Monday, November 12, 2012

Prematurity Awareness

Did you know Canada.. we have a very important guest post today about Prematurity Awareness from Elizabeth - Frugal Mom Eh..

Prematurity is not something most women consider a possibility during their pregnancy. Most women have no idea what goes on inside the NICU. Most women have no idea what it is like to go through having a baby born prematurely. I was the same before my daughter was born 11 weeks early and due to this ignorance I was left feeling very alone, depressed and scared.

I felt robbed of my pregnancy, robbed of my perfect birth. Scared she would not make it. Afraid there would be lasting issues.

When I was discharged from the hospital and sent home alone I just sat in my empty house and cried. I wasn’t pregnant anymore. My baby was in the hospital and I desperately wanted her there with me.

At the time I thought something was wrong with me and I couldn’t understand all the emotions but I know now just how normal they all were.

Even more normal is the excitement preemie parents feel about being able to do the diaper change and hold the NG tube for the feed and the disappointment when you show up and it has already been done by one of the staff. You find yourself picking up and even using all the hospital jargon as if it were every day English.

There are no cute posed newborn photos, instead you settle on shots taken outside an incubator.

Rather than waking up throughout the night to breastfeed your newborn you wake up to an alarm signalling it is time to pump. Honk Moo Honk Moo.

We celebrate every victory – coming off breathing support, coming off all the IVs, a clear head ultrasound and so on.

When my daughter came home after 54 days in the NICU I quickly found out two things. One was that a lot of people are preemies, have had preemies or know preemies. The other thing I found was that a lot of other people know nothing about preemies.

When out with my daughter I found people Oohing and Awwing over how little she was and asking in wonder how old she was. What an awkward question. Did they want their actual age? Maybe they would understand her adjusted age – the age she would have been had she not been early?

Keira’s development, like all preemies, is measured by her adjusted age rather than her actual age. This is because development doesn’t speed up just because you are born. After all premature babies aren’t just babies born a little too early; they are babies who weren’t finished! It can take until 2 years of age or longer for a preemie to catch up in both size and development. Right now, as a baby, those 3 months make a huge difference. When she gets older those few months won’t be so important at all.

Preemies get evaluated every few months to measure their growth and development and are often behind even for their adjusted age. See finishing developing outside the womb does not work quite as well as inside, no matter how good the care in the NICU.

If you are interested in supporting premature infants please think of one of the many great organisations that support their care such as Blood banks, the Ronald McDonald House and Human Milk Banks.

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