The week leading up to L’s birth was crazy. My water broke though the not-so-gentle ER doctor who performed tests on me told me it hadn't. I was in labor (pre-labor, I guess, technically) for about three days before I went to my OB to complain about cramps and leaking fluid.
L was nearly a month early, born at 36 weeks and 4 days. My biggest concern was whether or not he would have to spend time in the NICU. His older brother, though born full term, had spent about five days in the NICU for sepsis and I was terrified of reliving those moments again.
Because he was born before 37 weeks, he was required to stay in the hospital for 48 hours for monitoring and he needed to pass the car seat test. He was monitored more closely than a healthy full term baby is – his blood sugar was checked several times in his first 24 hours of life and his breathing was monitored by stethoscope every few hours. But thankfully the only time L was taken out of our room for an extended period of time was for the car seat test (and it was a much needed and appreciated break - yay sleep!).
I was allowed to leave after 24 hours, but I had no desire to. L was my third baby. The first two times I was pregnant, I walked in with a baby in my belly and walked out without one in my arms (the first due to a D&C for a missed miscarriage and the second when G was born). I can’t describe how awful it feels to walk into a hospital pregnant and walk out with nothing to show for it. To learn I could go home before L was devastating to me. I was adamant about staying with L and thankfully no one tried to persuade me not to.
During his 48 hour observation time, L proved he came when he was ready. But despite not needing NICU time, we’ve experienced a few things that could have been a result of L’s prematurity:
Respiratory problems. This usually pops up whenever L has a cold. We have spent a lot of time at the pediatrician’s office and ER because his breathing tends to become harder and faster when he gets sick.
Hypotonia (low muscle tone).** Premature babies have lower muscle tone than their full term friends, and this is something I have only just learned. The more I read about hypotonia, the more I realize it’s been a likely cause of the various issues we’ve experienced with L (choking as an infant, difficulty pooping, excessive drool, delayed milestones). He wasn’t “diagnosed” with this until this past summer when he started physical therapy. (Apparently hypotonia isn’t considered a medical diagnosis as it’s seen as a symptom of an illness or disorder.) Even though I didn’t know what hypotonia was until I stumbled across it on Google when L was about 15 months old, his lack of muscle strength had concerned me since I noticed it at four months old.
Top: L a few hours old. Bottom Left: World Prematurity Day 2014.
Bottom Right: World Prematurity Day 2015. Lucky shirts totally coincidental.
I'll never truly know if the issues we have faced with L are a result of being early or just his luck with heredity or a little bit of both. I might have had a mild case of hypotonia when I was a child and my siblings were susceptible to asthma and bronchitis growing up. But the connections are there.
Overall, L is a happy, laid back little dude, and he’s been giving my Mommy Instincts a run for their money since the day my water broke (or didn’t).
November is Prematurity Awareness Month. Did you know…
- 1 in 8 babies are born premature.
- A baby is premature if they are born before 37 weeks.
- Babies born in the 34-36th week are “late term premature” or “near term.”
- Late term premature babies account for about 74% of all premature births.
- Late term premature babies are susceptible to:
- Feeding problems – some of this can be due to hypotonia of the facial muscles.
- Thermoregulation – they can have a harder time regulating body temperature
- Regulating blood sugar – nearly 7% of late-term premature babies have trouble regulating their blood sugar and can become hypoglycemic when cold or stressed.
- Respiratory problems
- Developmental problems/delays
- Parents of premature babies have a higher chance of developing perinatal mental illness such as postpartum depression, anxiety, or PTSD.
**I’m blogging about our adventures with Early Intervention and L’s hypotonia on my personal blog. I think he has what is considered Benign Congenital Hypotonia, though no one in the medical field has mentioned this phrase to me yet.