In the United States, 1 in 9 babies is born prematurely, 1 in 10 in Canada. Worldwide, over 15 million babies are born too soon each year. While not all multiples are born prematurely, a multiple birth increases the probability of an early delivery. Babies born prematurely, before 37 weeks gestation, are at a higher risk for health complications in infancy, some of which can have long-term effects. Full-term infants are not all free from their own health complications, of course.
In honor of November’s Prematurity Awareness Month, led by the March of Dimes, How Do You Do It? is focusing this week’s posts on The Moms’ experiences with premature deliveries, NICU stays, health complications, special needs, and how we’ve dealt with these complex issues.
Our fraternal twin girls were born at 34 weeks and spent 10 days in the NICU.
During my first visit to the NICU, I quickly learned how measured everything was…oxygen levels and heart rates ongoing… every three hours, temperature and diaper output and feeding efficiency…every night, weights to the gram. Everything is recorded to the exact degree.
For babies who are stable enough, most parents are allowed to take part in some of these “cares”, the temperature readings, the diapers, and the feedings. Despite my nervousness in navigating the wires and monitors and moving around such delicate baby parts, I got as comfortable with this role as I could, performing these tasks for my sweet duo as often as possible.
When our girls were released to go home, I left with a stack of charts to continue to track their vital stats. That was all I knew…it felt very normal to start every eating cycle as such…and I took my job very seriously.
When I ran out of printed charts, I invested in a thick notebook, and I continued my records. And there, with so much “open” space, I began to record more and more data…
…what time they woke up, how much they ate, their wet and dirty diapers, any significant spit-ups…
And then I expanded it to note when we bathed the girls. And then we bought an infant scale, and I was able to record their weights, to the half-ounce (much to the chagrin of our pediatrician, I might add).
Having this record was actually really handy, particularly when the girls were infants. In my sleep-deprived state, it kept me straight on what we’d done and when…and, if I’m honest, it helped me put one foot in front of the other during some pretty trying times.
It was very useful in keeping track of dirty diapers. Since early on, our girls have pretty different habits, and I was always afraid I’d miss someone being constipated since I’d changed so many dirty diapers from the other baby in the course of a day.
Once the girls started eating baby food, I made notes at each meal. At first it was to help me identify any potential allergic reactions, but then it was more to make sure they were getting a variety of fruits and veggies.
Once the girls got a little older, I knew I didn’t have to keep up my journal…but I couldn’t stop! I loved seeing our days in black and white…and – the little voice in the back of my head said – what if there were an issue? At least I’d be armed with information!
I finally made a deal with myself: I’d continue my journal through the girls’ first birthday, and then I’d retire my pen. I actually recorded notes through the girls’ one-year checkup, a few days after their birthday…just in case.
I still use my trusty notebook, though. Thank goodness it’s nice and thick! I jot down any questions I have for our pediatrician and what his answers are. I make a note of the girls’ illnesses and medications. And I have a running tally of their weights and heights from every doctor visit.
Certainly I didn’t have to keep up this “care” to the extent I did, but it is actually one of the pieces of advice I give new moms of multiples, whether they have time in the NICU or not. My journal kept me sane…it helped me remember who was eating what and when…and who pooped when and how.
And these days it’s fun to take a little trip down memory lane from time to time. Hmmm…how many dirty diapers did I change on May 17, 2009? Why, I’ve just been waiting for someone to ask!