In my last post I asked, “What’s the difference between 31 and 32 weeks?”
Over the next several weeks (54 days to be exact) I would certainly learn.
When you are talking about Gestational age or Fetal age the difference is…..
A whole lot more than “just 7 days”.
In several cases, it can even mean life or death.
The morning after the boys were delivered, Einstein and I went back to the hospital to check on Thing One, and to hopefully meet our grandsons. Thing One had given us the pictures above when we briefly visited the night before. The only other information we had was that Joey was delivered first at 4 lbs 7 oz (on the left in the picture above) and, Danny (on the right) followed at 3lbs 15 oz. They both looked so “normal”. Tiny as hell, but they “appeared” fully developed.
I couldn’t wait to see and hold and kiss and cuddle them. After visiting with Thing One and receiving our badges, which generically explained the rules of the NICU and had to be worn at all times…..
Z led us to this whole new “planet” called the NICU.
We had to go through a series of locked doors and wait to be “buzzed” through each one after our identities were verified. Upon entering the NICU, we had to scrub ourselves up to our elbows in the surgical sink, and place all belongings in a locker. Cell phones had to be placed in plastic bags. After completing our scrubbing, we were led to a “pod”
This is the first time I saw my grandsons and I was terrified all over again.
Why did they have so many monitors, cables, and alarms? Why couldn’t we hold them? Why did Danny have to keep a rag over his eyes? Why did they have to be on oxygen and need feeding tubes? So many questions and not a lot of answers.
I think I have said several times before that I try to respect other people’s privacy as much as possible, so I am not going to go into specifics. Instead, I will tell you a bit about the milestones that all babies much reach before they are discharged from the NICU.
- Most importantly, all babies need to be able to breathe on their own.
- They must be able to regulate their own body temperature.
- They need to be able to eat on their own and gain weight.
It sounds simple, but it is not. At 31 weeks, babies lungs are not fully developed. Because most can’t breath on their own, they certainly can not eat on their own (the they have to be able to breathe and suck at the same time). If they can’t do that effectively, they can not gain weight to regulate their own body temperatures. etc etc etc.
Random fact here…. One ounce of baby formula contains 20 calories. If it takes a baby longer than 10 minutes to consume those calories they are probably burning more than they are gaining.
If you are interested in reading more about the weekly development of preemies, this website gives a brief overview.
During their days in the NICU, I spent as much time as I could with them, while at the same time making sure that they were not overstimulated because most of their brain development happens while they are sleeping. (something else I had no idea about)
I mentioned earlier that the NICU was a whole new planet. The boys had their own doctoral staff of consisting of Neonatologists, cardiologists, pulmonologists, gastroenterologists, dieticians, etc.
When they needed to see a specialist, or have tests done, things were performed very quickly, and after they moved to the new hospital the visits or tests were done right in their room.
While I am very grateful for the care my grandsons received in the hospital, I hope NEVER to have to visit a NICU again.
Have you ever heard the expression “when you hear hoofbeats think Horses, not Zebras?” The times that I have heard it are in medical situations when your symptoms are compatible with a variety of ailments. For example, if there is blood on your finger, it may be a caused by a papercut, not something requiring surgery.
While in the NICU, the thinking is reversed. They immediately begin telling you about the worst case scenario. I am honestly not surprised that more parents of preemies are not diagnosed with a degree of PTSD.
If you are a parent that has to go through this experience I encourage you to reach out for someone to talk to. If possible, talk to other parents of preemies as they may be the only ones who understand the fears you are experiencing.
Thank you for reading along today, writing about it has helped me find some closure to that time.
I will have another story Friday about whether or not I punched the nurse at one of the boys doctor visits.