November 11, 2009

Handle With Care

When I found out I was pregnant with quadruplets, my life became defined by numbers.... weeks to be exact. I knew I would be delivering my babies early... but how early was the question.
Twenty-eight weeks and two days. Those two days are important. It's two days longer that my daughters had time to grow before coming into the world. Rarely will you meet a parent of preemies who doesn't talk about the birth in terms of weeks and days. Some of them can tell you the hours involved, too.
To see pictures of preemies is deceiving. Pictures did not capture the terror of having four babies weighing between 1 1/2 pounds and 2 pounds 4 ounces. In pictures my daughters looked delicate, but not that small. To give people an idea of the challenges we faced, Hubby sent this picture to friends and family:

That is a picture of Cakes' foot and Hubby's wedding band. He has average sized hands. (The blue tint is because all the girls were under Bilirubin lights for jaundice.) After seeing that picture people finally understood our fears.
With preemies, everything becomes a milestone... the first time you can hold your baby (it was about two weeks before we got to do more than transfer them from their isolette to the scale), the first time she poops, the first time she opens her eyes. I have pages upon pages documenting each of these "firsts," and plenty of pictures to go with them.
I consider us very blessed in our lack of "preemie problems." Sue Sue was born with an open heart ductus, but it closed without surgery. Each of the girls had Retinopathy of Prematurity, but, again, no need for surgery. Sue Sue had feeding issues and was eventually transferred to a children's hospital 2 1/2 hours away from us (an excrutiating and exhausting week, I might add). She finally came home with a feeding tube, which lasted for about a week. On Christmas Day she pulled the tube out, so, out of frustration, I gave her a bottle. which she drained. No more feeding issues!
Even now, at age 4, the issue of prematurity still comes up. For instance, next year my daughters miss the kindergarten cut-off by three days. So many parents have rolled their eyes and told me to appeal and start them in kindergarten. Yet, if they had been born "on time" (December) this wouldn't be an issue. At this point, I'm leaning toward another year of preschool. I would rather have four smart cookies who enjoy school than four girls struggling through school because I pushed them to start early, even if it's just a matter of days.
November is Prematurity Awareness Month. On Nov. 17, bloggers will unite to raise awareness about the crisis of premature births. I know why my daughters were born early, but I am forever thankful for the advances made by the March of Dimes and other organizations which have helped my daughters grow and thrive. If you want to share your own story or get involved in the effort to raise awarness, you can visit Bloggers Unite.


Kim said...

Goodness! What an AMAZING picture!

Quadmama said...

It's my "go to" picture when I can't describe just how small my daughters were at birth.

HST said...

I agree with you on waiting to send them to school. If they end up being ahead they can always be moved up, but if they start struggling in their first years you have much bigger problems explaining to them why they need to stay behind, or getting them excited and motivated to go to school!

Quadmama said...

Plus, what happens if I start them early and ONE struggles and needs to be held back. How would that work?

Nicole S. said...

Ya, I think people should just obey the cut-offs. Then you don't have to worry if you made the right decision. I mean, they have policies in place for a reason right??

Amazing picture. I'll definitely be joining in on the 17th - I haven't written about that on my blog yet and I figure that will be the perfect time. And their bday is on the 21st so it's perfect for us!!

Stephanie B said...

I'm very fortunate that all of my children were born at term and healthy. I could say I can imagine what it's like to have a child on life support or to wonder from day to day or hour to hour if they'll win their fight to survive.

One of my coworker's son was born very prematurely (one of triplets with a mother who spontaneously aborted whenever the total weight >2 pounds) who spent his first 18 months in the NICU. He also came through with fewer problems than many premies, but what an ordeal! Only modern medicine allows so many of these children to survive.

Quadmama said...

18 months in the NICU? Wow. I can't begin to imagine. My girls were there 62-87 days and that was trying enough.

LauraC said...

Love this post. We spent just a week in special care with our BIG boys (over 6 lbs each) and it was still terrifying. It's taken a long time to grow out of the fear of preemie stuff.

And I ALWAYS tack the 3d on the end of 36w. Always!

maryanne said...

Great post. I love the picture, and it's so wonderful that you have such a happy ending to your preemie story.

I agree with you on the school cutoff - I would do the same with my own (non-preemie) children. Three of my siblings were put ahead a year, and while they did great academically they seemed to have a much rougher time socially than the rest of us.

Quadmama said...

It's interesting, LauraC, that you would mention how terrifying special care was with 6+lb'ers. When Sue Sue was transferred to a pediatric hospital she was 6 pounds and seemed so big compared to the others in the NICU nursery.. in fact at first the hospital had thought about simply putting her on the pediatric ward until her pediatrician balked. But 6 lbs or not, her issues were still a major concern at that stage.
And clearly I'm going to have to do a separate post on whether to appeal the start date of kindergarten due to the huge response I'm getting : )

Stephanie B said...

I'm also with you on the cutoff. I did the same with my own son, who missed cutoff by two days. My daughter just caught the cutoff (her birthday is four days before her brother's) and I think she would have been served better if she'd had a bit more time.

My friend with the baby in the NICU 18 months- the baby weighed 13 oz at birth. But he survived and with minimal long term problems. Gotta love modern medicine.

Becky said...

So tiny!!!!! What a blessing, like you said, that they are all doing so well. I don't blame you for being glad that they missed the school cut off....BuhBuh missed it by 16 days and I'm THRILLED. It was so nice having him "home" one more year. Here is a link to a blog article about my friend's son....he's such a miracle and it has been a joy to see how far he's come over these past almost 3 years.

MoDLin said...

Thank you so much for this great post and revealing photo - really helps put things into perspective. It's good to hear your girls are doing well. Now it's time for all of us to do our part to fight for preemies.

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