Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Small beginnings

I received an email from the hospital where Sassy Girl was born. They are updating their NICU "graduate wall" where they post "then and now" pictures of babies who have stayed there. They asked if I would want Sassy Girl to be part of this wall.

After Sassy Girl was born, she spent three weeks growing in the NICU. Granted, three weeks is a very short time compared with the months some parents of micro preemies have to endure. Still, at the time it felt like forever. Furthermore, everything was unknown - not only did we not know when she would be able to come home, but we didn't know if problems would develop because of her prematurity. Sure, everything looked great and she had few problems at the time, but there was always that chance. Babies weren't meant to be born that small or that early.

As I walked to long hall to NICU every day, the graduate wall was like a beacon of hope for Ebo and me. We would compare the birthweights and gestational ages of the kids' to that of Sassy Girl's. It was especially helpful to see pictures of older kids doing "normal" kid stuff like riding bikes, running, or reading books.
I still visit the NICU about once every couple of months. Ebo and I are part of a group of volunteer parents who support families who currently have babies in the hospital. We mostly bring goodies on holidays, but I have also occasionally shared our story with the parent support group. Even though it's been almost four years since Sassy Girl began her life in that hospital, I am still hit with surge of emotions when I turn that corner to the long NICU hallway. Then I stop and start looking at each picture of each graduate, reading the information that I have long since memorized. I am comforted once again by pictures of Michelle, Caitlyn, Nicole, Sarah, Winston (Ebo's favorite), and all of the children who were faced with tough challenges early in life. I hope that Sassy Girl can provide the same hope for parents.

Now that Destructo Boy has joined our family, it feels just a little bit different when I visit the hospital. I don't know much about Destructo Boy's NICU stay. All I have is a translated hospital report. When I would visit Sassy Girl each day, I would notice that there were some babies that seemed to never have visitors. Because of work and circumstance, their parents were not able to come and care for them. The nurses did a phenomenal job caring for each baby, but they couldn't pump milk or give them kangaroo care. Now I'm wondering who cared for Destructo Boy for the first three months of his life. I wish I was able to do for him what I was able to do for Sassy Girl.

Though their struggles are minimal, both my kiddos still deal with being preemie - Sassy Girl with her size and Destructo Boy with his speech delay. But they have proven to me that they are up for all of life's challenges. One of my favorite songs from the musical, Les Miserables, is called "Little People" - I think it should be every preemie's mantra:
They laugh at me, these fellows, just because I am small.
They laugh at me because I'm not a hundred feet tall.
I tell 'em there's a lot to learn down here on the ground.
The world is big but lil' people turn it around.

Newly born Sassy Girl - all 2 1/2 pounds of her

Sassy Girl at three - takin' on the world

1 comment:

The Senakams said...

I found your blog through Joanne (aka snoopyscraft)'s blog, and I couldn't stop reading since I started!

My sister was also born an extreme preemie (26 weeks, 2lb 2oz) some 29 years ago, and she's just had her own healthy baby (which I documented on my blog here).

I'm glad Sassy Girl is healthy and happy now, after the E. coli and all that she's been through (my sister also had a bout of E. coli that almost killed her during infancy, what coincidence...)!

I'll add your blog to my must-see list. Your field work in Ecuador is just most captivating...