i know this, not because i've been reading all kinds of stuff that i shouldn't, but because my best friend had her first baby at 24 weeks, 2 days. her son was born long before they'd settled on a name, had a baby shower, or taken a tour of the hospital. long before there was a nursery set up, or being "ready" was even something that came up in conversation. to put it in perspective, her due date was february 14th (ironic that it coincides with my 24th week), and her son was born october 28th.
|at one week old (gestational age: 23 weeks), with mom.|
|with mom and dad.|
|with dad's ring as a bracelet.|
and for months after his birth, they all lived in the nicu, living minute to minute. because when a baby is born that early, you don't think in terms of months or weeks, or even days. you think in terms of the immediate ... is there an alarm going off on a monitor? what needs to be addressed right now, before damage is done, and before life is lost. and if for the moment, the alarms on all the machines aren't going off, you count that as a small victory ... because it's inevitable that one of them will go off again, and the staff will rush in and adjust, to try and help the baby breathe, or be fed, or any other thing full term babies do on their own, without a machine, and a monitor, and a tube.
|his "nursery" for the first ~5 months.|
|the first time dad got to hold him, on his 1 month birthday.|
|the first time mom got to hold him on her chest, at 6 weeks.|
this all happened more than two years ago, and i'm happy to report that my friends' baby beat the odds. he has no developmental issues, no eyesight issues, no heart issues. he's smart and rambunctious and a very typical two year old, being hysterical, climbing on things, and basically causing two year old boy mischief :)
|home from the hospital, with oxygen and a hat i made him :)|
|christmas morning with cars. :)|
|just a few weeks ago, playing with daddy's glasses.|
it's just been so strange, to look back now that i'm going through a pregnancy myself. to mark the time and to look down at my small (but growing) stomach, and think that this is when jacquelyn gave birth. today would be my baby's birthday ... not in may or june like i'm planning and expecting, when it will be warm and humid with leaves on the trees, flowers blooming, and flip flops to wear ... instead on a grey february day, when heat is still a necessity in the car, and i'm wearing my knit hat with the ear flaps. and he would be a tiny, 1lb 9oz baby with fused eyelids, and no real plump yet ... that's what this kid inside me probably looks like. and i know, because i've seen what a baby at this point in gestation looks like. a baby that's still fully relying on me for nutrients and oxygen because his body, while all the parts are there, is not ready to take care of things like digestion and breathing, and even circulation, on his own. and i can't help but wonder what makes him move around in there. i remember watching jacquelyn's baby move around at about the same age, but it was usually for different reasons--his oxygen had dropped, he wasn't tolerating a feeding, etc. it's just so strange to have seen such a frail and tiny baby, and to have that view of what's going on inside.
i don't have the words. i feel sad all over again for my friend, for what she lost and missed out on during those first few years when things were so tenuous, and every day was a hard-wrought struggle. and i'm thankful, too, that her story is a success story. that her biggest struggle with him now is over-turned salt-shakers and an obsession with electrical outlets. i'm also thankful for a healthy pregnancy thus far. i'm thankful that now that i know where the line of viability lies, i've made it past that line. and i'm thankful for the passing of time ... how it allows life to come back from catastrophic to somewhat normal, and how time allows us to grow and heal, and for life to go on.
my friends were very lucky. last night i re-read all the updates we had posted through the time their baby was in the nicu, and i was reminded that one of the medical staff with a long career in the nicu mentioned that in her 25ish years, she'd only seen 4 or 5 babies born as early make it out of nicu with so few issues and complications. i mention this only to put in perspective the life of a nicu family. it's one i'd never thought of before my friends were thrown into it. and while i hope i never have to visit a nicu again, i also hope i never forget what it was like to be there, and i never forget to have empathy and compassion for the families living moment to moment.