A year ago, Ollie was living in the NICU of West Allis Memorial Hospital. Plugging his way through growth and eating challenges, occupational therapy, extra oxygen, bradycardias and apneas, hernias. In all, he stayed 84 days.
Going through this time of year, I often think of what we were doing “last year at this time.” As in, “Last year on this day, Ollie weighed two pounds.” When January 20th rolled around, I thought, “last year on this day, he wore clothes for the first time.”
This week in Ollie’s history was a turning point for us. We got lots of great news and big steps forward in his growing.
This week last year, we got the news that his ROP (retinopathy of prematurity) was resolving itself. ROP was a big scare for us, and other preemie parents, since it can lead to blindness. It’s thought that too much extra oxygen before a premature baby’s retinas are fully developed causes scar tissue to develop. In severe cases, the retinas detach from their…retina holders? and laser surgery is used to put it back? Something like that, anyway….Stevie Wonder is blind from ROP. (Did you even know that Stevie Wonder was a preemie? See!? Lots of things learned when you know a micro-preemie!).
We learned two weeks earlier that Ollie was developing scar tissue on his retinas and was diagnosed with Stage One ROP; it could progress worse, or start resolving on its own. Stage Four is the most severe. Jeez, yet another thing to pray about. During this week in Ollie’s history, we learned it was resolving itself. HOORAY! Two weeks later, we would be cleared and only have to have another checkup in a month. (By the way, if you ever have the option of watching a baby eye exam, don’t do it! Look away.)
Even more exciting, this week in Ollie’s history was his movin’ on up from his Isolette(R) incubator to a BIG KID, OPEN AIR, NICU CRIB! Gone were the portholes to maneuver through when getting him dressed! No more was the puzzle of trying to figure out how to change his diaper from the side, rather than positioned at his feet! Finally, I had a mom’s ability to simply pick her child up when he cried.
A GIGANTIC MILESTONE for NICU babies, that switch from incubator to crib. It meant he was one step closer to those big double doors. It was tangible, visible, positive proof that he was getting better. He could maintain his temperature! It happened a little early, actually. He was supposed to weigh 1800 grams (just under 4 pounds) but they evicted him from his Isolette at 1783 grams; I didn’t settle into the idea that he was surely out of his box until a couple days had passed. I didn’t want to sell my wagon in case he wasn’t ready for the car.
Wrapped up tight in footed jammies, knit hat and fleece swaddler, he was our 4 pound Baby Burrito. Snug as a bug, he looked around at his new surroundings and seemed to focus on the things that made the move with him: his pictures of BobCat and Li’l Baby Kitty and me and Matty. Things that seemed to give him comfort as he kicked the tires of his new home.
He didn’t have to go back into the box.
Now that we’re heading into Spring, the memories are getting easier. On his birthday this year, I felt a little blue, given his birthday wasn’t the most wonderful day of my life. In fact, with all its trauma and uncertainty, it was a bit of the opposite. Just remembering the daunting feelings as we just started down the path that was Ollie’s first three months was enough to bring on a melancholy mood.
But now, “Last year this time,” we were rounding second and heading for third and the memories are getting easier to think about. We would still have about a month to go in his NICU stay, but it was a busy month for everyone and it went fast.
He stayed out of the Isolette, we moved back to our window seat, he worked on his suck, swallow & breathe coordinations and had his hearing test. We brought in our carseat so his oxygen levels could be tested while he sat in it…a BIG indicator that your NICU student was soon graduating. We studied our Infant CPR DVD and passed our test, made the first doctor appointment and “roomed in” in the parents’ rooms to make sure we knew what we were doing with him round-the-clock.
Instead of remembering that “today last year, he had a blood transfusion,” I’m remembering that feeling of relief, happiness, delight that he was getting better. Growing bigger. The artificial womb that was his incubator, maintaining his temperature and keeping him isolated was no longer necessary.
It was a great week.