taken three days after odin was born almost 11 years ago. i still remember clearly thinking it was so thoughtful of the nightshift nicu nurse to take the photo and yet so heartbreaking.
npr ran a story, ‘Fragile Beginnings’: When Babies Are Born Too Soon about a newly published book with the same title written by Dr. Adam Wolfberg which documents his experience of being in neonatal intensive care after his daughter was born at 26 weeks and examines the, “…the struggles, discoveries, and triumphs of the newborn intensive care unit.” it’s amazing how even after almost 8 years i can recall distinctly the emotions of being in a nicu for almost 100 days. i still sometimes think i might write my own book with, of course, with lots of pictures.
the most premature baby born in europe, a 21 weeker, born weighing just 16 ounces has has gone home after 5 months in the nicu with “no indication that she will not be healthy.” not to be a doubting thomas, but 16 ounces seems mighty large for a 21 weeker. i was told by the neonatologist that <23 weeks is just flat-out biologically impossible. anything earlier than that is a mistake in conception dates.
new research from michigan state university shows that even late-preterm babies at greater risk for problems later in childhood:
“We found late-preterm babies are between two and three times more likely at age 6 to have lower IQs as well as higher levels of attention problems and symptoms of anxious, withdrawn behavior.”
there have been so many advances in neonatal care for preemies it’s often difficult for people to remember that every single week of gestation counts and there’s some basic wiring/development that needs finishing, even at 34+ weeks:
“Milford said the reason for the risk is that the brain simply isn’t developed enough at 34 to 36 weeks. “A lot of the development of higher-order functioning in the brain is occurring in the 34-to-36-week range,” she explained, adding that “there’s a reason that humans gestate for 40 weeks.” ”
with 168 kids in the study, born during 1983 and 1985, i wonder why didn’t they have a cohort of micropreemies? i premsume there weren’t enough long term survivors in the database.
it is a reminder that odin is getting to be about the age that we could/(should?) expect to see subtle behavioral/learning since he was, of course, born way before 34 weeks.
it’s strange to think that over 5 years ago we first grappling with how to make sense of the micropreemie odds.
38 years ago, before the advent of neonatal intensive care, if you were born 2.5 months premature you got plopped in an incubator meant for full grown newborns and people hoped for the best. there wasn’t much to done except , perhaps, pray.
if memory serves scholarly articles were written on how doctors managed to save the lives of me and my mother from complications from placenta previa and premature birth.
i believe this photo was taken a few weeks after my birth. i would spend about the first 2.5 months of my life in that incubator.
i weighed about 2 pounds 13 ounces at birth and "they" said i would be a little "slow" from brain damage; a declaration which, of course, has been the source of great amusement and ribbing over the years.
32 years later, i would find myself on the other side of the incubator.