Full-Term Envy Finally Ending

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Being a Mother of Premature Infants

I’m a preemie mom. I have healthy, happy, smart, opinionated, confident, amazing 8-year-old daughters. They’ve overcome any challenges thrown their way because of their premature birth. They were incredibly healthy for their gestational age, and they were far from micro-preemies, being born at 33 weeks. And yet, I am and always will be a preemie mom.

Preemies shortly after birth compared to age 7 from hdydi.com

I have this enormous guilt at not having carried my daughters longer in my womb. I can’t help wondering if I could have given them just a few more days if I were taller or had gained more weight. Perhaps I could have gone on leave from work earlier and rested to prolong the pregnancy. My one job was give them a safe place to grow for 38-42 weeks, and I failed.

It’s not rational. I know that my daughters are above average in pretty much every area other than height. I know that 50% of twins are born prematurely, and I certainly wouldn’t give up having the both of them! More time in the womb might not have changed a thing. As my very wise 8-year-old M told me last week, “I am who I am because of everything in my life, including how I was born.” And I admit, I really like who she is.

Still, I suffer from what I call full-term envy.

Full-Term Envy

Every time I hear a pregnant woman wishing that the baby would come already because she’s uncomfortable, I want to tell her, “Do you know what I would have given to be that uncomfortable, just to give my babies a better start in life? Do you know how badly my neighbour, the micro-preemie mom, could have used 16 more weeks?” When I hear about the C-section scheduled around business priorities, I want to ask, “What if Baby just wants a little more time snuggled in there? What’s the rush?”

There’s a little stab in my chest when I hear about women reaching 34, 35, 36 weeks and farther in their pregnancies. I used to occasionally cry on hearing birth weights in the 6, 7 and 8 lb range. My daughters were only 3 lb 6 oz and 3 lb 9 oz at birth. And yet they’re here and healthy, and I know how fortunate I am.

Whole-Hearted Joy

Last week, something extraordinary happened. A dear friend asked me if I had any ideas on how to convince her son to make his way into the world… and full-term envy didn’t raise its ugly head. I felt compassion for her discomfort and shared her readiness to meet her son. I didn’t resent her full-term pregnancy. When I heard his 8 lb 1 oz birth weight a few days ago, I felt nothing but joy and a hunger to meet him and snuggle him and congratulate my friends.

I’m not sure why this baby is different. Perhaps it’s because I felt the loss of the miscarriage that came before him. Perhaps it’s because I found out that he would be joining us minutes after his mom learned that she was pregnant. Perhaps it’s because he feels like a brother to my daughters, who already love him as their own. Perhaps it’s because I was there every step of the way, seeing all the ways in which he took over Mommy’s body as he grew. Perhaps it was just knowing that his mom and her husband see my daughters as part of their family. They know M & J’s story, know the odds that they’ve beaten. My friend also knows the micro-preemie down the street, too, the 10-year-old bolt of energy who was born at 24 weeks and whose only long-term impact was on her eyesight.

I suspect that in experiencing the full breadth of my friend’s pregnancy as a witness, I healed the wounds from my own pregnancy being cut short. Maybe this little baby has vanquished my full-term envy.

What aspect of parenting to you feel envy about?

Postpartum Depression and PTSD: Here I Thought I Was Fine…

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This post has been a long time coming, but I have to admit — I’ve been avoiding it like the plague. I started writing this post one year ago and I find that this is still a difficult subject for me to wrap my head around.

Postpartum Depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - one mother's story.
In college, I read a story called The Yellow Wallpaper  by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. In the story, a woman is taken to a hideaway by her husband and imprisoned there after the birth of their child. During her stay, she slowly goes insane, hearing voices and seeing faces behind the yellow wallpaper. This story is about much more than a woman and a decorating decision gone awry. This is a story about postpartum depression and the fears and stigma surrounding it, much of which still exist today.

Going into my pregnancy, I feared PPD. I have a family history of mental illnesses, and I have some personal experiences to draw from, as well. I was monitored by the high-risk team that cared for me and Jane and Emma throughout my pregnancy, and they watched me like a hawk when I went into the hospital to deliver. I was given a checklist, visited by social workers, and deemed fit to leave with no threat of severe depression after 4 short days.

What they didn’t tell me then was that PPD can strike at any time in the first postpartum year, and, furthermore, that I was also at HIGH risk for post-traumatic stress disorder due to my premature twins’ six week stay in the NICU, something that I didn’t think about until a friend in a similar position posted about the condition on her Facebook page after we had taken our babes home from the hospital.

In my first year home with Jane and Emma, I felt the effects of these two afflictions full force. My husband brought my attention to some of my actions (my anger, specifically), and subsequently I’ve been forced to take a good hard look in the mirror, and to do some serious research. Here is what I have found and how I relate.

Emma

Postpartum Depression

Something that I didn’t think of was that there were multiple ways that PPD could manifest itself. Symptoms range from depression to anxiety and anger. I experienced mostly the anxiety and anger.

Our society definitely does NOT do enough PPD care before/after the babies are born. Even BabyCenter, a site that I’ve always frequented for all things baby-related, downplays postpartum depression. It seems to file it into this “postpartum care” category, and talks a lot about body image and how to balance your life and your sleep deprivation with caring for a new little one. Why the stigma? Why does postpartum care have only to do with “What workouts can I do now that the baby is here?” or “Feeling good about your postpartum body”?

The fact of the matter is, there is so much more to it. While all of that is good to consider, it’s just as important to look at and be very aware of the ugly side.

As a new mom, I never got to mourn my old life. Everything changed VERY suddenly, and, for me, as a mom of multiples, it changed 8 full weeks before it was SUPPOSED to. Attention switched from me to my babies (and rightfully so, but I wasn’t told that I would be a footnote to my children’s lives, and I was not prepared for that), and I (perhaps somewhat irrationally) felt like no one cared about ME or how I was doing.  There was also no longer a “me-and-Hershey”. We were both NEEDED by our babies, and our need for each other no longer mattered. Those early feelings of no longer mattering and the severe feeling of isolation were what most likely sent me into my initial depression.

I spent a lot of time feeling anxious about EVERYTHING. I broke out in hives from head to toe, and was having heart palpitations. I thought maybe I was just anxious about work (if you have been following this Chris Christie fiasco, and not that I’m a teacher in NJ, you understand), but I really couldn’t pinpoint the anxiety. I’ve always been a little bit high-strung, but never downright ANXIOUS.

On top of that, it seemed like every little thing set me off. If things didn’t go as I envisioned them, I would totally lose my marbles.

And I still, to this day, am always nervous about how people are caring for Jane and Emma. I selfishly feel as though no one will care for them as well or as fully as I do, and (while that may be true since I AM their Mama, after all) being with the girls 24/7 took a MAJOR toll on me that I was not prepared for.  I mean, how does one prepare for these things when they decide to start a family, especially when having multiples was never an idea in one’s mind!?!  I don’t know about you, but I was focused on the perfect bedding and the most beautiful and safest cribs, not how I would cope with my own feelings…

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

This is a term that many people relate with war veterans.  And while I would never trivialize the plight of our veterans, after having been through having two children stay in the neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital for 6 weeks, at the end I felt like I had been through a war.

The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as “a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it.”  Let me tell you something – experiencing having your children in the NICU, not knowing what tomorrow may bring, is both terrifying AND extremely traumatic.

Mayo further goes on to delineate possible symptoms, such as flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, and “uncontrollable thoughts about the event.”  Check.  Check. Check. Double check.

I remember after I went home from the hospital, without my children who I had carried around inside of my body and worried about for 32 weeks, I used to go into the girls’ nursery and just sit in my glider and cry. I would cry for the absence of my babies.  Cry for the fact that I was home and they were not.  Cry for the unknown.

jane and emma NICU

I would never know what I was walking into when we went to visit the girls.  Once Hershey went back to work, I was making 2-3 trips A DAY to the hospital to the neonatal intensive care unit, most of the time on my own. And you cannot be blind to the other babies and parents in the NICU. I hurt for the other parents who were going through the same thing. I ached for those who were going through worse. I cried for the babies whose parents could not spend as much time visiting them as I did visiting Jane and Emma due to extenuating circumstances. I got to know the other babies. I said hello to them when I got to the hospital if their parents weren’t there, so that they would know that they were not alone.

And the day that I brought Emma home, I bawled leaving the hospital. I was so happy to be bringing home my baby girl, but leaving Jane there for 2 days was excruciating. She was in good hands, and I was grateful to have a couple of days to get settled and get into a routine with ONE baby before having TWO brand new babies at home, but I would have done anything – ANYTHING – to be bringing them both home together.

Once we got the girls home, they were on apnea monitors for about 4 months.  I’ll never forget the terrifying moments when those monitors went off and we would have to jump out of bed in the middle of the night to watch carefully to make sure that our babies would start breathing again.

tiny family pic

Imagine standing there, knowing that your child is not breathing or that her heart is not beating, just waiting for her to “self-correct” before having to try a revival technique.  If that’s not traumatic for a new parent, I don’t know what is.

And to this day, I still struggle with PTSD. Every night before I go to bed, I sneak into Jane and Emma’s rooms and wait to hear their little breaths. And if I don’t hear them, I shake them and make them move.  hat sounds ridiculous, but it’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop. I spent so many months fretting over their survival. From the moment I went into labor, all I could think was They’re too little. They’re not ready.

And sometimes, I still feel that way. Every sniffle, every cough, every puke stain sends my mind into a downward spiral, and I am wondering when I will be able to look at the symptoms of their colds and be able to say, “Ok, we’ve seen this before, it’s no big deal.”

Three-fie

Wherever you are at in your postpartum life, you need to know that you are not alone. Those feelings that you are feeling are NORMAL, and we are all with you. And if you are like many MoMs, you may have given birth way before your babes were fully cooked, and you have faced the terrifying world of the NICU. And Those Feelings are also totally normal.  It’s ok to be sad.  It’s ok to be a little bit selfish once in a while.  What you are going through is a tremendous life-altering experience, but it’s worthwhile, and those babies of yours need you!  Acknowledge the feelings so that you can monitor them.  Be aware of the feelings so that you can put yourself in check when you need to.  Postpartum care is so much more than just being on a “roller coaster of hormones”.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore those feelings that you’re having because the sooner you accept them and address them, the sooner you can get back to being a ROCK STAR Mama.

And if you know someone who is about to have a child (or CHILDREN), or has recently had one, check in with them.  Remember to ask them how THEY are feeling, and if there is anything that you can get FOR THEM.  My husband’s aunt gave me a gift certificate to get my nails done for Christmas this year, and it was the best gift that I could have gotten, because it meant me, a book, and a quiet manicurist making me look beautiful after a year and a half of being puked on and not even being able to blow dry my hair in the morning…and that, to me, is PRICELESS.

How have you dealt with PPD?  PTSD? I would LOVE to hear from you!

This is my personal story and observation.  I am not saying that every person will experience the same aspects of each disorder (I hate calling them that!), but my hope is that this post will enlighten someone, or maybe help someone understand what they are going through.

Jessica is Mama of twin baby girls, Jane and Emma, Wife to Hershey, Teacher at her alma mater, poet, realist, kitty-lover, friend. She decided to blog because during her pregnancy, she could never find anything having to do with twins or multiples. She didn’t come across any advice for registries for multiples, or pregnancy, or life after delivery.  Jessica felt extremely alone, and spent most of her pregnancy in a funk. Today, she is the happiest she’s ever been. She continues to improve her craft (teaching) through various professional development outlets, and learns something new about being a mother every day. Jessica is in love with her girls, with being a mama, with her husband, and with life.  She is the one people go to when they want the truth. Jessica writes all about life with a husband and twins at Leading the Double Life.

World Prematurity Day 2014

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In honor of World Prematurity Day 2014, we invite you to check out our past posts. Even those MoMs who carried their babies full term sometimes deal with survivors’ guilt, knowing the odds. We’d love to hear your stories, whether or not prematurity touched your family directly.

We’ve pondered:

  • World Prematurity Day November 17How to navigate the NICU environment
  • The many emotions of prematurity and special needs
  • Dealing with the practicalities of special needs children
  • Honoring our experiences through reunions, volunteering, and fundraising
  • What expectant mothers should be aware of to try to prevent premature delivery
  • How our premature and special needs children have been doing

Overview Posts

Navigating the NICU

Personal Stories

Full Term Birth

Premature Birth and Life in the NICU

Life with Special Needs Children

Parental Emotions Toward Pregnancy and Preterm Birth

Nutrition and Feeding

Giving Back to the Preemie and Medical Communities

Things to Know

Twinfant Tuesday: Multiple Infants with Multiple Needs

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Getting ready for a day of appointments.

The topic of Twinfant Tuesday came up and I wondered to myself and to Sadia, did I have a good experience during the infancy stage and do I have something to contribute? At first thought, I had serious doubts. My memories recall close to four months in a NICU, living away from home, the discharge and then the madness of appointments that awaited us, all the while working hard to balance the needs of my older child. My husband was at work Monday to Friday, working very long days due to unfortunate timing and he and I together were trying to figure out how to navigate as parents of 3, two and under, with particularly special needs.

We made it to some special events.

During the infant stage I was busy running my twin boys to appointments in town and out of town, navigating the hospital parking lots, calculating the best and quickest routes to my destinations, and breastfeeding in empty seminar rooms and in the back row of my minivan. I did whatever it took to keep these little infants well. It felt exhausting and unrelenting. These memories are my initial thoughts when I think about their infancy.

But when I think about these things and the other things that are too many to mention which made up the early week s and months of my twins’ first year, I realize that we had somewhat of a unique experience. An amazing experience actually. The healthcare they required and the follow ups that came with it enabled me to get to know these babies cues, health needs and personalities in a way I can’t explain. It’s as though I developed a sixth sense of proactivity when it came to their unspoken needs. That’s what I’m going to call it. I learned that really and truly, I was their expert. They couldn’t articulate their needs, but I knew how to sense them and articulate for them. I knew them best. Doctors knew about healthcare and the typical needs of babies like them, but I came to realize I know them best and if I had a gut feeling about something it was going to be accurate. Don’t get me wrong; I do appreciate every single thing our doctors and specialists have done for us along the way, but I recognize that we worked as a team and I really was my babies’ voice.

Putting some occupational therapy concepts to work.

So when I look back on my twins’ infant stage, I realize that it really was enjoyable. I did many things with them every day, maybe in atypical ways, but I breastfed them like I wanted to and made some fun and unique memories with them along the way. I look forward to sharing their stories with them one day.

On the road again.

Allow Myself to Introduce … Myself

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Like many of you, I have developed an arsenal of responses to, “wow, you have your hands full!” and “do twins run in your family?”. I, too, was once guilty of saying such things, in my life pre-twins, (which seems so long ago). Now, I am guilty of noticing a twin mom across the supermarket, the parking lot or the playground and excitedly making my way over to her (as naturally as possible) and striking up a conversation. There’s a really special camaraderie amongst twin moms, isn’t there? We’ve been in trenches other mamas just don’t understand. (No, not even if your kids are 13 months apart and “pretty much twins.”)

So when I discovered this resource through another blogger twin mama friend (Hi Sarabeth!), I excitedly steeped a cup of tea, put the girls down for their nap, and settled in to sip chai and pour through these archives. I laughed, I nodded my head in agreement, and found some shared experiences summarized eloquently in words I hand’t thought to use myself.

A friend of mine from journalism school recently delivered twins, and we’ve been messaging back and forth. She said something that struck me: twin moms are really special people, a class unto our own. We are helpful, nurturing, laid-back, and understanding of exactly what to say or what gesture to offer another twin mom in a moment of need. We know. We get it.

In that spirit of celebration and of admiring what exactly sets us apart from other people’s parenting experiences, I was happy to join in the conversation. So, hi! I’m Sarah!

xmas2I have four young girls, two of whom are identical twins. They were born after some infertility and loss heartbreak, so they are know as our miracle babies. They were born early, but since our hospital didn’t have a NICU, we helped keep them warm, fed and happy as best we could, since they weren’t born with any difficulties other than being teensy (3 lb 12 oz and 4 lb 4 oz!). That’s pretty much what we’ve tried to keep up with: keeping them warm, fed and happy! Anything else is just icing on the cake, and way above my aspiration level, most days.

rain1We are currently working on toilet training, going to sleep at a reasonable hour in their shared bedroom, and staying at the side of the road when we go for walks in our neighbourhood. Baby steps!

 

Sarah is the mother to four girls, two of whom are identical twins Hailey and Robin. They were born in the Yukon in a very small hospital at 35 weeks, and though they were small, they were mighty. She now lives in Ontario, where her high school sweetheart husband works very hard, and she stays home with the girls, freelance reporting on the side. In her past life, she was a journalist who covered everything from fast-paced federal politics to cats stuck in trees. Her writing has appeared in local newspapers and magazines, and in national publications like the Globe and Mail and ParentsCanada Magazine. She is a yogi, a mediocre cook, an awesome Beyonce dance move imitator, and an avid blogger at Cure for Boredom.

What Lasts: Carter’s Song

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For years, Angela Bickford struggled through infertility and loss.  Angela is now the mother of triplets, born prematurely, one of whom, Carter, passed away after 49 days.  This song, originally published on her blog angelabickford.com, pays beautiful tribute to the lasting impact of Carter’s short life.

Written and recorded by Jetty Rae
Slideshow photos provided by Angela Bickford

Never thought that it would come to this
I wake up in the middle of the night
And your face I long to kiss
Then I remember looking at you
On the other side of the glass
That night the Doctors said
You probably wouldn’t last

[Chorus]
What lasts is the love left beating
In this Mother’s heart
The dreams all scattered down in tiny little parts
I will love you, I will love you
Sweet Child you are mine
You’re heaven sent and I’m hell-bent
On telling the world you are my little sunshine

Waking up each day without you
Is a hurt I’ll never shake
Leaving your body there was a choice
We never got to make
Carry on, carry on sweet child we all carry on
I see you in your brother’s eyes and I tell your sister
You were strong

[Chorus]
What lasts is the love left beating
In your Father’s heart
The dreams all scattered down in tiny little parts
I will love you, I will love you
Sweet Child you are mine
You’re heaven sent and I’m hell-bent
On telling the world you are my little sunshine

[Bridge]
So many days have come and gone
We’re still standing, we’re still strong
You have stayed where you belong
But in our hearts you will go on

Angela is a stay-at-home mom raising surviving triplets. She lost her first-born triplet, Carter, after 49 days, and her survivors, B & T, keep her pretty busy with their ongoing needs as a result of their prematurity. She manages to find time for her business, her job at Hand to Hold, a non-profit dedicated to preemie/NICU awareness and support, and her personal blog (angelabickford.com). Her tagline ‘Mom of Triplets. Lost One. Survived & Sharing’ is her goal in blogging and she aims to share with others that it’s possible to survive after loss. She and her husband live in the Houston, TX suburb of Cypress.


Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

Toddler Thursday: When Your Toddlers Aren’t Toddling Together

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We’ve all heard the common question, “How do you do it?” That is how we got our name. Another common phrase I have heard over the years, as many parents of prematurely born twins do is, “They’ll catch up on their own time.” I hate to say it, but sometimes this phrase is like a Band-Aid trying to cover up a bigger “owie” than it can. Sometimes it’s the only thing people can think to say to try to make the mother feel better, when she is wondering if there is a bigger problem to be addressed.

Take my little guys, for example. Growing and progressing a little more slowly than the average baby, but also born much earlier than the average baby. We always take their early arrivals into account. We don’t want to overshoot and stress them out during their development, yet, as a mother I don’t want to undershoot their capabilities by overprotecting or making excuses for them. I believe mothers of premature children may be a little more likely to overprotect their children at times, and that’s okay. Everyone has been through a lot! I also believe there is a balance and it can take a bit of time and self-reflection to understand your parenting style.

My twins are about to turn 4 and when I think back to two years ago, I remember twin b was not yet toddling. Meanwhile his twin had started motoring around on his own. Twin b was able to walk everywhere on his knees, but not his feet. Alarm bells were going off in my head, but I tried to ignore them and give my son more time to figure it out. We shouldn’t compare our twins, as they are individuals and they often do learn things at different times. I kept watching him closely and mentioned it to a few people now and then. I often heard, “he’ll figure it out on his own time.” Hmmm…Are we sure about that?

After lots of watching him in silence, assessing and reassessing; working with him one-to-one to try to get him to walk, I finally trusted my instinct. Something was NOT right. As he approached 24 months corrected/27 months actual we looked at his feet closely. I knew he was able to walk if he had the right support for his feet. I had inspected his feet closely, compared them to his brothers (sometimes comparing twins IS helpful,) watched what he was doing when he tried to toddle and cruise along the couch. I put 2 and 2 together when I realized he could cruise without a worry, but as soon as he tried to stand in the middle of the floor or walk, he’d collapse. His teeny tiny feet just couldn’t keep him standing upright because his feet were very flat and one was practically turning over. We weren’t seeing it because we were trying to promote his walking by keeping him in supportive shoes most of the day, which was supported by his physiotherapist. Once I realized his feet were likely the problem, I contacted our PT and she said my instincts could be correct and he was seen later that week. She yanked off his little shoes, assessed his feet and confirmed that his feet would benefit from the use of orthotics. He was fitted with a custom pair of ankle-foot orthotics (AFOs).

The day we picked up his custom AFOs, the physiotherapist helped him put them on as the orthotist watched. First we had to dig through a box of extra shoes at the centre to fit the larger sized AFOs. Once the AFOs and shoes were on, twin b was set in the middle of the floor…and…HE STOOD…and then…HE WALKED! ALONE. It was amazing to see unfold. One moment he’s a non-walker, the next he’s toddling around the assessment room on his own! I could not hold back my happy tears! They were also likely tears of relief, but I didn’t realize it at the time.

The moral of this story? Trust your instincts and if you feel something isn’t making sense or you’ve said and heard, “he’ll catch up on his own time,” maybe a few too many times, it’s okay to put your foot down (pardon the pun) and ask LOTS of questions to get the answers you need.

What Is “Adjusted Age” or “Corrected Age”?

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I recently witnessed an extremely heated and sometimes mean-spirited discussion of the term “adjusted age.” One side felt that the term was derogatory to preemies, while the other side felt that their families’ experiences with prematurity were being flippantly dismissed.

Of course, it all boiled down to a misunderstanding of what “adjusted age” (or the synonymous “corrected age”) means. I’d like to set the record straight.

Defining Adjusted Age

A premature baby’s adjusted (or corrected) age is medical shorthand for how old that baby would be if he or she were born at full-term at 40 weeks gestational age. What’s gestational age? The time since mom’s last period. Why since her last period? Because until relatively recently, that was the best indicator we had of when pregnancies began and it’s become a cultural norm.

Why Use Adjusted Age?

When a baby is born full-term, we don’t pay particular attention to the predicted due date. After all, 95% of babies don’t show up on the due date. The full-term birth window is two weeks on either side of that date. There’s nearly a month of wiggle room in there! I’ve seen due dates wonderfully referred to as guess dates.

So why would anyone care about a premature child’s gestational age? It comes down to development.

As any parent knows, every kid is on his or her own schedule. Still, there’s a general order of operations when it comes to human development. We start out as one cell and end up becoming neurotic adults. All that happens in between is pretty well understood by the medical and scientific establishment. Exiting the womb ahead of schedule doesn’t much impact that developmental schedule beyond putting pressure on immature systems to perform maturely.

Human babies develop in a predictable fashion, regardless of when they exit mom's womb.

Take my daughters, J and M, for instance. They were born at 33 weeks gestational age. They were born with spectacular heads of black black hair. They also had furry ears, foreheads and shoulders. The lanugo, or fetal body hair, that babies have in utero had yet to fall out. It didn’t get the memo that they’d been born. It was just doing it’s regular 33-week thing. This is J at 1 day old. Or should I say “-7 weeks adjusted”? She’s adorable, teeny tiny, and rather furry.

J is 1 day old here, born at 33 weeks gestation. She still sported lanugo on her ears and shoulders. Adjusted age: -7 weeks.

And this is her now. Just trust me when I tell you that she’s not furry. (I had to use this photo again. She was so adorably excited to learn how to sew.)

33-week preemie at age 7.

Adjusted age. That’s what we were talking about.

Let’s put prematurity aside for a moment. Imagine a 1-month-old. This baby can grasp something placed in his hand, but forget about him picking something up of his own volition. He’s probably rather bobble-headed, thanks to brand new neck muscles. Now, compare him to a 3-month-old. She’s not quite so bobble-headed, can get her hands in her mouth with ease, and swipes at toys and Mommy’s phone with gusto. Two months makes a huge development difference in that first year.

Now imagine my 33-week preemies. At 3 months old, they’re still as bobble-headed as the 1-month-old, because as far as their physical development goes, they’ve had as much time to develop from that single first cell as a 1-month-old. When it comes to predicting how much they should weigh and what they should be capable of doing, the pediatrician and I strike a balance between their birth age and their developmental (adjusted) age.

The adjusted age for a child born prematurely is measured from conception and takes into account that they’ve had less time than their birth-age peers to get up to speed. That’s all there is to it.

By age 2, there’s really no reason to use adjusted age any more. There’s not much that distinguishes a 24-month-old from a 26-month-old. By age 2, preemies are caught up, developmentally, to their birth-age peers, barring complications.

A premature child's adjusted age is a way to gauge where she is developmentally.

 As with the term “identical” twin, the non-technical meaning of the word “corrected” in “corrected age” (which is the term my kids’ doctors all use) leaves the concept prey to misunderstanding. So let’s all hug and make up.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

The Preemie Primer – A Book Review

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A triplet mother's review of The Preemie PrimerThe Preemie Primer is a great reference book for parents of multiples, especially triplets and more, who have a high likelihood of spending at least a little time in the NICU.  I read it basically cover to cover when my wife was about 22 weeks pregnant with our triplets.

I’m an information seeker so this book was just what I needed when I was feeling anxious about our little trio arriving early. This book is written by an OB who was pregnant with triplets. She delivered and lost one boy at 22.5 weeks and the other two were born at 26 weeks and had multiple complications. Throughout the book she includes personal anecdotes, which makes it easier to digest this sometimes overwhelming information. Dr. Gunter does a nice job of explaining “medical~ese” in layman terms too.

I think you need to know yourself before deciding if this book is for you. If you have a hypochondriacal streak, then you may want to wait until you know your babies are going to be preemies and then order it on Amazon and just read what is relevant in the moment. If you’re like me and “just want to know” then this is a good book to get up to speed on common preemie medical issues.

The book is organized by time frame. It starts with “The beginning” covering pregnancy and delivery. Then moves on to the bulk of the book with “Your premature baby & the hospital,” giving an in depth look at time in the NICU. This section is organized by body system (lungs, digestive system, etc) and covers normal function as well as common problems and treatments. Part three focuses on the mind-body connection, starting with the emotional roller coaster that parents experience when their babies are in the NICU and discusses some good coping strategies.  We were lucky that our triplets were only in the NICU for a week, but I can still attest to the emotional roller coaster!

There’s a section that’s all about “working the system” to help with navigating the medical, insurance, and government benefits systems and he last two sections cover topics related to issues once you get home and then a final “other things you should know” section.

Overall I found this book to be very useful in preparing for our babies’ stay on the NICU. We’re donating our copy to our NICU for other families to use!  I think it’s a great resource to help parents feel empowered to be advocates for their tiny babies!  You can find a copy on Amazon.com.

(We Will Never Be) Full-Term

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Categories Infants, Medical, NICU, Parenting, PrematurityTags , , 3 Comments

My boys are almost two, and I’m 32 weeks pregnant with our third son. Over the weekend, I spent some time in L&D. Everything is fine, but to say I had flashbacks to NICU is an understatement. In order to lighten the mood in my own mind, I re-wrote the lyrics to “Royals” (originally by Lourde). So without further ado, here is:

(We Will Never Be) Full-Term

I’ve got fine hair upon my flesh
I cut my teeth on breathing tubes and a blue Soothie
And I’m not proud of my address
In the NICU wing, no nursery envy

And every nurse is like:
De-sat
Jaundice
That was a bad brady
Art line
PICC line
Puttin’ in an NG

Kangaroo care, we’re being snuggled in our dreams

But everybody’s like:
PDA
Caffeine
Bathing in pink basins
Surgeons
Breast pump
Unplanned extubation

We don’t care, medical terms are your affair

And we’ll never be full-term (full-term)
It don’t run in our blood
Mom’s uterus just ain’t for us, now the machines all beep and buzz
Let me be your ruler (ruler)
You can call me preemie
And someday I’ll breathe, I’ll breathe, I’ll breathe, I’ll breathe
Let me live that reality

My twin and I aren’t gonna code
You watch our hearts on the machine when we’re sleeping
And everyone who knows us knows
That we’ll be home soon, give the hospital your money

But every nurse is like:
De-sat
Jaundice
That was a bad brady
Art line
PICC line
Puttin’ in an NG

Kangaroo care, we’re being snuggled in our dreams
But everybody’s like:
PDA
Caffeine
Bathing in pink basins
Surgeons
Breast pump
Unplanned extubation

We don’t care, medical terms are your affair

And we’ll never be full-term (full-term)
It don’t run in our blood
Mom’s uterus just ain’t for us, now the machines all beep and buzz
Let me be your ruler (ruler)
You can call me preemie
And someday I’ll breathe, I’ll breathe, I’ll breathe, I’ll breathe
Let me live that reality

ooh ooh oh ooh
We’re smaller than you ever dreamed
And I’m in love with clothes sized “P”

ooh ooh oh ooh
Life is great in Intensive Care
We’re your full-time love affair

And we’ll never be full-term (full-term)
It don’t run in our blood
Mom’s uterus just ain’t for us, now the machines all beep and buzz
Let me be your ruler (ruler)
You can call me preemie
And someday I’ll breathe, I’ll breathe, I’ll breathe, I’ll breathe
Let me live that reality.