, my lil girl was in there kicking and bouncing as usual. Unfortunately, my thoughts were wrong. I had preeclampsia (my blood pressure was very high and I had protein in my urine).

At first I thought, hey, they can fix this… they’ll give me some meds and I’ll be home on bed rest. And at first, that’s what happened: I was hooked up to an IV of magnesium (burns like FIRE!) and told I’d have to stay in the hospital until my BP went down. By 11 pm that night, I was thinking that this whole experience was awful, but at least my baby was ok. Then my obstetrician came in and asked the nurse “Did you start her pit yet?”. Being overly fond of ER shows, I knew that he meant to induce labor (with pitocin). It would have been nice to have had someone tell me that.

Skip forward about 12 hours (past the lovely induction, breaking of water which nearly flooded the whole ward and blissful epidural) and I delivered one healthy (I thought) five pound 13 ounce baby girl. I know what you’re thinking – that’s actually pretty big for a preemie. But I was expecting my nice, solid eight pounder. She looked so… tiny. The prenatal team decided she might need some observation, so she ended up being kept in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for four days (there were no problems and she was the star of the NICU), and then she got to come home with us.

This we were not prepared for. Preemies do not fit well into clothing made for newborns. She flopped about inside her sleeper like she’d been shrunk and her clothes hadn’t gone with her. The car seat seemed gigantic and the straps were hardly securing our little (LITTLE) bundle. No one prepares you for the fact you might not have a “normal” size baby and we were so very scared. First time parents and now she’s a miniature on top of that.

We had to learn that diapers can be folded in (a lot) and that floppy clothing actually looks kind of cute on an infant. We also had to learn that just because she was smaller than average, that didn’t mean we were going to break her. I learned many things (for future babies or just as advice) – assemble the baby furniture early, and buy at least one preemie sized outfit in case someone shows up early. Also, be prepared for the fact that your baby might not be exactly like other newborns. Even though our little girl was only five weeks early, she still slept more, ate less and was a bit quieter than other newborn babes. People (namely family) might also be a bit more hesitant to hold your new bundle of joy, preemies look infinitely more breakable.

Now, I miss the five pounder that I had. She’s nearly a year now, and actually larger than some other children her age. She weighs 21 pounds because she caught up rapidly just around her sixth month. She crawls, shrieks and even growls (yes, growls). So treasure those teensy baby moments, they are far too short.

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