The early bird

November 17 is World Prematurity Day, the goal being to raise awareness about the challenges premature babies and their families face. According to a recent study, prematurity affects one in 10 live births in Canada—and Eleanor was one of them.

Eleanor was due November 8, 2011. However, On September 7, I developed HELLP syndrome (Hemolysis, Elevated Liver enzymes, Low Platelet count), which led to a very emergency c-section and delivery of Eleanor nine weeks ahead of schedule.

Luckily, Eleanor weighed in at three pounds, nine ounces. She was free of medical issues and otherwise healthy. And while I was relieved to have such a strong baby, leaving the hospital without her was heartbreaking. When you go to the hospital to deliver, you expect to return home with your baby.

Eleanor was a patient in the NICU for five weeks. Though she was a tough cookie, she did require plenty of monitoring and testing. The hospital became a second home for my family. We watched as new babies arrived and left, while Eleanor worked at growing stronger. And while the five weeks seemed to last a lifetime, we had to consider ourselves lucky. We saw plenty of preemies that were younger and smaller than our kiddo, who would be spending the next several months in the NICU.

And now Eleanor is 14 months old. Because of her prematurity, I have to “correct” or “adjust” her age by nine weeks. So, technically she is just a year old. This means that her milestones might seem to occur later than other babies. I’ve been told that preemies can take up to three years to make up the time, and Eleanor is catching up quickly. She was discharged from her pediatrician, who said, “If I wasn’t with her in the hospital, I never would have known she was a preemie.” This made me a proud mama. Her only challenge now is her eyesight (some preemies require glasses at an early age), so we have checkups every six months for the next four years.

Even when a preemie is healthy, it is an emotionally draining experience for everyone involved. So for all those parents who have gone through the experience, I commend you on your strength. If you are currently living with a preemie in the hospital, remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Ask your doctors, the hospital social worker, or even other moms pacing around the NICU for help and advice.

 


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