September was NICU Awareness Month. For some of us, that awareness never fades. I look at my miracles and marvel at their accomplishments. I am so blessed that my babies were born when they were. 30 years ago, medicine was so far behind where it is now. My kids might not have survived back then.
I am amazed at modern medicine. Before LB was born, I had no idea how many different ways there are to eat! My kids combined have eaten so many different ways:
LB had TPN (IV nutrition) initially. She graduated to an NG tube (feeding tube that runs from the nose to the belly) after that. She was breastfed when she was discharged from the NICU, but never really got the hang of it so she switched to formula bottles.
LN breastfed like a rock star from birth. He weaned himself right around his first birthday. Shortly after he turned two, his guts decided to rebel and he stopped eating solid food. He was put on a medical toddler formula, which he drank from a bottle, for about a year and a half.
LK started out with TPN and an OG tube (feeding tube that runs from the mouth to the belly). She was on bi-pap at the time so an NG tube wasn’t possible. Once her breathing improved she moved on to an NG tube. From there she breastfed. However, like her older sister, she never really got the hang of it. She had under developed lungs and was in oxygen at the time, so she just didn’t have the energy or strength for it. She moved on to formula bottles.
LE breastfed like a champ! She had no other health issues at birth, so nursing her was fantastic. However, she eventually stopped gaining weight and then started dropping weight. It became impossible to measure how much she ate at every feed. I was either feeding her or hooked up to the breast pump 24/7 (at least that’s how I felt!). She got an NG tube for a day during her first hospital stay, but didn’t need it. She started to get breast milk fortified with formula to increase the calories per ounce, but she still didn’t grow. During her second hospital stay, she was again given an NG tube. She wasn’t a fan and pulled it out 3 times in less than two days. We agreed at that point that a G Tube (a feeding tube that is surgically implanted directly into the belly) was her best option. She still eats by mouth, but gets extra fluid or high calorie formula in the tube. All the calories with none of the effort!
The NICU is a scary place. It is also where miracles occur daily. We have learned to recognize and celebrate the inch-stones, as opposed to the milestones. We learned just how tough preemies can be. Most of all, we learned to stop, slow down, and take life one day at a time. Sometimes we even aim for 5 minutes at a time.
Everybody can learn and appreciate these lessons. Stop, look around, smile at a stranger. Remind yourself that so far, your survival rate for tough times is 100%, and that is pretty damn good.