The First Six Months as a Preemie Parent

preemie parent, 3 pictures of prem baby

Six months have somehow passed since our little ‘dinks’ arrived prematurely into our world and I cannot believe it. At times it still feels as though it was only last week that I was back and forth to the hospital, having emotional breakdowns, longing for my baby to be able to come home, yet here we are months later, sitting at home with a very happy and healthy little boy who has come on leaps and bounds. Becoming a preemie parent has been an eye-opener and a very different journey to having a full-term baby and I know I am incredibly lucky that my boy is here safe and well…

birth story- baby in NICU incubator
William in his incubator

I wanted to write this update because when I was sat in that hospital, often alone, with all sorts of thoughts going through my head, one thing that really helped me was receiving messages of reassurance from those who had been there before (thank you, Sarah and Faith) and if I can reach out and reassure someone sat at their baby’s cotside right now, then I will be happy that my blog is doing what I always set out to do; help other people.

The entire experience (if that’s the right thing to call it?) has been a whirlwind. I gave birth to this teeny 4lb 2oz baby who had no fat on his body and was basically boney with baggy skin! The hospital stay felt like forever, and even though it was only 3 weeks which is very short with a preemie baby, it doesn’t reduce the emotions that parent feels. Whether you have been sat by your baby’s incubator for a week or 5 months (or more) you have all felt the same upset, worry, had many unanswered questions, have second-guessed what may happen next and have experienced a drain on your emotions that are hard to describe.

The day that I expected William to come home but didn’t, will stay with me forever I think. The excitement I had when being told he was coming home, only to be told 48 hours later that he wasn’t was the hardest moment. That day I cried for every day he’d been in there, I just couldn’t switch it off. A preemie parent has to be strong for so many hours a day, yet behind that tough exterior there are cracks and it can take one moment to cause you to just break down. 

The weekend I roomed in with William

When he did come home we were all overjoyed but then reality set in. My baby was so small, he needed to be kept warm, he needed medication and I was terrified that he would stop breathing in the night. We spent the winter staying in as much as we could, the heating was on constantly and I held my baby close as much as I possibly could, taking all of him in and making up for those hours when I couldn’t be at the hospital, leaving him all alone. 

myself, Rob, Jake and baby William finally home on the sofa

As the weeks have passed, he has shown us more and more that he isn’t going to let his prematurity stop him from developing and learning. He has gained weight which, at times, was slow and even though there was some initial talk about formula top-ups by the health visitor I managed to get him there just on breastmilk. Now he has piled it on and has the most adorable chunky legs, fat fingers and squidgy feet! Most parents don’t like to see dribble rash appearing on their baby’s neck (obviously!) but for me, it was another celebration because he actually had rolls appearing like a normal little baby should! Oh and it is very true what they say, your baby does seem to just ‘wake up’ around their due date.

William smiling on his due date
16th January 2018- William’s due date

We have battled through colic and reflux which at times felt as though they would never end and after trying every idea out there we eventually discovered something that worked for us and I can happily say that I have pushed those memories as far back as I possibly can!! We have also learnt to juggle life with two children and on very little sleep!

sleep deprived mum with premature baby asleep on her chest

However, I would say the hardest part of being a preemie parent is having a newborn for such a long time. I waited so long for a smile, to hear his laugh and to have him react to me and I must admit that I have avoided going to baby classes until recently or meeting up with other Mums largely due to the fact that I didn’t need another reminder that my baby wasn’t as advanced. Sure, he has always been very alert and switched on, it’s just that he has always been 2 months behind and that was clear to me being a second time Mum and remembering how and when Jake had hit his milestones. And it’s not that I have been ashamed or worried, it’s just that when I have seen another baby his age it has just been another one of those things I needed to get my head around.

William looking bigger and starting to smile
The start of smiles

I know he will catch up in time and I know he has come on amazingly well but it can be difficult and tiring to have a newborn for that extended time. It is also tiring for the prem baby. William has had to be patient and realise that his body can’t do what his mind wants him to do. He has been here for an extra 2 months yet his body is developing at the correct time and he is hitting his development milestones at his corrected age (corrected means from his due date, not his actual age). So he has become very frustrated in some situations. He can now roll with ease and lift his head with great control, he is very happy with tummy time and is trying his hardest to move forward but his hand to mouth co-ordination has been a slow skill for him to grasp, as has sitting by himself (apparently because the core muscles are one of the last things to develop inside the womb). But watching his bigger brother has certainly helped.

William on his tummytime cushion looking very happy with himself

So, we are now here at six months with a gorgeous smiley boy who lights up our lives. We are now starting to wean him and he seems to like food a lot more than Jake ever has done! He does still co-sleep with us but at the moment I enjoy it, he can feed easily from me during the night and it is the best way for all of us to get plenty of sleep. I am all for doing what you need to do to get through the early days. 

We have recently taken him on a holiday to Crete and in those two weeks he noticeably progressed in what he could physically do and since being home he has mastered sitting in one spot– he does fall backwards if he leans but considering I wasn’t expecting him to do this for months yet, I am over the moon!

And just look at him now…

Jake and William in a restaurant on holiday in Crete

If someone had told me six months ago that he would be a tubby, happy, curious and clever baby by this point I would never have believed them. It may take each prem baby a different amount of time but they all get there eventually and I can’t wait to see how different he is once he hits his first birthday. 

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If you also are a preemie parent or know somebody who is going through it all now, I have plenty of prematurity blog posts covering a variety of topics such as our NICU journey, my pregnancy, the birth, breastfeeding, our colic and reflux issues, teething, tummy time and supporting families. Please do have a look through my website and feel free to ask me any questions either on here or via social media. For further information on premature babies please refer to the Bliss website.

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